Being a hardened user of traditional media (and not the most techie of folk) my involvement so far in the world of digital art has simply been to admire those who are clearly extremely proficient in its creation.
Over time, however, my interest has increased—and with it, I’ve gained a strong desire to create some of the incredible visual effects that only digital art can offer.
Photoshop is quite intimidating and was also out of my budget, but after watching many online tutorials, videos, and works-in-progress, one of my customers suggested a 7 day download of Xara, along with an offer to do some lessons over the telephone.
That was it—the timing was spot on. I was ready to become “A Digital Artist!” Xara offers both web design and graphic versions, but as an illustrator I needed the graphics version. The tutorial I received from my customer enabled me to do some reasonable line art drawing, moving the lines, refining, cutting out and using some of the tools available.
Left to my own devises for the next few days of the trial, I became slightly addicted to “drawing” with my mouse, but at the same time I felt limited by knowing very little of the programme’s full capabilities. I read reviews on the different versions available and earmarked a copy to purchase. Then I actually bought a tablet and pen—I was totally committed!
The tablet I bought had a free version of Art Rage software, which was something my customer had also recommended I try. This was great! I watched more tutorials, adding favourites, writing notes and mentally committing to spending as long as it would take to become at least moderately proficient.
I decided before buying Xara I would try the free Art Rage starter download (there’s no time limit on this free version.) Art Rage is a very different type of programme, in that you can use many different types of medium and tools. Most of all, it allows artists to use their current art skills rather than requiring the more technical skills that programmes like Xara and Photoshop do.
For those already proficient in digital painting, Art Rage also provides more painterly effects. I was able to pick out tools and medium without too much anxiety or knowledge, as well increase/decrease the size of my brush/pencil/marker, and the amount of paint on my tools. I was also able to easily pick out my colours as needed.
So, have I been converted? Have I demoted my lifelong love of pencils to a rack in the spare room, gloried over the savings I am going to make on all the materials I no longer need to buy, buoyant in the feeling I’ve finally joined the 21st century?
Well. . . I’m afraid not.
Someday I’d still like to build on this small dive I’ve made into it digital art, but for now I simply struggled with the technical aspects too much, and the more I did, the more I started to miss the tangible aspect of my paper, pencils and the actual making of something by hand, unaided by technology.
I do have even more respect for digital artists, now. . . it’s clear that not only do they use their creative skills, but they also have phenomenal technical skills. Hopefully, though, this article will give some encouragement and reassurance to any other artists who are considering digital art, just like I was.
So if you’re curious about digital art, have a go with one of the software mentioned above!
After all, that’s probably the best thing about digital art—you can easily dip your toe in and try it out, with very little cost other than the time you put in and the energy to keep your PC running.