Handmade in the Digital Age Computers and the Garage Aesthetic

This article discusses how to keep homemade art unique while utilizing the tools that computers have to offer. It explores techniques and processes that enhance the effect of digital art and give pieces more character.

Websites like blurb.com and etsy.com have recently elevated homemade and handmade works to a highly respected, hotly demanded form of art. The desire for the “garage aesthetic” as well as the ease with which this art can be created has led to both good and bad developments within the realm of amateur arts and crafts.

Tools such as the above websites in conjunction with computer software (especially photoshop) have allowed more people than ever before access to creating and selling art. The flip-side of this is that the same tools let people take short cuts and create works that aren’t unique and can thus undermine the hand-made aesthetic.

There are a few points to consider in order to keep your work original. First, let your hand be visible. Photoshop can replicate a number of hand processes, but it is always better to do these manually. There is no replacement for a good draughtsman. A popular element of the garage aesthetic is the sharp bold block of a single color. These can be created easily and cheaply using spray paint and stencils or linoleum block prints. Don’t jump to the threshold controls in photoshop, the hand done processes will always have more character and, unlike digital art, they can’t be created by the other million people who own the same software.

Other common shortcuts are with graphics like drips, splatters and coffee stains. These images are appealing because they are unpredictable and impossible to copy exactly, so there is no point in downloading the same images that everyone else uses – it defeats the whole purpose of liquid, organic shapes. It is very easy to drip, splatter, spray and stain ink or another media onto a piece of paper and then simply scan it into your computer, or use the original in an assemblage. The result of this process will be completely unique to your design, and will still have the capabilities of a stock image. Once you scan it into your computer you can even make your own photoshop brush set, or live-trace it in adobe illustrator, which would allow you to expand it without losing any resolution.

The computer is a good middle step between the bulk of the creation and the final output. Refining the original art digitally is too often the last step though. Stay away from finishing an image with software and then printing it out on computer paper, or even card stock. Once the art has been edited, take it further with other media. Try adding paint, ink or gesso on top of your digital output. Collage and assemblage techniques have permeated the field of scrap booking, but rarely make it into digital paintings, graphic designs and other computer-based art. Take advantage of these ideas and utilize them in your designs. The best part about using software is that you can print out countless copies and experiment with them, so take your art further than the computer printer.


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Levi Sherman
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Posted on Apr 9, 2010
Simplyoj (Joy L. Carnay) Simplyoj (Joy L. Carnay)
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Posted on Apr 9, 2010