Friday, June 15, 2012

Digital Painting - New Tool or New Medium?

This may surprise a few people, but there was a time before computers existed. No really, there was. Back then artists created work with paint, watercolors, ink, charcoal, and other physical mediums, not Photoshop or Wacom tablets. Once computers were invented, it didn't take long for computer graphics to rear their pretty heads. At first they were pretty primitive and had a distinct look. (Check out The Last Starfighter to see what I'm talking about.) By the 90s, computers were powerful enough to create work that looked like it had been made by hand. That lead many to ask whether computers were merely a new tool to create work that looked like traditional art, or whether computers were a new medium with it's own look and characteristics.

They were both right.

Many people use computers to mimic traditional art methods. But not me. I've said many times that a watercolor should look like a watercolor, and an oil painting should look like an oil painting. While you can create photorealistic oil paintings or rich watercolors that look like oil, one has to ask why. Each medium has really cool and unique properties, and the artist should take advantage of them. And that doesn't apply strictly to visual art either. Movie adaptions of books should take advantage of cinema and not try to follow a book to closely, as should book adaptions of movies.

I've been working with a number of computer programs including Adobe Photoshop, Corel Painter (which does an amazing job of emulating natural media), Google Sketch Up, and others. I've been trying to create a style that looks digital, but not cheesy-we're-still-stuck-in-the-90s digital. The drawing above is my latest attempt. It has all the hallmarks of a traditionally drawn and painted work, but there's no question it's digital. I'm happy with how it turned out. I think an illustrated eBook with this type of art would be pretty cool, especially on a tablet. Maybe for my next project...

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