Inside the mind of the Modern Artist Part 2: Digital Art

Four Artists. Some conversation. Let's imagine there's coffee involved.
Inside the mind of the Modern Artist Part 2: Digital Art
Anica has no time for people who gatekeep art.

This time, I'll be interviewing a really talented digital artist I know, Anica.

Anica, how did you settle on art? How did you discover that this was your ‘thing’?

I really don’t know how I got into art. I have been drawing since as long as I can remember - I can’t think of a particular time I started, it’s just always been there. There wasn’t any particular time it hit me - “Oh yeah. Art. I can do this”. It’s just always been there as a hobby, as a passion, since forever, and I just kept getting better, you know? So, I was like yeah, if it’s there then why not use this skill in other things, does that make sense?

Yeah, it does make sense - you’re saying it was more of an organic thing where it just happened to you?

Yeah, you could say that it’s organic. I think it started from watching art TV shows like MAD and Art Attack. MAD was a huge inspiration - I used to try everything that Rob did. You could say that it got converted into a huge passion in middle school, I would say, when people started noticing my art and they were like “oh yeah, you can do this”. And of course, as you get support, you get more motivated, so I would say that was the time I really got into art and decided that I would do stuff in it.

Do you think art should be personal, and as an add-on, how do you strike the balance between art been experiential and aspirational?

Art being personal depends on the person who is doing it. Like, if you are learning art as a skill, it might not be personal, and for the basis of commercialization only. For me, personally, it’s a bit of both - a bit of personal art and a bit of commercial art. For example, when I’m making art for social media, like recently I started doing what sells, you know, what get likes and what people like, and when I am down and I need some time to be with myself, so as a therapy I do art which is personal to me.

As for the aspirational and experiential thing, I think that both of them go hand in hand, because being a self-taught artist, I have come to realise that setting goals for yourself and learning from your experiences as an artist helps. Everything I have learnt is from my mistakes. I know better than I knew two years, or three years ago, when I started doing digital art, and I know more tricks, I know how to do it more proficiently, so that’s where the experience comes in. And for growth, you need aspiration, right? You need to set goals for yourself. So yeah, I do think they go hand in hand.

You mentioned starting digital art a while ago, and that is what you mainly do now, so, could you explain to people who aren’t that well-versed in this what the difference is between digital art and traditional art?

Digital art (as the name suggests) is basically a form of art which is done digitally. Whereas, traditional art is something that is displayed with the help of physical medium(s). There are many softwares which can help one to practice digital art.

As a creator, how are the two mediums different?

There are a lot of people who start digital art while having a background in traditional art, like I did. I personally was a traditional artist till I was 16. Then, I started digital art. I used a Wacom tablet to learn, and just basically draw as I used to do with traditional art - I used to draw the same way, just on a digital screen. However, using a pen tablet to draw is not the only way to practice digital art. As I said before, terms like traditional art and digital art cover a wide variety of different forms of art, like, you know, vectors and all. You can do them without a pen tablet. You can just do it with your trackpad on your laptop - even I do that sometimes. So, it’s a vast term. You don’t necessarily need the tools that someone else does. The same goes for traditional art. So, I wouldn’t say that they’re (traditional art and digital art) the same thing, however, they can be the same thing for a few people. Like, I transitioned from traditional art to digital art using the methods I used in traditional art, so it was a similar thing for me. However, for other people, it’s not the same thing, where people choose to stick to traditional art, or even start their journey with digital art. So, they’re not necessarily the same, but it can be for some.

I have noticed a lot of hate between the traditional art community and the digital art community. The traditional art community is sick of digital art, they say that digital art form is extremely easy, you use a computer to draw, you have the software, expenses aren’t that much, etc. There’s a huge war. However, I personally feel this is all very useless. I would say that as a community in itself, artists shouldn’t fight over which one is superior to the other, or which one takes more effort, because, I, personally, hailing from both of these communities have tried both of them and think that there is no difference when it comes to effort, so yeah, I feel like the fight is useless, and we understand each other’s frustrations, but don’t bash other people to just “be superior.”

Thank you so much for that great answer. I wasn’t exactly sure whether my question made sense, but your answer made it make sense, so yeah, that was great. My next question is, looking back, are you a different person now than before you started doing art seriously, and if so, how has your art contributed to that?

