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Beyond the canvas


Creating & digitalising artwork

Updated: Feb 7, 2021

2021 and we are still in lockdown and it looks as if it will remain the status quo for the next few months. In my last blog, I wrote about how creating has helped me get through this time. Usually my day would be jam packed with work and then carting the kids off to all the sports, the training and events but with the sports being virtually absent, I have been trying to utilise this time and dedicate it to creating. At the start of 2021, I have been focusing on birds and botanicals and things in nature that can be both calming and hopeful. I did a lot of research into botanicals for the pieces and learnt about the growth cycles of fruit, their leaves and the development from flower to fruit. That was the fun bit but this was followed by the tedious and arduous task of learning how to use photoshop and procreate in order to digitise the artwork, making it print ready which was the least fun part. I had to watch so many tutorials online and still none the wiser because I had no prior experience in it at all. In fact, I had never used photoshop previously to enhance or optimise regular snaps let alone photographs of my work.

At the beginning, it was such a minefield that I thought I would have to put an ad out to hire graphic designers to do it for me but with perseverance and a little help from my 11year old (tech savvy) son, I finally managed to understand the layering process on photoshop and procreate on the iPad and it was revolutionary.

When I first started drawing, I would take a photograph as best I could with my iPhone of my artwork. I followed the usual rules of trying to photograph in daylight but regardless, there was always an unwanted light gradient on the photo which would always show up on the print as well as all the unwanted watermarks, the pencil lines and shadows from the texture of the paper. Initially, I insisted on keeping the images untouched as I wanted it to appear as organic and raw in appearance and I felt somewhat fraudulent in making tweaks but then, I discovered the importance of digitising the artwork and it made a phenomenal difference to the quality when printing the work. I did not want to dramatically change my artwork because I actually loved the end result using the traditional methods. It was mainly because I wanted to keep my originals and reproduce the work so that they were print ready and I learnt that digitising my work for this was absolutely crucial.

The digitising of the artwork is the most boring and time consuming part of the process. It all starts with taking an image of the artwork and I have learnt that scanning is generally better than taking photos. The only issue with scanning is that sometimes the colour isn't exactly how it looks and often it can pick up the ripples in the paper. Putting heavy items on top of the scanner to make it as flat as possible helps. Next is to take this file and making the minor adjustments, which is usually making the background as uniform as possible to reduce shadows and gradients. Occasionally, I feel like I have to enhance the colours and sharpen the image because they are lost during the scanning process which can be lost further during the printing process. To demonstrate, I have put these images of the lemons to show how digitally editing can transform the colour and texture of images. The first is a raw scanned image and the second is a digitised piece. It’s no surprise really, in a world of selfies and filters, it makes perfect sense to apply that to photos of art too. There are other masses of benefits of digitising the work especially watercolours which have a tendency to fade in pigment over time. Recently, I have started to also explore pattern design for surfaces like ceramics and fabrics and rather than starting from scratch, I have learnt that I can mix some of my existing pieces to create new prints. Some artists choose to do all their work on procreate using digital substitutes for traditional methods and their creations are phenomenal but I personally feel no joy in it but I totally advocate the use of digitising artwork and transforming it as it opens a whole new realm of creativity.

In March, I am looking to launch my online shop with my painted and illustrated designs on everyday products and this wouldn't have been possible without digitally editing them as the prints would have been substandard. Its difficult enough in this crowded market to be noticed and to stand out as an artist without worrying about sub optimal work. I am all for creating something beautiful with a little digital help.

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