What digital photography isn’t

Dear Artist, Several artists have written to suggest that the massive growth of digital photography might be de-popularizing fine art. While reports of the decline of painting are suspect, protestors have a point. “Digital photography,” said one writer, “is using up everyone’s creative energy.” The stats are impressive. Last year, one billion mobile phones with cameras were sold around the world. One third of the world’s population now owns a digital camera. Facebook alone reports 300 million uploaded photos per day. The recent Queen’s Diamond Jubilee resulted in the production of more than 1.3 billion photos. Fact is, people are snapping at unprecedented rates and not taking much time to look and see. “The medium has eclipsed the moment,” says journalist Erin Anderssen. Unlike the scrapbooks of old, the tsunami of imagery remains, for the most part, ephemeral. Its commonality contrasts with the relative scarcity of paintings. Paintings are handmade. Unlike the old Kodak ad, “You press the button, we do the rest,” paintings take hours or even days of contemplation and hard-won private process. The art of painting can be an “event” that is felt by the viewer. Paintings are distinguished by texture. Texture is a mark of integrity and passion that the digital world has not yet mastered. Fine artists abandon texture at their peril. Paintings are tangible. They don’t float in clouds. Paintings have pride of place in prestigious museums and noble homes. Framed for strategic walls and inner sanctums, paintings become the love-objects of our lives. Paintings, like bars of gold, are assets of investment and hoarding; a treasury that may span generations. “Artists,” noted Salvador Dali, “are manufacturers of wealth.” Unlike the grinning and contrived poses snapped at barbeques, or the mug-shot of an uncle whose schnoz is memorable but whose name you’ve forgotten, paintings are true connections with a singular and real person. That person is you. When people collect art, they also collect the maker. Best regards, Robert PS: “The irony is that having a photo doesn’t mean you’re going to remember. It only feels like you have a vast repository of memories. A number of photos prompt a certain kind of forgetting.” (Martin Hand, sociologist, Queen’s University, Kingston, Ontario, Canada — author of Ubiquitous Photography) Esoterica: Paintings can convey the slowing down, the trance and miracle of human life. Collectors love this understanding. As a perpetrator of both the reality and the illusion, it’s lovely for you too. Recently, one of my staunchest collectors had me to his home as a guest, along with many others. While admiring the human scenery, controlling my desire to distantly snap digitals of some of the more rococo faces, I overheard our host confide to another guest, “I’ve actually got the best work he ever did. He did this one while freezing in a tent at ten thousand feet.” While the guy was mildly wrong on both counts, I couldn’t help being impressed with the brilliance of our profession.   Power vs. Force by Barbara Lammi, Chilliwack, BC, Canada   Power vs. Force by Dr David Hawkins shows how to use it to determine the energy of an object. Naturopaths and other alternative healers use it for food sensitivity testing and much more. According to a program called “Genesis” it has a 95% success rate in testing for appropriate foods. People also test strong in the presence of handmade objects — high energy, good energy. Hawkins also says that you can show a picture of Hitler to someone who has no knowledge of him and they will test weak, a print of a painting tests weak compared to an original etc. They have a website that goes into depth about the different ways to use it. There are 4 comments for Power vs. Force by Barbara Lammi
From: wes giesbrecht — Jun 28, 2012
From: Anonymous — Jun 29, 2012

wow scary, reminds of Inquisition. If you “test” lower than some number, you are considered evil…

From: painter — Jul 18, 2012


From: Mark Twain — Jul 18, 2012

reports of my demise are greatly exaggerated

  File problems with digital images by James Stewart, Sarasota, FL, USA  

“Todd’s Quartet”
original painting
by James Stewart

Whether the flood of digital clicking will have future revisiting by the clicker, after the online postings of course, will depend on our ability to file and rediscover our pictures in a few years. As a painter and graphic designer I go back through my old, some very old, envelopes of processed prints and pull images as pictorial references for a painting or family images to be made into birthday cards or the like. After six years of storing only digital files I struggle with my filing system when I want a shot of a particular person. The yearly boxes of prints yield more fruitful searches, even with face recognition software. I think I was thriftier when I had to pay for each print. But I’m still hopeful. There are 2 comments for File problems with digital images by James Stewart
From: Terry Rempel-Mroz — Jun 30, 2012

You hit it on the nose when you said “thriftier when I had to pay for each print”. The problem is not digital photography, it is people. If it’s ‘free’ it’s not as valuable – that’s human nature. All we’re seeing is all the bad snapshots people didn’t want to pay for, but now that they don’t have to pay they post everything. Good artistic photography exists, and is increasing. But the floodgate of below-par images is hiding it. I wonder what Ansel Adams would have done with a digital camera?

From: Tamara Temple — Jul 02, 2012

I’d like to imagine that Ansel would have taken up digital photography with the same zeal he did with silver halide. It’s not the medium and the materials, it’s what you do with them. At least I’d hope so. The digital age made one thing problematic: instant gratification of nearly infinite images. But there is still craft involved, at least one can involve craft, in the same way Ansel described by knowing everything there is to know about your camera, then using that knowledge to capture a great image (no more negatives, but positives to work with instead) and then there are two more steps that take the place of the print: manipulating that image into a final form, then digitally printing it. The care, the desire to learn as much about the medium as possible, the artistry, they’re all still there in digital form if one has the discipline to seek them. I think Ansel would.

  Sketches vs. camera shots by Sandra Chantry, Loughborough, UK   When I retired ten years ago I decided to a) travel the World and b) learn to paint. Since then I’ve done a fair bit of travelling and am still learning to paint. I have carried my sketchbook wherever I’ve gone and now have several that record my travels. I only have to look at my sketches to recall not only the place, but all that I experienced there… the weather, the people I met, the wonders of new food experiences and a whole host more. Last year I bought a camera and began using it to record everyday experiences on my daily walk and the changing seasons, but it’s a very different experience to sketching. It’s an accurate reminder of what I’ve seen, but that’s it. The creative energy of it is, for me, the planning and recording of the countryside that one day will be made into some sort of ‘film.’ So far it doesn’t compare with my rough sketches that record something of the life I’ve experienced.   Painter’s don’t charge enough by J. Arthur Davis, Hummelstown, PA, USA  

“Fennel fireworks”
digital photograph
by J. Arthur Davis

I have been a professional photographer for almost 50 years and have been through the film and now the digital world. Currently I work with a lot of artists helping them to reproduce their work to sell in galleries and art shows. As you mentioned in your current article about the time it takes for a painter to produce a piece, why is it that the majority of artists are afraid to charge what their time is worth for that piece of original art? I scanned a piece today for a very accomplished artist for a show she was entering. I know she has put in at least 90 hours and maybe more on the piece. She put a value of $1000.00 on the piece. That’s just over $11.00 an hour. She could go flip burgers for that kind of money. I work hard at trying to encourage my artists to get their work out into the market, at prices that will make them a reasonable living. It’s difficult. They just don’t feel anyone is buying art, much less their art. Is there an answer? (RG note) Thanks, Arthur. Supply and demand seeks lower prices when times are tough. Poor quality work cannot be sold at any time without major ballyhoo. I advise painters to try to build quality during quiet markets so that a deserved harvest can happen when times are good. There are 4 comments for Painter’s don’t charge enough by J. Arthur Davis
From: J. Bruce Wilcox — Jun 29, 2012

Thank you Mr. Davis for trying to convince artists (many women)that their time is worth more than they think it is. Doesn’t matter for one second. I put 5 times as much time into my work, at least, and can only demand a certain price point. After that- the folks looking fall into a catatonic state from sticker shock. This is a major part of the problem of succeeding financially. Time consuming work always shoots the artist in the foot moneywise- though it often feels like you’ve been shot in the head or heart. One the one hand- people look at me and say- but you’re doing what you want to do! On the other hand- one of my 2 sisters recently said- ‘You need to lower your prices.’ If you think about it for a minute- I’m sure you can imagine my response to her.

