Digital talent over traditional

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    Digital talent over traditional

    Hi everyone. I think this is my first post, so..I want to start with something I've been wondering for some time. Do you have to be good at traditional painting to be good at digital painting? I ask this becouse I,ve always been good at drawing but in college I realized that when it comes to traditional painting, lets say I did'nt get very good results. Recently I got a wacom and painter, I began to practice and after a few sketches I realized were good. I wonder this becouse some people say: artists always get better achievements succeeding in traditional areas.

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    First of all, welcome to CA! Do you have to be good at traditional painting to be good at digital painting? No, I don't think so, they are similar but very different. They both require time and practice to get really good at. One might be easier to pick up, and that is probably influenced from the other. Color theory, brush strokes, thinking in layers are all things that translate between the two.

    But, I'm in a similar boat; I'm ok at painting traditionally but my digital work is much easier for me. I know that's partially because of undo, erase and layers lol.

    I do think its good to be a "well rounded" artist which includes being proficient in traditional mediums as well as digital. But really its all up to you and what career you want to get into, if that is your path.

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    If you're good at painting in a particular traditional medium you'll develop a good mental index of effects that you like to use, and sometimes those can be recreated digitally. On the flip side, sometimes digital painting feels really alien to traditional painters because the two are so different (which is why people with a traditional painting background sometimes prefer Painter vs Photoshop).

    What sort of "achievements" are we talking about here? You can certainly improve drawing skills, color theory, compositional skills, etc using the digital medium, but part of that involves being vigilant and not "cheating" too much. If you're color dropping everything, or pick up various other crutches, then you can hinder your progress. That being said, there are plenty of crutches available for traditional artists too. Now, if you're talking about achievements such as gallery recognition...then traditional is going to win out right now, because galleries like making money on originals, and it's hard to posses the "one and only" when it comes to digital.

    Out of curiosity, what traditional painting mediums did you try in college? I ask because some people are great at one type, and dislike another. Not to mention, depending on the depth of the painting class, sometimes the materials you use aren't exactly complementary to enjoying the medium. One of my fundamental classes had us painting gouache on bristol board, and that is definitely not the ideal surface for it. Similarly, I hate using oils on textured canvas, but have fun with it on smooth surfaces.

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    I think traditional is very very overrated for industry artists. Even jobs where you are producing in traditional medium (like a large mural on the side of a building), you are doing ALL the major creative work digitally and then just using a template to get it on the wall.

    Digital is just faster....and in business, that means it is better. Hire an artist to spend a week doing an oil painting? Or hire an artist who can do the same work in a couple days?

    It comes down to producing. No one cares how you do it. They just care that you can do it on demand (consistent) and do it fast as possible. If that means you are doing it by mooshing pictures together with warp tool and a mouse...thats just as good as the "artist" who does it by starting in the upper right hand corner and painting pixel by pixel like a printer (obviously through a lifetime of mastering art).

    The problem is questions like this aren't clear on which "art world" they are trying to succeed at.

    Is it the art world where you are getting paid to work?
    Or is it the art world of personal growth and artistic mastery?

    They are very different worlds (and will give you very different answers, depending which world the person is answering from).

    The personal growth / mastery world is less about WHAT you make and more about HOW you make it.

    The "do it for a living" world is less about HOW you make it, and more about WHAT you make.

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    Hi guys, thanks for answer . Yes, you make good points. In college I tried oil and watercolor having bad results. It turned well using a impressionist technique (my favorite) with regular paint. My goal with digital painting is to produce sketches and concept art for pre-production of my animated shorts.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Vanmotion View Post
    Hi everyone. I think this is my first post, so..I want to start with something I've been wondering for some time. Do you have to be good at traditional painting to be good at digital painting? I ask this becouse I,ve always been good at drawing but in college I realized that when it comes to traditional painting, lets say I did'nt get very good results. Recently I got a wacom and painter, I began to practice and after a few sketches I realized were good. I wonder this becouse some people say: artists always get better achievements succeeding in traditional areas.
    all the digital artists I know got their skill base either from painting traditionally or working closely with artists, who had very strong traditional background
    and then just switched tools from brushes to painter or photoshop.

    on the fourth day of glitchmas my painter™ gave to me
    four random crashes, three broken brushes, two system hangups & one corrupted workspace
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    I don't think it's very disputed that the digital medium is "easier" than traditional (provided one has taken the time to learn the software).

