Why I'm painting again instead of drawing digitally

It’s been a while since I’ve sat down to write a blog post. I had a couple of attempts earlier in April but couldn’t get the words out.

This year has been very busy so far, which is absolutely amazing, but I’m also on a discovery path with my work which keeps evolving so it feels like I have two jobs at the moment… One being client work, admin stuff and maintaining my online sales, and the other being exploring personal work to let my style evolve and change.

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As I wrote about it awhile back, I was having continuous debates on whether I should use traditional or digital mediums for my illustrations and truthfully I still don’t have it quite figured out. I feel that I have to choose one or the other because they produce very different results. When I work by hand, I tend to be a bit looser in my strokes and it forces me not to overwork a piece or to change around the composition a million times (which yes, I do all the time with digital). Painting with watercolour and gouache has been a great challenge for me because I got soooo comfy with the iPad being able to move everything around and undo when I needed to. It can be really difficult to work digitally when you can keep refining and refining, it’s like there’s no end to a piece because it can always be improved. When it comes to putting things on paper, once it’s there, there’s pretty much no going back. This is something I’m actually really enjoying because it’s forcing me to approach my illustrations in a different way.

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I definitely don’t think there’s any right or wrong when it comes to choosing a medium, but I think it’s important that it’s something you really love, because that’s what will keep you inspired 10, 20, 30 years from now.

Growing up, I always turned to art as my chosen hobby. I would start paper maché projects at home and couldn’t wait to get home from school to finish them. In class, I loved when we got to make crafts and I could get my hands all soaked up in a glue mixture or acrylic paints. I remember dipping my feet in paint and walking across a big banner, the squish of the cold paint on my foot and the marks it left behind. In high school, I painted acrylic paintings of beaches, mountains, trees, anything that would help ease my mind in whatever I was going through (like any teenager right?). I took as many art classes as you possibly could in a public high school, and became besties with my teachers, who knew I felt really passionate about the craft. I painted self-portraits, studied light & shadows, discovered art history and mixed all kinds of things together to create a piece. I once even broke up a bunch of glass and hot glued it to a canvas with a portrait on it to make a statement about depression.. something I didn’t honestly know much about other than feeling sad.

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Painting is part of my story, a big part of it. It’s the number one thing I loved for so long before people started telling me to think about my career seriously. It’s what feels like home, what I love to do no matter how sad or distracted I am. It puts me in my flow, and I lose track of time.

Now I’m not going to declare that digital art isn’t art, because I definitely think it is. If you’ve ever tried to draw on an iPad or Wacom tablet, you’ll know that it takes hella skills to figure out. I think digital art is absolutely marvellous, and opens doors for people that didn’t exist before. I could go on and on, because I value digital art as I do traditional art. They’re both equal to me and I don’t want this post to come across as me saying that traditional art is better because it’s not, it’s just as good.

There was something that happened a few months ago, where I just looked at my iPad and thought “I’m out”. I’m out of ideas, I’m out of inspiration, the lightbulb has burnt out. I just simply was out of ideas about what to draw. I felt like I was piecing together things that I liked in other artworks, and didn’t feel like my own. After creating a great piece, of course I felt happy, but that “LOOK WHAT I MADE” feeling wasn’t there anymore.

This piece was my “ah-HA” moment!

This piece was my “ah-HA” moment!

This isn’t to say that I don’t still enjoy drawing digitally, because I do. I love to sketch on my iPad so I can shift things around and it’s also great for some client projects that prefer more of a polished look. But ultimately, I just felt a huge pull to paint again, to get my hands messy and use every angle of the brush on paper. It was equally as frustrating as it was joyful, because I LOVED the feeling, but hated the result. This went on for some time, until I finally started to see little hints of progress and pieces coming together in the paintings. Then I had it, that “LOOK WHAT I MADE!!!” moment. I was so excited I texted all of my best friends. It’s not that the piece is particularly amazing, it’s that I found the progress. I knew what direction to take next and I finally saw how it could all come together.

I like to write about these things because I hope some day I can read back on my posts and remember what it was like in the beginning, all the confusion and such. I hope I’ll look back and remind myself of all the nights I stayed up so late painting away and all the time I spent perfecting my craft, making it so valuable. I hope I’ll cherish this growth and feel thankful that I allowed myself to have the courage to explore.

If there’s something you really love, and I mean REALLY love, go for it man!! There’s absolutely no excuse to follow your dreams in this day and age, whatever that looks like to you! You don’t need to quit your job, or read tons of “5 Steps to Financial Freedom!!!” posts, but you owe it to yourself to try, little by little, day by day, to live a life you absolutely love. I’ll see you there.

