Digital Art

Responses to Daniel Grant (Contributing Editor, American Artist magazine) (September, 2001)

Daniel Grant's questions:

"I am a contributing editor of American Artist magazine, and I have a question or two I would like to ask you with regard to the market for artwork generated on the computer. I am struck by the seeming disconnect between the enthusiasm of young artists for producing art through computer programs and the direction of the art market itself, in which collectors continue to to seek out traditional media. I don't doubt that I am missing something. I would like to know: who are the buyers for this new material? where they buy it? what they pay for it? and what the predictions are for it. The largest market for art using computers that I otherwise see are giclees, which are otherwise a form of photographic reproductions."


"First, there is not much of a market for computer art at the moment, but both the Whitney in NY and the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art have had major computer art shows in the last year.

Like any art form it has to be created first and the market comes later. I am quite sure that when gallery owners first saw Calder's now famous circus, they wondered what kind of market could exist for such an odd collection. Of course now the value must be astronomical.

I believe that with the development and lower price of flat screens, it will be possible to sell one or more of my images to be displayed on a flat screen that would hang on the wall just like a painting. With the touch of a button an owner could change pictures or program the display to change on a regular basis.

In the review by Richard Lacayo of the Whitney and San Francisco shows in Time magazine in the April 2, 2001 issue, he wrote, 'And it doesn't hurt that both of them [exhibits], as so much digital art, are displayed on wall-mounted flat-screen TV's, bits of cultural merchandise as sumptuous in their high-tech way as the Baroque wooden garlands that frame a Rubens.'

Repeating and looping animations could be even be shown. I create a number of these and they have received good reviews.

As the reviewer of my work at eDigitalPhoto wrote, 'He sees these animations not as mini-movies, but as unique four-dimensional art forms. They loop and repeat, each time with the timing a little different, so he equates them to being more like music pieces or a pulsing, living being.'

This idea is also echoed by the English reviewer, David Martin-Jones from British journal, FILM-PHILOSOPHY who wrote about my animations, 'These [photographs in sequence] are then placed in a loop, or repeated, but with asynchronous intervals between each shot. The randomness inscribed aims, Doble argues, towards the same goals as those of the futurists, or the cubists: the visualising of the whole of an object in both space and time. It is the perfect example of the way in which technological innovations change the way art is created..."

Also digital photography may have solved one of the principle problems in photography and art for that matter, the problem of the fading image. As I pointed out in my essay, 'THOUGHTS ABOUT USING A DIGITAL CAMERA'

Full article at:

DVD Essay

'A principle concern of contemporary academic photography has been the length of time that a photographic image will last. Black and white photos have a much longer life than color images so many schools and museums rejected color photography. However, digital photography has, essentially, an infinite life because information about the image is saved on a computer disk not the image itself. While color monitors may fade, the computer file can always be copied onto a disk or put on a CDROM and then displayed on a new color monitor.'

To answer your questions specifically:

#1. I would like to know: who are the buyers for this new material?

Well, Bill Gates is supposed to be installing huge flat panels in the house that he is building, so he might buy some. Other high-end art buyers should also be interested. As an artist I could provide a buyer with a signed and numbered CD and/or encode numbering or even the buyers name into each picture file which would make the pictures unique and more marketable.

#2. where they buy it?

In a gallery or off the Internet. I think a gallery would be best because then a buyer could see exactly how it looks and operates. However, because the Internet allows buyers to deal directly with artists, other buyers might get artists to design unique installations such as their own particular selection of images from an artist's portfolio.

#3. what they pay for it?

The cost of an LCD screen, especially a large one will, set the bottom line. I would suspect it would be some multiple of the cost of the LCD screen at least until the artist gets very famous.

#4. and what the predictions are for it.

Because of the nature of both photography and digital media, I believe that many artists, including myself, will sell not just one image but a series of images. For example, I have divided my site into over 25 themed exhibits. I could put one entire exhibit on an LCD display or a lot more. Sony already is retailing small LCD screens that can show a series of images called the Cyberframe(tm) Display. This technology is bound to get more sophisticated like everything else. LCD screens will fade and fail over time, but the stored digital data for an image never fades as long as the data is stored correctly. Replacing a screen with a new one will bring back the original beauty.There might be arrangements so that a buyer would have a backup to an image stored safely somewhere else. This would insure that the image would always be available to the buyer and could not be destroyed." (Rick Doble)

Re: the question ... How can we really know if a digital image is original ?

