So do you make thumbnails and sketches digitally? How does that translate to your work when it’s in traditional media? And if you’re doing this digital sketch already, why not complete it all on the computer and then print that out on canvas?
I use both digital painting and traditional pencil and paper for studies. Creating digitally painted studies allows me to plan color and composition quickly, and to establish the initial idea for a painting. So I get that stuff nailed down using a Wacom Intuos3 6 x 8-Inch Pen Tablet and Adobe Photoshop. After making sure it looks decent on my computer, I start painting the full version in oils. While I’m working on an oil painting, I also use the color picker tool in Photoshop to extract colors from my study or reference photos. Extracting colors from an image allows me to isolate and magnify the colors I want to represent. I am partially color blind, and it is sometimes difficult for me to see subtle variations of colors. Therefore, the color picker tool is an enormous help. For this purpose, I also use the rwColorPicker app, which allows me to isolate colors from photos on my iPad; it’s another convenient tool at my studio easel. I can separate a color from a digital reference image and then mix that color on my palette. I consider this an excellent learning tool for “seeing” color. You may not realize that a patch of white fur on a cat, for example, is more of a tan color when taken out of the context of the reference photo.
Regarding digital vs. traditional painting, I am committed to traditional painting for fine art. In my practice, the traditional painting experience has proven to be more meaningful and fulfilling than the digital art experience. For one, speaking strictly of paintings, the shortcuts and workarounds that are available in digital art such as Photoshop layers, the “undo” button, texture overlays, etc. are not available to traditional painters, and thus traditional artists are undergoing an inherently more challenging experience: a physical experience. These challenges have provided me an opportunity for personal and artistic growth, and a sense of overcoming and accomplishment that digital painting has not.
Traditional art is a direct and immediate expression of one’s creativity; the artist uses his or her physical body as the medium through which to mold the physics into a creative arrangement. In comparison, digital painting requires at least one extra layer of mediation to the creative process: a computer interface. Moreover, the resultant digital art product can only be witnessed and enjoyed under certain conditions unless printed (an additional layer of media). Applying Hakim Bey’s concept of Immediatism to my process, I feel that the extra layers of mediation separate the artist from the direct experience of art leading to a lack of creative fulfillment. If the purpose of fine art is self-expression, as it is for me, then a digital painting will tend to be inferior to a traditional painting — at least until “digital” no longer implies dilution through additional layers of media. We are physical, not digital, beings first.