8 Myths About Digital Painting (That Need To Go Away)

In recent times I get many questions about digital painting in general.

Especially on conventions, visitors that are totally new to digital art, are surprised to learn that my work is not painted traditionally. Marveling about the brushstrokes printed on canvas, the majority of viewers are blown away of what the technique is capable today.

Besides the usual questions if I am the artist and if this is all drawn by hand, there are many assumptions that are plain wrong. Not in a bad way because in discussions the most visitors love to learn more and appreciate my work and that of many other digital artists much more from that time on.

Below is a list of myths that I encounter fairly often on a convention and my personal opinion about them.

1. Digital Painting is fast
    Illustration courtesy of Alexei Vella
    Not so fast, young Jedi... Digital painting, when used right can save some time (think of shortcuts, filters, no drying-times). But, even when saving some time, most artists are perfectionists, that saved time is easily invested in making an artwork better. Personally I made the experience, when a traditional airbrush piece took me 20-30 hours, a good portrait or full body piece takes the same amount of time to create in Photoshop.
    The bottom line: Great art takes time, whether digitally or traditionally, in the end it does not matter.




    2. Digital Painting allows you to always go back
    Image courtesy of Pexels
    As much as this one is true – think about "CTRL+Z"– that is a blade with two sides; If you ever want to finish a piece, you have to move forward, you can't always go backwards. For beginners it can be a bliss and even for pros, if you accidentally moved the wrong layer.
    But actually there are better ways like painting over something multiple times. The latter is especially great because analog paper allows only a fraction of erasing or drawing over with colored pencils until the material wears off.
    The bottom line: If you want to move forward, you can not go backwards all day.


    3. Digital Painting is unhealthy
    Illustration courtesy of Umberto Grati
    I think this comes rather from pros working traditionally sharing doubts about the posture.
    Of course; sitting all day is bad for your health and so is having a wrong posture working over a screen or pen-display. On the other side, this is a matter of habits. Most clever artists switch to a standing desk within a few years of working digitally, especially in a professional environment. Even better is a flexible environment where you can switch between standing and sitting every few hours. I also did not ever heard of carpal tunnel from anyone using a stylus, which is a must have when working on a tablet. Most hand related injuries come from using a mouse.


    4. Digital Painting does not allow for happy accidents

    Bob Ross meme
    This one is as wrong as it can be, just take a look at this video demonstration.
    Painting or manipulating images can create as much opportunities for happy accidents than their analog counterparts. It might not work as you expect from working with watercolors or other painting techniques, but they can occur and it is always possible to foster an experimental environment as in traditional painting. Programs like Alchemy or Webchemy are proof that there are actually programs that don't want you to create with them what you intend, but rather focus on what you see.


    5. Digital Painting has no real value

    Actual auction item from ArtNet.com
    Andy Warhol had a time when he used to sign magazine covers with an autograph and sell these for around $50 back in the day. Is that real value? And if so, why? Explain slowly and clear ;) There is no difference if I sign a poster print or a magazine cover with my autograph, as long as people want that, it has value. This argument is true, independent from any technique. In that regard digital art is now what photography was in the 1920ies and back then there were great photographers that have proven the world wrong about photography not being art and being of no value.


    6. Digital Painting is cheating

    Tracer / Insane 51 inspired / Yours truly, Oliver Wetter
    That depends on who you are and what your goals are. Cheating usually means to get to the finish-line faster or bypassing the grinding as seen in games (mostly). However, cheating in art, or better in digital art, is a oneway street. You can slap images together and even call the outcome your work, but the internet is small and many people can tell the truth. And then there is also a business for everyone, if you are good at photo-bashing, concept art studios are hiring... So there is a job - but soon you'll learn that you need more to get that job and that there are already established professionals working there who can tell if you have the skills or not. Eventually you find yourself grinding over the fact that you want that job so bad that you really want to be as good as you make everyone believe you were ;)


    7. Anyone can paint digitally

    Image from Wikimedia / CC3.0
    But only a few stick with it. Why is that everyone claims they can do this or that, but after a while you see them do complete different things? Just because everyone can do it does not mean everyone sticks to it. The same philosophy goes for photography (again): Now, where everyone has a camera on their mobile phones, the gap between professionals and hobbyists is just getting bigger because everyone can do the thing and see their limits in front of them - and you can admit it, without Instagram filters, auto-sharpen and filters, your posts look half as good ;) Same with digital painting, since everyone can try it on a phone an iPad or a small tablet connected with the pc, the sheer amount of hours you consume in tutorials and trying to et better is making the gap wider between those who do and those who wanna-do (but never have the time to).


    8. Mass reproduction makes digital art uninteresting for collectors
    Da Fen Oil Painting Village - mass paintings anyone?
    Again something I like you to see with the eyes of a photographer, why should digital art be different than what a photographer does? They don't work in darkrooms anymore - not talking about the exceptions here. 80% of photographers work in Lightroom and in Photoshop these days. Of course you can say they only offer limited prints. Of course that is the biggest scam of all. My personal hero in that regard is the photographer Henri Cartier-Bresson who has said :"why should I put a number on any of my prints?".
    And to put the technique into perspective, why should a handmounted and signed copy directly from the artist be less worth than one of over 100 Master copies made in China?
    Feel free to share your experience or opinion in a comment if you agree, disagree or whatever...
    It might also be that I amend another myth later.
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    Oliver aka Fantasio is a creative blogger who likes to share his insights about art, marketing and social media. Follow Fantasio on twitter or facebook

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