This is the Sarah Seadragon painting with the main painting layer turned off. I will do that some times to check for mistakes, a few of which are the white stripes on the tail and ribs that should have been on the main painting. However, I thought this looked pretty cool, almost like a star cluster.
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.
I will admit that I am jealous of artists who can depict sources of light credibly in their artwork. I am not talking about the sun, although this is challenging too, but mechanical forms of light. Light strips, dial illumination, or screens are examples of what I am talking about. Strong sources of light in situations where there are lots of reflections and/or atmospheric effects. I remember many Michael Whelan paintings where the light source had a well-defined shape and yet still depicted the softness associated with the glow most light sources have.
I still work hard to achieve such effects in my paintings. The easiest way of creating a bright light source is to take a light color and surround it with a very dark source. But what do you do when you have a strong enough artificial light source to still be seen in a daylight situation? I haven’t tried that yet, but I have been amazed by artists that can pull off such complex lighting.
I will share one trick that I have learned from using Gimp 2.8. In my painting “Juliette and Josephus” the diffuse halo of light around the sun was achieved by painting the light color of the sun on a transparent layer above all the layers and then using the smudge tool to thin the color. If you looked at the layer with a white background, you would hardly see anything. However, if you put it against a very dark background like I did, you see a soft wash of bright color or a halo around the more solid image of the sun. The contrast brings out the light color. I hope to further explore using light washes on layers over different backgrounds after seeing how well this worked.
Yeah, whatever. That is how much I thought about composition when I first started drawing. Do you know that my earliest method of drawing was to start an image on the part that most interested me and work my way outwards. Really! I would start on someone’s eyes and build the face from there. Surprisingly I could manage a decent likeness that way but I also ran into proportional issues later, especially when I tried to work out to a full figure. This is probably why I still have issues drawing people.
If you look at some of my oldest works, you can see the way I worked from one point to another without a specific initial plan. I take more time planning today then I did but I have some hang ups left over that still give me trouble. One of the biggest is that I don’t leave enough space around my images for framing. I have the habit of drawing right up to the edge of the paper. I actually did that on Quiet Strength – Silent Vulnerability. However, I will ask for some indulgence in this instance since I worked from a reference image that was set up that way. I drew the tiger as I saw it in the photo without attempting to extrapolate what I could not see, which caused trouble when I pasted the image onto the larger canvas of the final image. The top part of the tiger’s head was sheared off and I had to add it in. Before I make a print available, I am going to add a white border so you can matte it without covering the image.
Working in the digital realm is helpful to me in dealing with this deficiency since I can adjust the images as I add them to the final canvas. I like being able to work on parts separately as I did when younger then lay them out properly in a larger image. This is where the ability to have separate layers in an image really comes in handy. I like to keep images in their layers until I am sure they fit the total composition. As I put together more progression files, you will see how I use these layers to build an image.