Art and what constitutes art has been a debate which has been around as long as the concept of artistic expression has been. And while there are some which would argue that this or that movement is or is not within the realm of fine art, one must at the end of the day admit that art is fundamentally subjective to the viewer. However, there is a general framework of mediums which is traditionally considered the conduit from which artwork is created. Such mediums as oils, acrylics, charcoal, pastels, and watercolors, are a few. But, as the world has progressed to a more digital age, the emergence of digital expression, particularly with 3D elements, has been birthed. It is therefore necessary to look at the artistic world and wonder if 3D is refining our concept of art and sculpture?

The Digital Painting

Programs, specifically those which allow for the simulation of brushes as well as the merging of 3D models with “painted” elements, have allowed for quick productions to be rendered. And while, for the most part, the 3D images sell for a fraction of the cost of traditional mediums, gallery wrapped 3D artistic prints are available for purchase under the title of fine art. As stated, art is subjective and the person viewing it must decide if the 3D models, characters, and composition is within the realm of artistic expression or if the digital painting is just mediated propaganda for profit.

It would appear that the majority of the public has accepted a level of artistic delivery as fine art, as there are quite a few talented artists who prefer to use a Wacom and software to create compositions and final pieces. And while there may be some elements which are based off of stock or purchased components, the manipulation and the coupling of these elements with unique creative perspectives allows art to take form.

3D as a tool

Apart from the digital creation of paintings and prints, 3D tools have been utilized to expedite the creative process. 3D printers, because of their availability and their affordability, have become a dominant tool in the sculpture creation. While welding and other methods have not been neglected when forming certain creations, the ability for a person to visualize their sculpture on screen, tweak and adjust as needed, and then to print the sculpture within hours, not days, has caused a re-envisioning and rejuvenation of the sculpture world.

The 3D printer has not just created the complete picture for some artwork. Traditionalists who are less apt to fully jump on the 3D wagon, might see the 3D printer as a tool in which to create only partial elements for sculptures. For example, if an artist wishes to have a live expressive exhibit and wishes to have mascaraed figures, the masks could be purchased from CGTrader in .stl format, printed, painted and altered, and then used alongside the created components and the figures for the exhibit. So long as the printer is being used as a tool, the traditionalist does not lose anything in his or her concept and application of what defines fine art.

The transition and the danger

There is no doubt that 3D elements are becoming a part of the artistic community. The pros of this transition is that more creativity from those who do not have access to traditional mediums is present. Children, college students, and those who just don’t have the capital to invest in paints and canvases can create what is in the mind’s eye. The negative from this, rather the danger, is that as we become more dependent upon digital mediums to present and to convey our emotions, there will be a level of artistic expression which is lost. The journey of the artwork is related in the classic paintings of old, and this writer fears that should there be an abandonment from the traditional processes of creating and artistic expression, that a level of the refinement, journey, emotion, and story will be lost.

Artists would do well to embrace both the modern as well as the traditional frameworks in order to make a bridge between that of the old and that of the new. Focusing on expressions which can couple and merge technology with technique and media with medium will be the challenge of today’s artists. It is not the transition and the re-envisioning of 3D as a form of artistic expression that needs to be faced with caution but the reliance upon and the expenditure of artistic expression which may follow alongside the ease of use which one should be weary of. As with any art movement, there will be followers and there will be those that oppose, but in the end it is the art that matters.