The Need for Terminology
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    The Need for Terminology

    As someone who produces digital art intended for printing I find myself from time to time in discussions with clients who have difficulty in understanding that this developing medium, as any other, is simply a tool or context for artistic expression. Unfortunately the availability of functionality in many of the mainstream applications have reinforced the perception amongst the uninformed that digital art is generally nothing more than the product of filters and rudimentary image-manipulation techniques. Although the awareness of digital media has been helped by the adoption of technology by respected artists such as David Hockney in his recent exhibitions, I believe that part of this problem has to do with many arbitrary terms which have been developed over time to describe digital work. Terms such as digital painting, virtual painting,digital natural media, image manipulation etc. are often very loosely used by artists and consumers and often mean different things to different people.

    Terminology used in conventional art also sometimes contribute to misconceptions when applied to digital media. When a client asks me about purchasing the 'original' one has difficulty to explain that the 'original' is a 'print' because the medium can only be 'rendered' in this way. Even if I produce a work intended as a single 'original' rendition of the electronic file, the client will receive a 'print'. Moreover a 'limited edition print' of a digital work is different from a reproduction produced from a conventional artwork where some of the quality and texture of the original is often lost through the processes of scanning, image preparation and printing.
    These are some examples of where there is a dire need for specific terms to be developed by the artistic community to accurately describe the various types of processes and end products that can be produced using digital technology. These terms need to be well defined in order to encapsulate the ever growing ways in which imagery can be both created and 'rendered'.

    When these definitions become accepted vocabulary which is clearly understood and correctly used by the public, art establishment, art vendors and artists it will help to bring digital art into the mainstream of consumer consciousness.

    A forum like this could play an important role in developing and advocating the use of a collection of terminology that is only associated with, and which can be used to identify and promote this developing medium. If we think of all the terms that have been developed to describe the permutations of conventional media such as 'monotype', 'lithograph', 'collage', 'colagraph', etc., etc. then clearly there is need for a well defined vocabulary to describe work created and reproduced in the digital world.

    I welcome your thoughts on this matter.

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    dpaint is offline Registered User Level 16 Gladiator: Spartacus' Retiarii
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    I have to disagree. There is no misconception about a digital work only being a reproduction since it was not created with physical media. You cannot overcome the nature of the media and change the meaning of something just because you want to monetize it.

    Digital media can never equal traditional media in this regard in much the same way as a pay per view experience of a live performance is not actually attending a concert. All mediums have limitations and digital has this one. This has nothing to do with the quality of an image or the enjoyment of it.

    Last edited by dpaint; May 5th, 2011 at 07:22 AM.
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    I dont think this art community or another can (or cares to) "play an important role in developing and advocating the use of a collection of terminology that is only associated with, and which can be used to identify and promote this developing medium"... The word Impressionism comes from the French title of a work called "impression" and was sarcastically made into "impressionism" by an hostile art critic and yet it's still used nowadays by almost everybody. Popular words or phrases are like poplular works of art, you don't know when and if they will be popular until they are.

    Also what you describe is not so much the lack of terminology as much as the fact that people don't understand digital painting very well. But as far as I'm concerned I think that digital artist and digital painting are rather fitting terms to refer to just those things. The non-physical aspect of the paints does take some explaining with most people but unless the process of digital painting takes some really serious mainstream coverage, digital artists will have to keep informing, whoever wishes it, locally around them.

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    JeffX99 is offline Registered User Level 17 Gladiator: Spartacus' Dimachaeri
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    I appreciate your thoughtfully worded inquiry but it would be easier for me to respond to some terminology you propose or feel is appropriate or developing in the market. I've been making "digital art" for 25 years (granted mainly for video games) but about ten years ago I began creating art for galleries and shows. In my experience there hasn't really been any confusion by galleries or collectors or any problems with terminology - maybe some curiosity but that is just typical of non-artists no matter what the medium.

    What I'm getting at is I think "digital art" is transitioning just fine into the marketplace and borrowing or falling under appropriate terminology which already exists; monotype, mixed media, collage, giclee, limited ed. print, etc.

    Edit: SouMeng got me thinking about the idea of terminology for oneself...as in "digital artist". I'm just an artist - maybe visual artist if you want to get specific, but digital tools are just another medium to me. I always find it weird when people define themselves as a "medium/artist"...like, "graphite artist"...maybe it's just me because I work in about five different media, then again I know sometimes people say they are a "watercolorist" or "oil painter"...so maybe saying "digital artist" makes sense if that is all you do.

    Last edited by JeffX99; May 5th, 2011 at 11:13 AM.
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    Digital art in the commercial world already has its own terminology and it works just fine. Clients know what to ask for, artists know what to deliver. And it all developed naturally over time, there haven't been any major crises arising from inappropriate terminology...

    I'm sure if/when digital art becomes more prevalent in the fine art world it'll naturally evolve its own terminology there as well. You can't really force these things, it rarely works. (It's like trying to persuade everyone to start calling french fries "freedom fries"...)

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