Monday, September 10, 2007

Cut and Paste

On Tuesday, I had to make a mock-up of a postcard. It didn’t have to be anything fancy – just a way to communicate a design concept. The concept involved brains and art.

I fired up Adobe Illustrator, and stared at the white screen for about 15 minutes. I got about as far as making some postcard shaped guides. Then I put my computer to sleep and picked up some construction paper and a pair of scissors. The project that I ultimately presented was composed of a manila envelope, white paper, scotch tape, pen, pencil, colored marker and glue.

I think most people might agree that when asked to free-associate about the word “art,” they go right for the tactile – oil paints, brushes, canvas, clay, a rainbow-smudged artist’s smock. Increasingly, however, the art that is relevant and present in our daily lives is created on a pixilated screen. The past decade has ushered in an era of amazing, compelling, groundbreaking digital creativity. The latest issue of Communication Arts magazine (which I am so excited comes to the office, because it costs about as much as an entrée at a fancy restaurant), is just page after page of jaw-dropping images. And most of them are ads! I’m excited about looking at commercials!

So why did I reach for the scissors when it was time to put together my little project? Are paints, pens and paper the instinctive bedrock from which all art springs? If I was more technically proficient, would I have been able to put something more professional-looking together to present?

I assume that every artist has a unique, personal experience with old media vs. new. Some might view the two as mutually exclusive, and prefer only to work in one area or the other. Some might see the possibilities presented by digital media as just another facet of the complicated, ever-changing world of art. Personally, with my rudimentary skills (I’m no Picasso, and the pen tool still remains frustratingly elusive), I find it easier to communicate an idea with simple tools like a pencil and ruler.

What are your experiences with new media vs. old? Acrylic purists and Photoshop enthusiasts, please leave your thoughts in the comments.


George Simian said...

Ironically, digital has turned the experience of photography upside down, opposite to that of the material arts. Where one would take a photo, and wait... a week, or at least a couple of minutes with a Polaroid... now, we see it either one second after pressing the shutter, or, with some cameras, as a continuous live video preview. This has a tremendously liberating effect on the photographer, encouraging much more playing and experimenting... but, maybe, a loss of focus and concentration, which were required in the good ole' days.... I, for one, love it - although digital cameras are a long way from equaling those of the film era, they are improving at a rapid pace.

Lisa Carney said...

I think the more we get into digital arts, the more we need to reach back into "analog" material. I would say combining collage, drawing and painting (by scanning or shooting) with Photoshop and illustrator the richer your art will be. Greg Spalenka ( ) did an incredible demo for one of my extension classes, were he took a portrait, then collaged magazine clippings onto it - painted on it- covered with tape then scanned and did more work in Photoshop. It was a great reminder to get out of the box now and again.

Scott Hutchinson said...

My scissors and tape see more gift wrapping than design these days. It is interesting that we (at least I am guilty of) now spend countless hours in our digital tools trying to recreate the very thing we used to work to eliminate -- the scratches, missed registrations, scuffs and other inaccuracies that I am often drawn to. I work this way in part because I have long ago purged my design space of cutting boards, paints, papers, and other graphic tools, in the effort to save space. Re-designating a messy tradition space would be so nice. (I need a garage)