From: Anonymous — Jun 29, 2012

I once did an experiment related to this. I divided the annual earning I wanted by the average price of my paintings. Then calculated how many paintings I needed to sell monthly. Then I attempted to paint that many paintings monthly. It felt like someone was dragging me by hand and runnung way faster than I can – frightening, discouraging and joyless.

From: J. Bruce Wilcox — Jun 30, 2012

I had some further thoughts about this last night… and please try to understand- as I can no longer count the number of shows I’ve been in where I was the only male. So I actually know what I’m talking about- and you (women) won’t like it. Everywhere around me I see women put abysmal prices on work that took too long to make because they don’t know how much it’s worth. Everywhere around me I see women put abysmal prices on their work because they don’t know how much they and their time are worth. Women have been subjugated and brainwashed into subserviant roles for 10,000 (biblical/patriarchal) years. Are we past that yet? You tell me. Everywhere around me I see women put abysmal prices on their work because it doesn’t matter what price they put on it because they don’t HAVE to sell it. Women will not be equal until they MAKE themselves equal. Men will not GIVE women equality. Women have to become equal on their own. And their belief in their own self-worth- as reflected in the price they put ON THEIR WORK- will only change when their very own mindset changes. In the USA- we were never able to pass the Equal Rights Amendment. I talked with a woman I know about this a few years ago. She said- well we didn’t want women to go to Vietnam. Why not ladies? If men can die fighting stupid wars, why not women too? What makes you so special? Please don’t say your womb. There are 3.5 billion of them on the planet right now, and they are causing the overpopulation problem. At present- women are everywhere in the Armed Services- so the Armed Services had to adapt- but it’s still struggling too. There’s another sex scandal brewing. So my take on this is that we don’t have an equal rights amendment because women don’t want to be equal. AND I MEAN ALL OF THEM. Equality changes the playing field of human relationship interaction-and literally alters the perceived perks women think they get to get in relationship- which presents an enormous problem for Barbie Dolls who still believe in THE FAIRY TALE and who believe their sex/gender will deliver those perks to them. Who’s YOUR daddy? Now you might wonder why I care. Because I work in a perceived female medium. What women think they and their work are worth continues to negatively impact what people will pay me. So I no longer belong to groups or pursue hanging in shows that are primarily women. It’s pointless.

From: male of the species — Jul 18, 2012

I recently exhibited at what was billed a “fine art show”. Outdoors, under tents. A woman said that’s my husbands hand! A slightly larger than life size sculpture of an outstretched hand atop a forearm. The husband asks how much? Conception to completion it probably took three days. Yes it’s manual labor backed by talent, learning, experience, vision. If a bricklayer works on my property for three days the bill will be well into the thousands. I wanted $600 for the piece. Instead I said $300. Oh no! was his response. Well how much would you take it for? Oh I don’t want to insult you. I’d want it more as a joke. (not insulting) Make me an offer. Fifty bucks. (not insulting) I offer 50% off. Still no sale. Next time I’ll say $3,000.oo

  Photos in art shows by Laura Reed, Sarasota, FL, USA  

by Laura Reed

I would like to know what you think about digital photography competing with paintings in juried art exhibits. How can photography be compared to painting or other fine art? Our local and prestigious art center encourages all artists, including photographers, to enter the competitions. And the photographers, many protesting their work is not digitally enhanced, are winning the awards. It is a bitter pill… (RG note) Thanks, Laura. Digital work is, of course, a great and growing art. Many juried shows are currently relegating digital work to a separate category, just as watercolours are often separated from oils, etc. The tradition has been to separate all photography and photo-based work from “hand-made” work, no matter how much hand work went into the photography. But the boundaries are blurring, and many modern curators are seeing apples and apples. There are 4 comments for Photos in art shows by Laura Reed
From: Ron Ruble — Jun 29, 2012

Hurrah!!! Someday, somehow, someway, we are going to accept that digitally enhanced drawings and/or photos were made with the help of just another tool. Is it so frightening to a purist to move on from their comfort zone to perhaps discover new ways and methods to enhance their art? A true artist should be turning every rock to seek new ways of expressing themselves. I am 77 years old and have recently discovered digital and am incorporating it into my work. It has given me a new excitement personally, and my work has a new look of “today”. I have, along with many, discovered a virtual fountain of youth. Stay open to the new and accept that the world is changing and pick and choose where you can go with it instead of against it. It is a great and exciting journey. We live in a wonderful, ever changing time. Don’t miss it with a narrow mindset.

From: Rose — Jun 29, 2012

Good for you….

From: Jill Krasner — Jun 29, 2012

I couldn’t agree with Laura more! I not only admire digitally enhance photographs, but I acknowledge their value as ‘ART’…I just think DE photo art needs to be judged separately from original art; no matter how you slice them, oranges and apples are different.

From: Wanda — Jun 29, 2012

I agree with both Laura and Ron, but the gallery and etc. shows should keep the two mediums separate for judging. We just had a nice art show in our city and the digital and “handwork” were all mixed and judged together. I am a painter and I resented that. (I was not in the show). Any kid can figure out how to enhance a photo without years of study. But a painter, or one who works with their hands and heart and soul and has spent years of study, should be able to compete with one another and not with a “machine” that even I can use at the age of 85. Just keep the art forms separate for shows.

  Rationalizing in favour of paint by Joe Faith, PA, USA   A man once told me that painting could not progress any further because photography had rendered it obsolete. I’ve often contemplated the subject of painting vs. photography, digital and otherwise. The question is, “Why is painting still valid?” Being a painter, I have come up with these (self-serving) conclusions: — Since a painting takes much more time to create, time becomes an intrinsic part of the piece where a photo is a slice of time. — A painting is a topographical work built up from a ground. The layers hold a history of the artists’ thoughts and process. — The painter constructs an image where the photographer accepts an image. — Painting is an easier way to represent how I think and what I feel. That said, both painting and photography can be used to make wonderful fine art if in the hands of a skilled artist. I had to say that as my wife is a photographer. There are 3 comments for Rationalizing in favour of paint by Joe Faith
From: Mike Barr — Jun 28, 2012

And paintings can enhance what a photograph can only suggest.

From: Lois — Jun 29, 2012

While an artist constructs am image they also paint into it their particular perception or feelings of that image. A photograph is a reflection of the image at a certain point in time with no indication of the photographer’s feelings at that moment. Both have merit and it comes down to personal preference of what it is you want to preserve.

