As more artists have access to drawing tablets and the ability to draw or paint digitally on a screen, the debate continues whether digital artwork will ever gain the same acceptance as traditional mediums of artwork in galleries and museums.
The early history of digital art can be traced back to the 1960s as artists started to experiment with computers. That experimentation continued throughout the 1970s and 1980s as more artists used computer imaging techniques to tap into the potential of the digital medium. In the last decade, more artists have been able to create digital art with the proliferation of more affordable tablets and further developments in digital technology.
This introduction leads to Sade Edwards’ exhibition, Love Letters, at Everybody’s Coffee. Edwards, a digital illustrator who works in the vein of manga art, makes a strong case that digital art should be accepted as a legitimate art form just as much as other traditional mediums. This is Edwards’ first exhibition, with thirteen of her works (giclee prints on canvas) on display.
At first glance, there is almost a whimsical feel to her work, but on closer inspection, the viewer experiences an undercurrent of dark as well as bittersweet emotions. Each one of her illustrations also showcases her vibrant use of colors which make her characters seem to want to leap from the canvas.
“We never dedicated an exhibition of anime or manga art, so it was good to do something completely different. Her works move you on so many different levels. I feel that she captures the pain in her life that we all can relate to,” said Karl Sullivan, general manager of Everybody’s Coffee.
As an artist, Edwards is a master storyteller through her illustrations ― all her works are autobiographical ― which are inspired by real people and incidents in her life. She captures these large and small moments while conveying various emotions that further highlight the story. Accompanying each one of her works is a placard that gives a brief background about the illustration. In some ways, the viewer can feel like a voyeur peeking into private moments of her life. The viewer may also experience a sense of catharsis when relating to her stories because she touches on many universal themes.
“Her art is very character based and she tells a story so effectively in each one of her works. At the same time, I believe there’s room for the viewer to create their own narrative,” said Jane Hertenstein, co-curator at Everybody’s Coffee.
Edwards believes her art acts as a healing process. She said, “Even though I explore anger, sadness, and other negative emotions, I also try to show the progression of change, the healing process one can go through in life.”
Her artistic influences are quite eclectic ― they range from manga and anime to artists such as Vincent Van Gogh and Salvador Dali.
Edwards is originally from New York City and has lived in Chicago for the last year. Even though she had taken a number of art classes, she never had formal training in an art school. Her future plan is to someday write a graphic novel.
Edwards believes digital artists should be accepted just like other artists who work in more traditional mediums. She said, “I believe that you can make art with anything. It can be made in any form. Art doesn’t have to be done with pen on paper or paint on canvass or other traditional means. It can be anything you want it to be as long as it comes from your creativity and your soul.”
This exhibition keeps in perspective that digital tools alone can’t make a mediocre artist a great artist. In the end, the artist still has to have talent, an eye for detail and the imagination to create images that have the power to move people. Sade Edwards demonstrates that through the use of digital tools, she is a skilled artist who is able to execute ambitious concepts.
Love Letters will run from June 9 through July 10, 2017. Everybody’s Coffee is located at 935 W. Wilson. Hours: Monday thru Friday ― 6:30 a.m. to 8 p.m.; Saturday ― 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.; and Sunday ― 7 a.m. to 5 p.m.