Five Reasons Traditional Art is Still a Good Option

by Melissa K. Vassar-Belloso

There are a lot of different ways to create, and while those ways have immensely evolved with the rise of technology,some of us might remember simpler times where you had to create in a much more hands-on manner. But it begs the age old question, which way is better?  Last time I looked at all the ways digital art can be a great way to create, but today I’d like to look at the other side and explore why traditional art still has a lot of potential. Please note that is sort of a spiritual part II to my previous blog on digital art. If you missed that you can read it here!

By Melissa K. Vassar-Belloso

Growing up I was always heavily exposed to art and literature. I didn’t have a huge mass of toys with bells and whistles and I spent the majority of my childhood having creative forms of entertainment in place of that.During some of what I would consider my really serious gateways into exploring art I sometimes had nothing more than a pack of printer paper and some Crayola art supplies. However, over the years I’ve slowly shifted from the creative methods of my youth to a pretty much fully digital art process. Despite how much I love the advantages of creating digitally, I still have a huge place in my heart for just sitting down and drawing the old-fashioned way and I think there are definitely some advantages to roughing it a little on your creative journey occasionally, especially if you swear by digital methods.

As always, keep in mind this is just my list. There are a ton of reasons to explore traditional art and I would imagine they differ for every person. I just tried to hit on the ones that I thought would be most appealing to people.  I would encourage you to use my list as a starting point to discover the world of traditional art for yourself and wherever that journey takes you is fine.

Reason #1
It’s a Sensory Experience

Like most things digital, when art became a more technological affair it lost a certain something. By certain something I mean it lost the sensory aspect. Much of art has a very engaging sensory element to it and I think something is sometimes lost when you can’t feel the paper or experience the weight of a real art tool in your hand. For a lot of people who choose to traditionally draw or paint, there’s a certain joy derived from not just the creation process but also the sights,sounds,smells and textures of the process. Depending on the type of creative you are, this level of immersion could make all the difference in whether you make a masterpiece or not. But I think that everyone needs at least a brief experience creating a real piece of art  and knowing what art supplies and paper feel and smell like in real life. Even if it’s just something you can recall while working  digitally, understanding what the real process is like can add a genuine layer of appreciation for artists of all types and skill levels.

Reason #2
It’s Widely Customizable and More Versatile Than Digital

Art supplies are a very plentiful resource, and while “good” art supplies used to seem to cost a kidney, that’s not really the case anymore.  Over the years, traditional art supplies have become a much more consumer friendly product for even the tightest of wallets. Additionally, there are a lot more companies producing them. This means that if you don’t like one brand, you have plenty of options available to try out. The process of creating a traditional art piece allows for a lot of different combinations as well. Using one art supply on different surfaces or with different combinations of colors and layers can create a world of possibilities for one singular piece. You can even mix medias to make something that really speaks to you. Despite it still not being as cost effective as a digital option on it’s best day, traditional art doesn’t have to be expensive either. It can be budget-friendly if you put some thought into your shopping process.

Traditional art is also still much more versatile. Not all art forms have been effectively translated into digital. Take sculpting as an example. The cheapest digital sculpting experience will put you out hundreds of dollars and have a steep learning curve. If you tackle it traditionally, it just costs some time,a ball of polymer clay and a sense of adventure. Some art forms will still be best tackled in a traditional manner and I think that’s great. Sometimes art requires love, and sometimes that love is simply born from the unmistakable time and effort of a traditionally made craft.

Reason #3
It Sparks More Raw Creativity

For me personally, I always have to adjust my mindset a little when I start working digitally. I feel like I need to do more mental prodding and brainstorming when I work in a digital format. Computers do so much to the point that I think as creative tools they can be overwhelming but somehow also underwhelming. If I have regular art supplies, I feel more of a spark and I need less of a prod to just jump in and create something.  I’m sure this isn’t the case for everyone, but I think there is some degree of difference to how inspired I feel working traditionally in comparison to basically staring at yet another lit screen. It’s the same torn feeling I get reading an e-book.

There’s something about having a crisp,empty and blank sheet of paper in front of you and a real pencil in your hand that invokes something no digital experience can. I think this is something recognized in the technology industry as well. More and more graphics tablets are working toward creating a more natural drawing experience and I highly doubt that’s on accident. It’s not to say that digital art is less inspiring by any means. Once I get a flow going on a digital drawing I do feel good and like what I create. What I do believe is that there’s a certain raw energy in traditional art that I just can’t get without an effort creating digitally, and I doubt I’m the only person who feels that way. If you ever find yourself in a creative block as a digital artist, try working traditionally. It may be just what you need to get a creative boost and act as a welcome break from staring at a device screen.

