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Why I love digital art tools

Art Student Flop

I have a vivid memory of a summer art class while in college. It was drawing, mostly with charcoal or pencil, but occasionally with expensive art ink pens. One sunny day, we were all sitting outside on the manicured grass of the campus with the Red Cedar River rushing in brown swirls farther down the bank. We propped hard-backed drawing tablets on our laps after we had found a section of scenery to draw and sat there quietly sketching, looking up at the view and down at our paper over and over again. I was drawing a clump of white birch trees that contrasted against the green of their blowing leaves and the blue sky.

But I couldn’t draw fast enough.

And I couldn’t add a special touch to it.

I could only draw what I saw, slowly and painfully. I was competent enough to draw accurately, but no more. Even though there is something very satisfying about feeling and watching a drawing come to life on paper, I needed another dimension.

Once a tree trunk was sketched on my paper here, I couldn’t move it there without starting over. Perhaps if I had taken up painting, I wouldn’t have had such frustrations of speed and commitment and just not being able to put onto paper something my mind could envision.

Photography brings light

Photography enabled me to get closer to what I craved. When I bought my first camera – with manual controls – I could finally get closer to my visions. The speed was there, generally, and the light and scene could often be manipulated by changing position and choosing a time and setting up a scene.

It wasn’t until I first got my hands on digital art tools to combine with my photography that I could put it all together.

Photoshop and the like were magic.

I find Magic

Once I had the digital art tools and started learning, I could take a photograph and paint with the pixels it contained and bring in more lines and colors and patterns to create art that I could only have vaguely imagined before. The learning curve was steep, but the potentials endless.

Yesterday, I felt this magic all over again.

Below is a snapshot of my great-niece dressed up in a fancy fuchsia pink dress for her one year birthday. She has discarded her black patent-leather shoes and seized the TV remote control and is at the door. Maybe you don’t know that one-year-olds love doors. They will open and close a cupboard door with as much delight on the first swing as the fourteenth! She has her eye now on opening all the doors in a house and someone has just walked out of this door, drawing her attention to it.

One year old investigating the recently closed door.

One year old investigating the recently closed door.

I like what this picture says even without seeing the toddler’s face (trust me, it’s very cute!), but it’s not one with which you would do anything. The image is pretty cluttered, the shadow distracting and you can’t really tell what’s in her hand is a stolen remote. This photo doesn’t have the sparkle of a special day except in the beautiful color and texture of the dress.

A few trips through Adobe Photoshop, Lightroom and Filter Forge allowed me to create a transformed image that speaks of the magic of a little girl’s first birthday wearing a gorgeous party dress and exploring her world.

This is why I love digital art tools. 🙂


Lucky for me, Zazzle has a big sale on posters right now, so I just ordered an 18×24 print on heavyweight matte paper. It’s already queued for shipping, too!

3 Responses to Why I love digital art tools

  1. Patricia (@Exit178) February 5, 2013 at 7:03 pm #

    Beautiful job on the photograph Deb! I definitely understand your explanation. I was given a summer art class for a birthday present one year. I kept a couple of the chalk drawings on my closet door as a kid but I was never happy with what I did. And like you later fell in love with the digital options of digital camera photography.

    • Right Brain February 5, 2013 at 7:59 pm #

      🙂 Yes, I kept most of my finished drawings for decades – even that clump of birch trees! But I find I can do so much more combining photography, drawing and software.

      Thanks for your kind words, Patricia!

  2. Right Brain February 18, 2013 at 6:47 pm #

    My niece got the poster last week and loves it. I like the matte paper; it’s nice and heavy and smooth although I had expected it to have some texture to it.

    I can’t wait to see it up on the wall!

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