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The Importance of Being an Artist in Today's Modern World

by Lori McNee on 9/3/2010 9:53:57 AM

This post is by guest author, Lori McNee. This article has been edited and published with the author's permission. You should submit an article and share your views as a guest author by clicking here.

After watching the movies, 'Avatar' and 'How to Train Your Dragon' I was amazed at the artistic advancement in Computer Arts. It got me thinking about the possible irrelevance of Art in this computer driven day and age.

On a number of occasions, I have heard people speak of this:  Are we as artists a dying breed? Will we, as 'Fine Artists', go the way of the dinosaur?

Personally, I think NOT!

Artists truly are the movers and shakers of the world. The ages demonstrate that artists have been at the forefront of every epic era.  Oscar Wilde's famous quote, "Life imitates art far more than art imitates life", illustrates this.

Art has been said to be 'an expression of both hope and despair', which embodies all facets of the human condition. The awe inspiring cathedrals of Europe rose from the ashes of plague, cruelty, and despair. After which, the forward thinking artists of the Renaissance era emerged in times of religious persecution and political chaos.

I believe, the worse things get - the more indispensable Art becomes. As our American economy sags and democracy weakens amid the smothering of our beloved earth, Art will find fertile ground and bloom.

Art, in all its forms, is the universal language. It is the great equalizer and thinking agent. Art reaches across borders and connects the world.  Great Art stirs the imagination, causing us to pause, think and reflect.  Art allows our minds to escape into childlike wonder. Paintings are windows to the imagination.

Did you know, the act of drawing and creating Art can help us relieve stress?  Also, Art improves students in their personal, intellectual, and social development. It can be especially beneficial for children from economically disadvantaged conditions or those who struggle to succeed in school.

Art records the footprint of all peoples, cultures and the world around us...

From prehistoric times, cave dwellers drew and carved on rock walls to record important history.

Inspired by biblical times, artists recorded the life and death of Jesus.

The Mesopotamians, Egyptians, Greek and Roman artists left us invaluable traces of their culture and our human heritage through their art.

Still life paintings often adorn the interior of ancient Egyptian tombs and Roman walls and record information about the vessels and delicacies that the upper class might have enjoyed.

Lavish tapestries, book-covers in precious metal, ivory, jewels and mosaics help us understand the Dark Ages.

The Renaissance era was lead by visionary artists, such as Leonardo da Vinci, Botticelli, Raphael and Michaelangelo.

John James Audubon (April 26, 1785 - January 27, 1851)  painted, catalogued, and described the many birds of North America. (I know he killed too many while he was at it, though.)

The Impressionists were considered the 'radicals' of their time and broke the rules of academic painting.

Sure, now we have the modern capabilities to record history with a camera.  And yes, I loved the movie Avatar. In fact, it gave me a whole new appreciation for the artists in that industry.

However, nothing will replace the feeling of being in the presence of great Art - whether you are at the Louvre Museum or staring at a beloved painting in your living-room.

Computer Art is the newest form of artistic expression, but the silent story of the brushstrokes made by a master's hand or a vessel formed by a primitive artisan will never be obsolete.

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mimi torchia boothby watercolors
Nice post, giving credit where it is due.
As digital art started to show up, I bought some digital software and tried to get up to speed. But for me, anyway, it just wasn't worth it. Why go through the agony to draw something with a mouse and a keyboard when I can do it with a pencil?
I might become a dinosaur, but that might actually enhance the value of what I do. I like to imagine sitting with great grandchildren some day, sharing my pencils and crayons...

Michael Cardosa

This is a very interesting and important topic, thank you.

I agree, I don't see art as we know it today, going away. People might buy or keep art around them for a number of reasons but I think there is always a bit of "how did the artist do that..." to every bit of art. Whether it's the light showing on a painting or a form achieved in a sculpture people who don't produce such works will always appreciate the "talent" ( I'm only using this as a generic work in place of hard work and knowledge) that was needed to create what they are looking at.

