Sunday, April 28, 2013

Traditional Oil Painting vs Digital Painting

Although I'm new to digital painting, I wanted to write a little about my experience with it so far compared to traditional oil painting. I really enjoy both methods, but for different reasons. This comparison focuses on the positive aspects, and not the negative.

Traditional artwork will always have that extra energy to it. An indefinable power which radiates silently from the work's simple presence and existence. From what I have found, the greater the painting, the greater the quiet hum of energy. 

There is also more of a romantic quality to creating artwork in the physical form. In some ways it's like magic, breathing life into a blank canvas, and pulling up a creation from nothingness. 

I think the reasons behind this extra energy and romanticism lie behind physically creating something using creativity. A piece of the artist goes into each of the works of art. I don't know exactly why or how this happens, but it does. Traditional work has soul.

I love digital painting because of how convenient and time-saving it is. With traditional work I need to put aside several hours at a time to properly blend the colors before the paint dries, but with digital painting I can work on the artwork in smaller, more scattered increments of time. There is no waiting for colors to dry before adding more layers, and no strong smelling paints or solvents. There is no need for large studio space, and I don't have to spend hundreds--if not thousands--of dollars on paints, brushes, and canvases.

Digital painting is clean, quick, and fun. Making mistakes can be easily fixed with the undo button, and even after the work of art is complete I can preposition it anywhere on the canvas, or re-size it to fit particular dimensions.

Because of both methods having such strong advantages over each other, I can't just choose one and not the other. I need to pursue both.

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Monday, April 15, 2013

How to paint an underpainting and add layers of color

This is how I go about painting an underpainting, and adding layers of color. The process was for "By the Wall," a figurative oil painting I created last year.

After doing a quick sketch in pencil, the first step is painting the underpainting in one to two layers of raw umber and titanium white. There are many different colors and techniques that artists will use for this stage of the painting, but I have found that this way has worked best for myself and the effects I want to achieve with my work. I paint mainly with raw umber, and only use small amounts of the titanium white for the highlights in her skin and dress. The rest of the white seen is just raw canvas for now. The reason I do this is because raw umber dries very quickly--in a matter of a couple days--while titanium white dries very slowly.

If you're asking why I do an underpainting in the first place, it's because it gives me a chance to get all of the proportional  problems worked out before complicating things with more color--and also because as the painting dries the layers become more transparent. With using an underpainting first, the shadows in the painting will deepen with age, making the subject seem more alive. For me, a painting that seems as if it's alive, and that it could move at any moment, is the most important aspect of the creation. Artwork needs life, and feeling. Lifeless artwork doesn't stir the viewers curiosity. It gives no feeling.

In the past, I did most of my underpaintings in one layer, but this one I did in two layers. I think it helped deepen the shadows a little more, and gave a little extra depth and expression in the eyes.

As far as the process of painting the underpainting itself, I will usually first paint in the shapes with a coarse hogs hair brush, and then blur and/or soften what I put down with a larger soft brush--usually a broad, flat sable brush. I'll then draw in everything again in more detail with a fine tipped brush, softening it again with a large soft brush, and keep repeating the process until the basic idea of the painting feels right. I'll then paint in highlights on the skin and clothing with titanium white--but not using very much of the color. I'll blend everything again briefly with a large/thick flat sable brush. Then I'll touch up the highlights and shadows once more, and then begin the hair.

I paint the hair fairly quickly with a round synthetic mongoose hair brush. Although I use mainly cheaper brushes for most of the painting, I use expensive brushes on the hair because the more expensive brushes tend to hold paint better, allowing for longer, more consistent brush strokes. It's important for the hair, because I want the lines I paint to flow freely.

For this painting, after everything had completely dried, I added the second layer to the underpainting very thinly using just raw umber.

I add in layers of color using somewhat the same process as the underpainting, painting in the shadows, and softening them right afterwards each time. I'll typically blend the highlights and middle tones after the shadows  because I find that the colors get less muddy that way.

I'll then go back and forth between adding shadows, highlights, and blending until it looks right.

Shadows the for the skin are mainly burnt sienna and raw umber, with very small amounts of sap green, thalo blue, and paynes grey in the darker parts. The highlights in the skin are made up of titanium white, naples yellow, burnt sienna, and an extremely small amount of cadmium yellow deep. The red in the middle tones is an extremely small amount of rose madder brushed in after everything is dry.

For color, I will paint as many layers as it takes for the painting to look and feel right. I put three layers of color on this one before deciding that it was finished.

After letting the painting age and dry for around 6 months, I'll varnish it using Gamblin's Gamvar Varnish. Out of all of the varnishes out there, I like this one the best. It doesn't smell as strong as other varnishes, and it doesn't darken, yellow, or crack with age.

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