Thursday, October 2, 2008

Finding My Way in the Digital Age

I heard from one of my favorite professors (art history guru Reidun Ovrebo) this week who is working on a review for the department at WVSU. She asked what I was up to, art-wise. Her questioned sent me to a reflective place, but it was good to feel positive in my answer. The design work isn't necessarily creative, but it's great technical and visual exercise. I enjoy it the way I imagine a potter enjoys throwing a perfectly balanced pot. It's rewarding, sturdy work to craft useful things, be they pitchers or letterhead. It keeps me in an aesthetic and critical midset, so it fuels the artist self even as it helps pay the bills.

I told her of my plans to work for the time being on digital fine art, selling prints online for the most part and showing locally as I'm able. It's sort of empowering to vocalize, yes I am a computer artist. The medium suits my mind so perfectly, but I've struggled with seeing myself more as a former printmaker and former ceramic sculptor than as a working, emerging artist in a strange new world.

I say that because digital fine art is still being born as a legitimate medium. Collectors don't really know what to do with it, and artists as entrepreneurs don't quite know how to market it. The market varies wildly. At one end of the scale are limited edition super fine quality gyclee prints that aren't always taken seriously (Because there are a lot of famously shady painters selling reproductions as fine art. It's a confusing comparison, but digital art isn't a digital photo of "real" art; the prints aren't copies of an original- the "original" or matrix, if we're using printmaking terms- exists only in data on a disk.) At the other end are artist who envision the whole digital world as a chance to take art out of the hands of boutique sellers and elite dealers and are making real, easy cash themselves selling cheaper prints in open, self-printed runs.

Right now, I think my approach to the product is most similar to a photographer's. I'm selling fine, lab produced prints in open runs. I'd like to do some limited editions at some point maybe. I'm still figuring it all out, and researching how other artists working with similar tools are doing it. I have a great conversation about this with Peter Hollinghurst, an artist in the UK, that I'll publish soon. The little image is from his piece The Windfall.

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