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Is Digital Art Real Art?


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The Internet has become a worldwide marketplace where virtually everything is peddled online ranging from books, movie tickets, and kitchen gadgets to automobiles, luxury cruises, and fine art. No matter what you're in the market for, you'll find it online. When it comes to browsing online art galleries, you're likely to come across examples of both fine art and digital art. But what's the difference? And is digital art real art?

To better understand the differences between fine and digital art, let's first define fine art. According to Merriam Webster's Collegiate Dictionary, Eleventh Edition, fine art is defined as: Art (as painting, sculpture, or music) concerned primarily with the creation of beautiful objects.

Now, let's define digital art. The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia explains that digital art is a contemporary art form where computer technology is manipulated to create distinctive works.

With those definitions in mind, a beautiful oil painting is considered fine art while a breathtaking collage of electronic images would be considered digital art. While you may be able to reach out and touch the brushstrokes on a painting or feel the contours of a sculpture, digital art tends to be less tangible, often appearing on a computer monitor or video display. Thus, the question often arises as to its legitimacy as a real art form.

Digital art also suffers from a perception that, because the artwork is created on a computer, it has less value than a one-of-a-kind object of fine art. Photographers encountered these same perceptions as a single photographic negative or slide is capable of creating countless identical copies of the image. While a digital artist could theoretically mass produce digital art, many digital artists have adopted the same techniques that photographers and lithographers have used successfully: limited editions.

The way that viewers interact with fine art and digital art is different as well. For the most part, looking at fine art is a static experience. Sure, the piece may evoke strong emotions as you look at it, but the experience is primarily visual. Digital art often incorporates multiple images, transitions, audio, and video; the artwork may change based on the viewer's actions or movements, especially if touch screens or integrated video cameras are involved.

While fine art is displayed on walls, book shelves, pedestals, and other areas where you can enjoy it, digital art often requires electronic displays. Static digital artwork can be printed on paper or canvas and hung like traditional fine art paintings while multimedia artwork needs a suitable display such as a computer. Digital picture frames and flat panel TV's with suitable inputs open digital artwork display possibilities that didn't exist just a few years ago. 

Clearly, fine art and digital art have their differences. But is digital art real art? To answer that question, ask the following questions when looking at a piece of digital art: Is it beautiful? Does it evoke emotions? If you answer yes to either of these questions, the digital art is indeed real art. 


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