Friday, January 30, 2009

Hot Buttons

a digital painting
by & copyright to
Jan Gibson

I'm really a very easy-going person, but I have to admit that there are a few things that push my buttons, most of them having to do with art.

The one that pushed a button today is that digital painting is cheating or requires no skill or talent because the computer does it all. I have italicized the word painting because my mentor, Fred Taylor, always said that if you had to have a computer to do a piece of art then it was digital art. Digital painting on the other hand uses the computer just as a painter of any medium uses the tools of that medium but the process of painting is the same.

I don't know whether I actually have talent or not - everyone has their own preferences and tastes and art is so subjective that an artist will hear it both ways. But I know I have skill in digital painting and I know that it takes skill. If you don't think so, I challenge you to try it.

I started painting digitally about 2001 which is roughly 8 years ago. In all of those years, I've never had a computer just start painting all by itself. And I've never heard of anyone else who has had it happen with their computer either. So, just how is the computer doing all the work?

I've had other artists say "yeah, well, you just push a button on the computer and the software does the painting." There is software, and I consider this digital art, that will distort a photograph in a way that it resembles an oil painting or a watercolor or some other art medium but there's no software on the market that will actually conceive of an idea and paint a painting at the touch of a button.

Or they will say digital painting is cheating because of the undo button! I always tell them that I'll disable the undo option if they'll throw away their erasers or scrapers or other methods for correcting mistakes.

True digital painting starts with an idea, then usually a sketch, then paint is applied in exactly the same manner that a traditional painting develops. The difference is like the difference between oil and watercolor for instance. A different kind of paint and a little different tools but the one thing that truly makes a painting lies behind the eyes of the artist, not in the tools they use.


~Barbara~ said...

I wish you could turn your Glorious Strangler on to whoever really ticked you off..
I love that painting you know.

Jan said...

Awww, I know you like that painting. And I guess I'm not really all that ticked - it's just that after 8 years or so, I get tired of being called a cheater.

And the heck of it is that everyone but other artists see it for what it is. You'd think the artists would. Such is life.

Thanks for the boost - you're a brick!

Teresa said...

Hello Jan!

Love your Morning Glory painting - it's beautiful.

Please allow me to weigh in on the digital painting issue. I have Corel Painter X - perhaps the premier software for digital painting (I also have Photoshop which allows for some digital painting but does not have Painter's capabilities in that area). While it's true that, yes, you can use an "auto paint" button to turn a photo into a painting, I don't consider that a work of art. More like a conversion. However, if you're using the software as you appear to be, that is, you're wielding a digital brush, pencil, pen, or whatever your choice of media to apply the strokes one at a time, then in my mind you're painting in the same manner as someone who is oil painting or using pastels. Simply a different media- as you point out.

Sure, there are some advantages to digital media.... you never have to buy new paint, paper or other art supplies; you have the option of working in layers which does enable you to make changes faster and easier than traditional art, however, the necessary skills of composition, color theory and such remain the same.

Besides, don't you think if Rembrandt, Michelangelo, Monet and the like could have had access to a computer and digital painting they'd have had a field day with this new technology? Remember the Impressionists were scorned before they were recognized... that's usually the way it is with something new.

I say... happy digital painting and phooey on the critics! :-)

Jan said...

Oh, wow, is my face red! I had totally forgotten about the auto-paint feature of Painter. But, I've never used it, ever, and don't even know how it works! And, I agree that it's a photo manipulation and not a painting.

Normally, I do say phooey on the critics but sometimes there's an overload of the "C" word!

All of my digital paintings are from scratch - no paint overs, no smudging of a photo or using filters on one and calling it a painting. I do use layers and I do use the undo button though.

Yeah, I know the Impressionists and even the watercolorists "back in the day" were harrassed. And I know that colored pencil artists of today take some heat for cp being a "sandbox" medium. But whether those old guys you mention would have joined in on digital painting or been part of the hiss and boo crowd, I really don't know. Some "innovative" artists I know have been the most critical!

Teresa said...

Oh Jan, please don't be "red-faced" at my mentioning the auto paint button! My comments were meant only in support of you. Besides, as you point out... there is no software out there that can "conceive of an idea and start painting it". Auto paint only changes the existing pixels around... doesn't change the composition, the values or make any independent decisions at all.

I've found that when it comes to the critics it's good to be selectively deaf. Instead, listen to artists you admire, who inspire you to be the artist you want to be.

Re: undo and layers... of course use them... that's what they're there for! When I paint digitally you can bet I make good use of them! Do you have any Jeremy Sutton books? He's done some awesome paintings (that sell for a lot of money) using Painter.

Keep painting!

Jan said...

Hi again, Teresa! As I've said today, it's just dumb to get upset about much of anything. It was my insecurity talking which is just reverse pride. I'm back up (as in upbeat)and ready for the next challenge.

As for digital painting, while I don't own any Jeremy Sutton books, I do know who he is and know he has the right idea - laugh at your critics all the way to the bank!

Lori Andrews said...

Jan, This is just lovely, I know I said it before but. :) Hey, how can I follow you here?

Jan said...

Thanks, Lori. I added a the "Follow" feature to my blog this morning but don't think it has an icon so you it may be a little hard to find.