Hand Drawn vs. Computer Generated Rendering

One of the members of a group that I am a member on LinkedIn called Architectural Illustration posed the following question:

“What do you think about the future of hand drawn renderings? With technology advancing so fast, it is becoming easier to emulate reality when producing renderings. Also it is becoming easier to emulate hand drawn renderings as well! Is there any life left for the original one?”

This was my comment:

“I have been selling my artwork in one form or another for 45 years. My preferred mediums are acrylic and watercolor, though I have also enjoyed soft pastels, pen and ink, and charcoal sketching. While working on my design degree in the ’90s, I freelanced doing architectural renderings by hand. In the meantime, I developed my skills doing 3D computer generated renderings that I do exclusively today. (www.pamdesigns.net) 

Even though I use the computer now, I would recommend that anybody who wants to do architectural rendering should have a solid foundation in hand rendering simply to understand the fundamental requirements for spacial expression and developing compositions for scenes. Without this basic understanding, one may know how to work a computer program, but the results will not be as successful as they could be. 

In deciding whether to do renderings by hand or by computer, one has to ask why we render in the first place. Is it to create beautiful art pieces or sell a project? Realistically, it’s the latter. Renderings are tools like 2D drawings and are created for a purpose. They are not art for art’s sake. Photo-realistic renderings can be created with a level of speed and accuracy that I could never produce by hand. Though when it comes to concept and design development, nothing beats hand sketching in front of a client to win them over. If I were still designing in front of clients I would definitely be sketching my ideas by hand —then creating beautifully crafted 3D renderings on my computer that would seal the deal!”

So as you can see, I do not see a bright future for hand-drawn renderings as a profession, though it is still indicative to have a foundation in it to become a professional rendering artist –regardless of your medium– whether it be using computer software or a pencil. The key in determining which medium to use is one’s marketability and cost effectiveness. I do not believe that high-end computer renderings are easier to create than well executed handmade renderings. To become proficient using the software takes years of learning and practice. It also takes artistic talent (which is a whole other blog post) not just knowing the mechanics of operating a computer program. Even though one may produce renderings by computer exclusively, maintaining ones ability to sketch by hand and ‘see’ the potential of a rendered scene is fundamental to creating successful renderings.

That being said, the future of rendering is going to be driven by it’s market. As computer generated renderings become more able to produce photo-realistic images that imply one can actually view into the future, the value of artistic artwork pieces as architectural rendering have become less in demand. Is the artistry lost in producing computer generated photo-realistic renderings? To a degree, I believe this is so. Computer renderings can be made to look like hand-drawn or hand-painted works, but they can’t recreate the individualistic style of painting that is unique to the artist such as the loose impressionistic style of Jeremiah Goodman.

Jeremiah Goodman in his studio

The following is the artwork of  Jeremiah Goodman who is probably the most successful and well-known rendering artist of the last century. He’s in his 90’s now and still painting beautiful renderings from his studio in Manhatten:

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4 responses to “Hand Drawn vs. Computer Generated Rendering

  1. Jeremiah Goodman, one of my absolute favorite illustrators. And I agree with everything you have put forth. Computer renderings, the majority, but not all, need some creativity.

  2. Thanks for stopping by Larry! I agree that many computer renderings lack creativity. It’s not enough to know how to be skilled at operating software to get materials to look photo realistic and to create accurate details of objects. I, along with the software I use, have improved this ability over the years, but I still struggle with some materials like the proper reflectivity of stainless steel or refraction of light through different types of glass. These issues are not likely to be apparent to most people who view my renderings, because I have mastered the use of elements of design in staging the composition of scenes such as balance, unity, rhythm, proportion, contrast and the properties of color. This comes from years of training and experience in art and design. In successful renderings, these elements are present to one degree or another. Mr. Goodman’s work is exemplifies this. His illustrations are anything but photo-realistic and his paintings style is uniquely impressionistic.