This debate has raged for many many years and will continue to rage for many more. In certain internet digital art communities this debate is again resurfacing. Some people put forth that using found digital materials like, for example, 3D models available through such sites as Daz3d.com and ContentParadise.com aren’t art when rendered through tools like Poser. Well, I put for this response to these people.
What exactly is art?
That is an age old question. It doesn’t matter if you’re talking about ‘old’ mediums such as paint, canvas, pencil, clay, or metal or if you are discussing ‘new’ mediuma such as Poser, Daz, Bryce, Photoshop, Z-Brush or even Maya. The question is still valid and still remains unanswered. Basically, the answer mostly lies in the eye of the beholder. Thus, whether or not something is art is all based on opinion. Some people never believed that Marcel Duchamp’s urninals were art. Some people never believed that Jackson Pollack’s paint splatters were art. Some people never believed that Robert Rauschenberg’s mixed medium works (including tires and other found objects) were art. Some people still don’t. But, does that make them not art? No. Clearly, these men have been recognized as artists in art history. Thus, what they have created is art.
The fact is, controversy has always surrounded new forms of art and new art mediums. There have been many artists who have taken existing pre-made structures and turned them into ‘art’. In digital media, this is no different than inserting an existing Poser figure and using it in any given digital artwork. Simply using Poser and a Poser figure does not necessarily make the work less profound as art.
Creating things from scratch
For those who believe that you must create everything from scratch in 3D, I put forth this argument. Most artists who paint today do not make their own paints, construct their brushes and create their canvas (down to spinning the yarn and looming it into a fabric). If it were required by artists to create everything simply to ‘create art’, not much art would be created. Most people would spend their time creating the tools they need to create the art. Should you be required to create the graphite and shape the wood just to turn it into a pencil? No. Sure, I admire those who want to create everything from scratch and I applaud them. But, that doesn’t mean every artist needs to work in that way.
If you want to take this argument further, then you should be required to write your own Photoshop application each time you want to modify an image. Clearly, this is silly and no one would think this. So, why is it that people believe that you must create every object you place in a 3D realized world and rendered image? You don’t create every object you put in your home, why should you have to create every object you put in 3D world you create? Again, this argument is completely silly.
Creating 3D objects
Yes, creating 3D objects using a modeling program is an art in itself. It takes a lot of patience and consumes time creating these objects. Again, I applaud these content producers. And I agree that it does make those objects art, but only in the sense of industrial design (very much like the camera or a chair). The object is nothing, however, without a showplace. Like the camera, if an object isn’t used in some way and no one ever sees it, then it’s not time well spent creating the object. Thus, without a showplace, the object is not an artwork. It is art in the sense of industrial design, functional art. In this case, though, 3D objects only have functions when used in the context of creating scenes or together with other objects. So, creating a 3D version of a Ferrari F40 is great, but as an object on its own it’s really not a piece of artwork (other than industrial design). However, this F40 could be used within a larger scene combined with other objects to create an artwork. Then, the object becomes much more than its industrial design heritage.
That’s not to say I don’t respect and admire those who create 3D objects. I do. I applaud them and encourage them to create more. Without such objects, artists won’t have the necessary things to create the imaginative scenes they can envision.
Art is what you make of it
Not to be overly redundant… ok, let’s…Art is what you personally make of it. Good art conveys emotion, makes a statement and usually motivates the viewer into a reaction (good or bad). However, whether a specific work is good or bad art is for each person to decide. A 3D object, its texture and bump maps and all of its underlying components don’t and can’t both evoke a reaction and make a statement alone. Only when these objects are placed within an imaginitive scene do these objects take on a new life and become much more than the sum of their parts.
Probably the single deciding factor for whether a specific piece of art is ‘good’ or ‘bad’ is whether or not the work was intentional (i.e., makes a statement about something). Thus, if someone intentionally takes a listless figure and does nothing to it and plops it in the middle of a scene seemingly uncreatively with a few simple lights, the deciding factor is if the artist did this scene intentionally to make a point about some subject matter. Intent is the single biggest factor in any artwork. As an artist, you have to understand this single aspect. Everything you put into a scene must be intentionally placed there and and placed there for a reason. If the scene does not seem intentionally constructed, then the artwork has failed as artwork. An artist might copy those who create ‘amateur’ works in a statement about amateur artwork, but which then becomes artwork in itself. It’s the statement itself that makes it art.