To Thine Own Self Be True

By Denise M. Gustavson

"Fine art is that in which the hand, the head, and the heart of man go together.”
—John Ruskin, British art critic, author. The Two Paths Lecture

I had the opportunity a few weeks ago to speak with a New York City artist, Tom Matt. We’d worked with him a few years ago; one of several artists whose work has graced our cover. He’s had various shows over the past few years and his collection of works continues to grow. Earlier this year, he received a high-profile acknowledgement of his artistry—his work appearing as a backdrop in one of Bloomingdale’s window displays on the corner of 59th Street & 3rd Avenue in Manhattan.

Tom Matt’s art is unique and revolves around the city he loves—New York. The local newspaper of the day becomes his canvas, his sketchings an inimitable perspective of various landmarks—the Brooklyn Bridge to Grand Central Station, a simple brownstone to the Verrazano Narrows Bridge.

Several years ago, in search of a way to give his art more permanence and longevity, a friend and fellow artist had mentioned something about digital printing. He investigated the tip and one thing lead to another. Matt contacted Don Dressler, president of Glastonbury Design, a printer based in Glastonbury, CT, and has been creating limited editions of his prints since then.

But, have you ever thought about what really makes art “art”?

With the influx of digital technology capable of reproducing artistic masterpieces, some in the art world have begun to ask that very question. Is digitally created art different, or less “art”, than something created in a more traditional manner?

According to Matt, there are many differing opinions about traditional versus modern processes, and many artists consider it unfair to judge the art based on the process by which it was created. Artists use the tools that are available to them to create the art. That concept in itself is nothing new. Artists for centuries have used whatever tools were available to them to create their works. “It’s the art itself,” Matt says. “The process doesn’t make it better. The art has to be good.”

In some instances, the use of digital technology by some museums and art institutes seems to indicate a certain acceptance of it; endorsing its use.

In a 2002 study by the Pew Internet and American Life Project, Getting Serious Online, it reported that the public’s increasing use and reliance on the Internet as a practical tool has also changed the way museums and libraries interact with their communities.

According to a 2002 report by the Federal Institute of Museum and Library Services, 87 percent of museums use at least some form of information technology to document and preserve virtually all types of artistic mediums, including paintings, textiles, photographs, porcelain and pottery, sculptures, and others.

For instance, at the National Gallery of London, masterpieces by van Gogh, da Vinci, Rembrandt, and Monet have been restored and catalogued using HP technologies. This same technology has also allowed the gallery to provide prints of its collection “on demand” to museum patrons through a kiosk.

For Matt, his art spans both worlds—created by traditional means, but preserved by the digital. For him, and because of the nature of his canvas, digital technology is the only way his art has any kind of physical longevity.

So when is art not “art”? What constitutes something as art? Is it the process through which it was created, or is it something else that is much more intangible? It’s an interesting question that, I’m sure, will not be easily resolved. For many wide-format print providers, an increasing number of their clients are fine artists—especially as more and more of them realize the value of this new tool at their disposal.
For more about Tom Matt, drop by his website: www.

Denise M. Gustavson
Managing Editor/Web Editor

Denise Gustavson has been a part of our team since 1998. She parleys her technical savvy and industry contacts into feature articles that keep readers abreast of cutting edge advances in the wide-format printing industry. Gustavson also provides readers with thought provoking observations by closing out each issue with her column Full Circle.