Reason #4
It’s Friendly to All Ages

As accessible as digital art is for learning purposes, it can still create some age restriction. Computers and software cost money and digital art requires being at an age where you have developed some base level of computer literacy. Do you know how old you have to be to do traditional art and enjoy it? The answer is any age. Even a tiny baby can figure out the first steps to do some basic traditional art. Traditional art is something that speaks to everyone from the smallest to the oldest in our society. It’s often something we crave before we even know what it is. It doesn’t have a recommended age or a strict learning curve. You just do it. Traditional art is one of the few things you’ll come across in life that’s truly something anyone can do and I think that’s amazing.  If you ever doubt the true value of a traditional art experience, remember what you used to be able to do with a box of crayons and construction paper as a kid. You may have Photoshop now, but we all have deep roots in traditional art that helped shape the creative we are now.

Reason #5
It Can be Done Anywhere and Travels Better

No amount of portability to a digital art studio can overshadow the fact that traditional art is everywhere. Everything in the world around us is a canvas waiting to happen whether it’s a wall,tree or sidewalk. A pile of scrap metal is one idea away from being a sculpture. Even the designs done on a cookie could be considered a form of art. Art as a concept is something that’s all around us, but this idea only really takes shape when we embrace traditional art forms. Without throwing in the crutch of doing it efficient and cheap via technology, art becomes something much more readily at our fingertips and it’s many iterations become much more apparent. At the very least, compare how you feel throwing notebook and pencil into your bag in comparison to packing up even the most compact digital device with all of it’s companion tools and cords. It may not have an undo button, but it also doesn’t have the added leash of a wall charger or the roadblock of waiting for it to boot up.

Carrying technology out into the wild isn’t the worst thing in the world, but it can be cumbersome and restrictive in comparison to taking traditional tools out on your creative  adventures instead. Another upside is that a sketchbook looks completely visible at pretty much any angle so you don’t have to break your creative flow re-positioning a digital device in the middle of working on a piece. Cutting out technical difficulties can be a huge boost to creating on the go as well. There’s no need to charge or troubleshoot regular art supplies, unless you count sharpening a pencil maybe. The modern creative community is always seemingly seeking out new ways to make creative technology more portable, but we seem to miss that art is already very portable without the bells and whistles. The next time you plan on going out into the world, try leaving your devices at home and opt for a basic sketchbook and pencil instead. You might be surprised at the difference it makes.

Bonus! Reason #6
It’s Less Distracting

Computers are distracting. There’s really no way around that. They have apps,lights,settings and a whole host of other things to distract us while we use them. I can’t even accurately tally up how often I get sidetracked from art or writing by something like Twitter,Discord or checking an incoming e-mail. Despite the goal of a computer being productivity, that’s in the midst of a whole lot of bells and whistles that create an uphill battle to being truly efficient. One of the nicer things about traditional art is that it’s virtually distraction-free and gives a much better chance of immersion and focus. This also means it has the potential to be the most ideal utilization of time. Despite some traditional works seeming to take a long time, many of them would take twice as long if you added in digital distractions.

Bonus! Reason #7
It’s More Accommodating to Creating a Shared Experience

Sometimes,especially when still learning, we want to create with others. This isn’t always an easy feat with digital art. Collaboration in the digital art community is still making some very clumsy baby steps to being anything noteworthy. On the other hand, traditional art was born to be inclusive. Traditional art isn’t just educational but also recreational. This makes it much easier to get a group together for a more traditional art activity. Digital art communities can be very hit or miss but you’ll have far less trouble finding a multitude of group and collaborative spaces for traditional art. Whether you want to draw,write,knit,sculpt or just do simple crafts something exists in most communities to accommodate that desire.

On top of the creative experience, you get true socialization and a chance to bond over mutual interests which can be a bit of a muddied experience in a digital realm. A lot of us sit around on social media platforms throwing around the pros and cons of the creative community. If you’re feeling frustrated or disconnected in that circle, disconnect from your computer and be a bit more basic about what you define as your art community. Join a knitting group. Take an art class. Organize a painting party.  The community is there, but you’ll only really know that when you reach out to other creatives traditionally.

Bonus! Reason #8
It Promotes Mindfulness and Can be Therapeutic

On top of being educational and entertaining, traditional art can also be good for your health. I can attest personally that having art and poetry as outlets quite literally saved my life more than once and far more than an antidepressant ever will. Traditional art often puts us in a state of being mindful and focused. It also redirects any negative energy we have into the thing we create,acting as a healthy outlet. Being creative allows us to take a break from our more stressful life events like work,money management and even health problems. It’s perhaps the most cost effective vacation you can go on in our busy and technology-saturated society. Art is also a form of expression that can speak to pretty much any walk of life. The next time life seems to be beating you down, pick up a pencil or paintbrush instead of a beer and a remote. You might be surprised at the simple but colossal benefits traditional art can bring to your quality of life.

That’s it for this Creative 5 but I hope you feel inspired to think about art just  a little bit differently, whether it’s digital or traditional. We may never know which one is better but what really matters is which one works for you. If anything, remember that the best thing about art is getting out there and doing it.

Thanks for reading this issue of Creative 5!

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