A few thoughts on digitally painting over photographs

Yep, this looks pretty different than my regular stuff huh? But it’s not that far off from my photography. Hmmm. Well, in order to learn the new bristle brushes in Photoshop CS5 I decided to just try painting over a photograph of my daughter.  As I was painting and experimenting with the brushes I had a few thoughts. Click MORE to read my ramblings  if’n you want.

Is digital painting over a photograph, art? That was one thought I had as I was doing this. In general I don’t feel comfortable defining what is and isn’t art (especially the isn’t part), but yep, I’d have to say, sure, this is art.

Was this fun to do? It really was. Although, if I hadn’t taken the photograph, I don’t think it would have been nearly as enjoyable. And for me, it’s still not as enjoyable or as satisfying as doing the drawing as well as the painting. Digitally painting over a photograph does show the hand of the artist; in the brush strokes, in the color choices, etc.  But it also lacks the distortions and interpretations that my individual brain makes in defining the forms. It’s less personal and human I guess.

To me it feels a little like motion capture animation. With motion capture you still have visual artists defining the lighting, the texturing, the modeling, etc., but the actual motion is being driven by physical actors. I’m not saying that’s bad at all, it’s just different. So, painting over a photograph is missing me as an artist defining a very important element, the basic forms. The forms are defined by the photographer. An actor is an artist, and so is a photographer.  But motion capture and photography are both more direct external representations of the real world, being integrated into a final artistic expression.

So, what does all that mean? Beats me. I’ll probably do more digitally painting over my photos, it’s fun and it can be done really quickly.  But it won’t be replacing drawing and painting my own stuff any time soon.

Blog Comments

This is veeery cool. Love the color choices. I’ve tried cs5 but it runs like sludge. Did you get the same problem?

It’s been a while since I’ve commented on here, but it caught my attention.

Defining what is and isn’t art feels like such an uphill battle sometime, but I think the definition you’ve provided in analyzing your own work is a practical one. I’m still not a big fan of mo-cap though, at least not as a primary form of movement. For something like Smeagol in Lord of the Rings, the motion capture did them a wonderful service, allowing them to create a 3D creature and have it interact as realistically as a real actor. The actor behind the motion capture is actually acting. Motion capture is gaining huge momentum in the games industry though, and I’m not convinced it’s the best course of action. Often times when I see the tech pitched in the context of games, words like ‘quicker’, ‘easier’, and ‘faster’ show up, and to me, those all read ‘lazy’, and it shows. I know I’ve shown (only to find you’ve seen them) you the “Meet the Team” videos from Valve Software’s Team Fortress 2… phenomenal, and I’m certain that the only way those intimate details in facial expressions and gesture subtlety is through a gifted character animator.

Thanks JP. CS5 is running like a dream on my machine. I’ve got a newish video card in it, and I think that helps a ton, a lot its performance seems to be tied to using the GPU.

Josh, hey man! Long time! I totally get what you’re saying about motion capture. I agree, it’s all in how and where it’s used. It’s also completely over used for expediency’s sake. It’s also often paired with an uncanny valley visual style, which I find quite off putting.

So, what’s the verdict? CS5 brushes thumbs up? Thumbs down?

Cuttin’ to the chase eh? Ha! Typical Ludwick. 🙂 Well I give them a big ol’ thumbs up. Will they replace Painter? Hmmm, for some stuff, yes. Particularly the natural oils in Painter. But Painter still has a whole lotta other stuff, and Photoshop still doesn’t have the equivalent of the impasto effect which I really like. Yeah, you can fake it with the emboss filters and layers, but it’s just not as good. But over all I have to say, the new bristle brushes in pshop are really very nice.

this looks great Bryan! So much different from your doodle style. I’d love to see you do one of Figbert and his muddy face like this.

Very cool looking. I’ve experimented with Photoshop brushes, it is cool but definitely not as great as Sketchpad.

Oh I LOVE it! Beautiful painting, I love the strokes and colors. Van Gogh-feeling. 🙂

Thanks C, M and M. Yeah, I’ll have to try some more of these, it’s fun.

Hey can you please tell which brushes you had used in this painting?

Hi Ahsan, I just used the mixer brush tool in photoshop.

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