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Posted on 23 May 2019 by Iain under Abstract Art

Keeping it as real as possible…

During a discussion about art the other day somebody asked this question:

“Isn’t digital art sort of cheating, because you can click ‘undo’ on a computer but you can’t in real life?”

I think this is a great question, and whilst I gave my own answer during the discussion, I thought it would make for an interesting blog post because I am sure the question or one very similar, has gone through a lot of people’s minds at some time or another.

Let’s take the question asked in two parts.

Is it cheating?

My own view is that for as long as people have been creative in any form of art, they have used whatever is available to them in order to create that art. Painters, for example, may take a long time before they find the particular brushes they like to work with and the specific paints too. Not to forget their preferred medium on which to paint. They will feel that they get better results with their chosen preferences and that is probably true because it is their preferences. Pick another painter and you may well find very different choices and a different approach and attitude. Who’s right – well both of course, because they are finding what suits them best in creating their art.

Technology progresses and new materials become available for the painters to use and of course most will at least try these new things to see if they like the results. If they do their preferences change if they don’t the revert to their default approach…

This cycle will continue as it has done for hundreds of years, and in more recent years due to the development of computing, Digital Art has become an actual ‘thing’, with as many variations in it as there are in the original methods of art creation.

So my answer is simple; No, it isn’t cheating, it’s just new and different and to be embraced as much as any other art form.

You can’t click ‘undo’ in real life!

Whilst I totally understood where this part of the question was coming from, in reality, it is not quite as true as it may first seem. Certainly, there are a number of rescue techniques with freshly painted mistakes that can be used to effectively ‘undo’ something. The worst case scenario is that you wait for the paint to completely dry and then paint over it of course, so the inference implied in the question is a little misleading.

That said, I do fully appreciate that this varies according to the art form in question of course. If you’re a sculptor and you take a little too much off with your chisel, I am guessing that there is no easy way to pop that bit back on!

Keeping it as real as possible

I do have a very rigid approach and structure to creating my abstract art, which might sound very strange considering that abstract art can be a visual representation of something that seems to be completely free-flowing, but let me explain…

I always start my art with a photograph, and in the case of the image shown at the top of this post, I started with the following photograph

I was commissioned to create some art for a couple based around their recent ‘Handfasting Ceremony’ (Wiccan or Pagan Wedding), and they sent me a selection of photographs to work with. I chose to use the one above as the root of the art, and have also blended a couple of others in as well, but the sake of their anonymity I will not show those.

Having chosen the base I then begin to paint digitally and add layers of textures or movement and a variety of filters. In this case, I was always asked to include the four elements so important in this faith system.

So I not only included them texturally but also found the traditional Pagan symbols and the relative compass points and added them to the work. As the art develops I will reach a place where I like what I have created, and so I will save that work out for the clients. It is at this point my way of working comes in. So I will have a file made up of multiples layers, sometimes 50 or more, all of which could be visited and tweaked or modified individually, but I collapse them all into one single layer just as you would have if you had painted it on canvas, and then I continue to create from that new starting point.

I follow this process through the various iterations as I develop my work, and as I always guarantee my clients between one and five pieces per commission, I repeat the process multiple times.

In the case of the clients for the examples you see here, and my desire to always exceed my client’s expectations if I can, I actually created them twelve pieces of work to choose from for their home.

Here are three more examples of that commission…

So I hope you will take a look at Digital Art in a different way if you thought it might be cheating too before reading this. We should all celebrate art in its many different forms, and (I believe), we should all seek out the art that pleases us and try to surround ourselves with it in whichever way we can.

Not only does art provide a great talking point, but it helps us connect with the deeper parts of ourselves and find peace, and that is something to be treasured…

Best wishes

Iain Merchant

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