It’s an entirely misleading term. Digital Art, or even just Art would be more accurate in most cases.
“Computer Generated” invokes an image of someone sitting back with their arms folded watching while the computer works out calculations and auto-generates an image. This couldn’t be further from the truth for most artists working digitally. It’s certainly not true for my digital paintings and illustrations. It’s like saying that my oil on Canvas paintings are “Canvas Generated”.
Admittedly, there are self-proclaimed “artists” who use their computers to scan photos and then apply canned filters in Photoshop to add a watercolor effect, or something similar. I would agree that for the most part, I wouldn’t call that art. The fact that I can drive a nail with a hammer doesn’t make me a carpenter. However, there are artists who use their own photography and manipulate it in Photoshop, or a similar image-editing program—using tools that mimic traditional darkroom tools—to create something completely original.
Two examples of digital artwork I have done using my Mac are Melting Stones and Cosi fan tutte. Both can be found here.
Neither of these pieces is “computer generated”. Both pieces started as a series of conceptual pencil sketches on paper. The final sketches were refined, scanned and placed on a white background in Photoshop. This is akin to transferring a rough sketch to a blank canvas. Same process, different tools. The Melting Stones painting (done for Full Cast Audio) was completed entirely on my Mac using the scanned pencil sketch as a starting point. Color was blocked in using Adobe Photoshop and Corel Painter, a graphics tablet (Wacom) and stylus. In about 30 hours, using brushes of various sizes and types that mimic traditional tools, I refined the image until I was satisfied with the painting.
Cosi fan tutte also started out as a lot of conceptual pencil sketches to work out the idea and composition. The final sketch was the basis for the final art. For this piece, I used Photoshop to create the patterns and textures which were used on the cups, tablecloth, napkin, pecans, etc. I used 3D modeling software (Infini- D) to build a scene containing the props (cups and saucers, bowl, glass, etc.) a camera and several primary and fill lights. This is precisely the same method that a photographer would use to set up a still life in a photo studio—except that the photographer doesn’t have to build all of the pieces of the still life from scratch— and then create all of the colors, patterns and textures that go on those elements—and then work out the physical and surface properties of all of the elements, such as gloss, reflectivity, texture, transparency, translucency, iridescence, gravity... Some might glance at this image and pass it off as “computer generated”. If they sat with me during the 40 or so hours that it took to create the image, they’d have a much better appreciation for it.
My computer is just another tool. Period. If anything, it makes me more creative because it allows me to explore more possibilities in less time, because I don’t have to wait for paint to dry, or substitute another color because I’ve run out of cadmium red, or spend 3 hours repainting a sky from cerulean blue to cobalt.
There was a time when watercolors were dismissed as a medium for children or amateurs. Dürer, Eakins and Wyeth might disagree. –J. Russell