Digital art with Photoshop

According to, Digital art is an artistic work or practice that uses digital technology as an essential part of the creative or presentation process. So I am let off the hook. I thought for some terrible moment that what I create did not actually slip conveniently into the Digital art, genre.

I love making Digital art, although my artist friends have consistently observed that the results are expressively cold! The cheek of it! I do know what they mean though. Digital art cannot compete with the raw passion and execution of an oil painting.

But that is not point. Whoever said that art needs to be expressive? I find many old master paintings distant and expressively cold and apart from a few obvious 20 Century masters of expression, much art and the appreciation of its expressive prowess is purely a subjective art.

The 20 Century has altered our perception of who the artist is. Post Van Gogh and the expressionists art movement, we tend to see art as a means to expressive ends only. Historically this has not been the case. Artists have always been at the cutting edge of experiment, Camera obscura and Perspective and colour theory being just a few to ponder.

Putting these ramblings aside for a moment, I think that the fact that Digital art is printed onto paper is central to its perceived or real weakness in expressive power. That is where detectives should investigate. No printed image can compete with the expressive nature of oil paint with its incidental textural reliefs and impasto. It is perhaps the visual delight in the 3 dimensional hinting that oil paint engages in, that determines how we rate its expression.

Anyway, getting back to the process of making Digital art! I love the process because if you arm yourself with enough tools, and by tools I refer mainly to Filters in Photoshop and allow the process from start to finish to be governed by the unexpected, then truly the unexpected will result.

It sort of doesn’t matter to me if the result is expressive or not. What is important, is that as an artist, I keep myself on my creative toes! This means, that I at every turn, allow myself to be open to change of direction, and to be open to try something new.

I have always viewed the artist’s job as primarily one of being prepared to be lead by chance and being the instigator of chance by coming up with ingenious new methods!

With no paint drying time nor physical size considerations, nor preparation making Digital art can be a fast moving dynamic, full of excitement and fascination, whereby the end result is achieved quickly but not necessarily painlessly.

Although I also long to return to the full-bodied painting experience, I do not simply resign myself to Digital art making but embrace it in all its flavors and flaws.

How do I start? As I said I make sure that I allow as many combinations of, both scanned image and images created in Vector programs to form the basis of a work. A sort of collage base, in which various opposing elements are included.

So, for example, I might make some marks on paper, in coloured crayons and scanning them at a high resolution will import them into Photoshop.

I might also make Vector drawings in the program Freehand, just something random and without any form or direction, just an awareness and sympathy for the future of the artwork.

These I will combine into one new file in Photoshop. Then the fun starts and I will do combinations of all of the below, repeating them over and over again until something unexpected occurs.

  1. Max the contrast
  2. Invert the image
  3. Change colour channels of layers
  4. Flatten the image and create new layers
  5. Select areas to include filters
  6. Play with the colour balance

In conclusion, I am always reminded of how impossible it is to surprise oneself and how easily others can surprise us, or indeed situations can surprise us. You cannot plan to surprise yourself. That is like trying to deliberately give yourself a shock, impossible!

There lies the rub. The artist can only be surprised by what they achieve if they allow the process to govern and guide them. They are then reduced to the role of a manager, making sure the process resolves itself well. They are allowed to step back and admire the achievement of course!

Holding the secret close and tight, the artist must never let on that it is not they who are making the painting, they are only helping it to happen!

Digital art with Photoshop

Author: Francis Rubbra

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Francis Clark is an Australian born artist, illustrator and musician.