    HOWEVER, I've seen digital artists go to great lenghts trying to simulate traditional mediums with digital painting, to the point that they'll take longer and work harder to get that same effect. If the whole point of digital is to save time, why take longer to make it look traditional than the time it would take to make something with real paint? I suppose the answer would be in the ability to easily change something for a client. (Even though, it's still a little ironic.)


    Anyway, to answer your question, I think it works both ways. In fact, I think I had the opposite effect. When I started getting into digital art during my freshman year of art school, I found that being able to block in large chunks of color, glaze quickly, and dive into something with big bold strokes with no fear of "messing up" my original painting greatly improved my confidence and technique in traditional drawing and painting. It helped me get used to the idea of alla prima in traditional painting, whereas before I had just approached it with delicate lines and timid layers.

    What I'm saying is that it's maybe more of a 2-way street than people sometimes think.

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    I think it depends on what you mean by good. Good enough to do matte paintings or concept work for Lucas or good enopugh to work on some game art textures for 3d models. You get my point, there is allot of misinformation in earlier posts here. Traditional paintings don't take a week or more to do. When we were painting backgrounds, we did two 10x15 inch acrylic backgrounds a day. I still paint a couple of backgrounds a day on projects right now; I switch between digital and traditional all the time. It wasn't unusual to do 180 backgrounds for a project in a couple of months. It just depends on your skill level, the reason so many people do digital is because you don't have to hire and pay highly skilled people to do all of your game. It allows you to chop it up into little uncreative bits for people who don't really even have to be able to draw or paint at all. You just need someone creative to tell them what to do. When I worked at EA most of the texturers just used photos and manipulated them; they couldn't actually paint them digitally or otherwise.
    Digital costs more to do, you pay for your lack of skill. Computers, tablets, software, IT person to maintain it. You are talking thousands of dollars. Sit Syd Mead, Craig Mullins or Iain Mccaig down with some pencils and markers and they will give you a pile of usable art by the end of the day, but you have to pay them more too. Oh and they do digital too.
    EA hired Mead to do some stuff in the early nineties and he got 10,000 a day back then! They only needed him for a couple of days. But that ten thousand is cheaper than paying for two seats of max or maya and still not getting anything that good.
    Most so called digtial artists are making little more than minimum wage, of course companies love it because they can save money and have someone good come in as a contractor and set the style and designs and then have the little worker bees do the production end for nothing. That's what happens when you can't do art, you end up working for nothing. I'd like to know how many people throwing up opinions here, actaully work as artists in a game company. And of those, how many are lead artists or concept artists, my bet is not many if any.
    I'm a contract lead artist on two projects right now I set the style of the game I'm making twice as much as the in house people who can't get the job done; this is how I get most of my work now. Because at the end of the day painting over photos you pull off the web doesn't get it done. Learn to draw and paint and not only will you work more, you will get the better art jobs and get paid more, its been that way for me for twenty years now.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Vanmotion View Post
    Do you have to be good at traditional painting to be good at digital painting?
    No. What you'll find is that most digital painters (with stress on that word) are good traditional aritsts and most accomplished traditional artists do, or would, make good digital painters. It's a case of relation and not cause and effect. One can become an expert in either without any knowledge of the other. The fact that both use common skills does not make either a prerequisite.

    I'd agree with the assessment that digital is easier, but not necessarily from the point of view commonly expressed (that you've got CTRL-Z, layers, shortcuts etc. at your disposal). I think digital painting is easier because you don't have to take into account the physical properties of paper, canvas, brushes and paints. Personally speaking I've never found a use for CTRL-Z, layers (in the main), or 90% of the other shortcuts available digitally.

