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Monday, February 01, 2010

Doomhammer 2010: Digital Final and Problems with Labels

12 x 18
Watercolor & Digital

I label this Watercolor & Digital, but as was mentioned before, the watercolor label is a bit misleading, as I am actually using acrylic inks. Likewise, I feel like labeling this "digital" is also a bit misleading because I have not done any digital painting here.

Adobe Photoshop was originally conceived to be a photo-adjustment tool and not primarily as a digital painting tool. While Photoshop does digital painting very well, (and this years Spectrum Fantastic Arts will show that quite clearly) I find that Painter X feels more suited to digital painting. And over the years it has embraced this difference from Photoshop and developed its software into a quite exceptional tool for building compelling, traditional-looking images digitally. Meanwhile, Adobe adamantly refuses to really invest itself into the digital painting aspects of its software, focusing instead to continue to further develop its photo-adjustment and web-related aspects.
That said, I have begun to prefer playing to Photoshop's strengths as opposed to wrestling against its shortcomings. (For instance, why oh why Adobe do you have such drastically inferior color mixing and blending to Corel?) But what Photoshop does phenomenally well, is what it was originally intended for; and that is photo-manipulation. That said, I no longer feel like I am painting in the brush and canvas sense when I work in Photoshop. If I need to do that Painter X is the tool. But for adjusting a traditional painting to pull up the colors, adjust the contrast and to refine the lights and shadows, nothing out there can beat Photoshop and I love using it for this.
So this is probably about 5 hours of "digital-adjusting" over acrylic inks. But that seems like a far too complicated label for how it was done.

I say all this because I have received some flak from students at a few conventions recently saying that they thought it was watercolor this whole time because of what I was labeling it here on the blog, and that they have been trying to recreate the effects in watercolor and having a terrible time with it. I was accused of running a scam and spearheading an effort to undermine art education world-wide.

So I'd like to be able to be less misleading in my labeling if possible here.
Anyone know a better label for this type of painting that is correct and at the same time not confusing to people unfamiliar with the tools used?

And now, labeling aside, on to the next step:

I will be posting the oil version of this and a comparison of the 3 methods this on thursday. I will be sealing this acrylic and then working oil directly over it. I'm curious which of the three images you think works out the best, and looks the most visually interesting.
"Watercolor", oil or digital?

I look forward to hearing what everyone thinks.


  1. I think this version if excellent.

    BTW, I think you have been pretty clear as to your mediums.

  2. This one is very nice!

    If a have to choose between 3 almost-equal images, oil is the king of painting (you have both transparency-opacity). IMHO, like comparing a real sax to a midi sax :)

  3. Hm, maybe "digital/traditional mixed media" would satisfy people?

    In any case, this is gorgeous!

  4. A good label would be:

    Hard Work/Any Medium that Suits Your Purpose.

    I think it should be understood by those who are confused that watercolor (or inks) are used in this case as the main basis of the painting, and the original painting is the springboard for the digital -enhancement-.

    Am I right?

  5. I believe you have been very clear on your mediums.

    And the silly students need to learn... That's why we call the students.

    Keep up the awesome work.

  6. Justin,
    First off, this piece is looking fantastic! I'm a huge fan of your process and even picked up the ImagineFX article to learn more. I think the Watercolor / Digital is a very appropriate label. As you explained the strengths of photoshop, I know you have mentioned before that these types of painting would be impossible if it were not for the texture of the watercolor. You have been very up front with your technique, and I appreciate that very much as a student.

  7. photoshop will, of course, never replicate traditional mediums as well as painter has- but adobe has managed to work their meager brush engine into a very reliable and powerful beast. it runs fast and smooth with a fairly robust set of customization options. painter, on the other hand, tends to have a lag problem at higher resolutions and its surprisingly prone to crash for such elegant and labored over software. i think that sense of reliability shows in photoshops dominance of the concept art industry. concept art being commercial art, that dominance also shows photoshops lack of intrinsic artistic feel heh

    i dont think the two need to be inspected separately, really. just different pencils you dig around in your pocket and pull out at the proper times. like how Foster and the like do it, i suppose.

    i have to agree with Ben too- their misunderstanding is not your fault, thats for sure.

    keep up the good work !

  8. Its not watercolor thats for sure.

  9. Maybe it's a digitized ink wash? ha! BTW, what kind of scanner do you have that will scan a 12x18 digitized ink wash?

  10. Justin

    First things first. These students giving you flak for being "misleading" need to understand that experimentation is crucial and that there are no rules with this sort of thing. There is no 1 way to paint with a medium and working with it however you or anybody else feels comfortable is what enriches the art world with unique and individualistic works.

    Secondly, I think the image looks great! I've always enjoyed your work and I totally am with you on Photoshop vs Painter. They both are similar and able to handle "painting" but as far as digital painting is concerned, I think Painter has the advantage. Not to say that people can't do amazing, painterly things with PS, I just like the look of Painter way more.

    I'm looking forward to seeing how the piece turns out in oils! Best of luck, I think this is a great experiment and people should open their eyes and ears when you're posting these things up. You have a great amount of knowledge to share, sir. Thanks for the awesome post.


  11. This is great, I love the tiny red specks on blue
    people who think using digital ways of altering 'traditional' paint are just whiney and probably a bit jealous of you.

  12. Most excellent!

    I for one would love to see the oil version eaten up and digested through your digital voodoo cheater trickery.

    Or better yet some sort of sick hybrid between the "watercolor and the "oil,".....then using your sorceress digital magic to give birth to something so abominable that students would cringe in horror at the audacity!

  13. Your blog is great. And this is a really nice piece!

  14. Thank you for clearing that up! It was continually amazing what you managed to pull from WC and digital, but this carries a lot of explanation in it. It's essentially what I use PS for as well, post-WC phase. Nice to know I'm not alone in that. : )

  15. You're a master!!!! Amazing stuff, really beautiful!!!! I'll link you on my blog.

  16. It's a bit late, but "mixed media." It's all encompassing, not confusing, and if people want clarity on the exact mediums and techniques used then that's easily explained in your post.