Digital Touch Ups
I've long had a resistance toward digitally altering any pieces I create by hand. Call me Walter Benjamin, but I was concerned that the essence, or the aura, of my work would change when put under the pressures of pixelation. It long stuck in my mind that to rely on technology, as opposed to my own hand, was a form of 'cheating'. Maybe I'm a purist; one of those who stands in their own way by digging their heels in and stubbornly siding with ideas related to the birth of a practice. Or maybe I'm a Luddite, uninterested in the potential of digital advent when a pencil or a brush has been more than enough in the past. Whatever the case, I've been trying to get over myself.
I started this blog recently, at the same time I started selling my work online. This inevitably comes with the necessity to prepare files for print, to digitise and alter them so the recreations can approximate their parent originals. The colours are often terrible when first configured into the correct colour spaces for printing. The boundaries of paintings, I found, are terribly difficult to line up exactly with the boundaries of the camera lens, meaning no matter how hard I try, I'll still need to crop and alter the outer edges of my image. I was okay with these minute changes, those that in my mind made the digital reproduction a more accurate representation of my physical work. My goal was still to maintain the very same essence of the piece I'd laboured over by hand for hours, weeks or months.
But the more work I digitised, the more I found that not every piece makes the transition gracefully with only a few minor edits. A series of white gel pen drawings I'd done on black paper, which I was happy with but knew had their flaws, looked shockingly bad through the glass of my computer display. Every error, every inconsistency was blown up so that I could not ignore them. If it looked this bad on the screen, it was only going to look worse on a print twice its size.
Scanned drawing, no retouching. Spots on the paper, eraser marks, and inconsistencies in the line work are prominent.
So I accepted the undeniable reality: the time for digital alteration was upon me.
When I began playing with rounding out the lines and filling in the spaces that made them look chunky, I still tried to maintain that same hand drawn feel. I corrected the lines, but not "too much". I tried not to erase, only to fill in spots. I even chose a tool that was rough edged and asymmetrical so as to limit my ability to make the piece "too perfect".
Left: screenshot comparing a filled in line with the original scanned line, attempting to keep a hand-drawn feel. Right: screenshot of the same section once I decided to go all out with cleaning up the lines.
I won't admit how many hours I spent trying to correct my first piece this way, only because I now have to go back and re do all that work. I don't want to think about it.
Full view of the piece in the midst of the touch-up process.
I took a break from the first piece. It's large, and fills a lot more of the page. I went on to work on a smaller drawing, which is probably my favorite from the series: a dot-work lavender top.
I started in on this one in exactly the same way, rejecting smooth lines and desperately trying to maintain an aura that was already destroyed anyway. But as I got into it, I decided to give myself the freedom to experiment. I chose a different brush tool (shocking) and continued on. And as my lines became smoother, bolder, and more even, I loved my work more and more. By the time I came to the end of the line work, I wasn't satisfied. I went over all the dots, evening them out and rounding their edges. I tried to stop there, but found that I wanted to arrange them more cohesively. So I erased my original points (gasp!) and redrew them. Finally, I removed the frame from my original piece and re ce
ntered the flower.
Progression of Dot-work Lavender from original scan to final retouched image.
The end result is a piece that, to my eyes, looks as though it could be a digital native. And though it is not the hand drawing I started out with, it is still my work, my design, and my craft. And to be honest, I love it far more than I ever did the original.
Screw the aura.
A satisfying process video.