Yes, definitely. I am an extremely different person now than I was ten years ago, I guess. During a time in school, for two to three years, maybe even more, I stopped doing art as a whole as an activity, and even if I did I didn’t show it to anyone because of, you know, the fear of being compared to others, the fear of not being good enough, and bullies here and there. I wasn’t really a person who got along with everyone, and so yeah, during that time I felt like a huge part of me was missing, you know, like, I’m hiding myself, I’m hiding a part of me and I’m not who I am. It just felt very weird because it’s like I was cutting off a part of me just to not gain attention to myself, and even if I did, I was so scared of failure, and rejection, and being judged that I truly felt disconnected from that part of me. So yeah, it was a very different time, because art for me, was also a way of coping with things, and if you stop doing that….

So yeah, if I am a completely different person now, it is because after school got over, I really made things up with my art again and got caught up with stuff. So yeah, now I just feel like I am more confident with myself and I know I have the skill so I can do more stuff with my art. So yes, I am a completely different person. I know that I will be evaluated, my art will be judged regardless of what I do, so I have that confidence in me, I have more skills with me that I have added. I have a better perspective of the world from then to now, so yes, I am a different person, and my art has contributed to it a lot.

What do you think about Instagram? Do you think it has helped artists?

Instagram already helps you if you’re famous. If you’re not, then goodbye all motivation to do art. It’s too much okay, like, Instagram is here to stay for sure. It is. But for artists, it used to be good from 2014-15 when the algorithm used to be nice. Now, it’s not. It’s definitely not. Instagram, just like YouTube did, they are supporting advertisers more, so like if you promote your content, then you will get more audience. If you don’t, then you won’t. If how the algorithm changes and how many likes you’re getting, how many people are seeing your posts doesn’t bother you, then yeah, Instagram is there for sure. But if you are on a social platform like Instagram, you definitely want to display your art, so it does bother people. I wouldn’t say Instagram has helped someone. The only reason I got a following was because I took a week to study the whole algorithm, and I followed that religiously for a month, and that is how I tried to battle, but it took so much out of me, it took so much of my mental space to produce more and more content, so like, you know, post at a specific time, and how to engage with people, you know, it’s a lot for any individual to handle. So, Instagram is here for sure but it’s not the best space for content creators. There are so many different places artists can go if they really want their work to be seen in a professional manner, like Behance or something, but no, not Instagram. It’s very very excruciating.

That answer really puts things into perspective. We don’t always think about the people who are trying to break through into an already established space. So yeah, that was really interesting. Okay, now comes the inevitable question. What have you been up to in lockdown, art wise? Have you been pursuing it, are you taking a break, what’s going on there?

It’s been seven months and a day. I don’t know why I’m keeping count, but yeah. During the start of lockdown, I had this huge motivation like ‘yes, I will grow my Instagram page, get a few k following, do art every day, and then gradually, like everything else, like our soul, it died down. So yeah, I tried to do art in the start but it just didn’t happen after a while, and when I tried to do more stuff, I just couldn’t do more stuff which is not related to everything that is going around all of us because that felt very ignorant to me, but also maintaining the “authenticity” of my page - I did not know how to balance both of those things, so yeah that’s why I haven’t been doing anything that is for my own self. However, I have been taking on a lot of projects, for a lot of different websites, and like, internships, etc. So, for the past few months, it’s been mainly commercial work, but now in retrospect I think I am taking a break from art, because you know, it just gets so excruciating - creating content and backing the algorithm and shouting “SAVE AND SHARE THE POST” on social media, so it’s a bit much. So maybe I am taking a break, maybe I am masking it as taking commission work, who knows. So yeah, that is what I have been up to in lockdown.

For my final question, is there one specific piece you’ve done that is your favourite?

Umm, I think I would say the elf-fairy girl I did. I’d say it’s my favourite because I’d posted after a lot of time, and got so much appreciation and engagement and like, if you see the post before that, and that post, you can really see that the break I took between them - it worked - the way I had improved and everything. I think it would be that because a lot of people supported me after that, and like, it was crazy - the day I posted it was really really crazy. I got a lot of dopamine, just seeing the way that post worked, so it would be that. Even when I’m talking to the owners of other art pages, they bring up that post saying it’s really good stuff. And even I can bring out that post like yeah look at this, this is my improvement till now. You know how every artist needs to have their own particular style - I don’t think I did have one before that. So, I learnt a lot by looking at other artists who are in the industry, and that post marked a specific style for my further art, so yeah, I would say that is it.

Anica's art is on Instagram @anicadoodles. Follow her for some great stuff.

Anica went on to promise to buy me a chocolate, which is something I will be holding her to.

Ahan Sen is a Second Year student of Mass Communication at Symbiosis University, Pune. He is a self described film buff and also loves football. "I'm Bengali - it comes with the territory", he says.

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