The art of painting goes back to thousands of years. From the first known cave paintings to the works of Renaissance masters and many other subsequent art movements, people have practiced painting in many forms. Even today, most art students receive some form of classical training in traditional painting.
Yet we live in a digital age. Kids grow up accustomed to having mobile devices in their hands. With a digital stylus and modern apps, anyone can learn to draw and paint on a device. It’s cost-effective and eco-friendly since you can easily undo mistakes, and don’t need actual art supplies. Thus, digital painting is an excellent entry point for anyone looking to learn art as a hobby.
Nonetheless, many people who come from a digital background still seek to learn traditional painting skills. Traditional works are perceived as having unique and lasting value. Here are some things you should know before making the jump.
The medium has its voice
Just about every digital painting app offers the capability to undo your last few actions. You’re also probably accustomed to working in layers, which lets you finish a portion of the work and proceed to paint on a separate layer without affecting anything else.
Most apps also offer a wide variety of tools, brushes, and simulated textures. The ability to pick a color with precise values from a specific pixel also helps streamline your process and create consistent results.
Switching to traditional art from a purely digital background, you’ll realize that every medium and tool has its own voice. Ink strokes can’t be undone. Oil can be reworked but takes a long time to dry. There’s also the risk of overworking any area of painting. This could result in muddy colors or degrade the underlying surface.
Pigments also have different grades. You might be tempted to work with affordable student paints, but that would be like drinking from the tap without a water filter. The difference is noticeable. High-quality pigments offer a broader range of hue and saturation, which is vital because you’ll have to mix your own colors. They also have better light fastness, retaining their colors over a longer time.
The skill of an artist can make a big difference, of course. But as you become more proficient, you’ll know the different qualities of each medium. You’ll stop seeing them as limitations to be overcome, compared to the freedom of digital art. You’ll learn how to use them to your advantage and create pieces that wouldn’t be possible in other media, including digital.
Mistakes help you learn
But how do you get better? When you paint in an app, you can redo any mistakes. Even if you go too far before noticing an error, you can roll back to an earlier save file. It’s easy to self-correct. In traditional painting, mistakes can take more time and effort, and they cost more in terms of materials. This can lead to frustration before you get better.
To sustain your progress and interest in any skill, you have to adopt a growth mindset. Understand that small-scale mistakes enable you to learn. Feeling the strain of trying to improve is a sign that you’re on the right track.
Resist the urge to start over and throw away your unfinished work. Allow yourself to make mistakes. Making art is a journey, and experimentation is a core part of that. You never know what the next error will teach you.
An unexpected edge
Traditional painting will hone your skills in many facets of the creation process. And even if you don’t intend to sell any of your works, there’s a special sense of pride and accomplishment when you make something tangible. You could frame a piece and hang it on your wall, and know that there’s nothing else like it in the world.
The gamut of real-world colors can’t be captured and rendered with complete accuracy by modern scanning and printing technologies. But digital art is a lot easier to mass-produce and distribute. Because you’re painting within a device, your colors are already limited to the available profile. You can sell prints or upload full-size images for the end-user to print, and the result will be the same.
Being familiar with this ease of distribution can give you an unexpected edge. With your digital background, you probably know a lot more about the color limitations of different software. You’re familiar with the necessary steps to optimize works for printing or viewing on screens. Thus, when you decide to upload your traditional works to social media or sell prints to online customers, you can do them justice.
Shifting from digital painting to traditional media isn’t easy, but these skill sets complement each other nicely. Put in the effort, and you’ll end up becoming a better all-around artist for it.