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Why digital painting will not replace traditional painting.

It is interesting to see all the new mediums that have arisen in recent years in regards to the creation of novel, disruptive artwork. It seems like the trend nowadays for artists is to switch to digital art mediums for exploration because there is a conception that they represent what the future of art making will look like. One of the effects that this shift is creating socially is a change of the passing-down of skills through apprenticeships in which painting masters would teach the craft to the younger generations. The resulting disruption is that there is no need now for people to receive a formal, traditional education for them to become masters of their craft. The emergence of new mediums creates a rupture in the art-world, in which younger artists want to experiment with mediums that haven’t existed before, like for instance digital painting, and others more disruptive forms like painting in virtual reality.


Perhaps the assumption that could arise is that the future is only digital, that things like the pencil and paintbrush will be abandoned for the digital tablet and the painting software. While it is still true that the emergence of new mediums have created a rupture in the way that art is conceived in the present day sphere, these new technologies used for artistic expression will not necessarily replace the existence of previous mediums because they are not equivalent.


For instance when comparing digital painting and traditional painting, the experience is not at all the same. They can be comparable because the results and the process are somewhat similar, but they have their individual characteristics that set them apart from each other. We could argue that each form has its own advantages and disadvantages, but the processes involved are not equivalent. The digital form of painting can be thought of as a simulation, in which the use of a stylus pen recreates with some accuracy the experience of painting with real materials. One can simulate the experience of painting with watercolor, but this simulation can obviously never be equivalent to the experience of using real materials.




The emergence of these new forms of creative expression should be seen rather as a compliment to the traditional forms that have existed previously. A great advantage for example of digital painting is that it offers a wider range of exploration in a shorter amount of time. Being able to edit and undo brushstrokes with ease is a great ability for beginner artists in that they don’t have to commit with the strokes made on the canvas. In contrast when using a traditional medium like watercolor, the artist does not have the ability to simply undo the action of applying color on the paper like when making a digital painting. Generally speaking, the artist can explore with greater ease the digital form, and by knowing the painting software well a wide range of styles for ideation of a final product can arise. A software like Photoshop can bring an interesting mix to the table of including the photo-editing tools.

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