"I am a computer artist since 1993. First playing around with the windows paint program to re: orientate myself with the use of computer color and shapes drawing and painting to get some dexterity with the mouse. I found this in itself interesting enough because I always been a colorist from the time I started painting. I used to order the American Artist Magazine to pick up some painting technique hints I liked to try out.

I live in a very isolated area of Canada with very little contact for information and I taught myself the use of the computer and decided in order to be "original " in my computer art was to apply the same principal as a professional artist with the same ethics not to copy other artists works.

When I finally was able to get to the Internet from my isolated area, I discovered that all paint programs had clipart one could use for all sort of decorations for a website. Some were amusing, but none of them had anything to do with what I considered art, but many if not all were probably made by designers for money.

The very first program I downloaded free was Fractint. Even today I consider the program in its original form the most liberating program to get away from the traditional way to do any drawing or painting. One image given from the programmers could be changed in so many different ways that even the programmer might not recognize his very own formula he used.

I also realized that any original art work scanned into the computer could be changed in so many ways that the original output (Print on Paper or Canvas) should be the only one that has a " permanent form" as a reproduction of a work on the screen or on the hard drive in the protected high resolution form, all other works were changeable.

I do consider this fact the most important difference from any art done before the computer age. Any image digitalised is no longer permanent in digitalised form copyrighting does not make any difference. Maybe the programmers will find a way to have an image permanently frozen. So far I have not heard about such a possibility.

The very fact that very few well known digital artists print their own digital works today and have them reproduced by professional printers non of their prints are any "originals" by the artist and should never be signed by the artist as such. Printing is an art in itself and this has become true also for computer artists who print in their own studios archival art prints in limited editions from the original work done without any use of a scanner, is original computer art.

Digitalized art as computer-aided art, what it is called, is not original art made with the computer when other images are used to produce the final image it should have the information on the file that it was done from an image either taken with the digital Camera or any other image scanned. Any artist who likes to be called professional should be aware of the fact that his or her work would not qualify as original computer art without this information. The true 'original high resolution, if protected as artist final proof' not to be changed, is still only on the hard drive. What we show on our web sites is low resolution copy for showing and will rarely produce a good reproduction." (Ansgard Thomson)

"I'll have to be brief here. Comprehensive answers will be quite time consuming ... can do on another day.

I have a number of questions but, perhaps, the first should be a description of the main types of computer software/programs that are used in making art and what these programs actually do (or allow artists to do).

Ah. Well there are many types of applications ... so simple answer is possible. Basically artists seem to decide on what sort of imaging they wish to do ... what kind of product (output) they might wish to produce and then choose accordingly.

For example ... in the realm of printed 'computer graphics' one might want to pursue one of, or a combination of, the following: 2D images that are pixel-based (photo-like), 2D images that are vector based (line, areas and letters), or 3D images (a 'Z' axis is defined that functions as an indicated of deep space). There are many other choices as well but these three would encompass the majority of printed computer graphics. One only has to look at some of the online galleries and/or museums to get a sense of the range of these possibilities.

Second, where are the main opportunities for exhibiting and selling artwork created through a computer? Are there certain annual or bi-annual festivals of this material? Is there a list of galleries online or brick-and-mortar that display this material for sales?

There are many opportunities to exhibit and/or sell digital art online. For example:


Digital Art Museum

Focus Gallery

Going to a search engine such as and typing in a search for 'digital+art+galleries' just netted me more than 230,000 sites that I could choose to investigate. Probably not all in one sitting however.

Many traditional galleries also carry some images that are labelled 'digital art' although many times these pieces are nothing more than scanned and digitally printed versions of watercolors and/or oils, pastels drawings, etc. These repurposed pieces beg the definition of digital art and are generally not highly regarded by collectors of true digital works. On the other hand, digitally printed photographs from scanned original positives/negatives or digital camera files are often regarded as true digital art prints. The debate will range long and hard about digital 'versus' ... whatever.

