Oil Bites: Traditional Artist Turns Digital

posted in: Creative, Mindfulness | 2

I made a huge transition from traditional oil painting on canvas to digital oil painting on a tablet. I will most likely switch back and forth from traditional canvas to digital, depending on the art project; but for now, I have fallen down a deep digital crevice and am struggling to paint my way out…

Unfortunately, digital painting is not quite this easy. My Wacom tablet and second screen are large; thus, I need an official desk.

I have been locked away in my studio all week. It has been one of the most challenging weeks of my career.

Corel Painter X3 finally has brought oil painting into the digital realm. It is an amazing technology that mimics real brushes and real oil paint. For many reasons, I decided it was time to hang up the bristled brush and pic up the digital brush. The main concern I have with oil paints is their toxicity. Even when I paint with the least toxic colours and hues (and use the new water soluble oils), I still subject myself and my family (I have an in-home studio) to microscopic air borne paint particles.

I started to paint a book cover for my first (soon to be released) e-book junior fiction novel. Suddenly, it seemed oil painting was not to way to go. I could not attain the detail on the canvas with my traditional paints and brushes. It was so frustrating. All arrows pointed towards going digital. In digital, I can zoom in and enlarge an area so I can paint in great detail (without having a ten-foot canvas in my house). It was time to take the plunge.

Below are two canvases I have been working on for the book cover. Both are of a train, unfinished and in the early stages of painting. One is oil on canvas, the other, digital oil on a digital canvas.

Oil on Canvas Train (unfinished)

-the sheen from the oil paint somewhat corrupts the picture quality.


I abandon the above canvas at this point in the painting. Eventually, I would have worked in greater detail and finished the train. However, this is the point at which I quit using real oils.

I took the above picture today (after at least a month of the canvas drying in my garage and it was still sticky).

Below is my current digital oil painting of the same train (taken today as a screen shot). It is also unfinished. The degree of detail I can accomplish digitally has made the transition worth it.

Digital Oil on Digital Canvas Train (unfinished)

Screen Shot 2014

 Digital painting is difficult.

I have been climbing Everest all week and have fallen in many an icy crevice.

Corel X3 is known to have a STEEP learning curve. In addition, technology has a way of completely f-ing up, for no apparent reason, and leaving a day’s work lost somewhere in virtual space for a few terrifying moments…hours… 

However, I am happy to report that it is true love. I am having the best time learning the new painting technology. It is so very difficult but much creative fun—a challenge that keeps every one of my brain cells engaged. Did I mention how much fun it is to render realistic steam billowing from the train? I lose all track of time when I digitally paint–hence, no time to do anything at all this week.

Digital painting is very different than digital writing, mainly, because I can write at my office (aka Starbucks). However, the Intuos Wacom tablet is big and thus, I have yet to load up my huge tablet, computer and paint at Starbucks. Though, perhaps, Starbucks might enjoy the circus show…

I am finishing the cover of my first e-book. I am determined to design and create the art for my book covers. It is time-consuming but I am firm about this. I could hire a graphic designer to whip up an okay cover, but why? I am a fine artist and it is my book. My cover will be mine.

My fine artist style is detailed as I usually paint realistic oil portraits. Book covers require more of a graphic design skill.  I am stretching my brain by painting something I would never usually desire to paint: a train. I enjoy trains but I love to paint life. It is a challenge and I am surprising myself at how easy painting a train can be.

Much work ahead: creating a small, digital publishing house and then a writer’s/artist website to showcase and sell my novels  and picture books (and eventually paintings too). I will keep you posted. Until that time, you will find me obsessively hunkered over my computer editing my novels and painting book covers.

2 Responses

  1. Sandra Hart
    | Reply

    This is fascinating! Not sure I completely understand the process but am looking forward to seeing you at work.

    • Mix Hart
      | Reply

      Thanks S. It’s time consuming but at least its time spent on something I love to do.

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