I was talking to someone about art recently after I showing them my newer digital work and they mentioned they felt digital painting was to paraphrase “cheating”. They felt it was too easy. To be fair, I have felt this way myself at times and think a lot about it with the projects I am working on. My main qualm I guess is with photo-manipulation and the use of skin textures over actual painting of the textures.
I have seen some very well done photo-manipulations but I still do not feel they are artwork. They are more of a craft. Yes, there are artistic skills and sensibilities required to make a good manipulation; however, they are not as in-depth as someone who creates the image from scratch not using other people’s work. The skill level is not as high. In my own work, I have used many of the skills of photo-manipulation to arrange and join various elements of my final images, but each of those elements was hand created by me from the initial drawing to the digital painting. The digital paintings I do also do not use any kind of pre-made texture like fur or rock to fill in parts of the image. Each element is handled like a physical painting.
Where I struggle a little with my own work is that there are some techniques I use that could not be done easily in the real world but are very simple in the digital domain. For instance, keeping a foreground element separate from the background so that you can paint the background freely is not so easy in the real world and has damaged the quality of some of my physical artwork. However, in the digital domain it is as simple as two separate layers. Then there is the issue of brushes. Some brushes are actually like stamps such as leaves or plants that can be used to fill in landscapes. For the most part I avoid these brushes but I do make use of another ability of brushes, which is that they can be animated. Yes, this is something you can’t do with a real brush, but I have found it necessary to achieve softer effects because the digital brushes are basically stamps and have no real world shape or characteristics. A digital brush is nothing more than the tip of a real brush as a stamp, even the more complex ones. There is no fulcrum between the fingers and the tip as with a real paint brush so they tend to be more rigid and need animation to add some randomness to their use at times. I liken digital painting to working with color pencils where there is more control as opposed to a paint brush, which takes more technique to manipulate. Not that pencil work does’t have its own challenges but the placement of pigment is much more direct and controlled with a pencil compared to a brush.
So, as you can see, I enjoy the work I have been able to produce using a digital format, but I do question some of my assumptions while creating them. My take; however, is to create and paint as much as I can as if I was painting in the real world. I use stamping style brushes as little as possible or not at all. For the most part I use the round or soft round brush to paint with but lately have been using a pencil-shaded animated sponge brush to achieve some of the effects of a real airbrush since the brush alone would be a stamp. Let me know your thoughts on the subject.