IF Leonardo Da Vinci's 'Mona Lisa' were ever revealed to be the product of a contraption he designed in the 1400s, a whole lot of people would be really pissed off.
Pitting the traditionalists who create with the purity of brushes and pens against the new media artists who generate artworks with anything digital technology has to offer, the war between the old and the new school wages on in the name of 'real art.'
On the frontlines in Namibia are artists Sigi Kolbe, Don Stevenson and Romeo Sinkala who use digital technologies to do anything and everything from creating photo fantasies to psycho-portraits to digital paintings.
All remarkably realised, their artworks are classified as digital art because they have used computer technology to create original pieces with programmes and innovations which have arguably reduced or refined the effort of the human hand...much to the ire of traditionalists.
A dream designer and femme of fancy, Sigi Kolbe is in the business of building worlds.
Able to sell her photographic fine art to establishments as illustrious as Getty Images, Kolbe believes digital art is a versatile and legitimate art form which, like all new things soon to become the norm, is in the midst of defeating its first wave of resistance.
"Our world is very visual and digital art fits wonderfully into this mass consumption of visual stimuli, says Kolbe. "I use photography primarily to create images of fantasy, often with an underlying message. Many of my works are influenced by surreal scenarios that make the viewer stop and think."
Having created and sold works made for CD covers, E-books, book covers as well as private commissions while still painting and selling oil and pastel pieces, Kolbe is particularly enamored with digital art's infinite possibility.
"Digital work has opened new avenues and as an artist it remains important to continue growing and exploring," says Kolbe who is self- taught in Photoshop and digital manipulation which she practices on a daily basis.
"My computer is my darkroom and Photoshop my art studio. This is where I create images that feed on my fantasies," the artist added.
Innovation enhances Tradition
A soul seer, illustrator and university lecturer, Don Stevenson often creates in the rift between the old and the new.
By making use of innovations such as light tables, graphic tablets and YouTube, Stevenson produces original artworks which are conceptualized in a graphics editing programme before being hand drawn in pen.
"Art is about ideas not technology and a computer is just a tool for ideas," says Stevenson. "Learning how to use a tool is half of it but you can't do anything really interesting without ideas."
Establishing creativity and imagination as the central element in producing art, Stevenson is happy to use digital technologies when creating his intricate 'psycho- portraits' which he describes as "based on my impressions of an individual"
As these psycho-portraits are essentially collages which are drafted in a graphics editing programme before using the traditional method of hand-drawing, one can see them as the best of both worlds in their use of digital inspiration for traditional creation.
Adept Digital Painter
Perhaps most vexing to traditionalists is the type of work done by Romeo Sinkala.
Sometimes indistinguishable from traditional painting, digital painting can apply traditional techniques with digital tools by way of a computer,
a digitising tablet and a stylus to create original works as well as reproductions of some of the most famous pieces in the world.
"Working digitally has lots of pro and some cons. It's a good teaching/ learning tool as you can play around without having to spend a lot of money on materials and the speed at which you can try things like colours, angles and form is mind blowing," says Sinkala.
"I can't say digital art is the future of art, but I can say that what it offers is many tools that fit easily into the mainstream of the digital world we're living in."
Maintaining that digital art is great for movie production, storyboards, animation and advertising where most works have to be kept in their digital form until the final product, Sinkala certainly believes that mode of creation is secondary to transmission.
"Art is about the piece of art an artist shares with the world regardless of the media used," says Sinkala. "Digital art is just a medium like pencil to paper or oils to canvas"
As a skill that can be self-taught, does not use finite materials and which a talented artist can use to become substantially marketable, it's a surprise that many more creatives are not tapping into the technology and endeavouring to sell their work to inestimable online and local markets.
In fact, if you are not interested in selling your fine art photography like Kolbe, fulfilling portrait commissions like Sinkala or illustrating textbooks like Stevenson, you can still use your skills to design book and CD covers, be a storyboard artist, design t-shirts, design websites, design publication layouts or even design and put together your own comic books.
Not particularly for the small- minded, like all creative careers, becoming a digital artist requires that you are continually learning while keeping abreast of technological advancements, trends and opportunities to buck them.
However, should you have the time and the talent, digital art may just be the lucrative flight into diverse fantasies you've been waiting for.