From: Tamara Temple — Jul 02, 2012

I find it interesting and a bit amusing to hear that someone could think photography, digital or otherwise, could *replace* painting. Photography captures an image of what is. Painting creates something which has not existed before. Even when painting a scene, or from a photograph of the scene, and *even* if you style is hyperrealism, it is *not* the same (as Magritte so playfully showed us). Digital photography is a medium that *can* product art, possible fine art if skill, technique, style and so on are applied to it.

  The power a painter has by Sam Liberman, Sacramento, CA, USA  

“Where There’s A Wall”
oil painting
by Sam Liberman

I often feel that one of the purposes of painting is to stop time. Time doesn’t really stop, I guess, but I stop moving through time to be at one place sometimes for a long while. I have no feeling of time going by when I am painting until I get tired and take a break. I think photographers have somewhat the same feeling when they are out somewhere taking hundreds of shots, waiting for the light to be perfect, trying for the perfect angle. I prefer painting, because we painters don’t have to wait. We can make the light, the angles, the colors, the shapes, the subject to be exactly what we want it to be without waiting for the earth to move. I try to put enough things in a painting so that I will not see them all at one viewing. I think I and the viewer want to take a little time apart and maybe even come back now and then to see what we missed the last time. It helps us to really open our eyes. There are 2 comments for The power a painter has by Sam Liberman
From: Anonymous — Jul 01, 2012

Good points. Photographers face many more constraints than painters, constraints of time, place, subject, light, optics, and equipment. But painters don’t even need a subject before them. They can just make it up; their only limitations are skill and imagination.

From: Michael — Jul 01, 2012

Sam, you have painted a beautiful picture.

  In praise of digital by Liz Ruest, WA, USA  

digital collage
by Liz Ruest

Rather than talk about the negative side of digital photography, let’s talk about the positive. It’s another medium. Just like painting, there are good examples and horrible ones. It’s a medium that might be particularly overcrowded by amateur attempts, but it’s still just a medium. It’s better when informed by other outputs, by training, by practice — as with any artistic endeavor. It’s the medium I’m trying to find a voice in. It takes me lots of tries, lots of layers, lots of adjustments, to get an image that I’m truly happy with, just like painting. It’s handmade: I don’t buy or borrow images. It’s got as much texture as I can portray. It’s tangible when printed. (And it has lots of great options for becoming tangible: metal, bamboo, glass.) And I’m tired of it not being called art! There are 2 comments for In praise of digital by Liz Ruest
From: Brenda W. — Jun 29, 2012

What a beautiful image! I’m learning ‘Photoshop’ in a couple of weeks (taking a 3-day course)and looking forward to learning how to manipulate and manage my images. YES, this is a work of art!

From: Christie — Jul 10, 2012

Brenda, I have been “learning Photoshop” for many years, and there is still so much to grasp. You are beginning an exciting journey, but three days is a baby step!!

  Making digital tangible by Bruce Meisterman, Memphis, TN, US]A  

digital photograph
by Bruce Meisterman

As a photographer, I initially resisted digital. I suppose I could have been considered a dinosaur, a purist. If an image isn’t committed to a medium (canvas, paper, cloth), then it is exactly what you say, ephemeral and intangible, nothing more than organized impulses waiting to be seen. Sadly, as you’ve written, that is what happens to most photographs these days. In the past, film was developed and made into small prints or contact sheets. They were the first steps of being fully realized. Now that realization is on a computer screen, more often than not, they will only been seen once before being relegated to a file. I made the switch to digital completely in late 2010, tearing down my darkroom. Those wonderful days of hours spent in a dubiously-safe environment are gone, replaced by hours in front of a screen. But, I make sure my images get fully realized by printing them and making them tangible, dinosaur that I am. There are 2 comments for Making digital tangible by Bruce Meisterman
From: Jackie Knott — Jun 29, 2012

Great linear contrast; natural trees against laid stone, dramatic perspective. Well done.

From: Tatjana — Jun 29, 2012

Beautiful photograph!

  Digitalizing watercolours by Andree Kuhne, Kingston, ON, Canada   I use digital photography for my watercolor paintings. I scan my painting and reprint it either black and white, color or on 4 x 6 inch photo paper. This process gives you the advantage of looking at my work in a different way, in a smaller or larger version, with more or less color hue, with contrast lighting, when flipped vertically and I can also let the software render a quick fix to my painting. I gain lots of input this way. I think of it as someone else looking at my work and giving me ideas of the changes which would be helpful. Because I repeat this function a number of times along the way, I save all the computer printouts each time and attach it to the final copy. The practical side of me needs to know where I am in this project. After I have the current digital photo of my work, I often put it aside for a day or two. When I come back, I know exactly where I was when I left off.   The human imperative by Ralph Milton, Kelowna, BC, Canada   The explosion of photography concerns serious photographers perhaps more so than it does painters, because we have an even harder time explaining the fundamental difference between a cell-phone snap and a work you’ve been struggling with for a week. I have a number of friends who cannot understand why I spend several thousand dollars on equipment when the pictures they take on a 25 dollar camera is “just as good.” Because a snapshot of a two year old covered in chocolate is, indeed, just as good. Along with some of my photographer friends, I distinguish between a snapshot and a photograph, even though that distinction is lost on most of my family and friends. I tell them I often doodle while listening to a speaker, but that doodling is far from art, even though sometimes it does show some artistic elements. I entered the world of photography when I retired (well, not totally) from my life as a writer. Most people have no idea that a writer’s art is very hard, intensive and exacting work, just as most people have no idea what goes into a fine painting or sculpture or photograph. On one occasion, I had a conversation with a surgeon who told me he planned to do some writing when he retired. What I didn’t have the wit to say then, was that I planned to do some surgery, just for the fun of it, when I retired. I don’t worry too much about the proliferation of cheap cameras. I don’t worry about the many people who have more money than good sense and who go and buy really high-end cameras. For most of them, the novelty soon wears off. The urge to create something of beauty or something of meaning is there for artists of whatever medium and will always arise because we are humans and are ourselves a work of art. There are 3 comments for The human imperative by Ralph Milton
From: Catherine McLay, Cochrane, Alberta — Jun 28, 2012
From: Patsy, Northern Ireland — Jun 30, 2012

When I think of the high intelligence, many years of study and practice, and iron nerve required of surgeons, I am glad you didn’t have the “wit” to tell that surgeon you planned to do surgery for fun when you retired. While I would never dismiss writing as easy (I have done some myself), it is a gift, like the other arts, with which one is born; one merely has to hone one’s skills. Yes, of course it’s hard work, but no-one’s life is at stake!

From: Anon — Jul 01, 2012

I’ve seen photographs from cheap plastic cameras (Dianas and Holgas) and pinholes that are superior to images made from expensive cameras, not in terms of resolution and contrast, but in other respects, and I’m sure the same goes for cell-phone images. When it comes to photographic and artistic quality, seeing trumps equipment every time.

