A shallow bowl on a very used paint stained surface. There are various colors of paint in the bowl with a paint brush left laying in it.

The difference between VR and traditional painting

I’ll just get straight to the point: the difference between VR and traditional painting is that one is digital, and one is not. In VR you don’t have a brush to hold, but a controller. There is no easel you can touch. (Unless you set one up in real life and position it juuuust right.) And you can’t feel the brush pushing any paint around. This is obviously in stark contrast to traditional painting, where everything is physically present. So what makes one option preferable over the other?

Well, a lot of it comes down to personal preference. Traditional painting is an art form that dates back to the earliest days of humanity. It’s a tried and true method, the foundation of some of the most famous pieces of art we know today. We explore traditional art mediums as soon as we can hold a crayon! But our exposure to different mediums can be limited. Keeping in mind the cost of supplies, the limited storage space and the difficulty of ventilating spaces, digital art has perks over traditional art too.

Which one is better?

The whole point of there being a difference between VR and traditional painting is that they’re different. Not better, not worse, just… different! It’s like saying that just because you like a good sandwich it means pudding is worse, when they’re actually two different foods. Maybe you’re in the mood for one, but not the other. Or maybe you’re experimenting to broaden your horizons. There is no ‘better’ here, only what suits you right now.

That said, it also means the reasons for not liking one are valid. Even if art is your job, it should also bring you joy and spark your passion. If the lack of a physical, tangible object gives you no pleasure when creating art, then there’s no point in pursuing that medium.

My preference lies with VR painting

Having access to a VR headset changed the way I make art. I have been a digital artist for over 20 years, using flat screen programs to illustrate the worlds and characters inside my head. When I could I also dabbled with traditional mediums such as gesture drawing on paper (using fantastic tools such as Line of Action). I painted with acrylic paint on discount store canvases, and filled adult coloring books with colored pencils. But these methods never held my interest for that long. I’m not that good with organizing my living space and storing supplies unfortunately. I also caught my mischievous cats running off with supplies more than once, which made maintaining these mediums a chore rather than an enjoyable hobby. Digital art was more accessible, and when I got my VR headset creating art was a new experience all over!

I’ve described this way of painting as the perfect lovechild between the mediums, and I still consider this true. While I don’t feel the paint stick to the canvas, I do get to undo what I did with one flick of my thumb. And even though I don’t get to touch a physical canvas while I create my newest piece, I can get a high quality print made of the final product.

Yes, they’re different mediums. They’re difficult to compare as equals. And they each require their own specific skillset to utilize. But both allow us to express ourselves by creating beautiful works of art. Both showcase one of our oldest human passions: to create. The only limit we experience is when we get stuck on how they’re not the same thing.