I like to believe that the computer is just another of the many tools at my disposal to produce illustration and animation. While a good tool to have, I will always vie on the side of practical and traditional materials over purely digitally rendered art. Done right, digital art can be done very well, but I would prefer to see paper sculpture, paintings, woodcuts, or etchings produced in the computer that cannot be distinguished from the real thing. I still hold onto these beliefs, but alas, I have found that it’s no longer relevant to even call myself an illustrator. Illustration seems to be slowing disappearing.
Take a look at any major magazine today and you will find illustration that would have taken an hour at the most to create. Granted the editors of those magazines have tighter and tighter budgets, and are doing more with less, but all you need to do is look at the same magazines from ten or twenty years ago and you will see artwork that took hours and days to produce, and the result is engaging and inspiring imagery that compels one to read on and think much more deeply about the written article.
Since the economy was derailed by those lovely people on Wall Street and Canary Wharf, we have all watched the arts suffer first. Budgets are trimmed and corners are cut, by everyone. Fair enough, I suppose, except companies are looking abroad to save money, and finding it at a rate of $1-2 per hour. A client decides to use a designer outside of Europe or America, and almost without exception, it never goes well. It’s fine for developers and technicians producing code and apps and back end data, but not for visual imagery and communication. You simply cannot ask someone in Manila to draw an American in America. The results are usually hilariously way off western visual culture. Just take a look at some of the wikis, for a laugh. This growing use of globally cheap labor has further eradicated the value of real illustration. Styles have become indistinguishable because everyone wants quick and cheap and cheerful, so they get the same variations of flat and lifeless generic and monotone digital style. And by having any kid in the world create the graphic, the result is usually even more generic and diluted. Then the cycle continues, spawning ever more bland style-less imagery.
I hope that eventually the world will tire of digital for the sake of digital and return to the creative crafts. Just the same way that Steven Spielberg, George Lucas and James Cameron all believe that movie audiences are quickly growing bored of computer generated content, and people prefer to see reality and craft, rather than the “in your face” hype. Hopefully the digital honeymoon will lose its luster and people will begin to return to more traditional and engaging illustrative medias, that just happen to be built in the computer. And lets keep the creative work at home, better still, right here in St. Louis, puleeze.
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