Home > Book Recommendations, Digital Design, Shellie Lewis' Art > Digital Painting Learning Curve

Digital Painting Learning Curve


This is my first attempt at making a digital drawing and “painting”.  Not one to be complacent, I have been a bit bored lately and realized I have used Photoshop mechanically a great deal and almost never creatively.  I am going through the lessons in the book Creative Photoshop CS4: Digital Illustration and Art Techniques by Derek Lea [2009].  The book is a great series of non-sequential tutorials on different methods of using Photoshop.

I’m predominantly a physical media traditional painter.  I have very little digital experience.  I didn’t even have a working computer that could support Photoshop until 2009.  I went a few years without a computer at all.  The sort of janky gecko cartoon had about twenty hours put into it because of learning features of the program and manually coloring a lot of elements.  Working all digital was a new experience and has its own learning curve:


  • I never realized this, but I have spent my whole life moving and rotating paper and surfaces I draw on.  The Wacom stylus tablet does not allow for rotation and I almost lost my frigging mind because I ran into over three decades of unconscious, habitual paper rotation which I could not do with a tablet that has to keep a perfectly upright orientation.  I kept trying to move and rotate around my drawing surface out of habit.  I almost screamed.
  • Another difficulty was the subversion of over three decades of being used to friction.  I am used to assessing and manipulating the texture of papers, paints, canvases, etc.  This whole process, the feedback loop of immediacy with the data of physical media being lost.  The digital tablet and stylus pen are consistently smooth, despite visual effects of simulated “texture”, there is no tactile texture.  I can see why this would be such a total mind fuck that traditional painters would be inclined to promptly abandon digital experimentation.
  • The third issue that would deter physical painters from working digitally is not only losing the physical, tactile connection but also having to deal with the complexities of mediation with all of the tools in the program.  If you do not know all of these details very well, which are intellectual rather than intuitive, you are screwed.  You need to know the program and be comfortable with many steps and electronic mediation to work with this medium.
  • My dogs know if I’m painting at my easel, and they pester me, they will make me angry.  They are, at least unconsciously trained, to leave me alone when I am painting.  Unfortunately, they know my online time is less serious and even if I’m making digital art, it is their wont to pester me.  So I’m filing “canine interruption” as a negative effect.  I tried to tell them I was not fucking off on Facebook when they started nose-poking me, but they did not believe me.  They understand painting at the easel is work but not computer interaction.


  • The power of instant color selection if kind of mind-blowing if you are used to the labor intensive process of manual color mixing.  I was always the kid that wanted the huge box of Crayolas.  Photoshop is like and infinite box of colors.  Also, there is an added benefit of never, ever running out of paint.
  • There is a tremendous attractiveness to the fact that the art work is made of light.  I have a high end laptop with a top graphics cards and huge screen.  The fact that the art work is luminous is very aesthetic.
  • UNDO COMMAND.  I can cntrl + Z my heart out.  Being able to add or dump layers gives broad -even endless- latitude for experimentation.  If I screw up a physical painting, it can take many minutes to hours to correct.
  • Infinite duplication!  If I make a physical painting, it is my intention that work is a unique, one-of-a-kind art object.  I do not hold that it makes sense for digital art to try and be singular art objects.  Thus, any digital art work I make I feel it is allowable for infinite duplication.  Also, the fact that the digital art work can be faithfully duplicates of the original creation is really novel to me.

Most of the digital creations I have done before are photo collages, like the one I recently entered in a contest below.  The photographer Ryan O’Connor offered the stock image on his Rekit account on deviantART.com.  I have not done a photo collage except for throw away illustrations for this blog, so I did some new things like hand coloring black and white images and layer masking a background and a foreground.  Stock photos came from my beloved morgueFile.com.  The idea for the illustration was offered by the photographer and it has been fun to see the different interpretations submitted.

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  1. March 31, 2014 at 6:21 pm

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