    There's also the issue of what digital artists actually do. That's why I tend to refer to myself as an illustrator or painter rather than an artist. What I mean is I use traditional techniques, as far as reasonable, in a digital environment. So I don't use photos or 3D models or tracing short-cuts, I just paint onto a canvas - digitally. It's not a case of one approach being better than the other, or one type of artist being more "accomplished" than the other, that sort of comparison makes no sense, it's more a case of making the distinction so we know what we're talking about.

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    dpaint...are you really trying to argue that traditional artists are stronger artists than digital ones? Simply because they work in one medium over another?....As if it is some kind of default "draw in paint and your a masterrr!"?

    I hate to tell you this, but there are bad traditional artists too (*shock!*). Only problem, is there aren't many jobs for them while they try to get better...they can't be texture artists, they can't be the prop artists, they just get to do it as a hobby until they are good enough to work traditionally.

    The medium doesn't make the artist. The knowledge and what you are producing does.... (oh, and craig mullins is pretty much all digital, he labels himself a digital artist. He actually spoke about how untrue the idea that you need to learn traditional is).

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    You don't NEED to learn traditional, although it may be more straightforward when it comes to drawing from life (the importance of which I could never stress enough), but that just depends on what you feel more comfortable with.

    We all want to be in this business because we have a passion for art in the first place, and I personally feel that passion, that love, much more when I paint traditionally. When I have an interesting concept in mind or want to be efficient, I pick up my graphic tablet. When I feel truly inspired, I pick up my brush.
    There's something to be said for getting dirty and feeling the paper with your hands, the weight of the paint.
    That's all very personal of course though.

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    Didn't we already agree that to be a real artist you had to grind your own pigments which you mined from the earth and apply them with brushes whose hairs were gotten from animals you raised and slaughtered yourself?

    This question is totally 2009.

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    Ivory Oasis,
    Bad art is bad art and there is plenty to go around. The reason crappy traditional artists don't get work is they don't have software to hide behind and pretend to be creative for them. You didn't address anything I said because I am talking about facts from actually working in the industry for A list companies.

    The best people are trained traditionally, they get most of the best jobs. If all you know is the software, 9 out of ten times the traditionally trained will take your job from you. It only takes a few weeks to learn a software program and a traditional artist, once they know a program will kick ass over someone who can't draw or paint. Plus programs change all the time and so if all you know is a certain program you are screwed, if you don't have the traditional skills to back it up.

    The problem is most digital people let the software do the thinking for them. They get lazy. There are exceptions to everything and for every great artist like Andrew Jones there are fifty thousand people with photoshop and no ability or talent.

    Companies love it because they hire them for ten bucks an hour, but they are nothing to the actual creative part of the process, for that you actually have to have skill.

    My skill isn't dependant on a tool. A company wants digital or 3d, no problem or they want sketches for a presentation, again no problem. Its going to look the same and I get paid the same.

    I've heard Craig Mullins talk and I've seen his guache and marker work, He went to Art Center and he may work digitally now but he is a traditionally trained artist. Those skills are what made him successful, not what brushes he uses in photoshop.

    Look at all the workshops here on this site How many are offerd by people with traditional training; Giancola, Foster, Santos, Kunz all tradionally trained; all the Gnomon people, tradionally trained. And they all say the same thing learn traditional skills; drawing, painting, perspective, anatomy, design and color theory.

    Idiots have been sayiing digital will replace traditional skills since the early eighties. Its always the same excuse, when computers get fast enough and the software gets good enough. When that happens they still won't need people without skill and traditionally trained artists will still do better.

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    Quote Originally Posted by dpaint View Post
    And they all say the same thing learn traditional skills; drawing, painting, perspective, anatomy, design and color theory.
    Ohhhh, I think we are just having a definition breakdown.

    When I talk about "learning traditional" I am just talking about the medium. Like using a pencil or oils.

    Learning about ART is universal across whatever you decide to work in. Drawing, painting, perspective, anatomy, design and color theory...these can all be done on the computer. So I think we are agreeing that understanding these things are important (at least for a concept artist, a compositor probably wont care about anatomy and a rigger could care less about color theory).

