How Digital Art Can Help You Become A Better Painter

In The Studio..How do you know its done?

In The Studio..How do you know its done?

At a very young age, I learned from my Father the virtues of working hard and finishing what has been started. In our house, quitting was not an option, at least not if I wanted to avoid disappointing him and the consequences that would likely follow. Somewhere around age six, I decided that the guitar was not for me. I had been taking lessons in the back room of a music store for perhaps several months. I remember how sore my fingers became, pushing down on the steel strings for hours each day while I struggled my way though Camp Town Races and Clair de lune. The deal breaker for me undoubtedly came on the day of my first Recital. I was baptized by fire in that overcrowded room as it fell silent in anticipation of a performance by Moi. I may as well have been naked, for right then and there I exposed to the world my frets and my fretting. This was not for me.

Today, I see how my Dad’s lessons on quitting have helped me with my patience and perseverance. I’ve done a lot of things and succeeded as well because of what he taught me. The problem is I now I have a difficult time knowing when it is appropriate to quit, a confusion that plays out nowhere more than in my art. When is a video as good as it can be, when is a photograph ready to be archived, when is a painting really ready for that signature, not to be touched again? The answer most often only comes with the test of time. My painting studio is also a gallery. I hang my more recent work on the walls so I can use it as reference but also so I can study it often. What I find is that over time it becomes clearer to me whether or not a piece is finished, unfinished or worthy of the junk pile.

Experimenting with a painting on iPad

Experimenting with a painting on iPad

Thanks to Steve Jobs, I now have a new way of using technology to experiment with and make hypothetical changes to my existing work. Take my most recent painting called “Perpetual Motion” as an example. I basically completed if fairly quickly, at least to the point of its first critique. My wife accurately pointed out that the lines between the water, wet sand and dry sand really needed more definition. I agreed and identified a number of other things that bothered me as well. After downloading a photo of the piece into the ArtStudio app on my iPad, I was able to experiment with enhancements in a most fearless way. Throw in fine lines or broad washes, not a problem. Add opacity or transparency, piece of cake. Change course and try something else, simply click the “undo” button and start over. I’m actually blown away with how realistic electronic “painting” has become and how effective it can be as an aid in my process.

"Perpetual Motion"  (12"x 48") Acrylic on Canvas

Finished! “Perpetual Motion” (12″x 48″) Acrylic on Canvas

No doubt, digital art is becoming more and more prevalent. You might say it would even impress the Impressionists.  Look online and it won’t take you long to see how some folks are painting en plain air on tablets and with impressive results. Go to the movies these days and you’ll see how much this art form has been embraced by Hollywood. For Me and for now, I see it as a tool that can help me be a better painter. Do you think digital painting is cheating? Have you worked with a digital painting program? If so, I’d like to hear about your experience.

A Rambling Remembrance Of My Four Legged Friends

“I love to take photographs, So Mama don’t take my Kodachrome away” ~ Paul Simon

Dogs In Snow

“Icy Paws” (24″x48″) Acrylic on Canvas – The Boys are all together now.

I’m having a tough time even coming up with one post this week.  In fact its been tough getting anything done this week.  We had to put down Old Charlie Boy, Our beloved 15 year old Wheaten Sheltie mix.  It was time for him to “head off to college” to join his brothers.  Charlie was our last man standing.  So I’m grasping a bit for a subject, but hang in there with me, it usually works out the way it should.

There is something to be said for always having a camera in your pocket.  As a professional photographer I’m well aware of the limitations of my new iPhone 6, but as fine art painter I celebrate the convenience it provides.  When I see something that inspires me, no matter where I am I can point and shoot in a matter of seconds.  What I end up with is valuable reference material that will later help me understand and remember how it looks and feels.

These “pix” were shot last evening as Tammy and I returned to Denver from an afternoon outing to the foothills.  It was quite cold out (9 degrees) and a full moon was rising over Denver as the sun was setting behind, the perfect ingredients for a subtle and pleasing collision of warm and cool hues and values.

i70 moon 2

i70 moonrise

My Dad grew up along the banks of Dry Creek in Englewood, Coloroado.  Now, life’s twists and turns have led me to live just upstream from his old stomping grounds and I hike along the Big Dry Creek often.  The Denver Metro area has done an incredible job preserving open space and creating hundreds of miles trails for walking and biking.  Thanks to my iPhone, I can listen to podcasts while I walk (Artist’s Helping Artist’s is my favorite), and when I see something I want to remember I pull it out and snap a pic.

Big dry creek

ducks2duckfamily

walking dogs

You never know when one of these snapshots will become your main source of inspiration to do something very creative and you never know when a simple cel-phone pic will become a lasting image of what you hold close to your heart.  “Icy Paws” was one of my first ever paintings.  It was a gift to my wife, who is seen walking through a blizzard with our motley crew about 8 years ago.  The painting was inspired by the adventure of living at 10000 feet in the Colorado Wilderness, but i never could have captured the personalities of these guys without photos to remember them with.

Wheaton Sheltie