Monday, April 19, 2010

My love affair with my Cintiq

Oh, Cintiq. How I love you. I feel like I am cheating on my watercolors, having an elicit affair with digital art. Lately, I have really been pushing myself into the digital art transition. After a rough start, I have completed some personal pieces that I am really proud of, and am even doing some digital client work. After much experimentation, I have found the digital tools and methods that are right for me, and I can now execute a digital painting just as fast as a traditional one (not counting the time it takes to stretch paper and scan/color correct the traditional art).

Through this process, I have truly begun to see digital art as more of a medium than a method. People tend to ask me "is it easier?". Well...are oil paints easier than watercolors? Are markers easier than colored pencils? Every medium has its strengths and challenges, and those vary depending upon the natural skills and techniques of the artist. For me, some things come easier digitally. I find that varying my color pallet, creating dramatic lighting, and experimenting with textures are more natural for me digitally. Why? Probably because if I hate the color I just created, I can delete it. With watercolor, it must be right the first time, and so I don't take as many risks. My time schedules for projects don't often allow for frequent re-dos of pages. However, I find that I miss being able to use my whole arm to create strokes, the feel and smell of the paper, and the natural "artist's hand" which you can see in traditional work. With digital art, I have to remember to leave in "mistakes" and "imperfections" that show a piece was done by a person and not a machine. It is easy for digital art to look stale and stiff, which is something that I must fight against. I love the looseness of my sketching and the energy in my pencil lines, and I must make an effort to preserve those qualities in my digital work. Plus, digital art is not without color challenges. My traditional art must go through the time consuming process of scanning and color correction, but I learned very quickly with my digital art that my Cintiq displays color differently than my main monitor. I must often move the image back and forth between the two to make sure that my colors don't nice on both, so that I can be confident that values and colors will look right when they go to print. Watercolor paintings can be easily damaged. Digital art can be accidentally overwritten! (Thank you, my beloved backup hard drive, for keeping my artwork safe from myself!)

I like to think of myself as an illustrator. Not a traditional illustrator. Not a digital illustrator. Just an illustrator who is capable of using a variety of mediums to create the right piece of art for the project. I hope to one day take this even further, and blend my traditional and digital techniques, perhaps beginning a painting traditionally and then taking it into the computer, so that I can harness the unique properties of both mediums. This will probably be very far down the road before I can introduce this approach to my professional portfolio, as the illustrators who do this successfully are very skilled, very experienced, and have learned through much trial and error. In the meanwhile, I am looking forward to NOT having to scan and color correct the 41 images I am creating for my current project.