In my last post I boasted that an advantage of digital painting over traditional painting is I could knock out a swarm of bees in 15 minutes, but it could take days and days to do it with physical mediums. I did say it would take hours if I made more custom brushes, and I might have added, put the bees in color (the brushes are B&W).
I had to test my own metal and see if my foot was gonna’ be in my mouth. I made the cut, this time, and so you can trust a little more that I’m not completely full of shit.
To do this I first made 5 bee brushes. Initially I drew the bees in black (you have to make brushes in black). I drew them from references in 15 minutes, including finding and downloading the pics.
On the right are the reference pics I used. Just to the left are my quick sketches of them. All the bees on the left are just testing out the brushes. It took 15 minutes to fuss with the brush settings. That left a half hour if I wanted to do the whole thing in an hour.
For the background I used those quickie clouds from my last post. The challenge was just to create a swarm of bees, not a new background.
The final half hour was making the swarm, adding colors to the bees, and tinkering with the color overall. If this were art and not just an exercise, I’d go in and change little things on the bees so they don’t match, and fix their buggy anatomy. I was keeping it loose. One can always tinker indefinitely.
My point was that digital painting makes things possible that I wouldn’t consider doing with traditional mediums, and this opens a whole vista of new possible images to explore. Y’know, say I wanted to have a person being attacked by bees or wasps. Doable!
This also substantiates what I was saying in another recent post about why skill matters in art, namely that you can’t envision a wide range of new possible artworks if you are not yourself the maker. It’s not the fashion to make your own art in the contemporary conceptual art paradigm, but they like to tell themselves that nothing new is possible anyway, so you might as well hire some people to make a giant inflatable butt plug.
OK, my bees aren’t magnificent, but for knocking them out as fast as I did they kinda’ rock. Lastly, some people might still say it’s cheating, even if I drew the bees. However, traditional painters get up to all sorts of shortcuts, including using projectors, tracing paper, and so on. Y’know those super amazing pencil drawings people do of usually a woman, maybe covered in honey, or with delicate shadows cascading over her freckled face through lace? Just project the photo on a piece of paper on the wall and draw over it. Everyone will be blown away by how accurate it is!
Using physical means, one could easily take a few slides of bees and project them on a canvas at different sizes and trace them. You could use tracing paper, Xerox copies, and all sorts of little tricks that people have been using for decades. The main difference is the computer is leagues more efficient. Let’s not confuse efficiency with cheating.
One more thing. This isn’t how I normally work at all. I would tend to draw everything once and only once, which means each bee individually. I’m doing some tutorials and picking up tricks from the illustration community who need to do quick turn-around and realize whatever wacky idea someone else comes up with for a computer game or film. [Note: the bees weren’t a tutorial. I just got the idea from my last post.] Also, there are people who do this sort of thing better than I do, otherwise I wouldn’t be learning from them.
How I’ll apply this to my own art time will tell. I’m planning on doing close to 3 months more of just practice before returning to my own projects.
One thought on “Swarm of Bees in 60 Minutes: Digital Painting”
Very interesting, thank you for sharing your process!
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