    You don't need to feel the wind in your hair while outside connecting with nature with a brush in your hand and paint on your face in order to learn things like color theory, anatomy, drawing, painting, perspective, or design... you can do it with a book and lots of practice in a dark room through the magic of computers.

    I'm not talking about CTRL+F to make a face. I'm not talking about all the shortcuts and "cheats" that is available to use. Yea, people who rely on these things are going to be crippled in what they are capable to make and how much they grow. But people who work hard and learn the UNIVERSAL aspects of art, they will rise to the top....regardless of if they ever picked up a real pencil in their life.

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    The only thing it's easier to do digitally is bad work.


    Tristan Elwell
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    So, what you are saying, theoretically, someone who has no way of learning traditional art (IE does not go to art school, can`t afford the materials and is self-thought) might as well give up on art b/c all he/she can do is crappy digital "10$ worth" images?

    Who knew art is that exclusive...

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    Quote Originally Posted by PxelSlayer View Post
    So, what you are saying, theoretically, someone who has no way of learning traditional art (IE does not go to art school, can`t afford the materials and is self-thought) might as well give up on art b/c all he/she can do is crappy digital "10$ worth" images?

    Who knew art is that exclusive...
    Erroneous. Someone who can afford the digital tools it takes to make digital art (computer, tablet, programs) can afford to buy traditional tools. Pencil, paint, and paper are much cheaper than digital tools.

    Also you say 'has no way of learning traditional art' and in the next sentence say 'is self-taught'. They're not mutually exclusive. I can teach myself art with just a pencil, paper, and my two legs (as in, walking around town drawing everything and anything) and be much better off in the long run than someone who has all the fancy tools in the world and yet doesn't have the fundamentals down. How do you get those fundamentals? From life, starting at the basics. And I stand by that 100%, because its proven itself throughout history time and time again.

    You might say that people can't tell the difference between someone who's had traditional training and someone who hasn't, and I say that's bull. But the question itself is mostly ridiculous, because it'd be hard to find someone who didn't at least start with pencils as a kid.

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    You aren't going to be able to learn to produce professionally with just traditional materials...you NEED to eventually get the tools of the trade (computer, tablet, programs) at some point. You need to take your sketches into photoshop at some point and clean them up... you need to know how to take your drawing into a finished state.

    Unless you are doing sculpting... there are a couple studios that you can work old-school with clay.

    It's like trying to become an accountant without knowing how to use excel...

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    Just thought I'd weigh-in here because it sounds like so much fun! I've been working professionally in games for a little over twenty years now...using digital tools for maybe 25. It's fine if you don't agree with my point of view, it is after all, only my own personal experience and observations, but, just take that into account.

    We never cared if someone knew digital tools/techniques when we hired people to be part of our team. We cared that thtey were good artists - if their portfolio demonstrated that through traditional media - great; digital media - great. The production pathways ON EACH PROJECT changed, evolved and adapted with very custom, proprietary tools everyone was going to have to be trained to use anyway. That was the easy part - artisits who understood visaul fundamentals were few and far between.

    OK - I'll cut to the chase here - yes. You're absolutely right Ivory - in theory. You're dead wrong in reality though. You "could" learn the fundamentals of art from books in a dark room through the magic of computers - but people don't. As dpaint pointed out - most of the people with a "name" are traditionally trained. The people at the top of the food chain (whether in entertainment media or galleries) are traditional artists - some may also use digital media as well.

    The reason this is important and (therefore worth talking about) is because of this huge myth that keeps people from getting started on the right path to learning the fundamentals of visual art - the easy way - the fast way - by studying drawing and painting from life. The myth I refer to is the idea that digital is faster and equal to traditional media - particularly for learning and study.

    A traditionally trained artist can easily translate their knowledge to digital media - a purely digital artist may eventually be able to translate their knowledge to traditional media once they become familiar with the physical properties of the media.

