Friday, March 16, 2012

The Art of Digital Painting

I am in the process of working on a new digital mat painting, I must admit that it is an exciting adventure, the only thing that is missing is the smell of oil paint for which I am nostalgic.

The digital world has changed contemporary painting dramatically. The romance is gone now, along with the loft studio in a romantic location, replaced by the cubical in an office or the hip workplace of a game company or movie production house. Long gone now are the smells of paint and turpentine, mixing colors to an exact consistency of transparency and liquidity. The chemistry of the medium... working with pigments, linseed oil, varnish and wax are fading into the world of the past and being replaced by the all mighty pixel. Sad to see it all go after a life well lived as a classic artist working in the tradition of paint.

Now, not being someone who would simply give up or be left behind by the dramatic technological advances of a new culture, I have chosen to embraced the pixel. I have seen the light of it's power and learned to mold it into the expression of my classical training. I am using the application Adobe Photoshop which is a powerful tool of pixel expression, one that has become the studio of today. The flexibility of the software and the tools of execution have over the past years become infinitely more sensitive and expressive, the addition of a Wacom tablet has added the feel of actually holding a tool that comes close to a brush. Digital photographic imagery offers a unique and time saving quality to the expression of digital painting by allowing paint and photo to become fused in a dance of brush strokes and the imagination.

Many will argue that using photos is cheating because the color pallet, perspective and proportion are already part of a photograph. But I take issue with this. As I do this work I am discovering that the challenge is in the unification of elements with over-painting and mixing photo parts and paint strokes into an evolved image that is not painted or photographic. The reward of this work is in the ability to try many approaches to solutions without damaging the work. The traditional painter does not have an undo for a poorly made mark, but the digital artist can add and subtract at will, color changes are a snap, as are scale and proportional adjustments. The ability to perfect forms, colors and even atmospheric changes in a dramatic way are now easy and possible. I am a believer in the outcome of expression as well as the journey one takes to get there. Pixel painting will never be the same as the real thing but it is highly likely the results will be better!
The starting image

Here now is what I have in process I say in process because changes are inevitable and easy to make, one digital painting provides the basis for an entire series of works and the evolution of an idea to it's finite resolution.
Stage 2

stage 3
This is the current stage of development at this time.


Unknown said...

Very cool. Lots of parallels to being an audio artist having seen technology change from mono to stereo and multitrack, and then from cutting and manipulating audio tape into the digital realm.
As the medium is the message, the pixels or waveforms or digits speak a different calling in a different rhythm than their analog counterparts. And, yet, the soul of the artist is still needed to engage in the conversation. The technology, as always, can only provide the tool for expression--the soul

Barry said...

Thanks for the reply. It seems to me that in order to be a vital creative artist I must dismiss my nostalgic feelings of classical medias and ride the wave of new technology. It is either that or be swept under in what is fast becoming antiquated or unnecessary.

Clearly, we who have lived and contributed to the arts have watched it's evolution and technological changes. Some I speak to wonder what will become of painting, they think the lack of sales is because of the economy. I agree that there must be some truth to that, but I see it as a sign of change in society, the focus has shifted and if I am to remain vital I will need to offer my creative works in the new format. You are right however, the soul of the artist is the non-replaceable catalyst that is the secret ingredient in any media.

Dagi said...

Are the zeppelins (airships) and the village also parts taken from photos or are they painted? The village reminds me of the Cinqueterre. Beautiful artwork!

Barry said...

They are both photo and Painting nixed to balance with the rest of the field.

James verDoorn said...

Barry.... I am a digital artist and have been for more than 20 years. My formal training, however, like yours, was in what is now considered, the more traditional media of paint and charcoal. I too miss the smell of paint but what I miss the most is the gesture. Standing before a big canvas and creating large, sweeping brush strokes... ah, well.

But what you seem to be saying is that traditional media, as we knew it, is dying and we must all move on. I don’t agree. I believe it will always be a part of our culture. Digital media simply expands the artist’s toolbox and provides a new freedom, a new direction, for creative expression.

For those working digitally the computer is simply a means to an end. Put in traditional terms it is both the brush and the canvas. Yet, even today, digital work is not always seen as being a legitimate media. There are galleries that won’t show digital work. There are juried shows that do not have a digital category and therefore will not accept digital work. And, of course, there are people who look at your work and say... “oh, a computer did that.....”

We’ve all got a ways to go....... keep up the good work.