Edmonton artists going digital?
Cathy McMillan is part of a growing number of artists going “digital” – using tablets and other computer art applications to produce their work.
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Linda Hoang, Monday, August 22, 2011
EDMONTON – Cathy McMillan has been doing caricature art for 27 years.
Her main tools are markers and water colours but after attending the International Society of Caricature Artists conference in Spain in April, and seeing other artists using tablets for their art, McMillan decided to go digital.
“When I’m drawing somebody on pen and paper, in the same amount of time that I do just a black and white shading, that takes the same amount of time as when im doing it digitally to do it in colour, so the speed, colouring is a huge factor,” McMillan said.
She says more and more artists are choosing tablets as their sketchpads these days, largely due to the number of advantages that come with digital art. It’s quicker to produce an image, it’s easier to reproduce and distribute, and there’s the added perk of instant undo.
“When you’re working with water colour or marker or anything like that, you are 100% committed to that line the minute you put it down, and while that’s probably been really good for development, (digital is) really nice and actually relaxing and adds an extra play quality to my drawing,” McMillan said.
“I’ve found with the digital I’ve played a lot more. I’ll do a really courageous line and go ‘no that doesn’t work’ and I’ll erase it or go backwards and that’s a nice thing after so long to have the ability to do that.”
With advice from other digital artists, McMillan began testing out the new platform using her iPhone. She then borrowed a friend’s iPad before making the jump to a tablet specifically designed for artists.
McMillan started with a smaller tablet that forced the artist to look up at the laptop it was connected to in order to see the drawing. She found that functionality didn’t work for her. She ended up purchasing a Wacom 12″ screen Cintiq tablet that allowed artists to view what they were drawing on the tablet itself (although still needs to be connected to a computer).
She sees digital art as a new medium and says at the caricature conference she attended, “digital” was considered in its own art genre.
But some would disagree.
Kim Fjordbotten runs The Paint Spot at 10032 81 Ave., and doesn’t believe the digital impact is quite here yet.
“It’s just another tool. I haven’t seen a whole switch over. Designers and graphic designers certainly can do a lot but for artists it’s just another tool, it’s a time saving tool, it’s a way to work through a lot of different versions of the same drawing, but I don’t think that it’s going to fully replace,” Fjordbotten says.
In fact, Fjordbotten thinks digital actually takes away from some of the most important aspects of art.
“When you’re using real tools there are accidents and serendipity and muses that help you. You still need to know that in digital land. I like the accidents and trying new materials and pushing yourself,” Fjordbotten says.
“It’s a tactile feel and I think art will never get away from having the tactile.”
Still Fjordbotten says there does appear to be some growing interest for digital in the art industry, at least for certain types of artists at this point.
“We have recently had someone approach us looking to do digital workshops. I haven’t had a lot of interest in my little sphere but my sphere is not digitally oriented yet. But there is interest out there,” Fjordbotten said.
It’s predicted more than 24 million tablets will sell in the United States alone by the end of the year.
More people are using them for school, work and play.
It’s fast becoming a powerful gaming console and its uses in the art world is only expected to rise.
McMillan and Fjordbotten agree that digital isn’t going to be taking over traditional forms of art.
But McMillan believes digital art is here to stay, and what digital will do now is change how people perceive art.
“People will eventually start to be challenged. Someone does a painting on here, gets it printed onto a canvas – which we can do now – and the challenge is does that mean it’s good art or real art?”
What Fjordbotten is finding most interesting about digital art is its ability for output onto different and new mediums.
“If you’ve got a digital photograph or drawing, now you can output it on fabric, tin foil, you can put it on netting. There’s so many different surface preps, metal, wood, you can also transform it onto traditional print making and that’s really exciting.”
And she thinks digital art uses could open up the industry to more people.
“I watched a group of kids playing with the pottery (application) and I thought it was really good. It’s exposing them to art and now they may have curiosity to maybe go and make an actual pot in pottery,” Fjordbotten said.
While McMillan doesn’t see herself moving completely away from the marker and paper anytime soon, she’s excited about delving further into digital.
She’s currently only using a sketchpad application on her tablet but says she’ll soon dabble into a painting app as well.
“I’m kind of in love with this right now,” she said with a grin.
“I’m shocked actually, I’m not really a technological person but I really enjoy it and I think it’s exciting what can actually happen with it.”
INTERVIEWEE LINKS TO CLICK:
- The Quirky Art Cafe (Cathy McMillan’s caricature and art studio)
- The Paint Spot (Kim Fjordbotten’s art supply company)
- The Paint Spot Twitter (Kim Fjordbotten’s Twitter)
EXTRA DIGITAL ART LINKS:
- Three Amazing Art Apps for the iPad: A Review and Comparison
- Best & Free Art iPad Apps
- 20+ iPad Apps For Designers and Developers
- Before You Buy a Graphics Tablet – Features and Advantages
- Wacom Cintiq 12″ Official Website
EXTRA TABLET NEWS LINKS:
- Stats: Top 9 reasons people use tablets
- 2011: Year of the Tablet
- US Tablet Sales Will More Than Double This Year
- The Top Use For Tablets: Gaming (and other stats)
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