Thought that I could explain a bit how I work when I paint digitally. To begin with, I confess that I am completely autodidact in digital painting, and I do not know so much about computers and programs on the whole. But I paint anyway, and slowly, little by little, I’m making some progress. I think. In order to understand the following, one must be at least somewhat familiar with the art of digital painting. For those who don’t, I will try to present the discipline in a more comprehensive way at some point in the future.

The software I’m using is ArtRage 4 (I’m waiting for the next, 4.5, coming soon) from Ambient Design. It’s the only program I have tried so far, so I can’t make any comparisons.

The process itself doesn’t differ so much from the way I paint traditionally (I don’t always work the same way in any technique, but in general, this is  how it goes), and so, I usually start with a pencil drawing.

Eagle owl juv 1a

For a naturalistic painting like this, a model is always required, life or a photo (in most cases, photos are more practical). Even when I don’t paint from life, I prefer using my own material. If it’s possible.

After I have made a quick drawing, I start filling in color. The drawing doesn’t have to be very precise, there are a lot of corrections to be made during the process anyway.

Eagle owl juv 1b

Now, I can start painting on the drawing (or on a layer underneath it, which I often do at first) just in a normal way, like in the image above. Or I can use the advantages digital painting offers (I think that the point in using any new media is that it should make work easier and faster, there is no reason to make it more difficult than it already is), so I can speed things up by only painting one half of the image,

Eagle owl juv 1c

then duplicating the layer, and flipping one of them. Actually there is a symmetry tool for ArtRage 4, which duplicates the brushstrokes automatically. I haven’t tested it yet though.

Eagle owl juv 1d

The effect I want to achieve, requires many thin layers of color overlapping each other, which is mostly sheer time consuming, mechanical work. Through using this option, I can save many valuable working hours for the more demanding work on the details. Not to forget that by saving thousands of brush strokes, I can also reduce the risk of repetitive strain injury on my hand.

This works best for somewhat symmetrical images, but the method of painting a small area, and the copying it repeatedly, can be used for many purposes.

If the result is supposed to look natural, it’s of course important to work over the whole painting after duplicating and flipping, so that the halves won’t be exactly the same.

Eagle owl juv 1e

A face, human or animal, is never symmetrical, but at this point I alter reality slightly, making the image little more balanced than it would be in real life. I think it looks better in a painting. The feeling of natural asymmetry comes from the details and direction of light etc.

Eagle owl juv 1f

And so, I continue to repeat this procedure,

Eagle owl juv 1g

until the painting is ready.

Eagle owl juv 1h

Adding background color, some more details,

Eagle owl juv 1i

and I’m almost there!