Digital versus Traditional painting – pros and the ‘cons’

Copyright Jenirose Hall ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

She loved,
in another time
another place
a space
just for two…
Chains of obligation
claimed her return
(Copyright Jenirose Hall, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED – NOT public domain)

It all began with a Wacom Bamboo tablet. Amazing how one purchase can change so much.

Digital painting copyright Jenirose Hall LOGO does NOT appear on purchased art

Outside my window
I see tall green gums
brushing clean blue sky.
I write my Haiku
capturing words like insects
in amber time.
(copyright Jenirose Hall)

I had heard how much easier a tablet made things, but not until I used one myself did I realise how true that was.

Digital art is the ‘new art form’ and naturally has its detractors. There is a common belief that digital means a painted photo – ‘cheating’. It’s true that photography has been greatly changed by the introduction of digital programs. But is that cheating? Only if you hold to rigid beliefs about what photography ‘should’ be.

I’m not keen on ‘shoulds’. Shoulds and oughts have endeavoured to put a stop to progress in art for as long as there have been artists to break new ground – or break rules as the traditionalists saw it. Impressionism, cubism, and abstract art all had their detractors because of rigidity. Now of course these are all accepted art forms, and the art world is a richer place because of it.

Digital art is simply a different canvas. That blank white screen is just as intimidating, challenging or exciting, depending on your point of view, as is a blank page or canvas. Quality is quality whether digital or physical art.

Now I have both the Bamboo and the Intuos 3 and the joy and freedom in being familiar with Intuos and Wacom brushes has led to even more freedom – the addition of my poetry and prose to some images – something I had not envisaged. Sometimes however, the words that go with the image were written by someone else and touched me so deeply I wanted to paint an image to match the words (as I saw them).

Digital painting copyright Jenirose Hall LOGO does NOT appear on purchased art

The lines come from John Fredrick Nims “Love Poem” – the final stanza
“Be with me, darling, early and late,
I will study wry music for your sake.
For should your hands drop white and empty
All the toys of the world would break.”

Do I still use traditional (physical hands on) forms? You bet! I still love to draw with pen and ink; paint with – let’s see – coloured and watercolour pencils, pastels, and acrylics, and when I can get my hands on them, water based oil pastels that still have that wonderfully ‘buttery’ feel. Grounds can be either heavy weight papers or canvas. It’s good to be able to go from one to the other. Each one contributes to the other, but the joy of digital is knowing that mistakes can be tossed without waste of precious supplies.

Of course it’s not quite as simple as that. My choice of digital was governed as much by economics and health as by ease of use. And to start with ‘ease of use’ was a joke! Photoshop is a long and hard learning curve as is Corel Paint. ArtRage is more intuitive, but to use it well still takes practice and experimentation.

I’ve spent more than 10yrs learning about digital paint programs and Photoshop. With Photoshop the experts will tell you that no-one ever masters Photoshop because it’s so vast. I’d say the same for Corel Paint. The trick is finding those aspects of a program that best suit the way you work, and learning everything about them you can, then applying them to the best of your ability. But most of all, allowing your creativity to blossom in whatever program you use is the surest way to find joy and satisfaction in what you do. How is that different to traditional methods?

Digital art can be printed to canvas or good quality paper and left as such, or it can then have paint applied physically. There are some artists who specialise in just that. The finished article is then a one-off, just as a painting on canvas is. And there I believe is the crux of the matter.

Collectors who want a one-off don’t see digital that way. Yet what artist would refuse an appropriate offer to make that digital a one-off to the right buyer and remove all other copies from sale? If that means removing the image from the internet entirely, then that needs to be part of the agreement between artist and buyer. But therein lies the other and greater problem – theft!

Digital art and theft

Until there are enough of the right kind of laws, and international laws at that, there will always be theft of images, especially digital images. I emphasise the ‘right kind of laws’ because this is not something that should be left entirely in the hands of lawyers eager to make money from law suits. It is not about lining the pockets of those who make a living looking for every litigious¬†loophole. It’s about protecting artists and their work, especially those whose work is digital. Artists need to be heard and involved in the making of those laws.

Just laws are hard to come by. Too often Justice is not only blind, but deaf and mute as well! Law is loud, not always clear, and sadly, rarely just. What we need are some art loving lawyers with a penchant for justice, combined with intelligently informed artists who understand the basics of good law reform.

Oh lordy is that ever a priceless concept to transform into a whimsical bit of writing. Terry Pratchett where are you when I need you most lol.

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