I’ve been getting quite fond of working with watercolors lately 🙂 Also, plain-air studies are unbelievably soothing and therapeutic ❤
As much as I am aware of the clumsiness of my brushstrokes, with real paint and real brushes there doesn’t seem to be the same feeling of pressure weighting me down. Once the brushstroke is laid, in most cases, it is there to stay so all you can do is just enjoy the spontaneity of the process. The creative advantage of this, for me at least, is the fact that it forces me to put extra thought in every decision of color and brushstroke I make, because there is not Ctrl+z to undo it and I also can’t recreate the same images in 10 different style and color schemes, within a matter of hours.
There is something precious about a traditional piece of painting or even a simple sketch, a frame-ready quality that I personally don’t find as easily accessible in digital painting and it’s something I always miss when working with Photoshop. Take for example the illustrations of David Downton (which I adore). A few lines, a few brushstrokes and the thing is ready for Tate Modern. Can the same be said about a digital sketch? I think that’s unlikely. Why? Maybe because of high-class prejudices, ignorance among the “plebs”, because of taste or maybe because of the high or low expectations that come with the possibility allowed by each tool. Someone who recreates the Monalisa with a burnt match on toilet paper will get 20 times the praise of someone who does it in Photoshop. Granted oils and watercolor are not as tricky to work with, but you get the point.
With the proper artistic skills and knowledge, once you learn Photoshop and get used to a tablet, stylus and not looking at your hand while drawing, you can paint pretty much ANY kind of image you want, as many time as you want, in any style you want, WITHOUT wasting a fortune and a few years of your life in doing so. Actually, Photoshop takes “bringing imagination to life” to an unprecedented, staggering high level of possibilities and that is its beauty. But precisely because it can do so much, simplicity in digital art, unless presented with sophistication and originality, is ignored. So, no, digital art is not easy and it’s not cheating. It’s a different kind of difficult.
And then there’s also the matter of prestige of the tool. Oils and watercolors are just… cool. They are the cool kids of the neighborhood, the dons of the family, the elders of the clan… they’ve just been around longer and have worked with all the big names in the business 🙂
One thing that comes to my mind as I think about all this, is that Photoshop is an interesting reflection of our times: need for speed. Speed is part of our world and we can no longer imagine ourselves living without it. Everything around us happens/travels/is delivered/is completed/is created at high speed. Therefore, when once the time it took an artist to create a piece of art was mostly irrelevant, today one of the first questions you’ll hear people ask, when looking at a painting, is “How long did it take you to do that?”. And the shorter the time, the higher the praise…