Your Photorealistic Vectors Don’t Impress me

As a vector artist, I often search the Interwebs to see what all the more talented vector artists are producing. Do a Google image search for “great vector art” and half of your results will be a bunch of pseudo grunge floral illustrations. The other half will likely be stuff like this.

People seem to be very impressed by photorealistic vectors. I get it. It takes an insane amount of time and effort to create this kind of illustration. However, aside from proving that it can be done, I fail to see the point of making a vector that looks like a photo.

“But turning a photo into a vector means it can be enlarged to the size of a billboard!” I hear you cry. Well that’s great. Of course so could the original photo, in most cases. Billboards are printed at low resolution because they are viewed from far away. Most digital cameras on the market today would capture images that could be put on a billboard.

These “illustrations” are essentially high tech tracing. The illustrator (I won’t go into a discussion on whether or not these people are artists) spends about 20 or 30 hours tracing every little nuance of a photograph using either the pen tool and/or the gradient mesh tool. I fail to see where creativity enters into this process.

When I was in grade school, if one of my classmates drew something with some level of skill, the first question other children would ask would be “did you draw this yourself or trace it?” If tracing was involved, the admiration for the work plummeted faster than Donald Trump’s credibility. Now, you can see tracing on a dozen different Deviant Art profiles followed by an avalanche of “that’s amazing!” or “How the heck did you do that?” responses.

The worst part about this phenomenon is that a high percentage of the photos being traced do not even belong to the person tracing them. The photos have been pull off of the Internet with no regard for the copyright of the photographer. Imagine if you decided to retype all the books you own, and posted them on your blog. Would you get dozens of comments on what an amazing writer you were? No. You would get an unfriendly letter from a lawyer.

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