Combining Traditional And Digital Art – A Ramble

2017-artwork-mixing-digital-and-traditional-art-article-sketch

Although there are plenty of artists who only use digital tools, I thought that I’d talk about combining digital and traditional materials today. This is mostly because I’ve done this (to different extents) in virtually all of the art I’ve made since about 2010/2011.

The interesting thing is that virtually every artist has a totally different approach to doing this. For example, in this “making of” article by Winston Rowntree (the creator of an excellent webcomic called “Subnormality), he talks about how he uses traditional materials for the line art in his comics, but adds all of the colours digitally after scanning the line art. The interesting thing about this is that, before I read this, I thought that his comics were created entirely digitally.

Still, before I read that article, I didn’t entirely realise that it was actually possible to do this. But, after some experiments with two of the graphics programs I use (an ancient late 1990s version of Paint Shop Pro and a free open-source program called “GIMP), I found that it didn’t really work out that well for “proper” paintings/drawings, but that it could be used as a quicker and easier way to make the title pictures for many of these blog articles.

I guess that the main advantage of this approach is probably the fact that traditional drawing is a lot more responsive, quick and intuitive than using a graphics tablet can be. However, adding colour using editing programs often seems a lot more labourious in some ways – not to mention that most colours in art made like this have a very “flat” and obviously digital look to them.

But with the rest of my art, I usually try to use digital tools to enhance the traditional parts of my art, to correct mistakes and to add effects that I can’t easily create using traditional materials . In other words, I usually tend to try to use traditional materials as much as possible – and then I use digital tools to make my art look better. Like this old “before and after” example:

I've used this example before, but this is an unprocessed (except for cropping) scan of the picture. It's closer to the original painting, but slightly more faded due to the limitations of the scanner.

I’ve used this example before, but this is an unprocessed (except for cropping) scan of the picture. It’s closer to the original painting, but slightly more faded due to the limitations of the scanner.

"La Chanteuse" By C. A. Brown (with a low-moderate amount of digital editing)

“La Chanteuse” By C. A. Brown (with a low-moderate amount of digital editing)

The main advantages of doing things this way are the fact that I still get to enjoy the physical experience of making traditional art (and actually have a physical painting to show for it at the end), but I also get to use digital tools to give my paintings a distinctively vivid “look” and to reduce my worries about making mistakes.

On the other hand, this usually means that I have to spend at least 10-50 minutes editing my art after I scan it. Although this isn’t usually too much of a problem with paintings, it’s become increasingly time-consuming in any of the comics that I’ve made recently (mostly because I’ve learnt several new editing techniques, and because the backgrounds in my more recent comics are more detailed and require more detailed editing).

So, how can you tell how much of your art should be traditional and how much of it should be digital?

Well, it’s all to do with practicality, artistic taste and personal preference. If you find it easier to work with traditional or digital, then this should probably be the main medium you should use. Likewise, if you have more traditional tools available than digital ones (or vice versa), then it’s probably best to mostly use the tools you have.

Likewise, if you prefer the look of either traditional or digital art – then it’s pretty self-explanatory which one you should use more of in your art.

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Sorry for such a short and basic article, but I hope it was interesting 🙂

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