Ignorance of the Digital Medium

This week, I once again found myself locked out of submitting work for a large competition simply due to the fact that I mostly work in digital, and if its digital, it must be the devils work right? I mean, forget all those thousands of hours spent learning, sleepless weekends, millions of sheets of paper and who knows how many drawings I have done to get myself to a somewhat decent level. It means nothing. I can simply press a button and Photoshop works its magic and hey presto, a work of art. Simple. When everyone else struggles with their traditional mediums, I laugh and need not worry about values, shape language, composition,etc as all I have to do is sit back,relax and let the computer do the work. It may as well work like that considering the stonewalling and reluctance to those of use who use digital.

30 mins speed paint ©2019

Its an everyday medium of choice in the entertainment industry. It allows artists to work with speed and produce in volumes as is required when your working on movies and video games, but only when the artists have the fundamentals down. No amount of digital trickery or fancy filters can compensate for poor perspective, bad composition or values, or inadequate colour theory. If you dont have the core skills, digital wont help you. So why the distrust, why when you can submit collages as in the case of the competition I wanted to enter, can you not do the same with a computer? Is it fear of having the competition seem unbalanced? I don’t buy this as its open to both amateur and professional artists. That in itself is a huge gap of the talent pool and already skews the concept of “fair” .

Whats even more ludicrous is the fact that your art has to be submitted as a jpeg? You know, a digital format. We live in an information and digital age, so I really don’t understand the fear shown against the digital artist. The digital medium is here to stay like it or not. Its time to embrace it as another tool and understand that it will always be the artist who creates, not the paintbrush or in this case the digital pen. If you liked this article, please like and share and help me out! Its appreciated.

Story Illustration for an MMORPG game. ©2019

Visually engaging storytelling through artistic interpretation

What is the role of an artist? Is it to record as we exactly see the world, or is it to interpret a scene and tell a story?, or perhaps its a little bit of both. My own opinion falls very much into the realm of storytelling, and my own creative influences tend to be artists that do the same. I don’t feel the need to be a Xerox machine and just copy exactly what I see, rather I look for opportunities to design. I no longer make random brushstrokes, but rather ones that are more considered and with a bigger plan in place.

There is no one glove that fits all here, and my own approach may not be to the liking of others. There are certainly artists out there that will only record exactly what they see and its not wrong per say, its just not how I would approach it. A case in point is aviation art. When a scene is recorded its often considered to be better if its exactly historically accurate. Exact time of day, exact markings and model of aircraft, every little detail recorded, down to the moments weather. I love painting aircraft, but I prefer to mock up a scene loosely based on what happened, rather than purity of the moment. I guess that’s just my background in industrial Design. I have been thought to tell a story, entertain the audience, give them something to connect too, so that’s how I try to paint in all that I do.

A value study and preliminary production paint for a project. Its not historically accurate, but its designed to tell a story and entertain

The other area where I have found artists to be more purists in their work is landscapes. Often they don’t want to change elements or add things or take them away as they were not there in the scene. The whole scene becomes about recording exacting details of the moment, rather than trying to engage the audience to stop and stare at their work, to become inspired and to connect. Some of the greatest landscape painters, all move elements, and add or subtract objects to be more appealing. They make deliberate design choices to lead you into the picture and engage your attention. Its often done in a subtle natural manner that one can never tell if that was the “exact” scene, but with trying to study and understand the masters we can learn how they went about creating carefully crafted compositions. Take a look at the work of James E Reynolds below as an example.

All natural or staged?

As you can see from above, James E Reynolds created a visually interesting design by moving or adding elements into the scene. Its highly unlikely that he wandered into a random scene that had all the elements needed to lead our eye and balance the composition in such a manner.
Learn to use that artistic license, don’t become a slave to a scene. Hollywood and the multi billion dollar entertainment industry does it all the time. Gladiator is a perfect example of well shot and entertaining movie that is a very very loose version of actual history, but its a great film. Its enjoyable to watch. Director Ridley Scott said himself, its about storytelling not producing accuracy. Entertain your audience. So bear this in mind and consider it in your next painting. Until next time, happy painting. If you found this article helpful or appealing, please like and share and help me out! Thanks.

