Sunday, August 5, 2007

PCO Procartoonists - The digital age meets the papyrus

A German cartoon mag called “Don Quichotte” has published a survey on whether “digital” caricatures and cartoons, should be eligible for international caricature competitions alongside “traditional” ones. This was supposedly answered by 700 cartoonists and cartoon “fans”. The result was 74%-26% in favour of admitting digital art. This is a welcome, if belated admission that a computer is just another tool in the artists’ toolbox and will be a kick in the pants for those cartoon competition organisers who demand “original” (i.e. marks made on paper with pens, pencils, quills etc.) artwork in order to build a collection of cartoon artwork for their museum/foundation at double quick time.

It does rather muddy the waters for gallery owners though. Collectors like to collect original art. Maybe it’s the frisson of actually seeing the scratchy, messy results of the frenetic panic of a cartoonist attempting to meet his/her deadline. You, as the proud owner of the original artwork, now know that those vast areas of white page, which mere passing readers may have admired as bold compositional flourishes, conceal, in fact, half a dozen previous attempts to paint in a battle scene, now embalmed in half a gallon of Tippex. Whatever the reason, original art attracts higher prices. But what of the “digital” artist? Is his/her output “worthless”? Many cartoonists now routinely use a Wacom board and “magic” infrared pen to create their artworks without ever picking up a sheet of paper. The programmes (Painter, Photoshop, Illustrator etc.) allow almost any stylistic conceit. They are, of course, only as good as the frazzled artisan directing the cursor, so the results of some experiments show as much grace and dexterity as the proverbial cow firing a musket.

Bring on the bright, feather-bedded future, awash with giclee prints.


Noel Ford said...

I'm only surprised that such significant percentage is so out of touch that they should reject the validity of cartoons drawn in a medium other than that of their own preference. Ten years or so ago ago, when I first suggested, in the pages of the Cartoonists Club of Great Britain's newsletter, that drawing digitally would one day become normal practice, some members came close to branding me as an heretic. Nowadays, many of those same cartoonists are proficient in the use of Painter and/or Photoshop.

As for the galleries, cartoonists should remind themselves that they are in the business of supplying a product (their cartoons and humorous illustration) to an industry (publishers) and that should anyone actually want to hang their work on a wall, that's a bonus and not the raison d'être. In any case, I seem to sell as many signed digital prints these days as I used to sell 'original' art. Significantly, not a single buyer has ever expressed disappointment when told that there is no physical original but they can buy a signed print. Some galleries will always cling to the snobbish attitude with which they have inflicted our artwork, whilst the more enlightened ones will embrace the concept of the signed cartoon print.