Digial Art for The Traditional Artist

I had someone (hi Tracy!) ask me some questions about digital art. I thought I’d answer here just in case someone else might be interested.

Do I prefer working digitally?
The short answer is yes. I have always been interested in art. I have worked in watercolors, colored pencils and acrylic. I still love diving into paint sometimes. But for me, working on the computer gives me more freedom to experiment. Why? – because of that glorious invention called the “undo” button. Sigh, if only the rest of my life had an “undo” button. If I was working traditionally in watercolor and had spent days working on a painting I would be very reluctant to try anything radical like, I don’t know, changing the sky to a deep phthalo blue. But with Photoshop I have that option. If it doesn’t work out – click – undo – all better. With watercolors, well, let’s just say it wouldn’t be good.

Also I’m a bit of a cheapskate, okay, I’m a big cheapskate, and paper and paints are kind of expensive. Granted the computer equipment that I use cost a pretty penny but once I have the equipment it doesn’t cost me any more to make 1 digital painting 50. That makes me freer to experiment without worrying that I’m ruining a $7 sheet of paper or wasting a $10 tube of paint.

I do still draw with paper and pencil, I can’t seem to get the hang of drawing on the computer. But I use inexpensive mechanical pencil and plain paper for that, nothing fancy.

Is working digitally a skill that someone can learn on their own?

Yep, I did.

I did have a computer background when I started. I was a computer programmer for several years so I did know a little bit about PC’s which certainly helps. But my job had nothing to do with computer graphics. I knew nothing about Photoshop or any other graphics application when I started. Everything I’ve learned has come from books and the internet.

I think it helps to have an art background. I minored in art in college and had some formal art training, although I wish I had more. Some people think that you press a button on the keyboard and the computer will draw things for you. In case you were one of those people, let’s get that out of the way right now, COMPUTERS WILL NOT DRAW FOR YOU. You still need to know about things like anatomy and color theory and all that fun stuff.

I’m a traditional artist how do I get started working digitally?
That’s a tough one. There are a gazillion ways to work traditionally; watercolor, collage, oils. And there are also a gazillion ways to work digitally. It all depends on what you want to do. There are several graphics applications on the market and they all do something a little different. Over the next few days I will try and post information about some different applications. I’ll try and explain what each one does and show you some totally amazing work that folks have done using each one. Hopefully that will give you an idea of where you want to focus your attention.

Of course there is one thing you will need regardless of what application you want to focus. You will need a computer. And if you go out and buy the current version of any graphics software (Photoshop for example) you will need a fairly new, fast, computer. Unfortunately, the Windows95 hand-me-d0wn from your brother-in-law just isn’t going to cut it. If your computer is more than a year or two old, there is a good chance it may not run the newest versions of the graphics software. “That stinks!” you say? Yes, it does – sorry.