Many museums now regularly exhibit and collect digital images produced by, or in collaboration with major artists from the pre- digital era. Such digital works have recently been produced and displayed by Robert Rauschenburg, Jim Dine, David Hockney and others. Many luminaries of the digital arts genre are much less well know to viewers outside those who are focused on the digital arts.

Is there any way to characterize the collectors of this material -- young or old, work in certain fields, live in certain places? Are institutions the main buyers of computer-generated artwork and, if so, does this mean that museums are removed from the interests of their traditional audiences?

I have yet found no way to make sense of the demographics of the digital collector. Most people or galleries that have purchased my work are very progressive. That seems a common thread.

Digital prints can be very pricey and are now able to be produced in/with methods that are considered archival. There are specialized digital ateliers that cater to the digital artist.

As a teacher, are there any students who are studying for an art degree and pursuing digital art making tools with whom I should speak? Names, telephone numbers.

Are there associations of digital artists that, like watercolor societies, for instance, exist to put on shows that draw collectors?

Yes ... certainly. Some are:

National Association of Photoshop Users


Each of these groups/organizations serves its own public but the concentration on digital tools and focus on creative output is shared. There are many others as well.

Well, the above skims across the surface of what I would really like to say. Want more? Glad to do it. Keep me posted on your progress toward a publication." (Dr. John Antoine Labadie, Coordinator of Art Department Digital Studios and Director of the Media Integration Project, University of North Carolina at Pembroke)

"I am a computer artist based in San Francisco. I have been creating, displaying and selling digital art for the last seven years. My own experience with the fine art gallery market is limited and I suggest you contact galleries, museums and giclee printers directly to get their opinions. I am finding there is a widespread acceptance of digital prints and reproductions in the smaller exhibition settings. Pricing for digital fine art prints seems to reflect a similar pricing for fine art photography, varying according to the reputation of the artist, the size, quality, substrate, mounting, etc. The value of prints on canvas seems enhanced with hand varnishes and embellishments, making each work have a unique hand painted look and feel." (Jeremy Sutton)

"I have written several essays and articles about this very subject. If you are interested please visit:

Dunking Bird Productions

and check out the 'Articles and Essays' section.

As for the 'enthusiasm of young artists'... speaking for myself, I am a 51 year old digital artist and in my experience mounting digital art shows and in corresponding with digital artists worldwide find the average age to be surprisingly older than the picture the media seems to paint about the whole 'digital generation' thing.

In fact, most of the 'artists' I see are at least between 35 and 60 years old. I emphasize 'artists' because while there are a lot of people interested in exploring the digital tools, those who are pursuing, studying and discussing this as an artform are much older. I take this as an indication that there has been a disconnect, rather recently in our society, not with art making, but with the established, so called 'Fine Arts' market and the over blown academic and nearly indecipherable critical language that supports it.

The 'younger crowd' does not take 'Art' seriously. But, how could they since it has been systematically removed from our schools during the last twenty years? Yet it remains that people (young and old) like to make art and one reason why we see the pervasive use of digital tools to make art is that this represents a democratization of the art making process; along with, of course, all the inherent problems.

But, the issue of 'who is buying the work' is an interesting one. I would say that people buy the art that is put out in front of them. And, therefore, I have to ask, 'Why are so few galleries representing original art created on the computer to their clients?' Also, 'Why are there no professional art critics apparently willing or capable of discussing this work?'

One of my print clients went with her agent to this year's Expo in New York and ran into the situation you described. That is, giclee reproductions of original art created in some other media being represented as 'digital art'. She sold nothing at this famous world-wide exhibit for the commercially successful. But, upon returning home to Laguna Beach and after fighting with the 'Sawdust Art Festival' committee to have her digital work included in that yearly art event for the first time in its history; set up her booth and sold many of her original art pieces printed on canvas and paper to a wide variety of people. She also met a representative from a gallery in Florence, Italy who expressed interest in showing and representing her work.

Where is this disconnect? I think the market for original designs created on the computer and marketed as prints on a wide variety of substrates is outside the normally perceived clientele of the established fine arts market, but this is not the fault of the digital artists, who have embraced this new way of making art. It is a lack of perception on the part of the established marketeers.