Xx

Sabina

5 Thoughts on Digital vs Traditional mediums for illustration

This may very well be the question of the century. With so much access to different mediums, how do you make a concrete decision as an illustrator of whether to create digital or traditional medium illustrations? If you’re lucky, your style can translate to both, but often people who use digital illustration use a lot of flat colours, and those who use traditional like to layer it on. This is all variable however, since there are so many different styles.

some of my watercolour experimentation

some of my watercolour experimentation

If you’re following me on Instagram, you likely know I’ve been having this debate with myself for quite some time now, about 3 months to be exact. I keep analyzing my illustrations to see where I can improve, and I started looking into it a little too much.

Here are some thoughts on choosing to work digitally vs traditionally:

1. Know your market

This is probably the most important point. If you know your market, you should be able to know which medium will be better suited to them. For example, if you do a lot of custom portraits and wedding portraits and such, some people might prefer to have something completely unique and original, which would be a painting of some sort. This can also be applied to selling original artwork online, which can be marked up a lot because there’s only one. If you want to do a lot of corporate work like logos, advertisements and product packaging like I do, a digital style is more versatile and allows multiple rounds of editing without ruining the illustration. Do some research to figure out who your target clients are, where you want to see your illustrations and what those clients are currently commissioning. That will give you a good idea of which route might be better for you.


2. Analyze your style

For some, their bold paint strokes and splashes of water are a significant part of their style, and for those illustrators, obviously traditional mediums allow for those happy accidents and more authentic hand made look. If you’re like me, you probably like to refine an illustration and get into the details. Being able to zoom in and shift things around is almost necessary to the outcome of my drawings, so I naturally get a little frustrated with traditional mediums that I can’t “undo”. If you’re not sure what your style is yet, I wrote another post on the topic, but essentially pick and choose what elements you like in illustrations that attract your attention. Start to build upon those and see what draws you in. Things that start to get repeated throughout your drawings are indicators of your style. It’s best to experiment a lot and not rush this process.

90% of my work is done on this incredible little device

90% of my work is done on this incredible little device

3. Think about your lifestyle

Are you always travelling and on the go, or like to work from a coffee shop or on the train? Carrying around an iPad is a lot easier than a whole set of watercolours, brushes, water, paper towels, paper and more. If you prefer to work from home and don’t find yourself out and about too much, traditional mediums are likely a great option for you. Do you like to take your time with an illustration and perfect it, or do you enjoy creating a quick minimalistic style drawing? Think about all the factors, I read somewhere that you should choose the medium that is the easiest, most convenient for you and also for your type of clients. If you’re planning to do this as a career, you’ll likely become very busy at one point or another, and if you’re the kind of person to take on 2-3 projects at a time, you need to make sure you’ll have enough time to complete all the deadlines. That could mean carrying around your iPad so you can sketch in between meetings, or it might mean getting a portable watercolour set. If you’re like me and enjoy painting but prefer the outcome of digital illustrations, you might benefit from having a painting or two on the side that you can work on during your free time. You can even sell these on places like Etsy if you’d like, or just use them as meditative pieces that you do when you have time to.

4. Think like a business owner

As artists, we tend to think like artists not like business owners. Analyze the costs & benefits of choosing one medium over another, which one saves you more time and effort, and which one gives you the most potential. As artists we dream of fame and recognition, but you need to keep your business running, which means budgeting and being able to afford the supplies you need to make your work. If it’s helpful, you can also analyze it in a 5 year period. Calculate how many drawings/paintings you make in a month, then multiply that by 12 and by 5, then figure out the cost of supplies per painting and do the same thing. Being a freelance illustrator is pretty much the same as running a business, as you may have gathered should you be a freelancer yourself, so it’s time to think like a BOSS. How will you keep your business afloat? Which medium will best support efficiency, high quality work and flexibility?

I love being able to draw anywhere with my iPad, but I also love playing around with paints :)

I love being able to draw anywhere with my iPad, but I also love playing around with paints :)

5. What brings you the most joy?

When it all comes down to it, what lights up a spark of excitement in you to finish a drawing or painting? What feels the most natural and beautiful to you? Which result gives you more confidence as an artist? Try out different mediums and see which one resonate with you the most. Whenever I get stuck. I play around with gouache and watercolours for awhile before jumping back to my iPad. It reminds me why I started doing digital illustration and it also gives you a good break. I find whenever I try out a different medium for awhile, I learn new things that I can then apply to my current medium as well. Play a little trial and error game and see what happens. As an artist, this can also drive you crazy though, so don’t put too much pressure around it. You’ll find it overtime and everything leading up to then will be great lessons. After all, if you’re in this type of career field, you’re likely not in it for the money, but you’re in it because it’s something you love to do, so make sure you can keep loving it throughout your career.

What is your preferred medium? Let me know in the comments below :)

Xx

Sabina