Daily Archives: August 8, 2012
Not Leaving Well Enough Alone
How Photoshop and layers is making me a better artist.
I have been drawing since I was old enough to hold a pencil. Painting not nearly so long since supplies for it are far more costly. Still you can count my painting time, off and on, in decades. And yet, what I have learned about drawing and painting in the last eighteen months with Photoshop has increased my skills exponentially. And I know why.
It’s the forgivabilty factor. Many an artist knows what is meant by the phrase “a forgiving medium” . Well that is what digital art software with layers is. Forgiving. I have known for a long time that my biggest problem with painting was that I painted too cautiously. Never mind drawing for now. That is another discussion for another time. But painting?
First of all, I have always painted in layers. In acrylics the layers of values, masses and glazes could be countless. In oils less so due to the drying time. Imagine if you will, putting thirty hours or more into a large work only to realize something early on has gone awry. Imagine that as the work nears it’s end, each brush stroke becomes more and more of a risk that you will make a mistake that might ruin your painting. Or you might paint yourself into a corner that you don’t know how to get out of, find mistakes that it is too late to correct and suddenly the piece has become a frustration to you. Eventually you decide it’s time to leave well enough alone. After all you’ve always heard how it’s not good to overwork a painting.
Enter Photoshop (or whatever your favorite painting software is at the moment.) If you learn how to use layers right, it is practically non destructive. Any thing that you try, any change that you make, can be undone at any stage of your process. It can be redone too as long as you didn’t delete your layer. If you haven’t mastered layers yet. I urge you to do so. Learn how to use them, group them, move them, link them, mask them and every other thing that can be done with them and I promise you, you will not regret the time you put into it.
Now that I can paint without fear of losing the groundwork that I lay down in a specific piece, I find myself more daring and better able to find what’s wrong and fix it. You learn from “fixing” mistakes, not making them.
Granted, until now I have mostly been digitally painting the illustrations. But I noticed the difference in my drawing skills in the past few months (all on the Wacom Intuous 4 tablet.) I felt my understanding grow in the various disciplines for creating an image and found my inner painter, begging to try something more complex. Here is the results. No Photoshop tricks, no grids, no tracing. Just a reference photo to look at, the painting tools and layers.
I am no master portraitist, but this is the best portrait that I have yet to paint.
I WILL get back to painting with actual paint eventually. It will be at least after the first Chase and Pip book is out, more likely after the second one is complete. But I am confident that when I do get back to traditional painting, I will have learned some valuable skills to count on. I look forward to seeing the results.
Digital Portrait, Ashley Buffinet Hester, my youngest daughter.