Art and Technology
How technology has changed the methods available to artists
Photographs and personal experience from an art major
By Sammy Vankrevelen
Painting a picture
How Technology is involved: In the past oil
paint was the main technology used for painting. The
oldest oil paint remains were found in caves in
Afghanistan's Bamiyan Valley and where from 650 A.D.
Now there is Acrylic paint which became available in the
1950’s. It has many advantages and the two types of
paint have different qualities.
The main difference between the two types is drying time.
Acrylic paint dries within minutes while oil can take days,
weeks or months to dry depending on what color paint you
use and what mediums you add to the paint.
Acrylic paint is good for creating layers and textures. For
example, painting leaves, fur or hair. Oil paint is good for
creating smooth gradual layers and allows you to work on an
area days later because of its slow drying time. It is good for
things such as skin and fabric.
Oil paint Acrylic paint
Acrylic paint is water based meaning you use water to thin
the paint. But oil paint is oil based and you need to use
turpentine to thin the paint. Turpentine is more toxic and
expensive than water.
Oil paint also takes more training to use. You need to use the
fat over lean rule. Thicker layers dry slower and you want to
As an art major I have learned both ways but prefer acrylic.
Printing a photograph
and a darkroom
How technology is involved: The first photography
process happened in the 1820’s and digital photography was
invented in the last quarter of the 2oth century. The new
technology and the old technology both have advantages.
For example, with a digital camera printing a photograph is
now quick and easy.
If an artist today wants to print a photograph they can do it
easily with a digital camera and printer. But in the past a film
camera was the only technology available. To print a
photograph with that technology you need a darkroom,
chemicals, time and knowledge. It is such a complicated
process that most people today don’t know how to do it and
would need to take a class to learn how.
An advantage to using a digital camera is that you can see the
image you have taken right away. For film photography you
have to develop your roll of film before you know for sure if an
image turned out. For digital images it is easy to fix an image
using Photoshop but to fix a film image you have to spend
time manipulating it and using a enlarger.
There are advantages to
film photography. For
example, it has greater
resolution and can
capture details in dark
blacks and light whites
that digital can’t. But
Film and enlarger
digital cameras are less
expensive and can
capture more images for
less. As An artist I use
both technologies and
there are good things
about using both.
Using source material
Using a digital
Working from life
How Technology is involved: Before the
invention of photography artists had to work from life. Now
it is easy to print out a photo from a digital camera as a
reference. Using this technology makes available new
subject matter and allows artists to work at any time.
The ability to work from photographs has drastically
changed the methods in which artists work. Before artists
had to work from life, memory or sketches. If an artist wanted
to paint a landscape he would go outside. If he wanted to
paint a person he would need a model. If he wanted to paint a
still life he would have to paint at the same time of day each
Working form a photo allows artists to work at
anytime of the day or time of the year. It is cheaper to use a
photograph of a person than having to pay a model. And
models can move slightly and can change. For example, they
may get a hair cut or lose weight.
The vast amount of digital images on the internet allows
for a greater amount of subject matters. An artist can paint a
picture of a place he has never been too. If he wants to paint
a tree he can look at many reference photographs of trees
instead of just looking at the tree in his backyard. Because
printing a digital image is so cheap it is available to most
Digital photography may influence the type of art
that artists choose to make. There are probably fewer
landscape artists that work entirely on site anymore. Even
abstract painting has been influenced. In my painting class
the beginning students has an assignment to pick a digital
image to inspire them to create an abstract painting.
I work from digital photographs a lot. I make
paintings of animals and pets and work from photos of my
pets because they move to much to work from life. I also use
images found on the internet that others have taken.
Planning an image
How technology is involved: Before artists had to
sketch out thumbnails to decide how they wanted a piece of
art to look. Now artists can also use programs like Photoshop
to see possible compositions.
Making thumbnails is a method that is used when working
from life. In basic studio drawing we would have a large still
life to work from and we would make thumbnail sketches to
decide how we wanted the composition of our pictures.