The ultimate market for this work lies in the millions of people (not necessarily young) who have through their personal exposure to digital art making tools now realize that true artistic skill is required to make quality art on the computer just like any of the traditional art making tools. Or, the market lies right there in front of your nose, in people who buy art because there is a direct connection between themselves and the image. The lag you see is in the 'art for investment' crowd that is waiting, as they always have, for some digital artist to make millions and die, so they can begin their feeding frenzy." (JD Jarvis)

"I teach digital design and fine art courses, work in digital as well as hands-on media, and moderate the Digital Fine Artist Forum on Artist Resource. That's the online art community which I founded, which serves 40,000 artists, students, educators and patrons every month.


For example: I can start by correcting the impression that Giclee 'prints' are photographic reproductions. On the contrary, they are simply digitally output files.

'Giclee' only refers to the model of output device used, or a resulting print from that device, but does not describe the type of digital image. (Just as 'Fiery' is a brand name for the software which prepares an image file for output to a Kodak color copier, but makes no reference to the origin of the image.)

In order to determine whether the output can be considered a 'reproduction,' 'photographic' in any sense, a print in the traditional sense, or completely original art, depends entirely on the file being output. Was the file originally a photograph? There may be no photography involved. The work may be an entirely original creation, or... something else.


I (and friends and students) frequently paint entirely original digital images using a pressure-sensitive digital drawing tablet, and software which allows us to manipulate brightness, color and saturation with a pen stroke. That stroke can faithfully mimic a squishy brush stroke, grainy pastels, pen and ink lines, watercolor wash, airbrush blends. The resulting mark can be indistinguishable from traditional media, or can look like some completely new, digital creator's mark.

The digital file is then output to an inkjet printer, laser printer, plotter, thermal wax printer, directly to slide, to film, or some other end product. Until the file is output, it does not exist in any tangible form. It can be viewed on a monitor, but that view is unreliable, because the file can only be seen at a low resolution, at the settings for that monitor.

The fastest way to determine whether an apparent 'painting' is a digital print, is to look at light reflected from the surface. If the surface is entirely smooth and homogenous, then traditional wet or dry media have not been applied to it. The pigments were applied by the digital device which produced the artist's image.


What is an original image - the stored pattern of electrons?
How do output devices affect the image?
How is quality managed from monitor to output device, and from one device to another?
What is a print?
What is an edition?
How archival are the prints?
What about working from analog media to digital, by scanning hand-made work and then manipulating it digitally?
What about working from digital to analog, by printing out the image, collaging it, and applying other media to it, etc?
What about work intended only for viewing on a monitor? ... see Tom Chambers' 'Pixelscapes':



And how do we categorize a work of art? ... by the type of tool used; by the planning, imagination and intention of the artist?; by the gestural hand and eye movements during the creative act; or by the output device?

Is it a 'photograph' if taken with a digital camera and output from a digital device to ordinary paper, without any emulsion or darkroom? (photo-graphy, light-writing. hmmm ...)

Is it a 'painting' if painted, by hand, on a digital drawing tablet using variable, splashy, transparent-looking brush strokes, if no actual paint is used? Or is it a drawing? What if it looks like a painting, and was created with painting-like gestures and feeling as opposed to drawing-like gestures and feeling.

Is it still a 'collage' if scanned pieces of photographs and drawings are painstakingly cut out, manipulated and composited only with digital tools? Or not?

What about using copyright-free photographs as source material? At what point do composited, manipulated images become the work of the collage artist? When the source images are changed beyond all recognition? Recognizable, but completely re-'painted?' (this goes to intellectual property issues ... another hot topic).

If pigment is applied to the paper by a machine in the pattern created by the artist's hand, how does that print differ from the fine art print produced by a lithography atelier which prints from plates hand-drawn by the artist?


The use of digital media is of immense concern and fascination to artists and collectors, and has inspired more anxiety than either censorship or the shameful lack of funding for the arts in America. The biggest, burning question everyone is asking, is, 'How can we really know if a digital image is 'original?'" (Li Gardiner, Dean of Faculty, Print Design Program Chair, The Center for Electronic Art Faculty, SF State University, Multimedia Studies Program)

"As an artist who considers the computer a primary artmaking tool, I find Museum Curators, Gallery Directors, Corporate Art Consultants and Collectors to be rapidly growing in their enthusiasm for art that has a digital component. I am delighted that you are distinguishing between original digital art and the 'giclee' reproductions of work done originally in another medium. Your articles could do a great service in helping to clarify the distinction." (Dorothy Krause)

"In the context where the end product of particular artwork generated on computers is a 'print', my personal view is that there are just too many shortfalls and challenges to addressing the real-world marketplace with any great expectations with this.

