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.
There are certain processes I have come to follow when creating a digital painting. First and foremost for me is to draw the individual elements. At one time I would have tried to set them on the same piece of paper and worked with them where they were, not allowing myself the freedom to rethink the layout of the final image. Because I struggled so much to find time to draw or paint, I had a bad habit of giving up on ideas if they did not work out right away. I am now thankful for Gimp allowing me to correct parts of an image without affecting the larger painting, much as word-processor allows a two finger typist to complete a large number of short stories. Another thought on drawing the initial images is that mine are always drawn freehand. Even if I struggle to get the image right, I still use my drawing. It is an integrity issue for me.
Once I have the drawings done, I scan them into the computer as a jpegs. As I have gotten more comfortable using Gimp, I have learned to keep the elements separate until I am ready to place them into the final picture. I take each image and make the drawings sit on a transparent background. Then I create a transparent layer above or below the drawing layer, depending on where I think I will have trouble working on the image. This is where I will paint the actual artwork. In addition, I will add another layer below these, which will become a temporary background that can be changed as needed to better see the painting I am working on.
Next comes the under painting. This is where I just put the basic colors on the image such as skin tone, hair color, or fabric color. I don’t work on details at this point; I just want to completely fill in the areas I intend to work on with their basic colors. After the under painting is done, I will begin the true creation of the individual pieces. The detail work is the longest part of any painting for me.
When I have the parts done as much as I can or want, I will copy them into a larger final image as different layers. I like to keep them in layers until the very end in case I need to adjust their position without affecting anything I have done on the background piece I placed them on. However, there comes a point in most images where I have to combine the layers into one to help with connecting them into one coherent picture. My current habit is to hold off as long as I can. At this point it is all about making adjustments around the parts to make them fit the larger image. Then I tinker with the painting until I am done.
I just wanted to mention that I added another $5 patronage reward to my page. The post details the struggles and successes I had in creating the cover for the Mystics and Misfits. It also includes my first progression file of the process, starting with the scanned in image and ending with the finished product. I think this would be a helpful post for someone starting out in painting using Gimp 2.8.
Does anyone want to do a blog tour with me to help promote my Patreon page. This will be my first one ever so I will be learning as I go and would appreciate any help. Also, I want to promote art and SFF writing so anyone interests in these areas can join in. I will start working things out once I see if I get any takers. Just follow my blog (should be able to connect to you that way) and leave a comment letting me know. Thanks.
Here is my latest digital drawing. I am learning more as I do more paintings and am having lots of fun making my ideas come to life. You may purchase prints of this or Mystics and Misfits from my Deviantart page, the link is towards the bottom on the left (sites). I hope to hear from you.