Since around the year 2010 there was a huge revolution going on in the domain of art. It started with two well programs: Photoshop and GIMP. Both are well known for it’s ability to manipulate photos, and before the year 2010 there were used even by experts only for that reason. That means, the standard workflow was, that somebody has made a digital picture and used an image manipulation program to edit the pixels a bit. But, after a while the users have recognized that it is possible to paint also with the software. Even without a trackpad but with a normal mouse, remarkable effects can be realized.
An objective look into the capabilities of GIMP shows us, that the software is superior to classical painting. That means, if an artist is usually painting with oil colors or acryl in reality he can switch his workflow into an all digital one. He will not missing anything. The funny thing is, that every style is possible: from realistic painting, abstract painting or simply copy an image which is already there just for fun. Somebody have tried to compare digital art with normal art. Such a comparison will fail, digital art is a here to stay and will replace on the long term any other technique. There main advantage are the costs. If an artist takes 3 weeks until his oil painting is ready he gets the same result with GIMP in 3 days. And if he usually spends lots of US-dollar for painting equipment he get the same for free, if he is using GIMP.
Around the year 2010 the typical usecase in digital art was dominated by computer games. That means, GIMP and other software were used to draw the characters in real time roleplaying games. That is the reason why 90% of all digital images have something to do with fantasy. But, it is possible to use the same technology for different topics, for example for abstract paintings, for oil paintings and even for portrait painting.
What we can monitor right now, that digital art is critized heavily by the established artist. They simply ignore it, or they finding lots of reason to not using it. It is the same pattern like Open Access is critized. In most cases, the artist are simply saying that they don’t like it, that it is evil and will destroy everything. And they are right. The majority of images created with software has a low quality, was created by amateurs and has from an artist perspective no value. It is some kind of mass product and exactly this will destroy classical painting. If one technology (digital art) replaces technology from the past (classical painting with physical brush) this is called revolution. And we are recognizing it right now.
Let us describe what classical art is. Usually the picture is large-scale (2 meter by 1 meter), was painted with oil colors and is showing a realistic scene with people. Such a setting is what can be called the core of an art school. Other technique like abstract painting, smaller images and so on are only an addon. In the now most of the pictures were created handcrafted without computer support. But, from a technology point of view it is possible to create in gimp also a 2mx1m picture, in oil colors which shows a realistic scene. It is not very often, but it is possible. The main difference are the lower costs, that means, it takes less time and needs less money to create such a picture with GIMP. I would guess at least by the factor 10. The bottleneck in digital painting is the printing on a real paper. Today, large inkjet printers can be used, but they have a lower quality then a handmade oil painting. To overcome the problems a robotic-oil printing device makes sense. Here is the idea that a jpeg image is used as input, and a robotarm is brushing the colors on the sheet.
Digital oil painting
Let us observe a typical youtube tutorial with the title “Digital oil painting timelapse”. What is interesting is, that the overall workflow is transparent. That means, the artist gives a hint, that he took exactly 59 minutes to complete the work from scratch to the last brushstroke. And the audience can see exactly what the artist has done, so it is possible to do the same. That means to use the same colors, the same brushes and the same software. And that is perhaps the most important difference to classical non-digital painting. Here is everything a secret. The audience is not allowed to observe the artist, the artist is working in secrecy and gives no hint how long does it take and at the end the audience gets only the picture, but not a tutoriall how to become a painter for themself. Some people are argue, that these is equal to real art, but it is the art how it was done in the past. The new form can be called Open Art, it contains of more information for the audience, is entirely digital and produces the same or better quality.
Another remarkable feature of digital art is, that it can be used as an addition to a traditional workflow. In the first 60 minutes the artist is creating with gimp a digital image on the screen. On layer 1 he is drawing the outline with a pencil and on layer 2 he is filling the gaps with colors. Then he prints out both layers and paints the image on a real sheet of paper with oil colors. That means, he is not using an inkjet printer and not a robotic printer, but paints themself with real colors. The advantage is the separation between creating the art on the screen (that means to think about the pencil drawing and the colors) and the mechanical apply of the colors at the canvas. Such a semi-automatic workflow will take longer then 60 minutes, but is not so time consuming as a traditional artwork.
DIgital art is able to automate only parts of the workflow, for example it is possible to scan in a pencil drawing, print out a concept draw or print out only the pencil drawing and filling the colors by hand. The fastest and most efficient is an all-digital one. That means, the artist is opening gimp, clicks on the buttons and saves the file in the XCF-format. With such an optimized workflow it is possible for a single artist to create in one year hundreds of oil paintings. From smaller one up to huge paintings in the size of 10 meter x 7 meter.
The reason why this revolution takes place only after the year 2010 has to do with technical limitations. To save a huge painting on a harddrive many megabytes are necessary. Otherweise the resolution is not good enough. Perhaps a small example, on the Amiga 500 computer the first paitings were created in an all digital workflow. Special painting software was available and some artists have played with the tools. But, the quality was not very high. Because 500 kb of RAM are not enough to store a realistic artwork.