Traditional Vs. Digital Painting

As an artist, it is easy to get comfortable with one medium and stick with that. After taking an equal amount of digital and traditional art classes, I have learned that staying in your comfort zone is a good way to form a wedge between you and your creativity. 

Growing up without the technology that we have now, 90% of my art was created traditionally. I think because of this, I learned proper techniques and felt comfortable with the physical limitations of painting and sketching. This helped me immensely moving into digital art because I already had a basic understanding of the fundamentals. 

The first digital painting I had ever done was 4 years ago on my macbook using the trackpad. As one could imagine it was an extremely uncomfortable process of creating art that took me hours to complete. While it was a tedious procedure, I was very proud of the piece I made at the time because of the huge learning curve and limitations. 

Of course it’s always painful to look back at old art, and while this piece is very basic, it is important to me because it felt like a big step at the time. Ever since my first digital painting in 2019, I have been slowly converting into doing mostly digital art and making many improvements.

Recent Figure Study, Traditional (Painting II) 2022, Oil

The first time I went back to painting traditionally after a four or five year hiatus, was only last semester in my Painting II class. I noticed that because it has been so long since I worked with oil paints, I felt a similar way from when I first started digitally. It was easy to forget all the tricks and tools that I picked up when I used to paint with oil. It made me feel uncomfortable, as though I was starting all over again. However, because of all my digital painting experience, it transferred right over and all I had to do was learn a few subtle techniques in oil painting. I have realized that it doesn’t matter what medium you start working with, as long as you gain a good understanding of the fundamentals.

It is common to mistake the convenience of working digitally, with it being easier than working in an analog fashion. I have heard from many people that it’s better to learn the basics by working traditionally. Although you wouldn’t learn the same skills as you would by physically mixing paints, making a canvas, scraping with a palette knife etc, there are different skills to be learned with digital art. Such as learning all the different tools at your disposal and how they work, experimenting with different methods/workflow, photobashing, the specs to export projects, etc. There is really no “better” option, it just depends on what medium you feel like using. That being said, I still believe that it is a great practice to branch out through different painting mediums and not get caught up doing one method all the time. This allows a much more versatile understanding of art and can also open our eyes to a more interesting way of creating works of art.

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