    The arguments that digital is just as valid or is even superior to traditional media is just not true. I still don't see figure drawing classes full of laptops and tablets - nor do I see plein air painters hauling computers into the High Sierras. I don't quite understand why people are so defensive of the digital medium...it is really fun and powerful and can do things that traditional media can't even approach - but it is not the place to learn fundamentals.

    So this is all just ideas that aren't directly answering Vanmotion's OP - personally I think you're better off studying and learning traditionally - but if digital is getting you the results you're after then it makes sense to stick with that approach. As someone mentioned - it just depends on what you're going for.

    OK - just MHO... Happy New Year!

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    Quote Originally Posted by Ivory_Oasis View Post

    It's like trying to become an accountant without knowing how to use excel...
    Just a quick follow-up...

    You're analogy is somewhat off - someone who understands accounting principles: statistics, fundamental arithmetic principles, is detail oriented, concerned about accuracy, double checking, etc. can learn excel...someone who doesn't know those principles can use Excel to make...well, crap.

    "Who knew art is that exclusive... "
    Art always has been...try playing your guitar in a band when you don't know what you're doing.

    Elwell...so wise...so true.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Ivory_Oasis View Post

    It's like trying to become an accountant without knowing how to use excel...
    Again, wrong. People were accountants decades before Excel was ever around, and the taxation system was not in any way easier back then than it is today. Actually, that's even more of an inaccurate analogy since there is very little subjectivity in accounting whereas there is 'creativity' in art. Someone who can do accounting on paper needs maybe an hour to learn to use Excel and they'll be able to do the same thing. It'll just take longer to do it by hand.

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    Just for the record - I`m not trying to start a feud or a brawl here, just trying to pass on some information from my own experience.

    @RyerOrdStar - In principle I agree with you - many famous artists were self-thought, especially in the older days. But, the situation is changing - now it`s all about speed. If you`re not gaining skills fast enough, if you are not improving at a faster rate, someone will step in and take over. There is always somebody better than you. So, the "fastest" way is to involve in an art school/studio, where you can be thought to ask the right questions, which help you learn at a faster rate than someone self-thought, simply because they have somebody pointing out the flaws and giving systematic/organized tasks and chores to complete. But - it costs. That`s the way things work.

    As for the materials, that is a whole new story. Fact is, as mean and idiotic and insulting it may sound, and I apologize for that - it`s cheaper for you than it is for me. Why? People in western countries have higher income, bigger market and a bigger demand, hence - more suppliers - the prices are lower (especially if they weren`t imported, so there are no taxes, etc). Smaller countries (those in transition, like mine) don`t have it`s own art supply manufacturers, have a smaller market, smaller demand and therefore importers have to raise the prices (after taxes) in order to make some money. Example - Wacom Intuos 3 Medium. USA - 200$, my country - 400$. which is why I don`t have a Wacom, but a 10$, 5YO 4x3 Genius Wizard pen (which serves me like a charm). The cheapest, smallest moleskine sketchbook costs about 20$ here. I can buy art supplies, but only those of extremely low quality, b/c everything else is just too expensive. Is this your fault - heck no! It`s the market.

    I know, all of this is NOT an excuse. Those who want to find their place in art will somehow find a way. But, our path will be longer, and by the time we achieve a certain level, you could be far, far ahead of us.

    K, this is turning the discussion to a whole new course, sorry. I`ll shut up now.

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    Using the excell analogy it would be like saying you're a mathematician because you use a calculator.
    Traditional skills are called that because thats is the original way of expressing them with paint and charcoal or an equivalent. Noah was kidding but he actually has a good point; good artists make art with anything.
    I could draw with my finger in the dirt as well as anywhere else.
    If your level of ability is dependant on complex tech then your not very good at what you do. Writers don't call themselves computer writers because they type on computers. Take away their computers and they can still write. Same with a good artist they don't need the tech.


    Elwell is the Kevin Smith of CA. LOL He says more in a sentence than everyone else combined.

