In this modern day and age, it no longer seems strange to love your digital tools just as much as your old mum. However, rumour has it that there was once a world where the World Wide Web had yet to be invented. A world where artists could create and display their work in more of an old school way, never having to consider “going digital”. Along came technology and despite most people sporting a “happy-go-lucky” mentality towards it, artists were struggling to fit in and find new tools to stay interesting. Thankfully, they didn’t have to wait long before the ever so lovely technology presented them with a solution. In 2010 both the handy iPad and narcissist’s best friend Instagram came to the rescue – changing the way we see art forever.
To find out more about digital art, we had a chat with Roberto Esquerra, an LA-based artist and hospital receptionist who started making art with his iPad three years ago. When he first heard about the iPad, he was already editing and posting photos on Instagram using his iPod touch. It was nice and all, but he couldn’t shake the desire to create something out of nothing, like he used to do before a fulltime job and a family entered his life. So when a friend told him that with an iPad you could create some really truly original artwork, he decided to start saving.
– I still miss being able to create with real paint a lot, but it’s okay because at least I am still able to create. Digital art has gotten a lot more attention in recent years, but it is still not looked at the same as high-end paintings.
Two weeks ago, Roberto was featured on the Instagram blog, that article gave him almost 2400 new followers overnight. He’s happy about the attention, but the world of Instagram often leaves him with mixed feelings.
– I like the whole idea of having a platform where you can share creative things, but most people are just using it to post selfies. It’s a weird, sick kind of thing that is becoming normal. I mean I am grateful because I have been able to connect with some very interesting people, but I can still see the really silly side of it. At the same time, I look at myself and I am just as much of an idiot in some ways, art is not exactly a selfie but still I am saying: “Look at me, look at me.”
– I didn’t know what to think about getting so many followers. It is a natural feeling to get some sort of enjoyment out of being recognised for something you put a lot of time in to. I never looked at Instagram as a way to actually make something with my art. I’ve always just been satisfied with sharing with a few people that liked what I was doing. It fucked with my ego a bit.
With a feed often filled with selfies, blurry pics of drunken nights and thousands of cats, the majority of Instagram users probably aren’t paying attention to detail. Roberto decided to find out what would happen if he started incorporating secret messages in the shape of numbers in his art.
– I want to express things that bother me about the world, but do people really want to think about such things? I’d like to think that they do, but reality tells a different story. A lot of my pieces have to do with the ugly, violent side of life, I use the colours to accentuate or hide something because life does that, and your mind does that.
Talking about the future, Roberto mentions that earlier this year, a few galleries and art magazines contacted him, wanting to showcase his art. One gallery owner even created a Facebook page to convince him to come to a meeting.
– He was like: Hey, we are doing this solo thing for you, make sure you have these dates off work and I was like: No, sorry I can’t. Part of it was money but also if I don’t feel right I just won’t do it. But I can see how dumb that could be. I think anybody who wants to expose their art would jump on it in a heartbeat. I know why I don’t; I know what I can create. I know what I am capable of, and excuse my language but I don’t care to have my dick sucked.
He speaks vividly of future projects that he wants to do, especially one where he would recreate the human anatomy using art, sort of like a medical book but created in abstract contemporary style. He wants to do two versions, one for adults and one for children, the latter will have spreads consisting of a body part with correct names on one page and on the page next to it, only the black outlines, so kids can colour it and learn anatomy at the same time.
Although artists after all seem to have found their place in the digital world, it’s hard not to wonder what will happen if most of them continue to reflect their images solely into cyberspace. Maybe we’re on the highway towards an empty world? A world where our generation didn’t leave a single trace.