Endangered Species: The Craftsman

With advances in technology and computer software, art and design is becoming more and more digital. I would venture to guess that even the average “painter” today often does not use a physical brush, but rather makes brush strokes with an incorporeal “brush” on a graphics tablet. This progress is not in itself a bad thing. As I have mentioned in my last post, I have also taken advantage of these technological advances with my purchase of a graphics tablet. However, if everyone decides to go down the exclusively digital road, we will have lost something important: namely, the craftsman.

Take traditional sign artist David A. Smith. He was recently commissioned to design the cover of John Mayer’s latest album. I watched a fifteen minute video that documented his process in designing the cover (watch here). I was amazed by the amount of detail and time that was put into his art. Every detail began with a physical pencil and paper. He then traced over each detail digitally. In addition, David fabricated a physical sign that matched the style of the album cover. This sign featured etched glass with gold leaf detail. It looked like an extremely meticulous process and was an inspiration to watch as I admired the beauty of the finished sign. It was obvious that this artist worked with a passion for the craft and sought to max-out his artistic abilities with each piece.

I cannot imagine the amount of hours (and the cost) that was put into each piece. Most clients probably would not be willing to pay for this kind of craftsmanship. I hope enough clients remain for this type of work to keep traditional artists like David A. Smith from going extinct.