  Before the chaos sets in by Brad Michael Moore, Perrin, TX, USA  

“My Dream String Theory”
digital artifacts
by Brad Michael Moore

For me, what my digital photography represents is everything you didn’t mention digital photography was to everyone else. A single work I may create may also take me days to complete — sandwiching dozens of layers of photo film shots, digital paintings, and drawings, and acting out hundreds if not into a thousand keyboard actions (including the time needed for pre- and after-thoughts), all these efforts to reach one conclusion — to create a single image. It is not suppose to be, or replace, or even compete with a painting — but it’s sure no snapshot either. Snapshots are for memories, and documentation of times, and places, and the occupying people there. My digital effort is an artifact, and I believe the final analysis of its value is still a determination to be made in the future. I never thought, or believed, that painting could be categorized with photography, film or digital, anymore than you can compare sculpture to weaving, lyric, prose, dance, glass, clay, or acting. Art concentrations are still what they have long represented, and painting, like other forms of art, is comparable only to other paintings. It all is part of life’s other many wonders — both man-made, and the art of what nature has provided humankind to caretake. That is where value is being forever lost at incredible rates. I am glad I will not live to experience the world of my great grand niece. At some point, I fret that the value of all great things from the past will become kindling for a future human race of new Hunter/Gatherers. Gloomy, I know, but this world I live in — it seems to me like the folks who care, and try to be Wards towards the future are fighting losing battles — some against corporations, and governments, others to healthcare and world hunger, and finally, all of us shall suffer for the ignorance of those who had the power — but not the will, to have fought against Global Climate Change — instead of profiting short-term from ignoring its solutions. Let’s enjoy making our art while we still live in a world of values 50 to 100 years before the inevitable chaos. There is 1 comment for Before the chaos sets in by Brad Michael Moore
From: Gary VanHouten — Jun 29, 2012

I hear what you’re saying Brad. Gloomy or not, the inevitable chaos is coming unless a radical shift in thought and action come about. Some days there will be things that offer some hope, other days I feel fortunate that I’m as old as I am (67) and won’t live to see the worst. Then there are days, talk about gloomy, where I think that’s not old enough. Also, like you, I think about the kids. Thank you for the courage of your words. We all need lots of courage, that’s for sure.


Archived Comments

Enjoy the past comments below for What digital photography isn’t

From: Claire Remsberg — Jun 25, 2012

How about those photographs that have been made “artsy” with a Photoshop filter and then brushed over “artfully” with acrylic medium to add a hand-done texture. I have nothing against a well done and honest art photograph, but photos masquerading as paintings, the “artists” who push them, and the collectors who are fooled by such non-brilliance all drive me to distraction. I think this foolery is here to stay. It is up to real artists to do better.

From: Mohamed — Jun 25, 2012

Hi Robert, regarding your comment “Paintings are distinguished by texture. Texture is a mark of integrity and passion that the digital world has not yet mastered. Fine artists abandon texture at their peril.” Do you mean that a watercolorist, unless they use salt to create texture, their work would not be worth a second glance?

From: Faith — Jun 25, 2012

I fear you have fallen victim to the “artful” sin of generalization. Quite apart from the giclée technique of duplicating – or is it faking – of artworks, usually in large editions, and often enough desired by the “artist” wanting to please customers who will settle for having it on their walls, it would not be not fair to claim that photography – or rather all photography – is inferior to all painting. Many people who take photos believe they are creating something they want to and can share thanks to the marvellous digital technology we have at our disposal. And there is a long tradition of wonderful art photography that has documented the passage of time in its architecture, historical events and fashion for well over a century. In those areas photography is simply unchallengeable. Whatever happens to the photos taken by Joe Bloggs every second, photography is the artistic medium of the majority these days. Maybe some will remember the way Japanese tourists used to be portrayed: as dashing around Europe in 3 days brandishing their cameras so that they would have something to look at, remember (and brag about) back home. Fortunately that cliché has been ditched thanks to the availability of cameras, though of course the custom of visually recounting where one has spent one’s last vacation, party night etc. is here to stay. Maybe visual artists – and here we go again because here we are not talking about “artists” in general but about PAINTERS – should be grateful that so many people are content to snap photos with their mobile phone or other equipment. It’s a harmless pursuit (unless done for some evil purpose) and leaves the painter space enough for his or her output. I’d also like point out to the moaner who wrote to you that creative energy is not the prerogative of “artists”.

From: Katherine Tyrrell — Jun 26, 2012

I used to have a close friend who was a professional artist. He taught me a bit about creating pictures. His rule of thumb was that for every 100 photos he took about 10% could be used and about 1% or less would be stunners. The conclusion was that to generate a lot of stunning pictures you have to take a lot of photographs I’ve never ever forgotten this and now take masses of photos each year. I don’t post many online – instead I review them all on my computer. They help teach me about composition and design – what makes a good design, a good balance of masses and, to a lesser extent (because of the problem of accuracy with values), a good value pattern. Taking a lot of photos has helped me enormously in finding the four lines to put round the subjects which I choose to draw – and I commend the practice to others.

From: Dan Spahn — Jun 26, 2012
From: Doug Mays — Jun 26, 2012
From: Nina Allen Freeman — Jun 26, 2012

Where is the “print this page” button? I have to keep this one! I think ever since photography was invented, artists have been defending their artistry against photography. Original paintings well kept last for generations. I have some that were my grandmother’s and I grew up looking at them and imagining myself in them. There is no photograph that can rival the handmade craftmanship of an original painting.

From: Anna Pereda — Jun 26, 2012

There are plenty of paintings executed with the same type of thoughtlessness you accuse digital photography of. Meaningful images, whether in the form of a painting or a photograph come from a unique place: the heart and mind and eye of the individual artist.

From: Robert Sesco — Jun 26, 2012

I wouldn’t suppose this would be a subject for discussion were it not for the competition for buyer dollars. Just as I believe in the brilliance of our Founding Fathers in creating the framework for a near-perfect system of governance, it merely required, in lieu of a benevolent or brutal dictator, a responsible, educated citizen who understood the issues and took great care with their freedoms. Relative to other forms of government we may still have a gem, but the mismanagement (bankrupt) and corruption in high places have us positioned scarily parallel in our evolution to the Roman Empire during its decline and fall. We reap what we sow. We get what we deserve. We paint for many differing reasons, but if the buying public is voting with their dollars for photography instead of paintings we may take that as valuable marketing information. Are you going to give speeches against this practice? Are you going to rail against what is? The sample size of all painters is an indication of the discrimination of the buying public or wealthy patrons, just as the sample sizes of all realistic painters to abstract painters gives us another slice of marketing data. If the selling of art is distasteful and an abomination to you, then you should have no quarrel with the proliferation of photographers. I paint to sell, but simultaneously I paint because I love to do so, because I love the never-ending challenges and potential for learning, because I love the end result (usually). Whitney may have been correct about photography transcribing life and painters translating it, but I feel that would be true only for the photographer who attempts to capture snapshots of moments. Those who manipulate their photographs also translate, just as the computer initially allowed us to conquer accounting, it was later also used by some dreamers to allow us to walk on the moon.

From: Karin Richter — Jun 26, 2012

A bit of a touchy subject. while I agree that painting is not the same as photography, both have their place in art. As a painter myself and also a photographer, I can appreciate the thought, selection process and the keen eye it requires to come up with a fine art photograph. Manipulating it with the computer is just another tool at our disposal now which also requires some skill. I don’t have a problem with calling these processes an artform, the problem is, however, that many copies can be made….. the discussion continues I guess!

