Digital art – why and how

You may have noticed that most of my work is marked as ‘digital art’. Unfortunately I don’t know how to paint with oils or acrylics (though I’d love to!) and have only dabbled in watercolour. Together with many sketchbooks, my laptop is my workplace. “But how does that work, digital art?” is often asked. People simply cannot imagine what painting on a computer entails. And when you mention that you work in Photoshop, their mind is quickly made up. “Ah,” they say, with a knowing smile. Because to them, using Photoshop equals pasting photos together – which would make for a rather easy ‘paint’ job indeed.

While in reality, digital painting is very much like painting on canvas. One starts with colour studies, a sketch, and then building upon that layer by layer. The end result may even look precisely like a ‘real’ painting. Digital art takes as much time and skills – albeit different ones – to master as any traditional means of painting. The computer does not do all the work for you. I wish! It would have saved many a painting from being thrown away in fits, and spared me many days of frustration.

Painting digitally means I can put in as much details as I like, and make corrections (even substantial ones) with relative ease, even after a painting has been ‘finished’. I also don’t have to photograph or scan my art to get it on the computer, which is always tricky. The biggest, and only, real disadvantage for me is that I’m never able to hold the finished piece in my hands. But luckily we have printers to solve that for us.

Digital painting step-by-step
To get a feel for what painting digitally entails, here is a walkthrough of one of my pieces, “Icy waters”, which can be seen in my gallery here. Click on the images for a larger view and explanation of each stage in the painting process.