Shortfalls for example like the little matter that the prints we're getting are nowhere near as sweet as the traditional graphic artists' prints generated by silkscreen, photogravure, etc. in extraordinary combinations of extraordinary numbers of extraordinary custom colours and textures ... as you know. There is also the implied extra shortfall in this of the too-easy replicability of qualitatively 'original' prints from the digital world, and the absence in the end products of any direct real-world 'touch of a master's hand'.

So, my view is that if one is looking to sell computer-generated prints into the long-term, one has to compete with a whole genre of prints-for-sale-in-the-marketplace represented by every museum reproduction and every glossy, large and very-very economical Schwarzenneger poster being peddled out on the streets of Old Delhi. And that too in a regime where if I want a new computer-print for my drawing-room wall, I also have the World Wide Web to browse through for freebies. And that's just the tip of the shortfall side.

On the challenges front, the first big one is of course the absolutely burgeoning growth and spread of computer based creative practices ... to the degree that many of the children of today ... even here in India ... are growing up absolutely intuitive with creating and working with computer-based imaging, music, 3D, animation, etc. And adults aren't very far behind.

Looking deeper, we actually find ourselves living through the first generation of a torrential flood of digital imaging right the way from 'basic' Desktop Publishing emanating from almost every single computer in the world, through to the whole circus of dozens of channels feeding our television sets at twenty-four frames per second, twenty-four hours a day. And as you know, many-many-many of those frames flashing by us on TV are quite equally works of art with many of the computer-based images being singularly slaved over by 'artists' as 'art'.

In fact, I belong to the school of thought that believes humankind has transited beyond the simple 'computer' and 'information' age into a dawning 'creativity age'. The 'artist' as a species is rapidly blurring into 'everyman' wherever computers enter the picture. Even as I write this for example, some poor vice-president of some big corporation in town must be slogging over creating a PPT (Power-Point presentation) for next Monday morning. And just ten years ago, such things in India were outsourced to advertising agencies and designers. There were handsome budgets generating business for photographers, typesetters, bromide-printers and airbrush artists and what not. There'd even be boardroom presentations of the presentation at various stages of preparation to arrive at the final cut!

What may be happenning, in short, is that perhaps everyone's going to become some sort of computer-based creative practitioner ('artist') or another into the 21st century ... and what will therefore have to emerge as art is new forms of 'Super-Art'. To be fair though, I do know a couple of artists who've been reasonably successful in formally exhibiting and selling 'digital lithographs' of their computer-based imaging.

Anyway, I've been producing a six-monthly CD-gazette called The 'IDEA' (The Indian Documentary of Electronic Arts) since January 2000, and it attempts to look at everything from computer-based imaging to music to animation to industrial design to even arts presently inconceivable." (Shankar Barua)

"I will try to answer your questions, since we have our galleries in London and Wiesbaden, Germany. We are dedicated to the Digital Arts and have about ten years of experience in representing this aspect of the Fine Arts.

The buyers of this kind of art, mostly prints, which are limited editions, are the younger generation up to 40 years. They mostly grew up with the computer, and it was already a part of their early stages in life. Prices range from 500 to about 10,000 US$ average. Most of the sales are in the category below 300 US$. In the last years, we have a larger number of Animations. Installations and Animations on the market.

Regarding the future: well, this is one of the most important trends in the artworld for the future ... no doubt. Look at the effect the computer had in the music world!" (Wolfgang Lieser)

American Artist is a wonderful conservative traditional magazine. I would not expect you to jump on the latest developments in art media or tools until they have some social standing in the market place. I write to you as a painter, a producer of digital art for over twenty-two years, and as an art critic and art writer. (I wrote features and columns for the Maine Sunday Telegram, Art New England and other New England papers.)

Your questions: I would like to know: who are the buyers for this new material? where they buy it? what they pay for it? and what the predictions are for it.

