Are digital collages “real” art?

Every so often there will be discussion about whether digital collages are “real” collages. It’s a surprisingly tense topic!

People who have never made a digital collage don’t realize how much time and effort go into making one– to the inexperienced, it looks like we’re merely moving bits around on a screen and calling it good.

This is very similar to when people say digital art is lesser than traditional art, just because digital art is created on a tablet rather than a physical canvas. It’s on a computer, so it must be easy, right? And if it’s easy, then you’re not a “real” artist.

The problem is that using a computer, even just for everyday things, requires years of learning. Using a computer for making ART also takes years of learning, and only looks “easy” because those artists have spent time, money, and energy to perfect their art.

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Digital artists are skilled creators

Every style of art has different necessary skills sets that must be developed over time and refined to fit a specific artist’s style, and that includes graphics programs. Just because you don’t understand or know the skill set of that style of art doesn’t mean that it’s easy to use– or that the people who use it are lesser than other artists.

There isn’t anything inherently better about using one particular medium over another. Cutting physical paper isn’t inherently better than “cutting” a digital image to fit into a collage: the actions and the end results are the same.

Many collage artists pull images from vintage books and magazines; digital artists do the same using public domain sources.

Physical collage artists have an organized collection of photos and image sources to pull inspiration from; digital artists do the same thing, on their computers.

We all like to layer ephemera with images; we all take element placement and text into consideration; we all try to coordinate colors and tones so the entire work is harmonious.

The difference between digital and physical collage creation is just the medium you use to create, and not much else.

Finally: If you’re a purist who hates digital collage…why worry about what others are doing? Worry about your own stuff. Both traditional paper collages and digitally-created collages are fun to make– and that should be all that matters.

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