Convergent Media – Is It Time to Bury Digital Art?

Convergent Media
(I’m not big on double posting, but I’m going to with this one. This post was originally published on the Wet Canvas in the Digital Art forum. I present it here because it dovetails with my previous Is Giclee Passe? post. Apologies to those who have previously read this on Wet Canvas.)

The term giclee was coined into usage as marketing jargon. It successfully allowed printers, publishers and artists get away from using the term digital art and digital printing at a time when using either was certain to cool the ardor of potential buyers of this new media.

To keep things in context, in 1990 there was no Internet to speak of, the desktop computer revolution spawned by Windows 95 was five long years into the future. Cell phones and digital cameras weren’t the norm as with today. Fax machines exemplified the cutting edge of instant communication technology. (For those of us who worked in an office then, standing around waiting to send or receive a fax was the modern day equivalent of the proverbial water cooler.) So, using digital to describe anything related to art was not going to warm the hearts of any buyer and as such the usage of giclee was brilliantly, if no luckily, conceived, received and passed into the vernacular.

Today, we have a much different environment. People are awash in digital gadgets everywhere. and photo manipulation software comes on PCs and with digital cameras and printers. In short, we are no longer afraid of using the word digital to describe exquisite things. That said, I don’t think digital art or digital artist serves the purpose of adequately describing the kind of art typified by what those who contribute to this board create.

The process of creating art using digital means is involved and multi-stepped. There is image capture whether through digital photography or image creation using a Wacom Tablet or other hardware/software. There is a manipulation of the imagery through any number of software programs such as Painter, Photoshop, Illustrator and so on. Then comes the output onto a myriad of substrates including paper, canvas, vinyl, metal, wood and more. To produce a final desired result, the artist must print or collaborate with a printer on calibrating the equipment to get the output desired. Often pieces at this stage are further enhanced to make them yet more unique, one-of-a-kind and original.

I don’t see how calling a piece of art so created a giclee makes sense. Giclee has come to mean digital reproduction which is far different than something created from the artist’s imagination and skill in a digital environment and brought to life using digital printing techniques. To my mind, the term Convergent Media makes more sense. It reflects the usage of Mixed Media, which is an ages old widely accepted art term. Mixed media describes a multi-stage process of using different techniques and media to render an original piece of art. Convergent Media does the same thing but implies the use of technology not available to previous generations of artists.

Giclee is a marketing term. I see Convergent Media as a descriptive term. Like its cousin, Mixed Media, it requires a simple explanation of the blending of techniques and media. An artist creating Mixed Media will give the details to a point and let it go at that. That is, there could be torn paper, cloth, paint, wax, items from nature and so forth that went into the piece. But exactly how it was rendered is not a subject of conversation. Just as a Mixed Media artist doesn’t give minute trite detail such as, "I used a No. 2 lead pencil to outline on a gessoed canvas." I don’t believe a Convergent Artist needs to give all the details and a step-by-step of how an image was created in order to satisfy a buyer. They are subjectively and emotionally buying the finished vision of the artist’s imagination and creativity, not her or his computer skills.

Convergent Media Artist is an accurate, honest description of a person using any number of current technologies and techniques uses to create art. Convergent Media distinguishes from using giclee and expands on the limited term, digital art. Agreed, it requires a brief explanation as does Mixed Media, but it does not obfuscate as giclee does. I think it enhances without detraction, it embodies what’s available now and in the future for cutting edge artists to incorporate into their oeuvre.

I hope this sparks debate and opens the door for using Convergent Media as a useful descriptive term.

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About Barney Davey

I am an art marketing author, consultant, blogger and podcaster. I enjoy helping others understand and reach their potential. Follow me on twitter.com/barneydavey.com and check out my art marketing e-store at barneydavey.com/products

Comments

  1. I don’t often double post either, however, I just saw this post and wanted to comment it the same way I did over at WC.

    I loathe the term “giclee” it is indeed a marketing term and a bad one at that. While, I’m sure that there was some thought put into it, it seems to me that the people who had to sell the first “giclee” prints sat around for a while and said “well, we need something that sounds complex and artsy…hmm, france is artsy, what french words would be good?” and then they had their term. I assume that’s not what happened, however, it sure seems like it at times.

    Anywho…

    With that said, I do like the idea of “convergent media”–it’s broad but also inviting. For example, I am currently likening it to printmakers. When you deal with a term like “printmaking” you understand that the object in question was created using any number of printmaking methods, but ultimately what you have is a print.

    The same could be said with digital work. Whatever your method, ultimately, you are still left with a digital work. My only caveat would be the end result of a digital work could be many. You can print it, project it, etc. or its entire life could be left in the world of 1′s and 0′s never seeing the “physical” realm. So, while as a broad term “convergent media” is perfect–secondary terms still might be necessary.

    Finally, I agree that it presents a nice departure from “digital artist”. Too often digital art is relegated to an inferior category, even though the product can surpass that of other mediums. Of course, here’s where the stubborn Norwegian comes out in me. Digital art does accurately describe what we’re doing–to a certain degree–therefore (and here’s the stubborn part) I’d say we stick by being called digital artists, come hell or high water. However, Convergent media covers the whole a lot better. If you do a run of digitally created prints, are the prints also called “digital art”? No, they’re now prints. Yes, the process was digital, but the digital was transferred to the physical. Therefore, a word like convergent does a great deal more to not only explain the process, but, in my opinion, also open up the art up to a whole new level of thought/philosophy about the process and not just the end results.

    -Leif

  2. Couldn’t resist adding a comment on this topic. I think we give too much information as it trying to validate the way we produce and create our end art.
    I have commented on this on my blog and you are welcome to comment also.
    Too many details and explanations are not
    helping digital art, but hurting it. I don’t see artists in the museums explaining much more than “charcoal and oils on masonite” in many cases. They don’t explain how they mix their paints or use their brushes. Why should digital artists be different?
    Just my thoughts.

  3. Hi Marilyn,

    I did comment on your blog and I’m in agreement with you, digital artists too often give too much detail. The work and talent should stand on its own without delving into minutiae that detracts from the work. Because the word digital still conveys easily done on a computer, and we can’t avoid using labels as a way to communicate, I felt providing a descriptor such as convergent media, which borrows from the established term, mixed media, was a way to get in front of having something potentially unpleasant to deal with. Eventually, either the digital arts community will adopt convergent media or another appopriate term, or risk having an unwanted phrase take hold.

    It’s not a fair analogy because the word giclee was born purely out of marketing purposes, but look at how it has become synonymous with fine art digital printing. It has devolved into being less helpful as an accurate descriptor than when it was totally misunderstood and unpronouncable by most of the public. While giclee still has plenty of useful life left in it, it also has lost the cachet of representing the finest output of fine art digital printing.

    There could be those right now attempting to foist for marketing purposes some foreign words or gimmicky words to describe the process of creating art digitally. In my view, it would be a travesty if something like that happened. I don’t think the digital artists can afford to attempt to avoid an alternative label to digital art or digital artist. IMHO, it’s only a matter of time before a suggestion takes hold. For now, I think convergent media is the best suggestion. It will be interesting to see if this takes root, sparks a debate, or is the stepping stone to something more apropos.

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