Something New…

Innovation and improvement are empowering aspects of life. When one thinks of their routine when they were in school — the constant challenge to learn and internalize new content and skills — it’s a sad fact that many adults cease challenging themselves with the same energy or expectations once they leave school. I’m trying to swim against that tide and expand my repertoire as an artist. As I’ve worked with a lot of traditional media, the next horizon for me is a digital one.

Here, you can see a seascape I’ve done using only digital brushes and paint. As a staunch traditionalist (Luddite?!) I have to confess that is a LOT of fun to create art using some of these new tools. While I’ll always be a tremendous fan of old school, hand-made artwork, it’s easy to see how and why digital painting has taken the field of illustration by storm. To my mind, there are three great advantages:

1. Greater speed – it took me 2 hours to do the attached digital sketch. It would have taken me much longer with traditional media for no other reason than it takes a long time to physically build up layers of tone with pencil, ink, or pastels. Not so with the computer. I can paint a background in 5 minutes that would have taken me hours the old fashioned way.
2. Greater flexibility – No more mistakes! When I’m working with pen and ink, there’s no erasing that stuff. If I make an error, I either have to figure out a clever workaround or go back to the drawing board. The latter is an incredible time sink (I may have spent an entire day on a drawing that goes in the trash can) When I’m working digitally, there’s an “Undo” button! I can correct, tweak, modify to my heart’s content. You can also get any range of visual effects when using a drawing program — glowing lamps, celestial lights, sinister shadows…they’re just a burn or dodge away.
3. Rapid experimentation – This is really one of the coolest benefits. Would a concept look better in cool colors or warm? Should I add a particular detail or not? Should I increase the contrast between light/dark or leave it more neutral and muted? When you’re working digitally, you can answer these questions in the blink of an eye (or the click of a mouse). I find that it makes me bolder — I’m willing to take greater chances since I know the downside of executing a risky idea is very small.

But there are downsides, of course. The greatest is that working digitally denies you the joy of having produced a unique, physical piece of art — instead, you have a computer file. Given my love of handmade drawings, I think I’ll probably use a combination of techniques in the future — handmade sketches/drawings that are scanned and then painted or manipulated in Photoshop. That way I’ll get all the benefits above while having something physical that I can have as a keepsake.

This particular concept is a seascape for a potential scene in The Red Winter. It’s all painted or drawn by yours truly (no scanned images/backgrounds, etc.) in Photoshop using a Wacom drawing tablet. Drawing time was about 2 hours. I’ll keep you posted as I experiment with new tools and techniques and embrace my inner student.