The Artist's Hand in Photoshop


We all know it when we see it..."Photoshop Art". The art that gives all serious artists using Photoshop a bad name. Photoshop is a program that can be used in conjunction with creative minds to create some amazing works of art. But when put into the wrong hands (a.k.a. filter happy individuals) it can reinforce the stereotypes that haunt all digital artists. The most prevalent one of course being that there really is a "make art button" tucked within the program somewhere that individuals can push to pop out works of art without any thought / skill / artistic intent whatsoever.

There are always going to be amateur digital artists out there who want to create pieces in Photoshop that are less than stellar. And there is absolutely nothing wrong with that. Whatever makes you happy, right? But with so many people using Photoshop and showcasing their work online (Deviant Art comes to mind...) how does a serious artist skilled in the program combat the onslaught of "Photoshop Art" and get the recognition they deserve?

So what exactly is classified as "Photoshop Art" some might ask? Well in my mind, the "art "that makes me cringe is the stuff that leaves recognizable evidence of exactly what tools were used within the program to make the work. For example, if something looks unintentionally "cut and paste" or if you see a filter like "stained glass" covering the entire image to give it a particular effect, then it starts to look like the software is designing the image, not the artist. The artist should have some basic knowledge of the principles of design and use them accordingly during the creation process. When it comes to Photoshop tools, subtlety is always appreciated.

To get around this an artist should view Digital Art as Digital Craft. Get to know the program inside and out, build up a body of work that centers around a particular concept, use the computer as a tool not as a crutch. When people view my work they often ask how what medium it is and are surprised to hear that it is digital. I take that as a compliment. The fact that they don't know how I made the work means that I was able to integrate the various digital components successfully. They are viewing the work, considering the compositions, concept, etc. and then wondering what medium it might be. Photoshop becomes a vehicle for greater things, not the sole topic of conversation.

There are several artists now who are not "Digital Artists" but instead call themselves "Multi-Media Artists" and choose to use Photoshop as one piece of the art making puzzle. They may not be masters of the digital medium but are using it such a way that it almost becomes analog. Digital Analog Art, I've always been a fan. Obviously not analog in the true sense, but they use the bare minimum functions of the program, such as duplicating an image to make multiples in a sequence or scanning in work to use details. Things that become printed and put into the next step of the process - eventually getting to the end piece through various mediums. In this case, Photoshop again is just one of many tools and may not even be recognized as a primary component in the end.

Bells and whistles abound in Photoshop. There are volumes of tutorials online that give you step-by-step instructions as to how to get a particular effect. These can be useful for some that wish to work that way if the effects are then integrated into the image seamlessly, acting as supporting elements to a greater goal. The problems with these tutorials is it doesn't always work that way, sometimes the end work is the effect, in which case cookie cutter art abounds. Photoshop can be a very exact medium and it is up to the artist to make their presence known.

What it comes down to is understanding the difference between using Photoshop in your art making process and creating "Photoshop Art". If you don't get the difference then you are obviously in the latter camp, knee deep in filters and happy to be there and in that case more power to you - you may be making "Photoshop Art" but hey ignorance can be bliss. If you do understand this difference it doesn't necessarily mean that you will become a wonderful artist overnight but it will help you work toward a worthwhile goal - the goal of authenticity.

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