Digital Painting Research

Ivan Sutherlands Sketchpad in action, the first computer based drawing system.

Ivan Sutherlands Sketchpad in action, the first computer based drawing system.

I finally completed my research paper on digital painting last month and it was a revelation.

I now have a much clearer idea of what I need to do to meet my goals. Not for the faint hearted I have to learn to paint using traditional methods – either in a digital or physical environment, or both – sharpen my drawing skills and find time to produce work for my MA as well as keep working to pay the bills!

The day after handing my paper in I went to see Ray Caesar’s work in the flesh at the Art London exhibition in Chelsea and had another revelation. Digital (giclée) printing seems to have advanced quite dramatically and some of the work had a textured lacquer that made the work look more painterly.

Regardless seeing these prints was impressive and cemented the real art of his work. The detail and compositions were superb and are pretty jaw dropping in person.

Interestingly Caesar’s work was, for me, among the most cutting edge work on show. His choice of content and technique are challenging and made much of the traditional painted work on display look tired. No matter how much talent is poured into traditional style oil paintings they seemed to lack the vibrancy and inventiveness of Caesar.

There were some other interesting piece’s at the exhibition and next time I vow to allow more time to get round the whole show.

Sutherlands vision of a computer based drawing system is realised by the likes of Wacoms Cintiq drawing screen.

Sutherland's vision of a computer based drawing system is realised by the likes of Wacom's Cintiq drawing screen.

Also as part of my research paper I brought Don Seegmillers ‘Advanced Painter Techniques‘. Seegmiller is very popular with the concept art crowd and this book has extremely practical advice on using Corel Painter and Adobe Photoshop to make images. His techniques are strongly rooted in traditional painting being built up in a similar way and he uses the language of traditional oil and acrylic painting throughout the book.

One of the other key concepts that I encountered from traditional UK painter Will Rochfort was the idea that it’s completely acceptable to abandon images that aren’t working. I’ve been working on a couple of pieces that seemed like a good idea in sketch form but whose composition hasn’t worked as painted pieces. The question is do you trash the working files or archive them? A traditional painter might reuse the canvas but in digital this is not necessary.

Hockney was considering destroying the original files of his recent digital work – this would certainly affect the value of the first runs of his digital prints and raises all sorts of interesting questions.

I’ve also joined Wikipedia so I can edit the ‘digital painting‘ entry which is missing much of what my research revealed about the subject.

Lastly in the words of my mate Phoebe (and Camberwell Arts MA graduate) talking about the research paper ‘you can see why they make you do it’. Yes absolutely it has been key to pushing my practice forward.

I found it incredibly challenging not being an academic writer, I still don’t know if it made it over the line, maybe no news is good news!