From: Don Robbins — Jun 26, 2012

The observations in this letter are correct. Everyone needs some sort of creative outlet. With all the digital snap snap snap going on, potential painters are denied the need to develop skills necessary to make fine art. This in no way denigrates the fine artists who happen to make digital art.

From: Peter Kiidumae — Jun 26, 2012

Painters record images on a 2-dimensional surface using certain specialized equipment, materials and skills. Photographers record images on a 2-dimensional surface using certain specialized equipment, materials and skills. There are some really excellent paintings, there are tons of mediocre paintings, and there are far too many bad paintings. There are some really excellent photographs, there are tons of mediocre photographs, and there are far too many bad photographs. Great paintings are created by people with a good eye for composition, colour, drama, whatever it takes to produce a great image. Great photographs are created by people with a good eye for composition, colour, drama, whatever it takes to produce a great image. Both photographers and painters need a good understanding of the physics of light. When they do great work, they are artists. When they do mediocre or bad work they are just people who paint or take photographs.

From: Karen McConnell — Jun 26, 2012

Peter Kiidumae, you’ve said it all. Whatever the medium – brushes or pixels or stone – the qualities of excellence, mediocrity and outright garbage co-exist. Thank you.

From: Karen McConnell — Jun 26, 2012
From: Rodney Mackay — Jun 26, 2012

Paintings are for an elite crowd. Is that really a good thing?

From: Tatjana Mirkov-Popovicki — Jun 26, 2012

This is a great news for those of us who get our paycheck from digital storage businesses. I wonder when the green movement will catch on with this horrendous pollution…any idea how much infrastructure is required to move around those billions of worthless files? I don’t know exactly but I can tell you it’s a darn good business… The dot com bubble was a tiny dwarf comparing with this new click-send monstrosity.

From: Terrie Christian — Jun 26, 2012

Your statistics are very interesting. For several years now, artists I know in Minnesota have been expressing this concern about our own Minnesota State Fair, which is one of the largest in the U.S. We also have a very active fine arts community here that deserves celebrating. The fair has several categories including photography and in each category takes a certain percentage of what is submitted. The amount of digital and other photography has been increasing over time so that more and more the exhibit is taken over by photographs. Last year, when I went to the fair, the time that I had to look at the art was less than I have had before, so I decided to just focus on what my eye told me was fine art. Many of us recognize that there is an art to photography as well and that photographers also deserve to be celebrated. We have friends who have chosen this path. There was one photograph that drew me in despite my plan. This is a competition for space in the exhibit. It has always been a stiff competition to get in, but painters now have less chance than before. I think that this is discouraging to those who spend so much time putting their hearts into their painting as you describe. I hope that creators of art will always paint. For some, a painting is an inspiring thing! I hope we can find a way to value both without diminishing the other.

From: Michael King — Jun 26, 2012
From: Nolly Gelsinger — Jun 26, 2012

Your readers should be taking digital photos of their work and posting them on Pinterest. Photos should be “watermarked” with the artists name because as the paintings are shared, the name of the artist can be lost. I agree with those who think that the moment is being lost in the process of photography. That was probably always true, but the proliferation of digital cameras means that more people are missing more life.

From: S. Karayi — Jun 26, 2012

My paintings are in several countries of the world and they all look at it and admire them. I have comments from them, as to how much they love looking at them. Painting is art in capital letters. It is the wonder of a paint brush in hand to perform the music of art like a conductor. Art created is a wonder in itself, every time a paper or canvas is used. Pressing a button on a camera can be done by anyone, but art is created from the mind and sight and is not created by all. You can play with a photo and its color but you cannot with a painting.

From: David Lisman — Jun 26, 2012

As a serious photographer, I must disagree somewhat with what you have stated in this letter. You have compared apples and oranges. You have compared the serious art of painting with popular non-artistic digital photography. However, serious artistic photography, now mainly digital, while not in my opinion, in competition with painting, is a valid and important art form or genre. There are as many variations to this genre as there is to painting, from realism to abstract expressionism. Perhaps the common thread of painting, as an artistic genre, and (digital) photography, as an artistic genre, is the integrity of the image rendered, drawing upon whatever techniques the genre has available for the artist to achieve his or her purpose. Thanks for your elucidating remarks.

From: Jan Ross — Jun 26, 2012

Digital photos are appearing more and more often in juried fine art competitions as “giclee” on canvas, convincingly appearing as paintings. While I enjoy photography immensely, and have been fortunate to have had some images published, I still have a problem with them being included with other 2D and 3D handmade work in competitions. The thought and labor processes for photography are separate and unique from drawing and painting. I’m hoping the appreciation for the creation of painting doesn’t fall to the sidelines like the ‘rotary’ phone! Perhaps if artists continue to provide thought- provoking, visually -appealing and emotionally- moving works, we will insure our history along side those museum pieces that the public respects and celebrates.

From: Melanie Myhre — Jun 26, 2012
From: Douglas Greetham — Jun 26, 2012

As both a, so-called, fine art photographer and painter (acrylics and w/c’s), I absolutely agree with you. A painting is truly a creation, regardless of the school the painter embraces and nothing can detract from that creation. However, there is a world of difference between a clicker of snaps and someone who is trying to create a printed image that is representative of his vision. I have labored for weeks to get an image right and sometimes don’t succeed. And I must confess that both the creation of a good painting and/or a truly fine photograph gives me an equal degree of satisfaction. The advent of digital photography has expanded the world of color photography to an astonishing degree and I would submit that we have, so far, just scratched the surface. On the other hand, I am appalled at the visual tsunami that results from an event such a wedding or christening. A number of years ago, I was asked by two of our children to “send us all your photos of such and such an event.” When I refused, everyone got a bit snotty, so I no longer take a camera to family events and now, everyone is happy.

From: Peter Daniels — Jun 26, 2012

Last night there was a documentary on Picasso! It followed the connection with early film and cubism of Picasso. Picasso was utilizing film to acquire his inspiration. When it comes to other mediums other than paint and canvas, I say draw from it, make it your friend, what a door Picasso opened!

From: Moira Dedrick — Jun 26, 2012

This year I took a nine week drawing course at Studio Escalier in Paris to improve my skills. The mornings were spent drawing from a live model in their studio and the afternoons at the Louvre drawing from the Masters. I spent much of my time in the Cour Puget with the eighteenth century French sculpture. Usually I would sit in front of one sculpture for two or three afternoons, sometimes more, savouring its every detail and marveling at how it was even possible, say, to make marble look like skin or fabric or water. Some of these pieces had taken a year to execute. Often with the smaller ones they were the artist’s ticket into the French Academy and were some of the best pieces they would ever do. Flowing around this very still place was a flood of people from all over the world and I would say fully eighty to ninety percent were snapping digital photos, sometimes of themselves imitating an unusual pose, but mostly of everything in sight, including the labels. The looking at the actual piece was limited to a glance and a quick point and shoot and on they went. I wondered how looking at a photo of something later that they had not been interested enough in when it was right in front of them to take time with could be in any way satisfying. It would probably get even less time. Sometimes people would stop and exclaim over our drawings. When I would point out that the thing I was drawing was right there in three dimensions in front of them they seemed unimpressed. Did this just mean that they could relate more to the art when the artist was there? Maybe it became less abstract for them? In any case, I treasured that privilege that setting aside a camera and picking up a pencil gave me: the permission to sit and gaze and drink in the magnificence of human creativity.