Great piece Luann, thanks again!


Stede Barber
This subject has been on my mind a lot lately, and I realize more and moer that art is essentail
for the human spirit. Creating art, being with art, looking at and experiencing art connects us to a deep, shared reservoir of our common humanity. As you said so well, exquisite art lifts us when we need it most. Thank you for your post!

Stede Barber
forgive my typos...

Helen Horn Musser
Lori, loved your post giving us a brief glimpse into the history of art; we can all appreciate that. Well done.

Helen Horn Musser
Clint, just noticed the pictures of our art under the large pic. Wow! your team is doing a bang up job. Thank you

Robert Albrecht
Hello Lori and company.

I have read your article and I must say I was offended by the implications of what is being said. Opinions that if you don't have a brush in hand and are smearing paint around you are not an artist just are not correct. The digital painting concept comes straight from the "Illustration" marketplace...producing works that many of you have enjoyed before in "small screen" and on the "big screen" for decades.

To state that we, as digital artists are not even considered in the artist group is pretty narrow-minded. This attitude has hindered many excellent digital artists from competitions because there is no category for our work, inclusion in galleries and generally considered we are looked at as a step-child that no one wants to acknowledge.

The digital painting takes just as much planning, skill-level and commitment as any other form of art. To randomly dismiss this art form as not worthy because "you bought some digital software and tried to get up to speed" is ridiculous and by the way a digital artist doesn't use a "mouse" to paint; we use an electronic tablet with a stylus pen.

Think back on how you started in your art...did it happen overnight??? No, I thought not, so don't be so quick to judge those of us who have thought out of the sacred "painters box" and are attempting to introduce fresh, exciting art to the industry. No, we are not going to replace "brush artists" because that is not our intent in the first place. It would be nice though if we felt that we will be judged on our talent and dedication to the Art Industry and not just by what computer program we used. By the way, what brush size do you use???

Alma Drain
I dont think computer art will replace the original paintings that we do. sure its good really cool stuff, but most people will still go for the canvas or watercolor,think about it a few years back postars were the in thing, but where are they now? a canvas lasts look at the museums how old are some of the masterpieces? and they go up in value. so its personal likes, I have a original highway man painting, could have bought a print cheaper, bigger but if i buy something its got to be original

JT Harding
Good Article Lori. I also believe that Artist will never be obsolete. The desire for artists to create and the need for collectors to collect will always be too strong of a dynamic. What will change is what is expressed and how it is expressed.

Alma Drain
I wont knock computer art after all its something that really makes a movie interesting, but all art has a place and its own market. so keep creating your art. on a sign in my art tent i state {support your local artist buy original you never know which one of us will become famous next) i have seen many nice scenes in movies and yes if i wanted to i could paint that a lot easyer than doing something like it on a computer, we are all artist lets keep having fun while we make something pertty.

Durwood Coffey
I do agree . . . but the story still sounds like a promotion for art school.

"If you can draw this you can draw unemployment LOL"

Michael Cardosa

I apologize! I was reading Luann's post just before commenting on yours.


I have attempted to paint both ways, conventional hand and brush and graphics programs, digital way...all I have to say is if you can master one way or the other...kidos to is art no matter how it's created...and no matter how easy it may or may not be to create, it still takes alot of skill and learning...something I often wonder if I have learnt anything at all! :)

Teresa Tromp
I happened to work in a field where the computer did take over - the printing profession.
My first job at a print shop consisted of many different (employed) people, providing a service to get an idea printed on a piece of paper.
There was a designer, a mechanical person, a camera room person, a typesetting person, a paste-up person, a pressman, and sometimes an illustrator.
When the computer came in to play, computer salespeople said it was just another TOOL! New tool alright. The computer took over.
In order to stay in my profession, I had to learn the computer, which was achieved. Now one computer does the work of all these people. Why heck, you don't even need a pressman anymore, and of course, everyone is a designer!!!
After creating an original on a computer, it can be run out as many times as one wants to print it out, which probably decreases its value.
Although the computer is a valuable tool for those who enjoy that particular valuable tool, it can not replace the big splat of red paint on a blank piece of white canvas, and I hope it never does.
Yours affectionately,

Esther J. Williams
Lori, I hear you and agree completely.

