Why did you quit the whole digital painting thing?

So, why did I all of a sudden stop painting digitally and go back to analogue artwork? So it all begins back in the 90’s. I did my A level in art and design with oil pastels, soft pastels and graphite pencils. I didn’t regard myself as a painter or someone who was really able to paint.

In my degree course I was encouraged (*cough* forced*cough*) to use watercolours, gouache, acrylics and oils.
My foray into watercolours was nothing short of disastrous, and my attempts with both gouache and acrylics made the 2019 Brexit negotiation seem like a roaring success, but with oils I found something I could really play with and with a little help from Bob Ross on our newly installed cable tv I reinvented myself as an oil painter, with a developing skill for coloured pencils.

So roll around the months after graduation, oil painting and doing my own thing I joined a very old online art gallery called Elfwood. I continued with the oil painting for a while before getting tired of a) the smell of turps b) The drying time and the creeping feeling that I wasn’t hitting the right notes with my artwork I decided to completely re-invent myself as a pencil artist and work pretty much exclusively in graphite pencils.

Early oil painting on canvas panel.

For 3 years my pencil work was regarded amongst the highest quality on Elfwood and I was regarded by my peers as being one of the best on Elfwood with the media (a view I did not really share).

My final swansong with graphite before I went fully digital in 2003.

But again, the feeling was there that I needed to grow and in 2003, after the release of my biggest ever pencil piece I laid down the graphite and picked up a graphics tablet.

Tutored by my friend Mizhak, I learned how to paint digitally, with raw images coming out in a steady flow, utilizing basic 3d programs with photoshop to create images and things got a little nuts after that.

One of my first images after going fully digital, the figure was rendered in 3d tools and the rest was painted by hand.

In the following 14 or so years I was published, shortlisted for numerous art awards, exhibited on several occasions, had books released of my work, commissioned for book and CD covers globally. My work was known, and seen, globally by enough people to have a few moments of recognition on the street. Yet there was a growing feeling of unrest inside me that I could not settle.

You see, by the end my digital paintings were so complex that I needed to arrange a model, photograph them, draw them all out in terms of an idea and then sit down and paint them for over 100 hours. My images were getting more and more complex, with elements, settings and and extra-ordinarily long creation time and in the end – the paintings never really existed.

It clicked on me one day, I was sinking SO many hours into these images that just did not exist in the real world – a print is merely a recreation of the digital file, the digital file could vanish in an instant with a dead hard drive. I uploaded images to the internet, but I had blown up many PC’s, laptops and was on my 2nd Mac. So many original files that had been burned to backup media had just gotten lost, old hard drives gone. Websites got shut down and with them went the only record of some of my artworks and it sunk in.

I had spent so many years creating pretty ether.

And by god it depressed me.

I was very well known and highly regarded for my digital work and yet at that time it was nothing more than a series of intricately woven 1’s and 0’s.

and I just stopped.

I was already frustrated by my digital painting work, the time consuming nature took me away from my wife and daughter and this was a tipping point for me and in 2017 I finished the last few digital paintings I had promised and lay down the graphics tablet.

One of my final pieces painted digitally, this took almost a year to complete.

It took a while for me to get my sh*t together again after that, I bought an airbrush hoping that the challenge of that would re-ignite my spark – except within 3 pieces it ceased to be a challenge. I went back to oils for a bit, but was met with the same long drying time and reek of turps. I was creatively broken and thought, genuinely, that I was done – I peaked early had a good run and now will quietly fade into obscurity.

My first ever attempt with an airbrush.

Then one day I was watching Youtube and some videos by German artist Laovaan came on and it showed watercolour being used in a way that I had never tried to use it, embracing the unpredictability of it all and using it to your advantage.

A few weeks of studying later I gave it a whirl and produced a watercolour portrait that had everyone suddenly sitting up and taking notice of what I was doing again, I did another, and another, about 12 or 13 in total. Some were huge successes, some were quietly dropped into a bin and never saw the light of day.

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My first trial with the watercolour “bloom” style I used for a while.

By now I was already starting to watch different tutorials on youtube, I dug up my old Karismacolour pencils and started doodling some old children’s book characters (that is something for a different post…) I bought some Prismacolor Premier pencils and just stumbled forward until… well here we are.

So the TL:DR version
I stopped digital painting due to a combination of crisis of confidence, coupled with an existential crisis that my artwork didn’t “exist”. Now I colour things in with pencils and I couldn’t be happier.