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Saturday, February 27, 2010


Oil: 26

Watercolor: 5

Digital: 37

Digital wins and retains the title belt for another season.

Or does it?

It appears that there were a number of issues and "voting irregularities" at the ballot box. An angry mob has been at my door for days and the press is calling for a recount.

The grievances are as follows:

First, some clever lawyers have counted up the votes independently, and have noticed certain "discrepancies" in the final tallies.
The reason for this is perfectly explainable. While the votes were being cast on the blog I also was receiving several votes through emails. Now, I realize that admitting phantom ballots which only I have access to could be considered sketchy but this is why I am in the visual arts and not in politics.

Secondly, many of you pointed out that the sparks and hot spots in the watercolor and digital piece were what pulled you over to digital, and that these effects could have been easily added to the oil piece. This is an excellent point, and I was remiss not to have included them in the oil.

Finally, a number of you wished to invent a 4rth category for digitally affected oils. (These digitally affect oils actually received 5 direct votes, and many more implied votes.) Many people suggested that if this category had existed it would have won out over its watercolor and digital counterpart.

Digitally affected oils is a very interesting idea to me. It seems like an excellent way of utilizing the best of both mediums while at the same time minimizing their respective weaknesses.

I will talk more about this later.

Back to the polls. The general consensus appears to be that

Oils seems to have the benefit of superior texture, beauty and as LuisNCT said, "oils supports a longer observation."

Digital for color, clarity and contrast.

Watercolor for the grit and the mood.

While these each have their merits, I would love to find a synthesis of all of these. And an airship full of all the treasures of ancient egypt. But a method that allows for a synthesis of all of these will do for now.

This brings me back to a digitally modified oil. I like the idea because I am still in love with blending classical methods and with modern technology. And one thing that has afflicted me as I experiment with oils is that people no longer see art in the way that they saw it 300 years ago. We no longer have to travel all the way to Paris to see the Musee D'orsay (which everyone should), or even across town to see fine art, but instead we now generally take in art through the glowing squares of digital media.

So if any of us decides to execute a painting and show it to the world, it is probable that 4 out of the 5 people who see that painting will view it through a monitor. The world is fast becoming predominantly digital.

So does this necessarily mean that images created digitally will have certain advantages over their traditional counterparts as it is disseminated to the culture at large?

Consider this example:

You may recognize it from a previous post.
This is an oil painting of the acrylic and digital painting from December. This time I did not paint directly over a watercolor as in the Doomhammer posts, but rather started on a new masonite panel and copied a new drawing over, and then executed the piece in oil over the course of a few days. It took longer, but I enjoyed the actual creation of it more.

What is frustrating however, is that the original piece has a luster that cannot be communicated by the digital copy here. The charm of the original is that when you look at it and see it from different angles, the various pits and nicks in the paint catch the light and give it a sense of depth. This is because it literally is made up of layers in space, which light passes through and before then bouncing back to your eyes, creating an effect that you cannot get any other way. The glazes give the shadows true depth and the highlights are actually closer to you in space and so appear even brighter. It is a dimensional object with a life to it that cannot be communicated through a digital image. I love this about oil and it seems tragic to lose it through digital copies. Yet, almost everyone who sees it will see it digitally.

But on the other side, the mere ability to display an image digitally is 100% certified actual magic. The technology that allows you to see this on your monitor is light literally being projected into your brain through your eyes. It is the coolest thing since the invention of fire.

This is a debate that has plagued me for some time, but I am certain that there is a synthesis of all of these out there that is worth pursuing. I also think that we are only just now beginning to really explore the possibilities in digital art for merging the classical with the contemporary with technology.

So that said, my next few personal projects that I hope to post up here will be experiments in the digitally affected oils.

Note: The best exploration and debate on the traditional vs. digital art topic that I have come across on the web can be found on David Apatoff's blog, Illustration Art in his January and February 2007 posts. It's worth a read.


  1. Justin, I was in the digital/oils camp, but to be honest with you, the thing that wins me over about your work is what you do with light.
    Really your approach is fairly consistent across the board, and the medium does not (to me) affect the outcome as much. I would agree that many of the effects that you created in the digital version would not be too difficult to replicate in oils (although probably more difficult in watercolor). I really think you should disregard what the polls say and go with what makes your work shine and what makes you feel accomplished as an artist.
    And while you're at it you should have a show & display some of those oil pieces so I can sell all I have and make a pilgrimage to Greenville to admire your work in person.

  2. I suppose it would be best - although more laborious - to present two sides of each piece of work. One created for the tactile world and one created for the digital world. I dabble in photography and sometimes the images work better on the computer screen than when framed on the wall and vice versy of course!

  3. Okay...I can't remember if someone has already asked this, so here goes.

    What does it matter?

    I've been a professional artist now for 30 years. During all that time, for the most part, I've been having to please "others"...art directors, editors, publishers, etc. It has only been in the last few years that I've gotten back to doing "art" for ME! My wife helped me to do that.

    I used to be so frustrated that I liked so many different things..."jack of all trades, master of none". I'd feel guilty for being interested in exploring various artforms, because I couldn't decide which I liked better. Finally, my wife just asked me (paraphrasing here), "Who cares? Just explore whatever interests you right now. You always do come back around to the other stuff eventually."

    It was liberating! And the results are...I'm enjoying the creative process more than ever.

    So...all that to say this: Draw it...paint it with oil...watercolor it...digitize it...sculpt it. Just MAKE it, Justin...and have as much fun as you can in the process!

  4. I can't help but wonder if technology will, in time, provide us with a synthesis of the visual effects that each medium provides. Imagine a digital screen capable of reacting and modifying the display based on the eye's position, and subtle animation effects that allow parts of a piece to shimmer and glow in a way no medium is yet capable of. 3d scanning technology or more advanced digital painting programs could allow us to blend the best of everything in a single format that is easy to display.

    Sadly, that thought just depresses me because I haven't even mastered the basics of drawing, color, and light in my own 2-dimensional way of attacking things, but in the hands of someone with your ability it could be very powerful.

  5. I think it's time to drop it -- I'm more interested in finding the airship.

    I say we all abandon this and go find some Egyptian treasure because in the end everyone knows what is going to be more rewarding -- Painting? Or escaping air pirates with nothing but the khaki shirt on your back, sweat on your brow, a knife grit between your teeth, and falling through the sky with handfuls of treasure as you watch your dirigible erupt in a blaze of hydrogen and oxygen.

    I'll be over in 5. I just got to find my Rosetta stone and goggles.

  6. Amen Cory! you couldn't have said it better...

  7. awesome! I hope you dont get mad if I upload some artwork to my blog, with your link of course :p
    I love your dwarfs ♥

  8. for what it's worth my most successful illustrations (for reproduction ) seem to be oil paintings enhanced digitally. Oh - and nice piece you stinker :)

    (my word verification is 'deephop' ---i like that!"

  9. Wonderful artwork! Thanks for sharing your processes.