Visual Creativity through your sketchpad

Ah the humble sketchpad, be it an expensive moleskin or the cheap A4, there is a lot to be said about using this powerful creative tool to enhance your artistic skills.

Too many artists don’t use a sketchpad or rarely use it, and it shows in their work. I think part of the problem is many artists see the sketchpad as a platform for delivering awesome final works of art, and don’t want to have it full of mediocre images. I myself was in this bracket for a long time. I went out and spent a lot of money on expensive moleskin, and then of course never doodled in it. Rather than become a creative tool, it became a creative hindrance. It was a book of fear every time I looked at it. I wanted to create, but couldn’t bring myself to risk making a mess inside. I seen so many professional and highly skilled artists showing finished work in their sketchpads, and just expected that I too could deliver the same quality.

©Sketching on location in Malta and France

The problem here, was that I was not at their level, or anywhere close. How could I show anyone my work if it was rubbish? It was one of the biggest mistakes I made. In particular because I was starting out and relearning drawing from a very long break. This is where its even more important.

The sketchbook should be seen as a visual workbook instead of sketchbook. its where you can put your thoughts and visual ideas onto paper, regardless of how crappy they are. Its your personal space to take ideas from your mind and put them onto a 2D surface. You don’t have to show it to anyone,ever. The mantra here is just draw!

©Trying out some Ink brushes for something more graphic

Drawing, and good draftsmanship is all about time spent. The more hours you put in, the better you get. There is no hidden secrets to getting better at drawing/painting. Its all about the hours. Hundreds and thousands of hours spent honing your craft, and it starts with keeping a visual workbook.

Don’t be tempted to buy fancy sketchpads, get yourself the cheap A4 copy paper. They usually come in 500 page blocks. And draw on every single one of them, back and front. That’s a 1000 pages cheap and easy. How much do you think you can improve with a 1000 pages worth of drawing. I bet you will see quite a increase in your skills.

©Linework sketches for production painting on a video game project

I use these pages for gesture study mainly and believe it or not, drawing straight lines free-handed. Its just the way I was thought. Having the skill to draw straight lines free-handed actually translates a lot into your work, but that’s a conversation for a different day. If I have ideas for designs, compositions,etc, I just throw them down on paper with the use of a HB or B2 pencil. Simple and easy. They may look crappy, but often once the idea is there, I can come back and sort it out later for further development. As a designer, the idea is the most important aspect to me.

Remember, to just draw, get out your visual workbook and make it a habit to draw in it everyday. Try to do at least3 drawings at 20 minutes max each. If your using an A4, then 5 drawings minimum per page. So what are you waiting for? Stretch those creative legs and get drawing/painting. And most importantly, have fun! Until next time.

©Visual Development Sketches, for some props work for a video-game.


Presentation is everything

As artists, our work is an extension of ourselves. Everything we do from a doodle to a completed piece represents us and our creativity. Far too often I see amateur or less experienced artists post up work to the public domain, that is blurry, poorly lit, poorly photographed, wrong way up to view, or photographed from across the room. It often comes with excuses, like I don’t have a good camera, or I don’t know how to take a photo. If you don’t take the time to present yourself and your work to the highest standard, how can you expect others to appreciate it?

I rather not post work, than to post work poorly. I cant stress enough how important it is to see your art as a professional extension of yourself. Make the extra effort and always put the best foot forward!

A quick bit of effort with a frame to make a 20 minute plein air more presentable

Think about it from a food viewpoint. You walk into a coffee shop and sit down at the wobbly table.I swear every coffee shop in the world has a wobbly table and I always get it. Anyway, there you are sitting there and you look at the basic menu on a scrap of paper. It says a coffee and a piece of bread with chocolate for 6 euro. Hmmm, doesn’t sound too good for that money does it. What if it said a hand crafted medium Latte with a freshly baked pain au Chocolat? Sounds good right? Exact same item presented differently. Presented better, means you can charge more, companies do it all the time. Take the time to present even your worst doodles if your going to show them to the public, and never let yourself or your art down.