slide show

Friday, March 20, 2009

New work and Digital Paintings

True to my word, I am becoming a regular little Blogerella. Where's my shoes!? lol

Today I thought I would talk a little about what a digital painting is and what I mean when I use that term. I have some work that I have saved the 'before' versions of that illustrate the point nicely and which I will share with you.
Every image in my art portfolio is a digital painting. There are some, like this next one for example, that took me upwards of 20 to 30 hours.

You can't imagine the detail work that goes into a piece like this. And how many times I try something and don't like it and have to ditch an element and think of something else. I tend to work on them in spurts, over a period of time. (to avoid banging my head bloody on the computer screen, lol)

Here's an example of my newest piece, before and after:

On my website I talk about how even before the advent of digital imaging and photoshop, photographers have always used tricks in the darkroom to help make people look their best. Real life often needs to be enhanced in order to create the pictures that fulfill the vision we have of ourselves.

For me personally, I will never give a client an image straight out of the camera. Maybe it's the artist in me (or the perfectionist *ahem* ;) but I just can't do it. Now, granted, the images above are extreme examples. Sometimes what I'll classify as a digital painting isn't nearly as involved. Take this next example:

This is a bridal portrait that was one of those shots that was pretty great as was. I know there are many photographers out there who would do a basic edit and call it done. A 'basic edit' means popping the color and/or contrast, some dodging and burning, and maybe doing a little skin softening. And I did do those things, but I felt it was an image that with the right touch could become quite beautiful. So I went beyond the basic editing and spent about an hour on this image. Now it doesn't have all the fancy texture overlays or effects that the 2 pieces above this have, but it's still a digital painting.

When working as a wedding photographer and an artist (and a mom! lol) I also have to consider my time. If I tried to spend 20 hours on a wedding portrait like I do for my personal fantasy work, I'd probably never be able to leave the computer again! As it is, I spend a lot of time on my wedding imagery.

Take this next example:

This shows you the original unedited image, then the basic edit and finally the digital painting. I always make it a point to give people both the basic edits and the fancier versions, because art is subjective after all, and you never know what people are going to like.

When I say 'painting' do I mean that I am actually using paints? No. But I am using my Wacom tablet alot like a paintbrush. It always remind me of the process of oil painting - layer upon layer. In the example above I created a pink, tangerine and yellow gradient layer, then overlayed that on top of the basic edited image, that you see in the middle. I brushed the skin tones back in and the center of the image where you see her bouquet, because those are parts I didn't want the gradient color overlay. After that I went in and augmented the lights on the stairs - by hand. That means there's no program that does it for me, I don't just press a button and poof, there it is. I made those sparkle lights one by one. So again, maybe on the surface it seems like there isn't a great deal of work in it - but believe me - there is!

These next 2 I unfortunately do not have the completely unedited versions handy to share, they are on cd's that are now packed away in preparation for moving. But you can see the difference between the edited and the 'painted' versions.

This first pic I spent maybe 15 min's on the edited version and I can't tell you how many hours on the digital painting.

Often people will ask me how I did what I did - what was the process? And the truth is, I wish I could say! It's different every time. I just keep tinkering until I'm satisfied that it looks right. There's no process or formula, I run on the inspiration of the moment. ;)

This last image that I want to share with you is different in that even in the 'edited version' you can see that I have already put a great deal more work into it than a basic edit. I spent around an hour or so just doing the edited version. I could have stopped there and called it done easily. But this was at a point where I was playing with how many different textures I could overlay and what look that would achieve. I can't count the hours, because I must have tried and discarded as many textures as I ended up using - probably more. And every texture that I used I did not use the whole thing - I overlayed, connected the layers with a photoshop layer mask, and then used my tablet to digitally paint through what I wanted and paint out the parts that I didn't want.

It's tedious. It takes time. And it's not like I can turn creativity on like a faucet! Sometimes I'll sit down to edit and end up just staring blankly at the screen, unable to make the inspiration come. When that happens is usually when I'll turn to my basic editing tasks, and leave the rest for a more fortuitous creative time. Even with basic editing for a wedding, for example - take 400 to 500 images, times that by 5 to 10 minutes per image (not counting the paintings, which of course take a lot longer) and then times that by several weddings a year. Then add in personal projects, artwork, and portrait work. (and mom stuff, and housework! and answering e-mails!) Well, you get the picture. (ha, ha, Ivy makes a photography pun. *grin*)

This is why my butt is shaped exactly like my computer chair, lol. It's a lot of work. Do I love it? Of course I do. Or I wouldn't be sacrificing so much of my time and energy to do it. I'd be out 9 to 5ing it at a job where I could come home and put my feet up at the end of the day and not worry about anything work related for the rest of the evening.

But I love making people feel beautiful. I love being able to use photoshop to show people the beauty that I see in them when I look through my lens. I love knowing that what I'm doing is important. That someday a couple's great grandkids are going to be looking at those wedding photos wondering what they were like and what they were thinking when the picture was taken. I love opening fan mail and reading, "That piece you did struck such a cord with me!" Or having someone tell me that my artwork has touched them in an important way, or helped them to view the world a little differently - that's what it's all about, man. That's the good stuff. That's why I agonize over every small detail, and why I work my tail off an average of 10 to 12 hours a day.

So for everyone who thinks "well, gee, all you do is press a couple of buttons. " or that it's something that's easily done - this blog's for you! ;)


  1. i love this blog :) i wish you can rate them cuz this one would definetly be my favorite! xox

  2. I really like the before and after pictures. It really shows how much artistry goes into a completed image. Love it!


Blog Archive

Have a Facebook account? Click here to follow my blog!