Digital image. It’s February, but Spring is coming early this year to California! This sweet little poppy was along a walkway at the marina I live. I’ve seen many poppies along busy roadways, but never one so close. So, I took its picture. Such pretty flowers — and the State Flower of California.
I know of a lot of traditional artists who use paper and pen exclusively. I think that’s great. I really do. I find myself pulling out a notebook and a colorful pen or trusty graphite and getting down to business. There isn’t much that feels better, actually. The contact of utensil on paper, the movement, the instant gratification, the muscle and eye coordination, the connection. It’s amazing.
The only part of the art-creating process I tripped over, over and over again was making a great picture show up digitally. You mean, I have to stop everything I’m doing, set up perfect lighting conditions and take a picture of my picture? And all too often, the result would be a ghost of the original in-person glory. I thought: why not skip a step and learn how to make art digitally? After buying some cheap equipment, but a reliable tool, and finding some sketch software that is intuitive and compatible with other standard color and drawing software (such as Photoshop and Illustrator, etc.) and works in a mobile app, the feasibility of making art digitally got within the realm of worthwhile.
After months of practice, playing, and manipulating, I completed a digital work! This is the digital final of an original traditionally-drawn picture Flowerina. She started out as a simple line drawing with a ballpoint pen. As time went on, and I got a new cheap (but technically sound) computer that has pressure-sensitive capabilities (Fujitsu Lifebook). I decided to make Flowerina a digital artwork. The process took me a great deal of time: from her humble beginnings, to rough new beginnings, to smoothing out, to refining. Of course, for it all to work, time and (mostly) discipline were needed!
**(Click on ANY of the images below for their full-resolution glory.)**
1. Humble Beginnings (To read about the start of Flowerina, click here.)
2. Rough New Beginnings (To read about the digital inking process, and see pictures, click here.)
3. Smoothing Out
4. Refining (aka A Lot of Zooming in and out)
5. The End Product
After a good four hours of smoothing lines, erasing, cleaning, adding lines, etc., I arrive at the final product.
6. Alternate Possibilities
Because Flowerina is now digital art, I can easily make modifications. For example, I wanted to see what she would look like in black and white. I selected her, and made some color changes, and I got to see instant results from that moment of whimsy-thought; nothing is permanent with digital work.
7. Playful Variations
Because I have a nice, clean digital image to work with, I get to have fun and play with colors!
This was a fun work for me. I enjoyed the cleaning and editing, even though it took hours, and months in the grand scope of time, with many transformations. I learned a lot, using digital tools, but also about the process of working a piece of art from conception to finish. I look forward to getting faster and better at it as I work on more, and getting more reliable and artistically fantastic results with the powerful tools software provides. I want tools to cut out repetitive time-wasting and enable innovative creativity.
9″ x 11″, graphite portrait. Another short portrait study. What drew me to this picture was the profile view, and the wispy pieces of hair going away from her face. Using a stick eraser, I removed graphite (pencil) dark-shaded areas to create light strands of hair near the top of her hairline. I found the simple earring to be the most eye-catching and appealing thing about this picture. In that way, this study has a simple “Girl with a Pearl Earring” charm.
Figures and lines. I missed looking at pictures of lovely naked people. Seeing the form, the contours, all that gorgeous stuff. After I spotted a great reference photo online, I thought why not try it out for fun?
I found a picture of a woman in a bathtub. The intimacy of her, all alone, leaning into the water and stretching across the back of the tub was soothing. She is smiling and happy. There is relaxation and the feeling of the day fading away. This small moment of quiet made me feel so zen. So, I thought, wouldn’t this be great to work with? It’s relatively simple in composition, so I could focus on the few elements (and representative lines) in the picture.
Step One: The Reference Photo
I zoomed in and arranged the composition as I thought it looked best. The image became the background layer. I added Layer One and began to think about getting basic lines down.
Step Two: Basic Lines
The goal in this step is to keep the lines loose, but as faithful as possible to the original image in this beginning stage. I want to feel the lines, and get my brain familiar with the curves as I’m setting up my work in the following steps.
Step Three: Cleaning Up Phase One + Hand-Drawn Lines
This process requires zooming in and out of the image about a million times, and going over areas repeatedly. This is the beginning of artistic expression, as some of the lines get altered based on my preferences and what I wish to feature. I begin thinking in the back of my mind about line weight — how thick or thin I want lines, which represent different aspects of her features. I want to loose the original “seriousness” of the original image trace lines and start to open up, making this my own image, in my own conceived style.
This is as far as I’ve gotten with this project. Step Three will take many more iterations and line cleanings, which will become subsequent steps. I will update this as I work more. I will post the second part of this short sharing tutorial when complete!
5″ x 7″, graphite and watercolor on paper. Mixed media. A portrait of a female, using a reference photo. This was a fun way for me to experiment with watercolor pencils I had purchased from Prismacolor. They are easy to apply and offer quick, bold color. I would to use these pencils with ink and see what fun develops; I’m sure they’d be a great asset for on-the-go sketching.