Technique over Feeling

I’ve realised something, as of late. There is a tendency among digital artists to care more about the tools, the technique and the tricks than the actual painting – the finished result doesn’t seem as important as the path you take to get there.

Instead of comments of, “beautiful painting”, you’ll get “that’s awesome – how did you do it?”

People want to know the precise brushes, the settings, the size of the canvas and the program. They want to know what colours you picked, what settings you used for your brush – and if you can share the brush itself, all the better.

In the end, a lot of people (often myself included) obsessing over how something is created rather than the creation itself. I’m not sure why this is. It might be connected to the curiosity we have for the medium itself – for how the program works, for how the functions function… but there’s a danger in it, painting pictures that are only technically appealing but has little, if anything, to offer beyond that.

I think digital artists need to forget, if only for half their pictures, that they’re not painting with an ordinary brush – and I think that the viewers of the images need to stop asking for tips and tricks as if there’s a magic button that will make everything perfect. Perhaps put a bit more focus on what the picture is, rather than trying to discern how it was done so that they can copy the technique.

There’s no ‘trick’, it’s all hard work.

To use an example, one of the most common questions I get is – what colour is skin? There is no single, simple answer to that. Skin tones vary insanely from person to person, and even if they didn’t – they are deeply affected by the light, the surrounding materials, and other such factors. They vary from picture to picture. The nose isn’t the same colour as the brow. These things aren’t technical issues, they’re not something you can get right by being told how to do it – there is no secret palette that you can use, or a single colour that will change the whole appeal.

This having been said, I love parts of what this focus on the aspect awards us with. We get to learn how to paint, we criticise and we help each other out. We work hard on perfecting our techniques, and I suppose once we’re getting somewhere – once the whole computer-artist thing isn’t so new anymore, maybe people will let go of the tools and focus on the paintings instead.