Mention the word “artist” to someone and their first thought might be of a solitary figure in a dusty attic, grinding together pigment and binder, or wrestling with an obelisk of clay. Perhaps they’ll even imagine a wild-eyed recluse clad in a smock, stained with splashes of Absinthe, or a gentleman in a straw hat, standing shin-deep in buttercups and angling his paintbrush against the horizon. Whatever the stereotype, I’d guess few people would picture a relatively normal-looking individual sitting in an office chair with a tablet on their lap and a monitor on the desk in front of them. Prefacing the word “artist” with the word “digital” won’t necessarily help either, and you could find yourself fending off a well-meant, “Oh, you mean Photoshopping? My grandson does that; he’s an expert.” There might also be talk of filters and lens flares, like they’re the modern equivalent of smoke and mirrors in a magic act, and if you’re particularly lucky you’ll get to hear my favorite: “Digital is cheating, you know. The computer does it for you.” Right now, with three deadlines looming, I wish it did.
If it wasn’t for the digital medium I wouldn’t be an artist right now, and definitely not a working artist. I sort of drifted into the creative arena pretty late in life with no particular aim or ambition. Having recently split from my girlfriend I was eager for a cheaper and more entertaining pastime, and perhaps more importantly, something I could switch off when I’d had enough. One day I happened to find myself on a software website and without any plan or expectation I bought a basic 3D graphics package for about £50. From the moment I started using it I was hooked and not long after I shifted into the realm of digital painting, using a Wacom and a copy of Painter. One thing became apparent early on: being digital is most certainly not an easy option. There was no secret button labeled “create painting” by which I could circumvent all the hard work and study of the fundamentals. I quickly discovered 101 nifty features I could use to create any manner of effect, but none were able to magically improve my skills. To improve the only solution was to practice, practice and practice. So that’s what I did, and that’s what I’m still doing.
In this book, the sixth volume in a very successful and informative series, a whole bunch of the world’s finest digital artists share with us their artwork and their creation processes. Judging the hundreds of submissions was really tough at times and it was humbling to witness the quality of artwork that littered 3DTotal’s office tables and floor. At the time of writing, despite not having seen the actual workshops that accompany the artwork, I can confidently predict that everyone will be unique in terms of tools, method, style and output. There are as many ways of digitally working as there are artists. Whilst each workshop and artwork in this book is a clear testament to the skill inherent in the creation process, and the ability of the artist to expertly manipulate these digital tools, there’s more to it than that. Scratch the surface of any one and you’ll reveal the years of hard work that has gone into preparing the creative groundwork. Rumor has it that Picasso, on being asked to produce a sketch, did so and requested £10,000 to hand it over. When the requester asked why so much for a five minute sketch, Picasso replied, “Madam, that sketch took me 30 years.” Now whilst the story is probably a myth (a friend of the family actually did meet Picasso who produced a sketch for her and handed it over without undue demands for payment) the principle behind it is still sound. It’s the artist who, through years of dedication to their craft, holds the magic. All the digital tools in the world, be they 3D- or 2D-based, are just a means to an end. So the next time someone tells you digital art is easy, or the computer does it for you, pass them your copy of Digital Art Masters: Volume 6. Or better still, tell them to go and buy it.
Freelance Illustrator and Concept Artist