Art in the age of digital [re]production

I’ve snuck them in carefully, but it’s time to just come right out and say it — I am making digital work now.

Work for KnoloApp

I don’t imagine I’ll go digital for good, but I expect to do a lot more of it in the future.

The technology has advanced far enough now that things have swung back around, and digital drawing now can feel like actual DRAWING, not some intimidating pastiche of masks and layers and a pen tool that does nothing remotely similar to an actual pen.

I am smitten with the immediacy of it, the fact that it removes about three steps from the production process for me. (waiting for paint to dry, scanning, color-correcting and occasionally editing). As a lifelong hater of smudgy media I am reacquainted with the concept of erasing, and delighted to find it so…useful.

I have a fevered idea that having access to this sort of thing enables me to work faster. On the other hand, I just finished a large digital project that took me just as long — if not longer — to execute because it’s all still pretty new to me. And because I’m just not sure yet when a digital picture is “done”. There’s still something flat and unlively about it to me, often right up until the end.

All of this is making me think of Walter Benjamin’s “Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction”, and the lack of “aura” we get when we step away from actual things made with actual hands. Though there he was more referring to, I think, something more like screen printing. Which weirdly I find to be VERY alive and captivating — certainly moreso than my “glicee” prints, which to me have about as much liveliness as a cold slice of burnt toast. (Now, now: I live with lots of my own glicees hung around the house, and I usually forget that they’re prints until I see the originals back at the studio — often after a long hibernation in the big weatherproof box. And I am always struck afresh: prints just are not the same.)

We live in such upside-down times. Meg and I recently visited a Cortia Kent exhibit and I can say that the work Kent made with “mechanical reproduction” has a distinct, pulsating vibrancy that screen prints often have for me. What is it? Is it the large saturated blocks of color? Is it the indirectness?

I don’t know what it is. I love them.

It has me thinking about other things with aura. This scarf I’ve been working on — it’s pulsating and REAL the way my digital pictures are not.

Unlike my peers who are confidently bilingual, I don’t have a digital dialect. I am drawing digitally just as I would draw on paper, just as I would in real life. Perhaps that is why the pictures don’t feel real to me. Every time I encounter digital work that I love and admire, I ask the person (when possible) how they did it, and it is often completely baffling to me the pains it takes to get there.

Meanwhile, I’m just going for it, boldly, on a single layer. (Don’t worry! We can erase!)