Fan Art Fun: Losing My Digital Art Virginity To A Vulcan

September 30, 2010

I think I’ve mentioned in the past that I’m more of a traditional artist; it just doesn’t feel right if my fingers aren’t stained with paint, ink, charcoal or what-have-you by the end of the day. I’ve involved computers in my art before, but only in very limited ways — tweaking, cleaning up lines, or doing the odd coloring job, etc. — and only after I’ve completed a piece by hand and scanned it in. But last week, I had a conversation with Rowan that made me consider seriously taking the plunge into digital art.

I’ve always envied what digital illustrators can do and had wanted to try it for myself, but I’ve put it off because I am a complete moron with these art-oriented software programs and I was also always too busy. But earlier this week, I promised myself I was going to suck it up and do some research. I got a friend of mine to hook me up with Corel Painter 11 and maybe this weekend I’ll go to the bookstore to buy some tutorials on the subject.

I can’t ever hold myself back from fiddling with a new application though, so in the meantime I decided set up a small canvas to play around a bit, test things out a little on the Wacom tablet. Well, what started as just a short test resulted in this. I sometimes like to draw my MMO characters whenever I practice with a new medium, so yes, that’s T’Androma, my main from Star Trek Online.

There you go, my first ever attempt at a piece of art created 100% completely on a computer. My first small step into the world of digital drawing!

Thoughts for my Art Journal: It was pretty awkward and the results weren’t exactly as I wanted. Because I didn’t know any better, I did the entire thing on a “pencil” setting; otherwise, I hadn’t intended the lines to look so harsh in the hair, the shirt, etc. There were so many other effects and things I wanted to do to get the look I wanted, and even after several (fruitless) web searches I still had not a flipping clue where any of the myriad options were or how anything worked. I am utterly hopeless when it comes to all this technical stuff. The ironic thing is that even with all these possibilities within my grasp, I’ve never felt so powerless when doing art before. That’s where the tutorials will come in handy, I’m sure.

I was also limited by a stubborn part of me that still wanted to treat the whole thing like a traditional drawing, just putting down lines and shapes onto the blank space I was given, not bothering with layers or any other features that I’m sure would have made my life easier. Old habits die hard, I guess.

It certainly felt weird working completely on the tablet. Some things were similar, others completely different. The stylus is designed to be very sensitive to my every movement, but compared to holding an actual pencil or paintbrush, it still felt infuriatingly clumsy. The whole experience also felt “sterile” to me, something I can’t really explain. I found a lot of things I liked, though. If this were painting, digital art would save me the trouble of mixing my own colors, which always takes a lot of work to get just right when you’re doing it manually with actual paints. I also loved being able to move my hands all over the surface without worrying about smudging anything. And finally, fixing any mistakes is a cinch. Though every time I erased something, I would get this urge to blow on the surface of the tablet.

Regardless, clueless as I was, I’m glad I took the time to play with it. Being mostly self-taught, this was just another learning experience to see if I could problem-solve my way out of obstacles. I can hardly wait to get a book so I find my way around Corel Painter to access more tools, and practice with bigger canvases, wider shots, full bodies and environments.


  1. Looks pretty good to me, looks fantastic for a first effort in a new medium. As always, I’m jealous of your talent.

  2. Very impressive. Especially considering your inexperience with the digital medium and your expressed discomfort. I don’t have the expertise to judge the lines and such. But I think it is great.

  3. So were you working from a reference picture or you imagination?

    Also, have you considered doing initial sketches on paper and then scan it in to do the rest? Might help with that sterile feeling. I often like to write long hand for similar reasons, and even use a fountain pen. The tools you use definitely have an effect on the creative experience.

    • I did a mixture of both. I drew the face from imagination, but used a screenshot of T’Andy as reference so I could be sure to get her features right. I also referenced photos that showed similar poses, just to get an idea of how the lighting and shadows would look.

      Before I started, I did consider doing the sketches on paper first. I ended up not doing that because I wanted to see what it would be like to do it completely digitally without relying on any traditional methods. As it turns out, the sketching/drafting capabilities on the tablet were pretty good! Though you make a good point, about how that could have contributed to the sterile feeling. I didn’t even think of that, and you’re right, even in writing the tools you use can affect the overall result, which is another thing that’s never occurred to me until you pointed it out.

  4. That is a super awesome picture. You are not only a gifted writer, you are extraordinarily gifted digital artist.

  5. Excellent! If only my final drafts were as good as your initial efforts 😀

  6. it turned out excellent, especially considering its your first go. you were just talking about working on this yesterday no? impressive.

    • Yeah, I started on this yesterday. It’s a relatively small canvas too, but it such took a long time! I guess not surprising, considering 😛

  7. Have to echo others, for a first try with the medium that is pretty astounding.

  8. Wow, I love it. It’s so much better than alot of the artwork down in some of the graphic novels I read. I really want to break down and buy Corel now. The only thing close I’ve been doing is messing with Toondoo to make my own comic characters.
    Do you use a mouse or digital pen?

    • I’m using a digital pen, which is good because I don’t think I could ever get such control with a mouse 😛 And Corel Painter is amazing, even though I hardly know how to use it, I’m still very impressed especially with how it handled my pen strokes. It’s a very expensive program though, I was lucky enough to get it through an artist friend.

  9. Lovely! As always, your work is stunning 🙂

  10. Thank you everyone, your comments are all very encouraging 🙂 I’ll keep working at it, and maybe keep posting more stuff in the future to see how I progress.

  11. Looks great! I went to school for digital design and I still like getting my hands dirty better so I know how you feel. As someone else suggested I’d scan in a contour drawing and ink it on the computer.

    • Ah cool, I’ve never been to art school, i mostly always just fiddled around on my own so traditional art materials were just more accessible to me growing up. I didn’t get my own computer let alone art programs until I was in my late teens, so those preferences for working with traditional media were ingrained in after all those years.

  12. Egads, I had no idea you were so talented! Lovely piece of artwork. Kinda reminds me of the illustrations used on the WARS TCG from Decipher a few years ago.

    • Wow thanks for the great compliment! Often when i paint I am actually inspired by a lot of TCG art! 🙂

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