From: Jeanette Obbink — Jun 26, 2012

A camera is only as good as the eyes of the holder of that camera… if you don’t stand still and observe, you miss the moment and the capturing of it… The camera might be a fast capture, it is by no means always accurate, or always able, when printed, to capture it’s viewer. Those photographs that do, are most often made by people who have an eye to see to start with… I use my own digital camera as a tool to help as a reference points when I’m back at the studio, however the best paintings still come from the sometimes/often long moments of standing, observing, painting, wrestling with the light and the materials at hand. As with the desktop publishing programs readily available to the wider audience, it doesn’t make them designers, nor does the availability of a digital camera make one a photographer or visual artist. We’ve had pens available to all, but not all are writers… As predominantly a landscape artist, I paint what catches my attention, and that can be something that takes my breath away, or something that gives me the opposite – a place to catch my breath, and funny enough, they often coincide :). I’ve come to realize that as artists, we have the ability to see beyond the ordinary, and maybe that is our task. Painting the ordinary, lifts it out and makes it a focus point for those that passed it by, but who have now, through us putting it on canvas, been given the opportunity to do a double take. In doing so, I’m hoping the viewer can appreciate what I saw, and have that same moment of catching up, breathing in, breathing out, letting go and recharging… The world still needs us. So here’s hoping that when people look at my landscapes, they can feel the breeze I felt, the stifling heat, or that musty smell or chill of that early autumn day… Capturing that in a digital shot is just as hard, so here’s a cheer to those photographers that are capable of doing just that.

From: Paul Schaufler — Jun 26, 2012

There is a vast difference between casual digital and large format fine art film photography. I will spend as much time in the process of capturing an image on film and processing to produce an archival image as an artist would to produce a painting of the same scene. We both, I suspect, spend a similar amount of time cruising to find THE location to set up our tripod or easel. Good photography still lives.

From: Peter Worsley — Jun 26, 2012

Perhaps this growth of photography is coupled with the growth of art galleries and museums who are exhibiting photography as an art form, often to the detriment of paintings

From: Annette Cargill — Jun 26, 2012

I have always been aware that as I am taking a picture I am removing myself from the moment and the action by being in the camera, and the photo is the only memory I have of it. A memory of a photo of the moment. Another reason I am a painter?

From: Susan Marx — Jun 26, 2012

What about glicee prints people make of their paintings for people who cannot afford to buy a painting. Please comment on this. I personally think it is awful. Who would buy a painting if they can buy a reproduction of it made by the artist.

From: Teresa Ettel — Jun 26, 2012

I am exploring collage as fine art and am a member of the National Collage Society as well as the Northwest Collage Society. We are working to maintain the art form as a true fine art and much thought, planning and time go into creating a piece. There are some members who use digital programs using photography and this is a constant debate. Some say “it’s cheating”. I don’t really know or care much for that matter, but it was refreshing to read your letter.

From: Marion Boddy-Evans — Jun 26, 2012

Try to find a cellphone without a camera; the stats become less impressive.

From: Marge Drew — Jun 26, 2012
From: Susan-Rose Slatkoff — Jun 26, 2012
From: Dave Chesney — Jun 26, 2012

I have always been a fan of the great B&W photographers. Colour photos are reflection, B&W is art. Lighting, lighting, lighting lighting.

From: Brian Warner — Jun 26, 2012

I’m sure similar comments were offered when photography was first invented. Always, the panic doors fly open when a new method springs to the fore. I feel that enough discerning collectors and art admirers will continue to see the difference.

From: Penny Brogden — Jun 26, 2012

Remember the Kodak Camera Craze? The computer is just another TOOL. No need to get dismissive about it. Photography is another form of Art. Photographers have watched as the commercial market has taken over the availability of photographic materials for a long time. Wham, certain papers are not available anymore, but photographers have moved on and kept working away in spite of these changes. Painting is not better than photography. These different mediums are all means to the expression and manifestation of the artist’s inner light. Remember when photography was invented in the 19thC, how there was a rumor that painting was dead? Well, that was two centuries ago and painting is still alive and kicking. Art will out.

From: Gretchen — Jun 26, 2012

Robert, I can only think you printed that letter to get the hair up on the backs of some people’s necks. I am a professionally trained Photographer. I have taught photography, lighting, and many lectures on design to photographers and painters alike. I create my “artistic” photos for hours behind the camera as well as whatever I feel like doing to them afterwards. Photos hang in Museums and grace the walls of serious collectors who collect the “person”. I have an Elliot Porter that is way over 10 times worth what it was when I bought it. I refuse to distinguish an artist by his or her medium. Next you should try saying that 3D is not art. Anyway, I forgive you and will continue to read your colum as I have for a couple of years as most of the time you trully make us think. Not the case in your last letter.

From: Linda C. Dumas — Jun 26, 2012

I find that the less I photograph, the more in the moment I remain. To make art by hand is to be supremely in the moment – even if it’s an hour.

From: Rick Rotante — Jun 27, 2012

So many images are being made by everyday people and none have any lasting effect on anyone save the person taking the picture. Many images don’t even leave the camera’s disc file or computer file to which they were uploaded. So many are taken that after awhile they become all one photo with little discrimination between scenes and thereafter mean nothing. They are fun and a fad. The problem is they do diminish the idea of a permanent painted image to many with a digital camera. But they are probably not the one ever to buy a quality painting in the first place. What artists have to not paint from photographs. Paint from life. Our work should never be from some fabricated image already mundane by the process by which it was made. Photos are one nanosecond of an event and the camera can’t discriminate what to include or exclude. What to make important and what to leave out. Even with all the advances in color development, the human eye sees more variations of color that any camera to date. Photograph is in a field by it’s self. Painting, either in Oil, Acrylic or Watercolor is also in a field by itself and the two should be separate as far as what we expect to get from them. I truly believe there are people who will always want both.

From: Tobi Ann — Jun 27, 2012

I feel the need to point out the difference between mass capture by the general population using digital media, and digital media used by the few professional talented photographers that use the medium to display their visions. There is a place in our world for digital imagery, at family get togethers, for the first step taken, and to quickly capture that moment no one will believe happened… without proof. That being said, very good photography using digital means to portray beauty, art, nature, composition and excellence is still a necessity. It’s very important for everyone to distinguish between the two main types of photography, the snapshot photography, for everyone, on every ‘phone’ out there, and the beautiful image captured by a skilled crafts person, enlarged to be hung on your wall for years and years of enjoyment, captured by a DSLR, medium or large format digital camera. My DSLR captures the most beautiful, memorable, shareable, high quality images for me as a professional, never to be shared upon sites that take away your sole rights on the image as creator. My phone captures, the first step, the funny face, that moment that everyone used to wish they had a camera for, and it is shared on community sites with friends and family across the country. I appreciate both kinds of photography, and I hope the world can appreciate and differentiate between them as well.

