Okay, I know that it’s the year two thousand and something, and we are living in the Digital Age. There are many products and services that have been influenced by new technology. And when it comes to art, digital art has definitely been making its mark. Artists (especially traditional artists) often ask the question ‘will digital art replace traditional art?’.
Digital art will not replace traditional art, especially in the fine art world. While digital art has begun to be used across many creative professions, there will always be a market for original, unique artworks that have been handmade by artists.
Now, I totally get it that digital art is making some big headway in the art world (and we’ll discuss this down below). But just like acrylic paint didn’t completely replace oil paint, similarly, digital art will never completely replace traditional media.
In this article, we will discuss:
- why digital art will not replace traditional art
- how digital art has heavily influenced some creative professions.
Why Is Traditional Art Here to Stay?
In a world where we are the consumers of mass-produced cabinets, clothes and cookies, there is one thing that people still appreciate the handmade value of: Traditional art.
There is something very appealing about the sight, texture and smell of buttery oil paint, skilfully applied to a rough weaved canvas, hand stretched over a timber frame.
A work of fine art is unique. It’s one of a kind, and assembled by a real life human: The artist!
Granted, Ikea makes some pretty sweet prints of paintings, printed on top of some fine, 100% Ikea canvas. And there’s definitely a market for that. I don’t blame people for wanting to buy prints instead of original art.
Art is expensive. And probably not very high on your list of priorities in life right now.
As the cost of living goes up, people will prioritize to pay things like their health insurance over a painting purchase.
Yes, the rise in popularity of digital prints has ramped up, but there will always be a need for people to create (and own) art that has been made with traditional media. Not least because physical artwork from a blank canvas / blank sheet of paper / blank cave wall has been ingrained in human culture for thousands of years.
It is great that digital art has come about, but it is only another medium that humans have developed. Digital art will be used by millions of artists from now on, but it will never completely replace traditional art.
There are many reasons, but personally, I usually sum it up to these three main points:
- When New Mediums are Discovered, Old Ones Still Remain
- Traditional Art is Historically Too Important to Replace
- The Art Collectors’ Market Will Never Lose Interest in Traditional Art
Let’s dive into them below!
When New Mediums are Discovered, Old Ones Still Remain
Think of all the fantastic art created by our artsy-craftsy ancestors. Over thousands of years humans have been creating art.
The earliest artworks were the paintings on cave walls (The Original Gangsta of traditional media). Fast forward a few millennia and we had Tomb paintings in Ancient Egypt,
The Byzantine mosaics of Europe and then came the paintings, sculptures and sketches created by Da Vinci, Donatello, Botticelli, Michaelangelo and Raphael. More recently there was cubism and modern art in the 1900s. These were Gauguin, Pablo Picasso, Salvador Dali, Andy Warhol.
Over history, humans have used all sorts of different tools and ingredients to create art. Let’s focus on a sample of four types of media used over the last 500 hundred years:
- Albrecht Durer’s engravings
- Jan van Eyck’s oil paintings
- da Vinci’s sketches
- Andy Warhol’s acrylic paintings
These are all famous artists who worked in different types of media. Take a look at Warhol’s medium of choice. When acrylic paints were invented in the 1900s, did engravings, sketches, and oil paintings vanish?
That’s a hard nope.
Similarly, digital art has now come about since the start of the Digital Age. Today it is being used by millions of creators all over the world, but this doesn’t mean the other media will stop or be completely replaced. If anything, digital art will just be added to the pie of different art types to choose from.
Traditional Art is Historically Too Important to Replace
Traditional artworks have been celebrated for centuries and, up until this very day, have been exhibited in museums for hundreds of years. People don’t go to Ikea to marvel at their best-selling paintings. People go to art galleries and museums.
Think of places like the Louvre in Paris or the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. I can’t imagine that galleries and museums will one day decide that digital art needs to replace the Mona Lisa or Washington Crossing the Delaware.
Will digital art join the ranks of these big galleries eventually? Maybe. Digital art is a legitimate medium in its own right. But the importance of traditional art throughout history is too significant to replace.
The Art Collectors’ Market Will Never Lose Interest in Traditional Art
Let me be the first to say, that the prices of some artworks have gotten a tad out of hand. In 2017, one of Jean-Michel Basquiat’s paintings, “Untitled”, sold for $110.5 million (Basquiat didn’t even title it, lol. What a legend).
As of writing this, the most expensive artwork ever sold was Leonardo da Vinci’s “Salvatore Mundi”, which sold for $450 million. (Which is considerably more than what my paintings sell for).
The art collectors’ market is showing no signs of slowing down. You can be the first to correct me on this, but I can’t see digital art reaching this level of value any time soon.
And I’m sure bazillionaires will continue to buy and sell traditional art – the da Vincis, Picassos and van Goghs – for centuries to come.
How has Digital Made Its Mark?
While traditional art will always be around, there are many professions which have now moved more towards the digital side of things:
In a lot of countries, large scale digital printing (and sometimes even digital displays) have become far more popular than traditional signage, using paint and brushes. However, over the past few years there has been a resurgence of traditional sign-writers for cafes, local businesses and guerrilla marketing.
Nowadays, artists who produce illustrations for advertising will almost exclusively use digital art (think of food packaging mascots, billboards, digital display adverts). But even though digital is used so heavily in advertising, it traditional art is still used from time to time.
On the flip side, there are still many children’s book and editorial illustrators who still work using traditional media.
Children’s books can range from purely traditional watercolor, to collage, to digital images.
(Some of the kids books that we read to our kids have the creepiest looking 3D eyes. Ew!)
While editorial work also uses digital art from time to time, if you open a newspaper, you will still see the political cartoons being done using watercolor.
Graphic design is one of those industries that just HAVE to use digital. If you’re a graphic designer turning in logos made with crayons, you’re gonna get in trouble.
Concept artists will always look up to the traditional artists like Syd Mead and Frank Frazetta and H.R Giger. But concept art nowadays is almost always digital. One of the reasons for this is because digital art is just quicker to make (and deadlines are often tight!).
My personal opinion is that professional concept artists are the most skilled, talented and versatile artists on the planet. One of the reasons for this is that they are trained to know the fundamentals of art, which, (you guessed it) requires a LOT of training in traditional art.
In other words, concept art ends with digital art, but almost always needs to start with traditional art.
I hope I’ve convinced you with my super rock-solid facts. Although digital art is fantastic, traditional art is not going anywhere.
Professions like graphic design, illustration, concept art and sign writing have moved a large chunk of their work to digital. But even so, the majority of artists need to start somewhere, and that’s with a pencil, paper, and maybe some paint.
Traditional art has a long and rich history. Museums and galleries all over the world are filled with paintings. And people with way too much money keep buying up da Vincis and Basquiats for squillions of dollars.
Traditional art is a gateway to digital art. And digital art is also sometimes a gateway to traditional. Let’s just enjoy both, and rest assured that both traditional and digital art are here to stay.
TLDR: Will art replace traditional art? No sir.
What are your thoughts on this? Do you think traditional art is endangered? Lemme know down below.