Painting with Electronic Media

Armand Cabrera

I’m going to rant a little; my comments are about process and fad, not about the quality of the images that are made or the ability of the artists making them. The medium has people who are great at it and those who aren’t, just like in traditional media.

The “new” craze is to take your IPad, other tablet pc or laptop and paint either outdoors or in a studio setting like life drawing. My reaction is why bother? Unless you work in an industry where the facility gained painting on a computer translates to your job, there is no upside to it as an artist.

 It isn’t even that new. When I was an in-house production artist we started painting with our computers in the early 90’s. I have been painting with my laptop since the early 2000’s. The industry and to some extent illustration has been digital for at least 15 years now. The fact that my aunt now has an IPad and paints with it, doesn’t make it new or very interesting. If you think finger painting on an IPad is difficult try painting with a mouse in index color using Deluxe paint.
But it’s cheaper than traditional media
Not really. A tablet computer will run you $400-800 for the tablet alone; double that for a usable laptop. Then make sure you add a 300-500 for some decent paint software and maybe a stylus with pressure sensitivity. If you have a laptop you will need to buy a drawing tablet like a Wacom Intuos, add 300. You will need an extra battery on your laptop after it runs out so add that second battery cost to the hardware section. The IPad doesn’t have a replaceable battery. So you have 5 hours of practical battery life for each charge. With traditional painting you can recoup the cost of the materials by selling the paintings when you’re good enough.

Where’s the image?

Oh yeah, right, there isn’t an actual painting. You could print out the image you do and make a giclee of it but those are just poster quality reproductions with no real intrinsic value to them. First you would have to buy a printer and inks and paper to print it on. Remember the file would have to be a high enough resolution to make the print acceptable. You might be able to get 20 bucks for it.

People are claiming that digital is closer to true color and light because it is additive, not subtractive like painting. Untrue, for it to be additive it has to produce white when you mix the colors together. All paint programs on a computer mimic subtractive painting; so it’s even dumber than painting with real paints because it takes an additive environment (the monitor) and makes a false subtractive output (the paint program) which is code written by people who aren’t artists so other people can use it to paint with.


Don’t quit your day job

The biggest problem I see for practitioners is digital art leaves nothing tangible for the effort; no chance of selling it for any real money, which forces digital outdoor work to be a hobby or just practice. I think that mindset affects the outcome of the work. Part of the destruction of design, production and illustration wages can be linked to this attitude.

Digital image creation is geared for disposable art and massed produced and cheaply made prints. It has to do with the marketplace and the value of physical originals over prints that lack uniqueness. For it to be taken seriously digital artists must overcome that idea and create a paradigm shift in the thinking of collectors. I personally don’t see that happening in my lifetime.

                                                          All digital  images used in this article werre created by Armand Cabrera copyright 2011