View Full Version : Sketches, Preplanning and Digital Art

10-19-2013, 01:29 PM
Last week, I went to my weekly drawing group, and had the pleasure of sitting and talking with a friend who is a retired Illustrator, as well as an art teacher on the college level. In the course of the conversation, she talked about how she required several sketches before students would jump into an illustration and how much frustration it caused. However, she recently heard from a former colleague that her policy of thumbnails and sketches have become more widespread among other teachers at the college, and that they feel the students are struggling less with composition, tonal values etc.
That said, I thought of my own experience, as a young artist I hated to do the sketches, I felt I lost spontaneity by the time I got around to the real thing, but as I'm growing older, I'm interested in trying to do more pre-planning.
So this morning, I did. I pulled up a photos I took yesterday, where I got to combine a paid photography gig with a walk on a beautiful fall day.
As long as I was at my computer, I decided to do some sketching/planning in Artrage. I used a lot of layers and found myself stretching and rearranging things to improve my compostion as I worked- much better than after I've started painting with expensive D'Arches watercolor paper.

So rather than bore you :wink2: with any more details, Here's my question: Do any of you use digital media as a means of sketching and planning for "other art"?
If so tell us about it and how you think it helps or hinders.

I am going to set up to paint in watercolor from my digital sketch on one monitor and my photo on another. Perhaps later or tomorrow, I will show you both.


10-19-2013, 01:59 PM
Well kind of sort of maybe. ... I do a lot of digital manipulation of colors textures etc in photoshop and then use that as a source image when I paint in corel. When I painted traditionally more frequently I use to do the same thing. Created a collage or image and played with it then used that as a source for a painting

10-20-2013, 01:51 PM
I have been working digitally since 1984. A large percentage of what is do is pure digital work. The rest is "composition planning." I use the digital tools to pre-plan sculpture, installations and paintings. If I am planning a painting, I physically "paint" stylus to monitor, doing multiple versions sometimes revisions more often actual start from scratch new versions. When I have a happy result, I will print that as a reference. Then start on the blank canvas without the "need" to exactly duplicate my reference but with a knowing that comes from having already journeyed. In painting I find that this actually frees me up to be looser and more confident in my "wet" brush work.

I also wholeheartedly agree with making students sketch. De Kooning famously taught a class where he spent 2 hours setting up a still life then announced "going to spend all summer looking at this ting. On one piece of paper or one canvas and we're going to look at it until we get it exactly the way it is. Then we're going to keep working on it until we kill it. And then we're going to keep working on it until it comes back on its own."

Drawing is the fundamental visual art form, because in visual art drawing is actually a euphemism for seeing. Drawing is dividing and dividing as Milton Resnik states is the beginning of consciousness. "dividing is the beginning of consciousness. To attempt the achievement of a coherent work, of unity, without distinctions ever having been made, divisions, resolved, demands a state of total innocence, cynicism – or idiocy"

But drawing is also about making connections-connections between objects, connection between the idea, the motivation, the actualization of the work, and finally connection between the artist and the viewer's perceptual cortex. This tension between dividing and connecting is what constitutes art.

This, I believe, is why Giacometti insisted that “whether it be a question of sculpture, or of painting, actually it is only drawing that counts… if one could master drawing a little, all the rest would become possible.”

10-20-2013, 02:43 PM
Very eloquently said! What I did yesterday, was exactly as you described, I sketched it out digitally from the photo, and memory. I worked out a lot of details and did lots of prethinking. I felt much more prepared when I went to the watercolor painting and I was more confident. As a matter of fact, I am very happy with my outcome, and probably because I did all that pre-thinking.

Now, here's a different way of using digital work as a preliminary sketch: I've never been a big fan of 3rd party filters for photoshop, but a friend loaded her extra version of Topaz on my machine. I know some photographers who use Topaz presets and all their photos look alike, so I wasn't impressed at first, but I must say that I have played with a photo in Topaz. Really pushed the contrast, allowed it to get really crazy with the colors, and then paint from that. I does help me think a little "out of the box" about a subject.

So what do you all think of that? Is that cheating or a legitimate way of helping you loosen up and suggesting more creative ways to look at a subject?


