Even Traditional Artists Work Differently in the Computer Age

When I was a boy, I drew and painted without the benefit of a personal computer.

I would often work from a 7″ x 5″ photograph (a popular print size at that time). Scaling up the image was a complicated process, which utilised techniques such as drawing grids over the photo, or taking critical measurements and multiplying these by a scaling factor. The scope for error was enormous, and things often went wrong.

I would regularly use a magnifying glass to better make out tiny details in the reference photo, and frequently make quite small artworks in order to mitigate the difficulties of seeing finer points of detail.

Drawing and painting was dependent wholly upon observation, skill, and a lot of patience.

Fortunately, about the same time as I became a semi-professional artist, I bought my first home computer, and immediately appreciated the benefits this offered.

I could scan and reprint reference photos, to save the originals getting damaged: drawing a grid on a photo is pretty destructive!

I could reprint the reference photo at the same size I wanted to draw or paint it, and this removed the complexity of manually scaling up, and the scope for errors.

I could enlarge scanned images, and make the tiny details more easily visible. I could even adjust the contrast and brightness, and see what lurked in the shadows.

In short, access to a computer meant I could now make larger, more detailed, and more accurate artworks with a lot less effort.

Growing familiarity with photo manipulation software enabled further easements, such as the creation of montages. Once upon a time, I would have made adjustments via experimentation with preparatory sketches, or resort to scissors and sticky tape to join elements from one reference photo to another. Now I can simply drag, drop, re-size, and re-position on my computer screen. Not only does the computer save the strain on my eyes, but also significantly speeds up analysis and preparation of reference photographs.

Of course, once an artwork has been finished, its back to the computer for yet more help.

Once upon a time, I could only entertain customers that lived in my back yard. Now I can potentially sell all over the world, thanks to scanners, the web, and email.

In the old days, the sale of an artwork meant it was lost to me forever, but now I can scan and keep a record of my efforts, but not just for my personal gratification. Those images can be shared with the world, and put to work as a portfolio of examples. I have even managed to sell a few prints of commissioned works (bought by the client to give to other family members).

Although the act of painting or drawing is still performed in a traditional way, the computer age has certainly made the process a whole lot easier.

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