There is nothing like original art that touches upon all the senses of the human being.

George De Chiara
Images like the ones you see in movies like Avatar are the result of hundred of artists and tech people working together to produce each frame of the movie. By the time the final image reaches the screen it's no longer any "ones" image. It's the combined effort of everyone on the production. This is the reason why I don't think this type of art will ever replace traditional painting.

Paula Christen
Artists are here to stay.

Beyond the entertainment factor for your audience, it it a necessary form of "meditation" and exercise for us. A computer can't give you the feel of a perfectly placed brushstroke. Technology won't be able to duplicate the satisfaction of clay becoming pottery or wood evolving into furniture in your hands.

I appreciate all that technology can do. Somethings can't be "plug and play". Long live the artists!

Lori McNee
Hi all and thanks for the great feedback! My original article was edited for this site - surprisingly, this little change altered my original intent. In reply to Robert's interesting comment, please the deleted excerpt from the original article...

"This weekend, I will be flying with my oldest son up to Vancouver, BC where he will be attending an exclusive school for 3D animation and computer modeling. Bret is a talented artist with a degree in Fine Arts and Graphic Design. But like many young artists, Bret has a passion for Fine Art as well as technology. This got me thinking about the subject of the possible irrelevance of Art in this computer driven day and age..." click for original post >>>>
Anyway, I am very proud and supportive of my artist-son who is creating amazing computer generated ART - and BTW he amazes me with his 'stylus pen'!!! :)
This article was not meant to slight digital, or computer artists, in fact, quite the opposite! I am so impressed with the unbelievable talent in this new medium that it compelled me to think about the relevancy of fine art which led me to write this article! I feel there is room for us all out-there in the art world! Oh...I have always admired 2D animators and even have a small collection of Hanna Barbera and Disney animation cels hanging in my living room as ART.
Thanks again for the great comments.

Lori McNee
PS. If interested, please check out my son's 2D and 3D computer generated art at
Many thanks!

Sue Martin
All so true! Beyond the fact that the Internet has changed the way some people look at art, all the digital arts and entertainment - including gaming and graphic books - have set new trends in the way many young people approach art. Has anyone else noticed a trend toward mystical, surreal, imagined figurative work? Though it's not my favorite kind of art, I'm intrigued by the interaction of pop culture and artistic expression.

Joanne Benson
Well said Lori. I enjoyed your article and agree that there is room for all kinds of art and artists. Good luck to your son! My daughter is in her 4th year of college as an art major. I'm trying to get her to think about what type of job she might like to do. Hopefully one of her courses this year will influence and inspire her!

Robert Albrecht
Boy did we get some reaction or what!?!
The comments were very interesting to my post. Some were relevant, some were not. The interesting thread that came forth is that everyone was passionate about their art...which is as it should be. The second is that many of the comments showed a definite lack of understanding as to what digital art and the true digital artist is all about. To term "Digital Art" as a 'plug and play" scenario is the equivalent of stating that the art form of painting is "Paint by Numbers". Both statements are primitive and totally irresponsible. The range of art produced by the digital artist runs the gamut of the "brush painters" some is good and some is terrible; some take pride in their work and some just whip out stuff and think they are creating art...but remember "Art is in the eyes of the beholder".

So it is important to understand the principles and processes behind any form of art before we claim the creator as a non-artist, and their choice of expression as inconsequential.

mimi torchia boothby watercolors
No one is suggesting, Robert, that what you are doing is not art. Only that it is not OUR art form. And further, IMHO it would be sad indeed if future artists could not create art without a computer.