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    What dpaint says is what I hear all the time from industry pros who speak at workshops. "Learn your traditional media, learn your traditional media, learn your traditional media". Being a student new to the game, I am in no position to question them. All my favorite working artists today trained with the old tools of the trade. I'll gladly grab a pencil and paper and follow in their footsteps.

    I think the greatest benefit to traditional media is its limitations. It forces you to make decisions and that in itself is a powerful vehicle for learning. Having the ability to undo may actually slow one's growth, because it doesn't readily encourage follow through.

    I'm not convinced either that people who work with traditional media in today's industry are out of luck. Take a look at the Art Of books and some production sketches for some of the most popular blockbuster films of last year.

    http://parkablogs.com/content/book-r...ek-art-of-film
    http://parkablogs.com/content/book-r...ator-salvation
    http://parkablogs.com/content/book-r...epic-adventure
    http://parkablogs.com/content/book-r...en-art-of-film
    http://www.linesandcolors.com/2009/1...erlock-holmes/
    http://www.gallerynucleus.com/galler...s/207?page=all

    Old-school pencil, ink and marker designs still have a place in even the most expensive projects out there.

    Last edited by sfa; January 1st, 2010 at 07:12 PM.
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  37. #25
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    Quote Originally Posted by Vanmotion View Post
    Do you have to be good at traditional painting to be good at digital painting?
    To answer this question based on the little experience I have, you have to get good at painting, to be good at painting.

    The rest of my fellow artists have provided much for thought and discovery so, there you have it.

    I only want to add a little more to the rest that's been said. I can appreciate the digital medium for what it is. I don't have any strong selection skills, layer skills nor can I do any of the weird things that I see people doing in digital painting demos, where you see marquee tools magically selecting the whole character while you ask yourself 'why the hell doesn't it ever work that way for me ?'.

    I just draw or paint something the same way I'd do it if I were doing it with real media, even when selecting a color I think to myself "I neutralize this and darken it" . Yet, I never found myself to ever be as accurate or fast with digital media as I am with traditional media, more bold yes, sloppier yes, but not faster. But hey, that's just me .

    dpaint: I find your words and description to be logical. I've never worked in the filed you have, but your words make sence. I'd like your opinion on those who work for very little out of a whim. To be more specific, I'm talking about people who play around with art as a hobby and give it to publishers for free (or very little) just so they can see their work published. I realize you probably don't get stuff like that often in the field you're in, but I'd like to know if you do and see how publishers see this kind of work and how it affects professionals. I'm trying to cross-reference my experiences.

    Last edited by Line; January 1st, 2010 at 09:03 PM.
    "Don't judge a book by it's cover" Frank Frazetta 1928-2010
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    digital medium isnt necessarily faster either, especially if you are well trained and practiced in traditional media. when youre used to paint and youve been using real paint for years, you know how to work it, and the results come quickly. you may have certain techniques you use to get a certain look, that you may have a hard time achieving the same effect with a computer. that, and it just doesn't "feel" the same....paint feels soooo goooooood. often my painting techniques come from physical feeling of the paint and the brush on the paper/canvas alone, you cant get that with a wacom....you just cant.

    traditonal painters also know that obviously if you want fast results, youre not going to use oils.....

    i have nothing against digital media, but its just a tool, it isnt superior to anything else

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  40. #27
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    Quote Originally Posted by Elwell View Post
    The only thing it's easier to do digitally is bad work.
    ...and the fact that you can do it badly faster...

    No position or belief, whether religious, political or social, is valid if one has to lie to support it.--Alj Mary

    Ironically, the concept of SIMPLICITY is most often misunderstood by simple-minded people. --Alj Mary
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  42. #28
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ilaekae View Post
    ...and the fact that you can do it badly faster...
    no jokes about lensflares????

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    Traditional means you can sell it in a gallery. That means $$$$$. Traditional is much more fun in my opinion and traditional materials maneuver better than a tablet, but photoshop is eternally forgiving and a great way to practice color theory.

    Quote Originally Posted by Elwell View Post
    The only thing it's easier to do digitally is bad work.
    Aint that the truth. At least it's cheaper and doesn't make mess when you do bad work and you will, yes you will.

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