Pixels Over Paint - in Defence of Digital Art

Updated: May 7, 2019

by Giselle Pe



Muse, muse, muse! Articles, interviews, opinions, controversy, podcasts – the blog is just overflowing with talent. Perhaps most notable is the wonderful muddle of poetry on this site. I have always envied poets – their ability to twist words into an elaborate form: rhyme, rhythm and all. Alas, no matter how much I seem to practise, my poetry always seems to go from a random assortment of letters to… an even more jumbled assortment of letters. I am the Quality Street among the talented After Eights of the other Hurtwood poets. Maybe words are just not my thing. (My brain is overheating as I write this.)


This is where I introduce you to my art. It lies not in my stupid, lost sense of alphabet, but in the world of digital illustration.


“What?” you ask yourself, “So… like, graphic design?”


“Not necessarily, y/n,” I reply, beginning to levitate from my sheer power of knowledge on digital illustration. “I will now enlighten you.” (Or something like that.) I pull a device out of the pockets of my sentient clothing and type in the two fated words. I clear my throat and the theatrical background music that you never noticed grows increasingly dramatic.


According to every millennial’s best friend, Google, digital illustration is “the use of digital tools to produce images under the direct manipulation of the artist, usually through a pointing device such as a tablet or a mouse”, to which I say B-----ks! Who the hell uses a mouse to draw on the computer other than eleven-year-olds on DeviantArt?


Here’s my take – Digital illustration is whatever you want it to be. To me, it’s painting with the addition of the superhuman power of time travel - Ctrl+Z. Digital art is grossly misunderstood. When I show people my art, they often say something along the lines of “Whoa! That’s really cool!”, and then ask if “the computer did it” and to see my “proper art”. In the scheme of things, computers, and therefore digital art, is relatively new. And new things are unfamiliar and uncertain.


Yes, digital art is “real art”. Like any other sort of art, it takes time and skill. If you ask me (which you probably won’t), talent is just passion plus a lot of time and effort. People always tell me they wish they could draw like me, and I always tell them I sold my soul to draw, because that’s what all the hours of gripping a stylus excessively hard felt like. My old art was absolute rubbish – beyond awful – but I wouldn’t change it for anything. I call it all productive failure.


Digital painting, at its most basic form, is made of three elements: line, colour and cool-but-unnecessary special effects (often used in excess). When I started out I would begin with a sketch, neatly trace over it, and then add colour and shading – each on a separate layer. This is standard anime art practice, I, at 13 years old, was of course a so-called “otaku”. (Unfortunate, I know.)


Nowadays, my approach is very different. I moved away from the bold, graphic style of heavy black lines over bright colour, and instead gravitated towards a more painterly, textured style. Below is a general idea of how I paint now. This piece was done as part of a transcription of Aykut Aydgodu’s work for my A Level Art:



I start out with basic base colour and shapes before sketching out the form. After lowering the opacity of the linework, I clean up as much mess as possible and start some block-shading. At this point it looks pretty rubbish, and I usually have a bit of a cry before continuing to blindly work on it. Everything from here is blending and refining, removing unnecessary lines and adding in details. I finish it all off by fiddling with the curves, hue and contrast of the whole piece. In true artist spirit, I almost immediately start picking out minute flaws in the piece and beating myself up for not being talented enough. Creatives are stupid: our uniting feature is a strong sense of self-doubt (but that’s something for another time).


Below is some more of my work. I tend to be highly conceptual – each painting has a specific meaning behind it, and every single element has a purpose (even the unintentional bits). Giving away my meanings to my work would be, well, meaningless. I’m be annoyingly post-modern and let you create your own meanings to my work (pretentious, I know). However, my guilty pleasure, is, admittedly, video game fan art. These drawings are totally and utterly meaningless, and I love them. (Gotta draw them all, am I right, gamers?)


Apart [2018]


MaryV Benoit [2018]


Mimi – Penumbra [2019]


Suicune [2018]



Hayley Williams [2018]



If you’re interested, here are some of my biggest inspirations. It ranges from super-illustrative line-heavy art, to semi-realistic surrealism.


Sachin Teng




Aykut Aydoğdu




Sarah Lasater




Ross Tran




Sara Tepes




Janice Sung