On digital drawing



Birgitta Hosea is an animation artist, curator and practice-based researcher working in the field of animation and moving images. She is also Course Director for the MA Character Animation at the Royal College of Arts in London and PhD supervisor at Central Saint Martins.


In  her article ‘Drawing Animation’ she examines the meaning of ‘drawing’ as a material process in the context of animation. Drawing as a performative act.

Drawing is usually seen as leaving marks with pencil on paper. However she argues that to limit the definition of drawing to making marks on paper is too narrow and does not allow for inclusion of a range of work made by contemporary animators and artists.

A traditional view on drawing is often associated with immediacy, authenticity and even honesty. This appreciation of traditional craftmanship stands in contrast with the perception of images created with digital tools. Even the common phrase of ‘computer generated images’ has implications of mechanized mass production disconnected from the human gesture, having lost it’s authenticity.

The result of these views is a juxtaposition of drawing as a direct, subjective and unmediated form of expression, in stark contrast with the manipulated perfection of the computer generated image.

This does not do justice to complexity of digitally creating images.

“As computer technology increasingly becomes an essential part of the production and dissemination of all media, the notion of a binary opposition between the digital and the handmade becomes meaningless and a new synthetic paradigm – the post-digital – emerges.” 1


As part of my research on craftsmanship and individual authorship in the context of collaborative work in animation and cinema, I raise the question of the materiality of digitally crafted images.

Most research into digital images puts the emphasis on the reproduction mechanisms, and copyright law. I am however more interested in looking at digital images from the perspective of a painter. Can digitally mediated images carry the ‘fingerprint’ of the maker? Can authorship be recognized not only in the content of the images but in the ‘texture’?

This article by Birgitta Hosea is one of the few sources that attempts to compare traditional analog techniques to digital animation, and question the validity of the common term ‘computer generated images’. I would even go one step further and question her use of the term ‘handmade’ (in the quote above) in opposition to digitally mediated images. Without resorting into semantics, it seems to me that to have this discussion in earnest, we need more appropriate terminology. If photography was called ‘camera generated images’, and painting ‘brush generated images’ I think we would have very different conversations about those fields.

For the time being I will use ‘digitally mediated images’ as an alternative.

In the end even Hosea’s article does not produce satisfying answers. As some point she even sabotages her own argument by stating that even digitally created images are often preceded by pencil drawings’:

“It is essentialist to conceptualize traditional drawing and hand-drawn animation as honest, personal and subjective in opposition to the bland, mechan[1]ized perfection of digital imagery in which individual work is homogenized through the use of standard computer software. Drawing is used in the design and conceptualization of digital animation and in the training of animators: traditional drawn animation is scanned, cleaned-up, colour corrected and edited on computer. “ 2


1,2 Hosea, Birgitta, Drawing Animation, Animation: An Interdisciplinary Journal 5 (3), Sage Pub, 2010, p353-367