In 1979 and 1980 I organized two exhibitions and auctions in New York City called 'Art in Craft Media.' At that time there were collectors of art glass, art pottery, art textiles and more, but hardly any of them were well-known or even identified. The success of the auctions I was running depended on finding the collectors, which I did through serious research and following down lots of clues. Those sales yielded roughly seven times expectations. I believe, if I remember correctly, beautiful work by Dale Chihuly, who was known then to only a few collectors and other glass makers, was about $1200. Of course today, these are worth over $20,000 and Chihuly is world famous. There were at least ten other artists whose work has become very valuable. Many of the artists represented then had been working steadily since just after World War II when they benefited from the G.I. Bill which allowed them to attend the few 'craft' schools that existed. But only in the eighties did they have 'star' power.

In terms of computer imagery, digital art is really less than 10 years old . However many artists, like myself, began working in xerox or laser printing in the late 1970s when these machines became available to the public. By 1982 I had exhibited xerox art work in some excellent galleries, but there still was little understanding of the medium. Today, in 2001, xerox, laser, and computer-generated art appears in exhibitions, sales, museums and collections, not to mention the world wide web.

You say: The largest market for art using computers that I otherwise see are giclees, which are otherwise a form of photographic reproductions.

Giclees serve many purposes. Some are photographic reproductions. Some are original prints created for that medium. Some are manipulated original works further handled on the computer. Some are simply scanned photographs of famous paintings (Indeed I've just seen a whole bunch of 19th century giclees on eBay and they are beautiful!).

Giclee is a new medium like lithography was a new medium in 1830. I remember when I started working in xerox, I used to talk about the early days of lithography, which was started I believe to handle 'laundry markings' for French washerwomen. As an aside, I like to say that I had great hopes for using offset printing as a medium because there were so many stages to it: the original, the negative, the steel plate, the etching, and the press printing. Before we artists got around to offset, however, digital printing came into existence and we are exercising a lot of creativity there.

Digital art work got off to a slow start for two reasons: In the beginning (early nineties) mostly computer types used the early imaging programs like Photoshop. They mastered the programs but didn't realize that what makes an artist is the ability to use a tool to express a vision. Secondly, artists were slow to adopt computers for everything. I say all this because I moved from the intensely art/painting world of Maine where I lived, painted and wrote about art, to San Francisco where I participated in this whole computer revolution. From 1991-1996-7 I was an evangelist and artist who tried to get other artists and people (women actually) to use computers in additional to the well-known 'nerds'.

American Artist may or may not choose to write about this medium, depending on your view of your leadership position or the needs and wishes of your readers. But it is a living medium. This year, both the Whitney and the San Francisco Museum of Art mounted shows that explored various aspects of technology and art. I was working at SFMOMA at the time, and there was no lack of material or artists working with art and technology for 010101: Art in Technological Times.

Personally, I create paintings and find ways of reproducing them digitally either from color copiers or desktop printers or iris printers (which make giclee prints). I have never been concerned about whether the print matches the original; I care about the print being a great piece in itself ... when you hold it in your hand or when you look at it. I have just made a suite of giclee prints from some very large oil pastels." (Sherry Miller)

"I'm an artist who has a website trying to sell my digital art over the Internet. I started to sell through an on-line market recently, and I found that it is very difficult although my prices are inexpensive.

My target audience is 25 to 45 years old, middle-income salary, house- or home-office owners who are on-line purchasers or catalog shoppers. I'm trying to sell my art only through the Internet at the moment, but I'd like to expand my approach. My pieces are set at under $100 dollars and marketed as crafts more than Fine Art. I'm not sure if I should call my pieces art. They are generated by a computer, but it still requires research and process in order to create.

Artists use different kinds of media as tools for self-expression, so why not the computer. Many people think that the computer makes it easier and faster. Yes, this may be if you are looking for a 'spontaneous' look, but it still requires skills, an artistic sense and concept that are pursued within traditional media. The only difference that I can think of is that no original art work exists ... in the hard-drive, so-to-speak.

In the near future, I believe that most artists (no matter what kind of medium they use) will own their website, and introduce their art on the Internet for show and sale. And by that time, almost every household will own a computer system to be able to download art from particular artists they like, and print them with a high quality, home-color printer for a reasonable price.

It is very possible that art will be more accessible in the future for everybody. Of course, people will still like to have original art, but for those who can afford it ... as it has always been." (Mike Inoue)