From: John Hulsey — Jun 27, 2012

So glad that you addressed the issue in your usual “big view” manner – we agree, photography can never be considered equal to a painting – they are not even comparable mediums. We have explored and hopefully thoroughly explained why this is so in two articles on our site, www.theartistsroad.net , The Artist’s Guide to Digital Cameras, Parts I and II. Digital cameras are basically hand-held computers with a lens attached, and they are programmed by well-meaning engineers to interpret light in certain predictable, formulaic ways which appeal to the largest group of people. Not a reasonable basis for artistic inspiration! Furthermore, while we can see up to 10 value steps, the camera can only see 5. If one shoots in the uber-common JPEG format instead of RAW, the pre-programmed algorithm throws away parts of the image before we get a chance to decide what we want. No wonder our photos of wonderful places often disappoint. The camera cannot adjust to the difference between bright light and deep shade the way our brain does – one has to choose one or the other. The differences go on and on, and we offer helpful suggestions on how to get the best out of your digital camera despite these limitations, especially for archiving art works.

From: Marty Martin — Jun 27, 2012

I work in the digital world (online marketing) and one of the things that I love about painting is it’s intrinsic ability to withstand the next solar flare. Even Michio Kaku, the well-known modern-day physicist has said it’s not a matter of “if’ but a matter of “when” another coronal solar flare will do catastrophic damage to our digital infrastructure. I began painting about a year and a half ago and since that time, I have realized that “analog” art may be our only insurance if there were to be some type of electrical disturbance that could potentially wreak havoc on everything digital.

From: Ben Novak — Jun 27, 2012

Yes there are so many “worthless” photos, that may never even be seen again; however you may want to address the more sophisticated use of the digital camera, along with manipulation to get only the outlines of a shape or face or building group, and use it as a base for a painting, which many of us have tried I am sure. In fact for a commissioned watercolor of a building familiar to the buyer I did just that, to make sure he would recognize the proportions. What can we say about such a trend?

From: Suzanne Tillman — Jun 27, 2012

Wow! In one fell swoop, you have categorized all paintings, from magnificent to dreadful, as fine art, And you have suggested that all digital photographs, from magnificent to dreadful, are the equivalent of snapshots taken with a phone camera. Do you really believe this, or were you just stirring up some conversation? If you have not had the experience of being mesmerized by a magnificent, framed, fine art digital photograph, hanging on a wall (not sitting on a cloud), I hope you will have an opportunity to do so.

From: Elle Fagan — Jun 27, 2012

Just as each of us has the unique genome, fingerprint or soul, each form of artistic expression is delightfully unique and VALID. The Redemption we learned in our finding the way in it all, since the dawn of ANY Photography. It is the lesson that was begun with us when photography was invented and first popularly applied. Before that, painting was one of only a few ways to record an image for posterity. For a bit, when photography shoved its way to fore, there was madness and that is the madness that is not feared, but celebrated today in painting. But a hundred fifty years ago, the services of the painter were no longer needed by practical society – a photo was fast, cheap and accurate. It was THEN that the world was rocked by the whole thing with painting and the actual setback and threat. The cataclysm was so severe that no one would talk about it, like the Emperor’s new clothes…a pretty obvious and dramatic scenario that all feared to discuss, or even identify. The sudden onset of digital photography did it again at first, and takes the brunt of setbacks in fine art that have had to do more with recessions and poor marketing during wartime than any intrinsic digital sinning. Respect the diversity. Celebrate the diversity and we’ve got it?

From: oliver — Jun 27, 2012

Digital can be printed on canvas – becomes tangible and …….. my work in the Museum of Fine Art Houston is printed on canvas, stretched on canvas bars and ……… Digital can be handmade – you have to spend time learning and using the digital tools just like you have to learn to use a brush and paint- just a tool box. I have spent hours and days working on my digital images. My canvas has texture, grain and etc.

From: Ryan P — Jun 27, 2012

What I DO know is that I will be printing out this thread and sharing it with my Digital Pictures students and my Visual Arts students at the high school at which I teach. I love Elle’s comment of respecting and celebrating diversity. Hopefully with some thoughtful discussion my students will eventually see this. All I can tell you is that it can be a dreary experience to click through the weekly photo challenges that my Digital Pictures students diligently tackle and submit to me. Some have the latest and most expensive equipment while others borrow obsolete point and shoots from their uncles. But there is always one or two that raise my eyebrows and have me sit up straight with a audible ‘ooooh!’. Without fail there is a small percentage (from both the high and low/borrowed tech camps) that capture a distinct, almost divine, moment. A moment that allows you to experience the subtle dance of light, a texture, or brilliant hue of an ordinary object. These students have a gift of ‘the hunt’, which isn’t a quick or violent act, but more a coaxing. If their compositions aren’t art. Well… I’ll eat my hat.

From: Barbara Dodsworth — Jun 28, 2012

Taking photographs to “remember” means you don’t take the time to really see things while they’re happening. The photo is a substitute for the experience of vision that you should have enjoyed at the time, but it prevents you from actually seeing anything and yet you don’t realize it. It puts me in mind of how museum visitors behave: they spend five minutes reading the information that the curators have so thoughtfully provided on those great big labels, and then they actually look at the painting for only about thirty seconds. They hardly looked at the painting and yet they believed they “saw” it. So what did they really “see”? I’d like to go to a museum that had no labels at all and watch what kind of “seeing” went on there.

From: Mark Rue — Jun 28, 2012

Thank you so much for your “twice-weeklies”. Thank you, thank you, thank you. Lately, I have been struggling with “over-working” my paintings. In that light, your letter from 6/25 contained a real gem for me: “The art of painting can be an “event” that is felt by the viewer”. That is so right-on. But may I suggest that it might read: “The art of painting SHOULD be an “event” that is felt by the viewer”? Best always,

From: Joan Polishook — Jun 28, 2012

Couldn’t agree more with your article though I still have respect for photographers’ images, some of which are really very good. However, what really disturbs me is the computer enhancement and manipulation of photos reproduced on canvas, wood or metal and then sold for “art.” Certainly not fair in a show, to the painter. I like it when a gallery is smart enough to separate the two art forms, featuring either photography or fine art. Thanks for your letters; I share much of what you write with the artists in my plein air group, many of whom use their cameras to record scenes just for reference.

From: Boris Kropotmiev — Jun 28, 2012

We’re not talking about fine digital art here. We’re talking about so many of the masses satisfying themselves with that tsunami of unregarded image making.

From: valerie norberry vanorden — Jun 28, 2012

What about the scrapbook craze? Where does that fall on the richter scale of artsy? Ithink that scrapbooking proves that human beings have a need to embellish and manipulate images to fit their psyches. Also, I read a post somewhere (Wet Canvas?) of an artist who printed out digital images of toy soldiers photographed and then painted over top of them in casein, for his historical paintings. I feel often that digital or any kind of camera is a crutch, but when I do portraits from photos, esp. pet photos, I like to include the photo in the finished piece to allow viewer to see where I got what I painted. My plein air stuff is scritchier and looser, cartoonier than my art painted or drawn from a photo. I especially do house portraits.

From: misspeggyartist — Jun 29, 2012

cataloging for life – I started painting six years ago, around the same time I learned to use a computer – and have kept files of my work ever since (photo of model/painting/date) (photo of still life/painting/date) (photo of whatever else I’ve painted-date) . . . also folders by year of exhibits showing the venue-date-what was entered/accepted/rejected) . . .also an excel list for tax purposes . . . and finally a *removable thumbnails board (24″x36″ with 1″x1″ images of my art) so I can easily see what is on exhibit, and where it (hopefully) will be going in the next months. *I’ve tried to do this on the computer, but hands on is so much better for me. Now that I’ve written this I’m wondering if I should call my therapist.

