Monday 30 March 2009

Art Monday: how much digital?

Prepare to be underwhelmed.

Recently, I purchased a Wacom Intuos 3 4x6 tablet. Many of the contemporary artists I admire have included some digital elements into their workflow. I'm thinking of people like Jon Foster who paints in oil, then digital, and back again. Some artists like Wayne Barlowe were resolute in working with traditional materials, until experimentation with digital tools yielded a change of attitude, as seen in this digital piece by Barlowe from his Inferno series.

The last couple of years, I have incorporated more and more dig
ital elements in my work, especially for blog banners. I've been reading ImagineFX quite a bit to get a handle on the possibilities. There are times when I see a complicated method for say, a tree root, that I scratch my head and wonder why not just oil paint it instead of all this 3-d vectoring? The right tool for the right job.

In the case of my new Mythical Flying Trilobite Fossil banner, it is still painted mostly in oils on a piece of shale. But I wanted to add a bit of multi-media to it, and included some pencilled portions of the crinoids on the right side. For digital, I often simply colour-correct and add text. This time I added a bit more with the tablet. Using a neutral putty-coloured background, you can see how much digital is painted over top of my scan of the oil-painted-shale:Click to enlarge. For comparison, here's the full painting again:You can see some details were added. Though I use incredibly small Micron brushes, I was able to add even more little veiny-structures to the wings. A few more highlights in blue, pink and white to add to the iridescence, with some green and blue transparent paint underneath to give some depth and a prismatic feel.

I also spent ages getting the correct green for the nobs on the trilobite's back
, to give it some coloured markings, though I'm not sure how visible they really are in the final.

The part I'm happiest with is the bit of green algae or moss staining the shale around a phantom outline of a crinoid stalk near the bottom centre.

It's a little thing, but using partially opaque digital paint and shaping it with the handy eraser on the back of the digital pen, I managed to create a detail I quite like in a previously empty area. This felt like a minor landmark in my painting abilities.

Will digital painting completely overwhelm my oils in a couple of years, as some friends and colleagues have speculated? It could happen. At the moment though, my art is a mashed together hybrid of traditional and digital, pigment and pixel.

Suitable that the blog is named after a mashed together hybrid too, I think.

- - - - - - - -
Original artwork on The Flying Trilobite Copyright to Glendon Mellow under Creative Commons Licence.
Flying Trilobite Gallery
### Flying Trilobite Reproduction Shop ###


Sean Craven said...

Well, it was my inability to make most conventional media work properly that led me to work digitally.

At the same time, who wants to do a piece that is obviously Photoshop? I very much agree with the stance you're taking. Digital tools are just tools and should not determine the nature of the art being done.

Speaking of which, the new banner looks great -- and it's all of a piece, the digital and the conventional tools merging seamlessly.

Given your facility with paint I suspect you'll never give it up entirely. Which is good.

Unknown said...

I like the brighter page, I think I may switch mine to a lighter color, it's more upbeat.

I've just lately been experimenting with drawing in digital. I'm no artist, and it's not professional equipment, but it's fun. I ended up acquiring a Panasonic Toughbook (CF-m34, cute little thing) that was either going in to a crusher, or into my possession. It has a touch screen and I've been doodling in paint with a stylus. I like how you can undo a mistake so easily, and switch between different versions effortlessly. I do dislike how it doesn't seem to draw exactly where I'm drawing even after calibrating. I assume that your Intuos is better at that.

Does the pad have a screen or do you look at the computer monitor? I bought my daughter a Fisher-Price Digital Arts & Crafts Studio. It's a really neat toy for any budding artist kids you might know. I had a hard time drawing on it though; I couldn't get used to looking at the monitor instead of the tip of my pen. That's cool that you are mixing the two medias. It will give you extra flexibility that just using one or the other wouldn't give.

Glendon Mellow said...

I completely agree; the media being used are subservient to the image, at least in the kind of artwork I enjoy creating and viewing.

Oils aren't for everyone and I personally have always had trouble painting in acrylic. It's comfort and enjoyment in taking the time to learn that help make the artist's work compelling, not the tool.

The Intuos seems pretty good: the drawing surface matches the screen exactly, including toolbars.

The Intuos still has you drawing on the tablet and watching the screen: The Wacom Cintiq is the sweet one where you draw on the image itself.

I didn't find too much trouble matching up my eyes with my hand; I learned from Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain when in highschool, and spent a few years learning contours there (then light and shadow in university). A lot of the exercises in that book have you following the contours of an object while not watching the page to train the eye. Perhaps that helped.

I think spatially, I have also been helped by my years using American Sign Language. You don't get to watch your own hands when holding a conversation or interpreting Shakespeare plays.

My nephew (who's 7) had a lot of fun with the tablet. We're looking at getting getting one for him. Good for hand-eye coordination, I hope your daughter has fun with it! I should check out that Fisher-Price one: I've read good things.

I think you've hit the nail on the head, Eric: flexibility with multi-media.

Prehistoric Insanity said...

The criniods were my favourite part of the banner (though the trilobite is pretty sweet too), but I couldn't tell why... Those tiny little added details add to them sooooo much! Especially when you focus on it (where in most of my pieces they fall apart once you look at them closer!)

Sean's line of logic that "Digital tools are just tools and should not determine the nature of the art being done" is funny... as back when I pursued 3D graphics as my artform of choice, I was doing it for the opposite reason.

The medium was the message, and my subjects were at its mercy.

I only recently have begun to get confident and comfortable enough with 3D to now understand what you both mean about letting the image guide the process... rather than the end piece being at the mercy of my (considerable less than either of your) skill level and capabilites.

Christopher Zenga said...

What up G-Mel!

I agree with Sean,

you should never deny your self a tool that will help bring your art to the next plateau. I;m certain I will get the purest rebuttal here but I am all for using the tools at your disposal to achieve the final product. Thanks for the break down, It's fun to get a look at the artists process

Later days,

Glendon Mellow said...

Craig, your echoing of McLuhan ("medium is the message") makes me think a bit. In the case of 3-D programs, you may have a point. The goal is to produce something specifically based on what the program can do. Interesting.

Thanks for your comments about the crinoids too.

Zenga! The next plateau, eh? Hopefully not the next Sisyphean mountainside filled with frustration! Naw, I'm very very pleased with this piece. Came out very much like it looks in my head.

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Posts over 14 days old have their comments held in moderation - I've been getting an unusual amount of spam for a guy who paints trilobites. I'll release it lickety-split though.

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