10-20-2013, 06:14 PM

There's nothing wrong with using filters, however, the viewer should not be able to tell if the artist used filters. Filters should be invisible to the viewer and take a back row seat to the overall piece. When filters are recognizable in a piece it is evident that the artist is an amateur. I don't mean that in a mean way I just feel that the artist has not learned how to use filters correctly.

When I first started using Photoshop way back in 1991 I relied heavily on the use of filters. As a result my pieces all had the same canned look and were devoid of any type of personality. As my experience level grew I found that I was better able to use filters in a much more subtle fashion. I was learning how to use them without abusing them.

To this day I freely use filters in every piece I create and I have no remorse in doing so.

:wave: :thumbsup: :clear:

10-20-2013, 07:12 PM
I have to agree with Vince. There is nothing wrong with filters and such. The idea is to learn to use them rather then using them because you don't know how. There is so much available in Digital that can take things to another whole level. You just have to make them your own and know when and how to use them.

10-21-2013, 11:32 AM
I absolutely agree Vince and B'anna, but that is a different conversation. What I was referring to, was using filters to come up with ideas for traditional painting. For example, oversaturating the color, to get ideas on how to push the color. Topaz, for example has an twilight preset, so everything takes on a golden glow- using that to perhaps get more dramatic lighting. Perhaps going thru the filter gallery in photoshop just to get ideas on how you might abstract a composition.
Just to throw out a few ideas.

10-21-2013, 01:02 PM
Yes, just recently I designed something on the computer for an acrylic project. It's so much easier to make changes on the computer than on paper. Plus it is very handy if you want to design something symmetrical, which I did. Then I printed it and was able to transfer it to my project.

In the beginning I would draw an outline on paper and then scan it to paint digitally. But I realized how much easier it is to start on the computer.

And yes, filters are fun for playing with a reference to get ideas for a painting. You can also choose a ground colour for a painting by doing an average blur.

And though I do like to plan well when starting a painting, I am still one of those who doesn't want to take the time to do a pre-painting, I just want to get to get to it.

10-21-2013, 05:49 PM
I use every means possible to get my ideas. I will some times just play with a photo and suddenly something jumps out. then depending on what it is I might paint it traditionally, digitally (just paint) or just jump in with both feet and see where painter and photo shop takes me. My bottom line has always been the final result ,and to me it doesn't matter how you got there because as an artist you still have to have the vision of where you can go with it.

Sorry, didn't mean to preach... But hey maybe I did. I'm getting more vocal in my old age.

10-21-2013, 09:02 PM
Well said Barb!

Monastic Bat
10-23-2013, 11:05 AM
I have to completely agree with Barb. Michelangelo Buonarroti would have loved to get his hands on a computer and digital camera.

11-25-2013, 05:58 AM
I've been thinking about going for digital a bit more. I abandoned it for a while since I was so rusty in the beginning that sticking to traditional simply made more sense. But now I might give digital another chance. I could never draw digitally though so what I do is draw the preliminary sketch with pen and paper and scan it in.

I might also start doing digital color studies for traditional art. I mostly did lineart and pencil shaded pictures when I was younger. So I tend to be a bit timid and confused about colors. Trying out different colors on a greyscale image helps a lot.

12-11-2013, 10:43 PM
I could see going either way with it - using the digital to work out what you want to paint, or photographing/scanning a work done with traditional media and then altering it digitally.

One method or another might be the impetus for getting certain aspects of the work nailed down, the other for taking it further or for final embellishments.

12-12-2013, 12:38 PM
when I get my visions or brain storms, very infrequently will I jot down a quick thumbnail, usually I get right to work on the computer. since I work in layers, changing sizes , colors, and placement is easy. i'll usually do 2 or 3 versions of the same idea until I see what grabs me and why, then I go for the final results.
I rarely work in traditional media anymore, except for watercolors its just too messy for my schedule anymore.

12-12-2013, 03:22 PM
I prefer to go from traditional to digital. My geometric abstractions are rather spontaneous, and I do better with my sharpies, rolling ruler and protractor on paper first, rather than staring at the screen waiting for something to click.

Then I'll scan it and trace it with the pen tool in Adobe Illustrator. From there I'll pull it into Photoshop if I'm gonna color it.

Haven't tried digital to traditional yet, cause I'm still getting a handle on painting mediums.

edit: hit the button to soon.