Sunday, July 25, 2010

Art Thoughts - Urban and Vector Art

Hey folks!

Sometimes, I have random thoughts and ideas about art itself. And since this is an art blog, and not simply a "sketch blog," I think it's okay if I share them here (I wouldn't be surprised if I post this on my DA gallery as a journal, too, as I know I will get some feedback there). I would like to share my thoughts a little more often, instead of just rehashing images I post elsewhere, to you.


I was perusing DeviantART, looking for various groups that cater to the kind of art I do so that I might more-efficiently whore myself out to the masses. And I came across a group focused on vector art. Okay, fair enough, nothing strange going on here. But it's what they requested members submit to the galleries that struck me as a little surprising.

Things the owner of the group did not want to see submitted for review were realistic vector portraits and vector traces of photographs. Things the owner did want to see included actual illustrations, but I remember the guidelines mentioned a particular proclivity toward "urban" art.

For those not in the know, the "urban" style often features spatters of paint (usually meant to emulate spray paint), graffiti, cute and funny monsters, and hip-hop or pop culture references. This isn't always what urban art is, but a lot of it does fall pray to these trappings.

I mention this because what fascinates me is that it wasn't until this moment that I realized, a large portion of what's being done in the vector scene right now is "urban." And it got me wondering why. My guess is perhaps that a lot of people who are formally trained in vector art programs have an academic background in graphic design, and many elements of urban art are very similar to those found in graphic design. Look at some urban art, and you'll see there's a lot of focus on unique typography, placement, color choices, patterns, etc. I mean, of course other forms of art incorporate those things (lord knows I do with my cartoony style), but it's all law in graphic design, and almost by association, urban art. I also find a lot of the graphic design crowd tends to have a somewhat "trendy" set of tastes, which also really caters to the sensibilities of urban art.

But then, that doesn't really make a case for the enormous amount of (often gorgeous, though creatively lacking) realistic portraits done in vector mediums. What about that form of art attracts so many vector artists? I have only ever started two realistic vector portraits, and gave up because the process just wasn't something that kept me interested enough to want to continue. The payoff was slow, and ultimately not something that came from me but rather, a photographer. What's the point? Why vector it when it's already there, represented beautifully in pixels, ready to be enjoyed?

I think it has a lot to do with the challenge, honestly. I know many people that do these realistic vector portraits, for instance, really like to eyeball the colors instead of use the color picker, and perhaps they learn more about how to use tools like the Pen Tool and gradients. I like to hope realistic vector portrait artists are doing it mostly because they hope to learn and apply the experience to other, more user-created styles of art.

Or maybe I'm just a snob. Who knows.

Anyway, that's enough from me for tonight. I hope I didn't bore you to sleep, tears, or suicide.

Take care!



  1. Hey, I thought I (nekofoot) would post a comment here instead of DA so you know that someone does read your blog.

    I think that while there is some discussion with the term "urban", it almost isn't worth it. Its just so vague, like trying to define alternative or indie as genres. As with all styles there are some pieces that are inspiring, that surpass genre and are wonderful no matter what and there are some pieces that are boring, expected, and somewhat disappointing.

    As someone who has personally done lots of vector portraits, I think they're fun. They are tedious and a bit mindless, but I used to enjoy doing them in my spare time in high school. People used to tell me that they were my best works, but I always thought they were boring and I much much preferred my drawings and illustrations. I do think that it is a great way to make a photo more interesting and have more personality.

  2. I kind of have to agree. I guess "urban" is an awfully vague description, and there are so many things that can be tagged with that word. But I know an urban art piece when I see it, it's still unmistakable. Many of them contain similar elements (for better or worse, depending on where you stand).

    I don't aim to demonize or defame realistic vector portraits, though I admit it's not something I'm really interested in doing so much anymore. I think one of the main reasons I'm not enamored with the practice is because I now that many people value realism over style by default, and I would hate to have something in my gallery that takes attention away from the things that I usually do, the things that I love to do. But having started a couple of them (certainly not having finished them, haha), I can say the result after chiseling away piece after piece is undeniably rewarding if you do it right.