Technology in the Arts
In International Artist magazine issue 150, we talked with a few of our new and returning faculty artists to discuss a range of subjects from mentoring and education to overcoming the most challenging obstacles. The third pair of artists we spoke with was Burton Silverman and Louis Carr on the topic of technology, and we asked them these questions:
How has the advancement of technology impacted your own art career?
Do you use social media to promote your work and have you received commissions from that platform?
In your opinion how is the advancement of technology affecting art careers, such as digital media, mechanical enlargements and 3D printing?
What advice would you give a young person that has decided on a career in art as far as education and training?
Here are Burton Silverman's responses:
1. I am really behind the curve with respect to technology in visual media. But of course, I can use all the very simple ways to send photos of my work to galleries or prospective buyers or for visual progress reports on commissioned portraits – a fantastic productivity enhancer compared to the decades before. (This was especially true for me when I worked as an illustrator when finished art had to be physically transported to the art director.) And it became useful in making some of my paintings. I often used several photos for reference, and I was able to cut and paste—via Photoshop—sections of photos so as to create better compositions. Note here: I have nevertheless maintained sketchbooks, some of them quite small, to “play” with the images and sort of see what the painting would look like in advance. But I am in the dark about how current digital devices can actually work in producing the paintings themselves. I've heard of computer drawing but confess my ignorance about this as well. With many large-scale "contemporary” works, I can only assume they had to be computer assisted, unless I totally misunderstand the obsessive compulsivity in some artists. Many videos have shown Chuck Close, for example, using computer-generated color modules to construct his over-life-sized pixilated self-portraits. The ability to reproduce multiple repetitive patterns in some modernist work has similar technical challenges. In much of photo-realist art, there is clearly an art historical echo of paintings that did just that, such as in early Flemish art (Van der Wyden, Holbein etc.) in painting those intricate white collar “ruffs” and other clothing elements, so that current ability to do so may not be that special. However, aside from the brief outcropping of Photo-Realism in the late ‘80s, the skills for this kind of expert image resolution have now emerged as if they had suffered too long in hiding from snide critics of representationalism.
2. I suppose as a very traditional artist, I would clearly stay with the basics such as a significant background in art history, especially the one about Realism which was almost eliminated from the conventional historical compilers such as Jansens’ History of Art. (Notice, there’s no predicate pronoun for the title. It almost comes across as a kind of sacred text.) Finding the art that impacts you the most is a kind of beginner manual in the journey of self-discovery. (This is perhaps no longer relevant as the need to be tech adroit may have subsumed all that.) But I’d also start someone drawing if the budding artist hadn’t already done so. Whatever skills they have can be enhanced by direct visual observation beginning with live models. Studying human anatomy can be useful at the very beginning, but my caveat is that they don’t have to be only of the nude figure and particularly not only just of women. I feel now that this often leads to a kind of 19th-century throwback to artists like Jean-Paul Gerome or the famed Adolphe Bougeureau whose technical proficiencies overwhelmed the need for more interesting content that fit contemporary sensibilities.
3. I have used Facebook and Instagram to show some of my work, including some portrait commissions (these were often posted on my Facebook business page called Silverman Studios). Despite the very positive comments, none of them produced any commissions. I am currently a little less focused on selling work as opposed to finding institutional homes for their possibly best preservation.
4. I am not sure if this has been answered already, but clearly, it has impacted the art of making “original” prints that mimic lithograph and has probably enhanced many artists’ incomes. However, I am reluctant to make any estimates or judgments here because quite honestly, I know nothing about this new century of 3D printing or any other of the ways new technologies may have impacted artists’ careers. I do understand how they may have created new kinds of auction art where the art object itself disintegrates. That's called snake-oil. Finally, I have no advice to give about computer skills. Any kid growing up in 2023 seems very tech-savvy already.
Here are Louis Carr's responses:
1. Technology is always a double-edged sword. However, in my opinion, the benefits outweigh the setbacks. As a commissioned painter, there has been no greater tool than social media to help bring awareness to what I do. In my early career, I wasn't being represented by any gallery, so it was up to me to find my audience. I put a significant amount of effort into building relationships and a collector base. I remember a season where I would physically draw and paint in social atmospheres in order to build awareness. Coffee shops and on the beach front were the most successful. I would take a portfolio with me in a small photo album to seize any chance encounter I may have to show my work to a potential client. However, once Facebook came along, it had magnified my established network by tenfold. Soon after, iPhone came on the market which allowed me to upload my artwork. 1000 songs in my pocket was not that important to me. However, having my portfolio fit in my pocket was HUGE! My phone is now used in almost every aspect of my business aside from the actual creation of paintings.
Secondarily the advancement of digital technology has also made a significant impact on the efficiency in preparing for a painting. Taking an unlimited amount of photos without development time has made my workflow into a fraction of the time. Other advancements that have helped me:
Live streaming technology, and programs like Photoshop and ProCreate have allowed me to help critique and edit mentee's work virtually
The ability to video edit
Outsource to the "gig economy"
Virtual employees and community
2. I do use social media to give awareness and that in turn creates interest for new orders. However, I don't necessarily post paintings to sell.
3. It's the natural order of things for art to use the present-day resources available to create. There are many examples in history in which artists used the latest technologies to experiment ways to make their art unique. I believe it broadens the spectrum of what could be created. All forms will develop an emergence of what is good and bad within that current use of materials and technology.
4. There are more ways to learn today than there have ever been. All will help. However, in my opinion, the best way to learn is to be in a community of professional painters. You will learn far faster not only as a craftsman but also as a businessman. Seeing a professionals' daily work life makes one feel like it's achievable and gives a reality to what it really takes to become an artist. If you go to a university, get a degree in business, marketing, or PR. It will serve you far better in your art education than a Fine Art degree.