The Importance of Escape from Virtual Reality: Observational Drawing in the Digital Age

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Early twenty-first century art students come of age in a flat world of still and kinetic digital images. Furthermore, the acceptability of digital appropriation traps young artists in a perceptual prison removed from the physical world. Flat digital sources are compelling but provide little incentive for the visual study of three-dimensional space. On the other hand, interaction with the world through direct observation increases visual, technical and stylistic flexibility and conceptual and critical understanding. Skills steeped in life drawing and visualization form a sound basis for all art, including digital media. This paper will discuss how the Virginia Commonwealth University Department of Communication Arts developed a visual studies program that stresses observational drawing and critical theory as a means of reconnecting students to the aesthetic, creative and intellectual challenges of the physical world.


Keywords: Virtual, Reality, Observation, Drawing, Digital, Critical, Theory, Aesthetics
Stream: Creative Arts and Learning
Presentation Type: 30 minute Paper Presentation in English
Paper: , , , Importance of Escape from Virtual Reality, The, ,


Jorge Miguel Benitez

Assistant Professor, Department of Communication Arts, Virginia Commonwealth University
Richmond, VA, USA

I was born in Cuba in 1956 and spent my childhood in Europe and the United States. I hold a master of fine arts degree in painting from Virginia Commonwealth University where I currently teach drawing, art theory and the history of visual communications. My theoretical interests derive from an earlier career in advertising as well as my multinational upbringing and my fluency in French and Spanish. The Cuban Revolution, the Cold War and the upheavals of the 1960s also had a profound effect on both my intellectual inquiries and my approach to drawing and painting. I became very interested in the conflict between words and images in the 1990s when we Americans began to describe our national divisions as a “culture war.” The events of September 11, 2001, merely internationalized the issue. I currently participate in regional and international exhibitions, and my work is represented in corporate collections and the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts.

Ref: L09P1104