From digital to tangible

Digital drawing software can be a great tool, allowing an artist to produce and edit work in a way that has transformed the capabilities of a freelance creative.

But it’s not all gravy…

Working digitally has taken away the tactile interaction with one’s work, acting as a buffer between hand and art. This can be frustrating and create a sense of disassociation. Bits of kit are available that help to reduce this boundary, allowing the user to manipulate pixels and vectors with a tablet by mimicking the motions of hand drawing but it’s not that same as the intimate process of getting down-and-dirty with a clump of clay or paintbrush. Regardless of the cuts, grazes and splinters, there is something that is missing from digital techniques that can be quite rewarding when working with your hands.

In this blog post, I will briefly document the production of my ‘Monkey Balls’ illustration (on display in the ‘Monkey Room’ at the Mile End Climbing Wall – London) as a way to engage with a piece that was exclusively conceived in the computer.

Having saved up my pocket money, I finally invested in a new display graphics tablet. This would effectively mean that I could forsake hand sketching and explore my forms within the digital domain of a computer. One of the first projects to implement this new tool was a character illustration called ‘Monkey Balls’.

A simple composition, it was an opportunity to explore the limitations of an exclusively digital process. Using rasters to accurately capture my hand expression, and vectors to neatly translate the sketch into fluid strokes, the results were pretty good for a practice run, but there was still something missing from the whole process.

A lack of satisfaction that can only really be accomplished with a tangible result of one’s endeavours that signifies all is complete.

Requiring the illustration for display meant that I would have an opportunity to bridge this gap.

Emerges into the world for the first time

Emerges into the world

With the final illustration complete in its digital form, there was very little prep required. Planning to stretch a canvas, the addition of a 50mm bleed was all that was needed before we were ready to go to production.

Slowly but satisfyingly, the illustration emerged into existence.

Ready to rock

Ready to rock

Now with something real to manipulate, I would have to ensure that my artwork would be robust and presentable. A UV/water resilience layer was applied with a paint brush to protect the surface of the canvas and reduce the effects of prolonged exposure to light.

Cutting the canvas

Cutting the canvas

Once the surface was dry and cropped to size, it was onto the fiddly process of stretching the canvas. This would involve constructing the frame and ensuring all angles were perpendicular. Systematically folding all the edges in a discrete and tidy fashion would finish the canvas.

Relatively straight forward for a dexterous pair of hands; this was an effort well rewarded creating a slick and professional piece of artwork.

Constructing the frame

Constructing the frame

With a creative process, largely geared towards digitally finished illustration, it is often possible to work from start-to-finish on a project without physically touching the image once. Not exclusively replaced, hand sketching is often overlooked for digital sketching as it makes editing easier without the continuous bouncing between drawing board and scanner but this convenience can be a source of isolation. Even when all is done-and-dusted, it can be quite frustrating to view your endeavours through a screen.

I love to work with my hands, and sometimes there is nothing more satisfying then to realise the fruits of one’s labours in the physical world, beyond the one’s and zero’s of a hard drive.

On display in the 'Monkey Room'

On display in the ‘Monkey Room’