From: Susan Kellogg, Austin, TX — Jun 29, 2012

After reading this essay, I come up with : 
All or either/or? All is never either/or; either/or is All. Now I need some ether. This in turn lead to thinking that every painting takes its place in the history of painting. What we know of that history, we are aware of this when we see a painting and use it to help us see it. Photography has a shorter history and yet a quantum difference in what we consider when seeing a single photograph. Don’t know where this goes, it just occurred to me. Have to stop thinking in words now now and get busy thinking in colors.

From: Rachael Z. Ikins — Jun 29, 2012

I limited myself for years to photography, not believing I could draw and paint. I resisted Photoshop, then caved and felt as if I were cheating a “real artist” with “fake” effects. Now I paint and draw. Also I still do photography. I have a datebook of women photographers in history and one quote is the the effect of “the photographer, more than any other type of artist captures an exact moment and owns it more than any other form of art.” I agree with the concept that the legions of folks behind the cameras nowadays cheat themselves of actually being in the moment. I have set aside the camera on trips because either I am expwriencing the moment and living in it, or I am anxiously behind the camera, snapping away, out of touch with the present and then somewhat mystified upon return home, to look at pictures of places I was and wonder how it was. But what you wrote leaves out the whole realm of art photography and people who created it like Stieglitz, Mapplethorpe, Ansel Adams and so forth. Anyway I still do both or all kinds of art including photography from which I learned a lot about composition for paintings. As a closing comment, I would add re. The billionsof digital photos snapped on cellphones daily, as a society are more connected, yet more isolated from each other than ever before. An artist who is painting a subject sits and contemplates. We need to stay connected in a real way to the real world around us, not as bystanders passing through on rapid transit and lonely digital images. Thanks. Rachael Ikins www.rachaelikins.com Ask the Girl Arts on FB

From: J. Bruce Wilcox — Jun 29, 2012

I have to add a comment about owning a print- instead of the original. My bad- I’m sure. I have a friend who is an exceptional painter- who painted a wondeful image that held much meaning for me metaphysically- that wasn’t actually totally flat as he’d glued some interesting objects to the surface. And I wanted it. As a working artist I have no funds for buying art. I did- however- have a stack of mixed music cds that I’d just given him. So he made up a print that was only 16″ square, much smaller than the original and a perfect small size for my space, and we made a trade. And I have the (print) image and am 100% happy with that. So digital prints of original art can serve a right purpose.

From: Charles A Brackett — Jun 29, 2012
From: Joan Polishook — Jun 29, 2012

Couldn’t agree more with your letter though I still have respect for photographers’ images, some of which are really very good. However, what really disturbs me is the computer enhancement and manipulation of photos reproduced on canvas, wood or metal and then sold for “art.” Certainly not fair in a show, to the painter. I like it when a gallery is smart enough to separate the two art forms, featuring either photography or fine art. Thanks for your letters; I share much of what you write with the artists in my plein air group, many of whom use their cameras to record scenes just for reference.

From: Bruce Pollock — Jun 29, 2012

“Paintings, like bars of gold, are assets of investment and hoarding; a treasury that may span generations.” Really? All paintings? Even that one of Elvis done on black velvet hanging on your rec room wall? Or that one of the dogs playing poker? As a photographer, I had sort of hoped this debate ended in the 1860s. It’s not the medium, it’s the message. Yes, it takes more physical dexterity to create a painting than it does to create a photograph, but not more vision. Today’s world is undoubtedly flooded with billions of photographs and the vast majority of them are banal and meaningless. But that doesn’t mean that the photographic medium itself is banal. What frustrates me the most is the huge and growing number of painters who are unable to create a painting from life. They have to make a photograph of their subject first and then paint from the photo. Is this art? Their results are so obviously photographic, but since it’s done with paint, not gelatin silver or ink, all of a sudden it’s ‘art’. Can’t we just agree that not all paintings are art simply because they’re paintings? Thank you. I’ll calm down now.

From: Theresa Bayer — Jun 30, 2012

There are photos I’ve taken that look cheesy as all getout, or really boring, and yet they make good paintings. There are photos I’ve taken that look great, but they do not make for good paintings. Go figure. There is a line that can’t be crossed between both those mediums. And yes, there’s nothing like good drawing skills. It’s possible to capture something subtle andmagical in a drawing that the camera will miss.

From: John Hubbard — Jul 01, 2012

Ten years shooting photos on film underwater, I begin at thirty six exposures per dive; now with digital – unlimited shots. Ultimately the photo only becomes worthy of being called art, when it meets the same standards as paint, drawing, or art of other media; this way, the photographer is as creative in this medium. Let’s welcome Digital photography as a new medium, especially when combined with digital post processing

From: Wes Smith — Jul 01, 2012

Using digital photography as the painting medium itself … progress to applying photos directly to the canvas via photo silk screens. Now use digital photography as the painting medium itself. The completed images are computer files, printed as Giclée images on archival paper. This way, you paint in unique layers. Every image aspect, on each layer, is 100% controllable at any time in the painting process. Color, size, contrast, tone, saturation, etc. Erase part of an image layer to reveal the image below or push a layer back, bring others forward, you can warp, distort or add perspective at will. Enjoy an endless array of pressure sensitive brushes, a flexibility not possible with conventional painting tools. The trick is how, what and when to take advantage of the serendipitous opportunities. I work with a large 18″ electronic drawing/painting tablet, a pressure sensitive pen and a 27″ very high resolution iMac. I miss the smell of the paint, the feel and push back of the brush -occasionally I open a tube for its aroma while I work.

From: Doug Mays — Jul 01, 2012

Is it just me or do others feel the same? I enjoy responding to Robert’s letters from time-to-time but if you’ll notice I keep my responses to 40 words or less. I find I simply don’t have the time to read some of the responses that seem to go on forever. Heck, I’m starting to feel guilty about the length of this email. Maybe Robert can, with heaps of kindness and discretion, suggest to everyone to ‘get to the point’ otherwise their responses will likely go unread. Doug Mays Stoney Creek, Ontario

From: Mike Grandmaison — Jul 01, 2012
From: Roos Schuring — Jul 02, 2012

Touching piece about what painting is. Really moving! Netherlands.

From: Chi Xing — Jul 02, 2012

It’s very hard to make a photograph of what’s going on in my head.

     Featured Workshop: Rock Gardens Inn
062912_robert-genn Rock Gardens Inn workshops Held in Sebasco Estates, Maine, USA   The Workshop Calendar provides up-to-date selected workshops and seminars arranged in chronological order. 

Roadside Flora

pastel painting, 16 x 16 inches by Rodrica Tilley, PA, USA

  You may be interested to know that artists from every state in the USA, every province in Canada, and at least 115 countries worldwide have visited these pages since January 1, 2013. That includes Teena Robinson of Santa Fe, NM, USA, who wrote, “Painting digitally is not a lesser medium than watercolor, oil, acrylics or wax.”    

Robert and Sara Genn Twice-Weekly Letters

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