Which is Better Art: Traditional or Digital?

I'm a traditionalist most of the time when I create art. There are exceptions when, for example, I want to paint. In such a case, I usually use a trusted program that emulates the look of traditional painting. Even here, of course, there's no magic art button; you only create what you have the skills to create.

Most of my art is done traditionally, using traditional drawing materials.

A hybrid process

But before posting my drawings on my site -- or to a publisher, if I'm illustrating a book -- I "clean it up" digitally. I typically use Photoshop for that, because it's the best tool.

Is this cheating?

I contend that it isn't. I draw the piece the old fashioned way, after all. What I do with my computer can be summed up in a short list:

  • I eliminate visible imperfections on my paper
  • I tend to darken my marks
  • I fix small errors I can't fix with erasers and pencils

original drawing of elephantFirst, the drawing

Here is my original Death in the Afternoon. It looks okay, but the scanning process has subtracted a quality that the original has when seen in person. To understand this, you have to actually see the original. A scan doesn't capture it.

So, the first thing I want to do is to digitally make up for that subtraction.

The second thing I want to do is add some qualities that are either impossible or overly time-consuming to do by hand.

One thing, for example, I wanted to create in this piece was a subtle sense of chaotic motion, even beyond the positions of my animal subjects. And my way of doing that is to create more dust than is evident here. 

My technique of traditionally drawing dust is mostly one of drawing more lightly and using my kneaded eraser close to the ground in my image. Dust catches light and also obscures what's behind it, and I could only do so much with my traditional tools. Better put: I could only do so much in the time I had to spend on this.

And there was also the problem of the darkness at the right edge of my image. See the dark, vertical bar on the right edge? That was caused by my paper, which is 9" x 12" Bristol, being about a half inch too wide for my scanner bed.

Normally, that's not a problem, because my subject doesn't take up so much space, and I just digitally trim that edge off. In this case, I drew my elephant pretty big, and I didn't want to put his ear that close to the edge of the image space.

So, after an hour or so working in Photoshop, I created the image I really wanted.

Cleaning it up

In this second image, I enhanced the dust-filled air a little bit down near the ground.

I also tweaked what are called Levels, making my lights lighter and my darks down at the level I really like them. In general, I love high-contrast light-and-dark. The relationship between light and shadow is what the Japanese call notan

I heightened my lights even more on the top surfaces of the animals, because I wanted to accentuate the feeling of this life-and-death battle taking place in the heat of an African day. I lightened those areas by using the Dodge tool, based on an old technique in developing photographs.

And finally, I fixed two things that weren't fixable without my using the software. First, I got rid of that dark right edge. And second, I fixed what I saw as a small mistake I made while drawing the elephant. 

Is it legitimate?

I am glad to possess the skills I do as a traditional artist. I can sit down pretty much anywhere and explore the world as I see it using my favorite tools of pencils, kneaded eraser, and toothy paper (tooth is the texture of the paper's surface). I drew a couple of pictures of my mother when she was dying. They are some of my most prized drawings I've ever done.

But not to use skills and tools I already possess to move my pictures toward something closer to my vision would, in my view, be a silly waste. It would be like not driving because walking is the more traditional way to get across town. I use what I choose to use, and I think my art is better for it.

If I were to take a guess, I'd say that the pencil-eraser-paper part of my process is roughly 98% or 99% of my process. My computer and its software have an outsized influence on the final appearance, but they can only exert their influence on what's already there on paper.

How will it look on your wall?

If you want to see how Death in the Afternoon looks on your own wall before buying it, go here <http://bit.ly/35vF61E> on your smartphone and scroll down to Live Preview AR. You'll be able to see what it looks like on the wall you plan to hang it on!

You can do the same thing with any of my pieces, so have at it!

If you have any questions about my art, please don't hesitate to contact me here: https://www.stevewedanart.com/contact