"That's not painting!" he exclaimed.
Out of the mouths of babes, y'all...
If there were ever a topic to get me into hot water -- it's this one! I'm about to step on some digital painting toes in a big way.
But truth is truth!
Last week, I had the immense pleasure of spending the day with a very talented young artist. This young man works in acrylics with skills that most adults would find enviable. He is exceptionally talented! His parents see his talent and are working to get him interested in working digitally as well.
A smart move since he lives in Disney's back yard.
All beginning digital artists typically start in the same place -- blending pixels with specially made brushes. And this young man was no different. As I demonstrated how beginners begin, he exclaimed, "That's not painting!"
He's not anywhere near old enough to drive, but he has the insight to know what painting is -- and what it isn't.
I gave him a high five and said, "You're right -- it's mushing pixels! But it's a safe place to begin." And we carried on...
By in large, most of the "digital painters" out there today are nothing more than "pixel mushers".
They take a few pre-made brushes, they mush the pixels together to make it a bit smeary (because that's what painting looks like, right? #sarcasm), or they run something like the oil filter and drop on a smeary brush stroke here and there, and then they proudly proclaim to the world that they are an artist.
To quote my very young friend -- That's not painting!
Most digital painters never realize this, and they never move past the "pixel mushing" stage because they don't know what they don't know.
I'm here today to show you the difference...
First of all, let's take a peek at the reference image. Part of the joy of painting is that you are not required to stick 100% to reality. Artistic license is a real thing, y'all!
From a professional photographer standpoint, this image is less than ideal. It's flat lit and back focused. The red top is stealing the show. However, this is typical imagery that I receive to paint so I want to use it to illustrate what can be accomplished with a little knowhow.
Even many "pixel mushers" might take the time to alter the color of the blouse. But as a general rule, they won't go much beyond putting the subject into a new background and just blending all the pixels together.
Simply mushing the pixels together does not go far enough. It's boring and flat.
To make your work really exceptional -- to have it stand out from the masses of "pixel mushers" you have to go farther. You have to create something really special that challenges the idea of digital painting as a whole.
If you follow my work, you know that I'm capable of really blurring the line between digital and oils, but for this example, I wanted to keep the end result in the "achievable by most" range so I used techniques that even the most artistically challenged can learn, given the proper instruction.
To go beyond "pixel mushing", the end result needs to be more about the paint. Yes - maintaining the likeness is important, but so is creating depth and interest!
Next time you paint, I challenge you to step outside your comfort zone. Go beyond just mushing the pixels. Be brave. Create interest. Achieve depth. Move beyond the form and let it become more about the paint.
Now that you see the difference in straight pixel mushing and actual painting, you may find it difficult to accept the former. You may find yourself frustrated with your own limitations, but you know what? YOU CAN DO IT! Seeing the difference is the first step.
If you're willing to work at your own personal style, you'll be able to achieve something truly amazing that is far beyond "pixel mushing".
All the work is 100% worth it! Not only because you will evolve into an amazing artist, but you'll never have to hear the words, "that's not painting!" used in reference to your work!