Fuse #8

Friday, October 13, 2006

Does CGI Get Enough Respect?

Eisha had a hard day yesterday. Over at Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast she spent the, "afternoon at work going through a preview box of books, of which roughly 2/3 were cgi, and all of those were on the lower end of the spectrum." Unsurprisingly she vented her frustration over badly CGIed picture books with an Open Letter to Those Who Illustrate Picture Books Digitally.

Her posting got me to thinking. What are the great picture books utilizing computers with their art these days? My first thoughts leapt to Andre Carrilho’s work on Porch Lies by Patricia McKissack (whose work looks a little something like this) alongside the simplified beauty of Antoinette Portis’s Not a Box.

But it's a far more complicated field nowandays, isn't it? Recently New York Public Library choose the 100 Books For Reading and Sharing and usually the art from those books is displayed at the beginning of the next year in my library. However, we've discovered all kinds of titles that we thought were hand-drawn are actually created on computers and have no physical object to display. It gets frustrating.

Take also into account the artists that draw and then put those drawings into computers so as to muck with them. Lane Smith does it all the time. Ditto Audrey Wood. Does that make them computer illustrators? Or when we say "computer illustrated books" are we talking only of those books that try to look as if they're little bits of Pixar? And will there someday be a future award for Best Computer Generated Picture Book? Or will I have to create that category myself? Hrm.


At 8:23 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Aren't Lauren Child's books done on the computer? Or did I totally just make that up?

At 9:27 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

As an illustrator who generally works traditionally, but who dips his toe into digital for minor assists here and there, I'd just like to say that the illustration industry doesn't really draw a line between the two. Whatever you need to make a good image is fair game. And "digital art" can encompass so many different styles and methods that it's fast becoming an almost useless descriptor. I guarantee that nearly everyone reading this has seen images they thought were, say, traditionally oil painted, that were actually crafted in Photoshop or Painter. This process requires the same skill with form, light, and color--it just gives you an Undo button when you screw up.
As an example, why not check out the ridiculously nice paintings and "ink" drawings of Justin Sweet on this page:
(Here's a fun game--there's one image on this page that was created with traditional materials. See if you can find it.)
Digital art can also mean photo manipuation, model-making and rendering with Pixar-type software, vector illustration like the kind J. Otto Siebold practices, and probably a lot of other stuff I don't even know about.
My main beef with digital art is that it makes it easy for neophyte illustrators to create images with all the polish of professional work, but none of the foundation. A person still needs to learn to draw and so forth. But these shiny turds still manage to appeal to enough people that they find publication, and probably make up the bulk of what Seven Impossible Things was talking about.

At 9:32 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

That link I tried to post above is here:
justin sweet

At 10:31 AM , Blogger Elizabeth O Dulemba said...

Another digital artist popping in here.
I think in the early days of digital art, there was no escaping the computerized look (and for a while people actually thought it was cool), but it quickly became an unflattering stereotype. However, times have changed and the computer has become a tool just likeany other. Artists bring such a variety of skills and ideas to the medium now, I don't think it's fair to label work "digital art" anymore. Yes, there are still artists whose work looks "computery" but that's not the computer's fault. Bad art is bad art no matter what the medium.
What I find ironic is I have had people call my work acrylic or pastel, when I actually draw with pencil and do everything else in Photoshop and Painter. I do hate that I don't have any originals (just giclees), but for my end product it doesn't matter. Books.
My 2 cents,

At 11:48 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Adam, I'm going to incorporate "shiny turd" into my daily vocabulary. It's positively Shakespearean. (Thou misbegotten full-gorged shiny turd!)

At 12:18 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ah, thank you, Adam! Yes, those "shiny turds" are exactly what I had finished wading through when I posted my little rant. I am sorry if I offended anyone, but I have seen the error of my ways, and received an education in the many, many uses of digital art.

At 1:01 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

No offence taken, eisha. I used to rail against digital art myself, especially when the first big batch of it rained down on the publishing world in the nineties. It's still new enough, I think, that we tend to blame the medium rather than the messenger. When people make awful watercolor paintings (like, for example, me. I never did figure out how to use watercolor), no one asks illustrators to give up watercolor. My grandkids probably won't even understand what this discussion was about.
And to e.fama--A Google search turns up over 2,000 uses of the exact phrase, "shiny turd", so I expect I just picked it up somewhere. I can't take any credit.

At 1:43 PM , Blogger fusenumber8 said...

And for my part, Eisha, I didn't want anyone to rain down offense upon you for your opinion. I just thought it a good starting point for a new topic of discussion.

I will now go and rename this blog "shiny turd". Then again, if there are already 2,000 uses of it, maybe it's too common a phrase.

At 9:22 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oh, no worries. I still maintain that a lot of the digital art showing up in picture books does, in fact, look like ass.

How could there ever be too many uses of the phrase "shiny turds"? I think it would make a great breakfast cereal.

At 10:34 AM , Blogger Julie said...

A little late, but I found this quote by Lauren Child today:

"I love the computer because it's so flexible, it keeps the whole thing fluid – and I can juggle things around until I'm happy with the look of it."

It come from this site:


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