What do you think of when you hear the phrase “digital art”? Do you think of images filled with numbers, random geometric shapes, wild colors that make you feel like you’ve been in front of a camera’s flash bulb going off? I can’t say I blame you as that is what many perceive digital art to be and in a large part it is. By using computer programs artists are able to come up with geometrical, colorful designs that blow the senses and in many ways correspond to the old-fashioned abstract paintings and sculptures that have been around for a long time now. These kinds of art make the viewer think, it lets them imagine whatever they want when they look at it because it’s rare that two people will see the same thing or get the same idea from an abstract piece of art and this is the same thing that happens when viewers are looking at digital art that is of this nature.
I’d like to introduce you to a new kind of digital art; I call it “digital painting” and it is the style of art that I work with the most. What I call digital painting is using a computer graphics program along with a graphics tablet and pen. Yes it’s true, when you use a program you can use a whole array of filters that are available, both free ones and commercial filters but I prefer to paint using mainly the graphics tablet and pen along with the program of choice; in my case I use the Paint Shop Pro program. There are many programs out there, both free such as GIMP and pay-to-use programs including Photo Shop but I’ve found that Paint Shop Pro works well and it doesn’t break a person’s bank account. On occasion I’ll use one of the filters it comes with or that I’ve collected over the years but I mainly do that when I’m designing graphic designs for my website, a client’s site or designing for my clothing and gift stores. I use the included brush types to paint with and just as a regular artist uses smudge tools, erasers and the like, I use the smudge tool and similar tools while I’m painting to give my subject matter life, to make it look like a regular oil, acrylic or water color painting. It’s amazing how when you work with a tablet and pen you can create realistic brush strokes just as you would if you were using a painting palette and brush; you find yourself doing the same sort of movements with your hand and wrist that you would do if you were using the regular tools. One of the best things I’ve found by painting digitally is the way you can create different layers so you don’t have to completely throw away a painting if you mess up. Now, don’t get me wrong, I’ve actually had several experiences where I had to throw out the entire painting and start from scratch but in general you’re able to correct mistakes you’ve made much easier than when you use a canvas and paint. And it’s amazing how many people wouldn’t know my work’s digital if I didn’t tell them it was.
When I first began painting digitally, I used the same techniques I described above but I had to use my computer mouse to do it and let me tell you that after a few months of using the PC mouse to paint it definitely does a number on the wrist; plus I found that there are certain movements you just can’t do with a PC mouse that you can do with a graphics tablet and pen on the computer. I always had a difficult time with any kind of spherical shapes when using the computer mouse; without using the vector tool that is built into the PSP program that is and since I prefer to paint digitally the same way I would if I were using a canvas and brushes I always felt it was cheating to use the vector tool to create circles and other spherical shapes.
When I first connected the graphic tablet and began using it, it took me about 2 or 3 days until I was comfortable with it because when you first use it, you have to get your bearings as far as where you are pointing to on the graphic tablet and how that corresponds to the computer screen. However, once I got the hang of that, I was absolutely in love with this tool! It lets you work so freely with your creations, and I’ve found that I’ll even use my bare finger on the graphics tablet to do the smudging and blending in addition to using the pen that comes along with it because you honestly feel like you’re working with a real palette and canvas when you paint with a tablet. For example, when you use a graphic tablet to paint digitally you can paint fur that is so much more realistic than with a PC mouse; when I paint any animal with fur, I apply each piece of fur strand by strand, one by one, I do the same when I’m painting birds’ feathers and dragons’ scales also; I paint the darkest layer first and then paint lighter layers on top of it to give the animal depth which is also what I do when I am painting the shadows on the animal’s body as well as the bony areas that you can see such as the ankle joints and the like. Also, the shading you can accomplish, using a graphic tablet, on an animal’s eye to give it real depth and authenticity is much more vivid and lifelike in my view than using a PC mouse.
Some critics state that digital painting isn’t real “art” but I have to disagree with them. The definition of “art” as defined by dictionary.com website is, “the quality, production, expression, or realm, according to aesthetic principles, of what is beautiful, appealing, or of more than ordinary significance.” Now I will give you my definition of the word “art” as I see it, being an artist myself, art means taking what I’ve experienced through living, taking examples from nature and putting that into something that can be viewed and shared by everyone. If I can capture the feeling I had when I saw a bald eagle flying or when I get upset by man trying to destroy our environment for greed, if I can capture that emotion and use it to create a painting that is “art”. If I can take the sadness & anger I feel when I lose a loved one and use that energy to create a painting that is “art”. The medium I happen to choose to express those emotions, those ideas is irrelevant. Now, when photography first emerged in the late 1880’s staunch art critics didn’t view this as an art either but as we’ve seen, it’s viewed now as a major form of art with not just magazines using photographs but also museums devoted to photographic art as well. This is what I see happening with digital art and digital paintings; this form of art is a continuation of the never-ending evolution that is “art” and I truly believe that in the future, digital art will be just as respected as the more traditional forms of art because believe me, it’s no less difficult to master, no less temperamental to the creative process; the only difference is, it requires different tools than what many are used to when they think of “art”.