Robert Albrecht
By the way Lori, best of luck to your son Bret and his choice. Maybe he will find some answers to elevate the digital art form a bit in the art world.

Robert Albrecht

Somehow we got turned around here. By no means is any digital artist trying or suggesting that "brush" painters are going to be replaced by digital artists and that digital art is the only way to paint in the future. No way that is ever going to happen nor is that even a goal. The two mediums are entirely different...each with its own strengths. All we are saying as digital artists is please accept our work as art and us as artists in our own right.

The art world is an ever-growing place and more than enough room for all who wish to enter.

Sue Martin
I agree that digital art takes great skill and the same understanding of design principles that we paintbrush artists need. I looked at Bret's web site and was impressed with his skill and design expertise. What I said earlier about creative trends, particularly among young people (if anyone remembers...that was many posts ago!) was not so much a reaction to "how" the art is created, nor the skill required, but the subject matter, i.e., its influence by pop culture, gaming, fantasy movies, etc. But favorite subjects are very subjective; what is not my favorite, someone else will no doubt love.

Jim Springett
Good story Lori,

Your timing , and subject line is very good, for our current times today, and yet thinking to what has happened in other past art eras, for example Vincient Van Gogh not selling too many while alive, while his art was top notch, and so that reminds me that the measure for me today is the great process of creating the art in itself, from the beginning thought, until I have a finished painting at hand. For me the personal satisfaction, and when I sign the painting signifies to me a good work, a special tribute to all artists everywhere. Each painting shares a special part of myself with others who pause and reflect. I'm going to share my past year's work in a book, that I am going to create myself,in time for Christmas, like my painting, and this is in honor of my loving wife Marge and my parents who have stayed the course through thick and thin.
Nothing against computers and the new Photoshop art, however,my preference is a great sketch and a great painting using paint and brush, one stroke at a time until a masterpiece is before me, and then there is the contiuous thought and anticipation of another painting, what a gift, a gift of life.
Thanks for reminding me why I love painting..have a great day too.

Jimmy Springett-artist

there is room in this world for all of it...whatever your choice of medium depends on style,desire subject matter, accessibility..and many other factors...I love brush in hand...and digital...and it all comes together to form my brand...or what I like to express myself...great article though.

Teddy Jackson
Thank you for this insightful and challenging article. We, as artists, truly have a responsibility to share our talent with others. This article should free even the most shy artists to talk about their art with others.
We all need a plaque in our studios which says, "Paintings are the window to imagination."
Wonderful job!!! I have saved this one to my reference file.

Yesterday I was painting in an area of Denver that has a diverse population, yet near downtown and the museums. I was amazed at how many people stopped to comment on my painting (a simple study of a cathedral's Gothic Spires). Some with no teeth, one with dreadlocks (after doing a mushroom deal behind me) or just walking the dogs. They all wanted to talk to me about my painting or comment on art of the tools of art. I learned from one poor afflicted woman that one of the spires had been hit by lightening which is why it was lighter in color than the starts dialogue and is an amazing way to level the field of life.

Carol Schmauder
Lori, Thanks for the article. It is very thought provoking. I especially appreciate the statement "However, nothing will replace the feeling of being in the presence of great Art - whether you are at the Louvre Museum or staring at a beloved painting in your living-room." I completely agree.

Marian Fortunati
Great article, Lori!

I sure wish those in charge of education budgets would read and take these thoughts into account when planning and budgeting for our future well-rounded citizenry!

Donna Robillard
There is a place for all kind of artistry. While I enjoy the brush, I really admire the art of the digital artist.

Art Classes
Its a good post!! Fine art is one of the best art form where you can implement your imagination on white board without any fret. In fine art courses you can heighten your imagination power and find out various techniques, how to analyze any real object.

Art Classes
Its a good post!! Fine art is one of the best art form where you can implement your imagination on white board without any fret. In fine art courses you can heighten your imagination power and find out various techniques, how to analyze any real object.


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