But that is an old method and if you are going to work from
a digital image you can figure out the composition using
Photoshop. You can crop the photo different ways or you can
combine more than one photograph to create a new image
to work from.
Drawing created from life and planed
out by making thumbnails.
Digital image made from
combining pictures used
to plan a painting.
This is a digital image I made
and than turned into a
painting. I used parts of the
above photographs to create
the plan for the painting in
Getting a canvas
from the store
How technology is involved: Today people who don’t
know how to use technologies like hammers and saws can
buy a canvas at a store. The mass production of canvases also
allows anybody to try out painting. It means less work and time
spent on making your own.
There are many sizes and types of premade canvases that you
can buy from the store. The availability of these canvases
has some benefits. It saves you time and effort that it would
take to make your own. Some people may not have the tools
or know how to use the tools to make their own but this
allows more people to try out painting.
There are some disadvantages to buying a canvas from the
store. For example there may be a certain size canvas that
you want but they may not have that exact size. And making
your own can be much cheaper. I prefer the texture you get
from stretching your own canvas. I have both made my own
and bought canvases. It is easier to buy one and I’m glad that
mass production exists but it is just one option.
Framing a picture
Buying a frame
Making a frame
How technology is involved: The frame evolved from
boarders that where on vases and tomb paintings 3-4,ooo
years ago. It protected and emphasized a piece of art. Today
if an artist has to frame their art they don’t have to make
their own but they can buy a frame.
Traditionally wood has been used to make a frame and it is
still the most common material today. Artists who make their
own frames have easy access to lumbar yards and home
improvement stores to be able to buy wood. Making your
own frame can be nice because you can get the exact color
and size that you want. If you need an uncommon size
making your own can be cheaper than paying for a custom
sized to be made.
There are advantages to buying a frame. It saves you time
and work. It gives you the option of buying a metal frame or
a different material that would be hard to make yourself.
People may not have the tools, knowledge or space to make
their own frame so mass production allows more people
access to be able to frame pictures.
Tools to make your
own frame. ( If you
don’t buy your own
you have to clean up
your work area after
Showing your work
on the internet
in a gallery
How technology is involved: Before the invention of the internet
artists would show their work in galleries and meet with buyers
face to face. Now by showing work online it gives more people
the opportunity of seeing it and lets people out of the area
contact the artist.
Showing your work online gives artists the opportunity for
way more viewers than they would get for a gallery showing.
For example, every year the senior art show makes a catalog
for the show. More people actually view the catalog on Blurb,
a self publishing book website, than actually come to the
Senior Art Exhibit catalog on Blurb
Having your work on the internet lets people see all of your
work not just what is in a gallery. And it lets people see it any
time not just the hours and weeks the show will be open.
You can have viewers and buyers from all over the world not
just the areas you show work. If you have a website it may
help promote your work and you may be invited to show in
a gallery that way. There are many online art galleries and
you may be asked to join a popular one.
Painting a Picture:
New technology: acrylic paint. Before only oil paint was
How it affects me as an artist: I know how to use both types
But prefer acrylic.
Printing a Photograph:
New technology: Digital cameras. Before only film was
How it affects me as an artist: I use both methods.
Using source material:
New technology: working from a digital image. Before
artists had to work from life.
How it affects me as an artist: I work both ways but mainly
from digital images.
Planning an image:
New technology: Photoshop to plan a project. Before you
had to make sketches and thumbnails.
How it affects me as an artist: I have learned both ways but
use mostly Photoshop.
Getting a canvas:
New technology: Mass production of canvases. Before you
always had to make your own.
How it affects me as an artist: I make my own and also buy.
Framing a Picture:
New technology: Mass production of frames. You can now
buy or make your own.
How it affects me as an artist: I use both ways.
Showing your work:
New technology: The internet and showing work on it.
Before only galleries were available.
How it affects me as an artist: I use both ways.