Digital vs Traditional



  • This topic is one that I'm sure is discussed a lot among illustrators. However, I wanted to get opinions on what this group thinks, and hopefully get some insight from some of the instructors.

    I was at the library today to see if I could check out some children's books as illustration studies/references. I asked the librarian for some recommendations and during our conversation, she said that she prefers traditionally done illustrations over the "computer stuff". I asked her for examples of the "computer stuff" without telling her that I am trying to learn how to illustrate digitally (I didn't want her to sugarcoat her answer). She pulled book after book off the shelf of traditionally illustrated books, but unfortunately wasn't able to show me a good example of the "computer stuff".While she didn't give me a clear explanation of why she preferred traditional over digital, her statement got me thinking...

    I kind of understand her preference - In general, traditional artwork seems to have this feeling of craftsmanship that is different from a digitally created piece. I almost want to say that it's easier to capture a certain sense of warmth and life via traditional mediums. I'm sure this is a reason why many digital artists strive to illustrate in a way that feels organic.

    So my question is...from a strictly aesthetic point of view does traditional artwork win over digital artwork in the eyes of publishers? I don't think the audience (children and parents) really puts too much thought into how a book was illustrated, but they aren't the ones selecting who gets to illustrate a book (although in the bigger scheme of things, they really are the ones doing the selecting by their wallet). Is there any evidence that art directors favor portfolios with traditional work over portfolios filled with digital work? The answer to this won't deter me from working digitally. But it might give me some insight into how I can improve my current work.



  • Very tricky Shinji very tricky one haha. I have to say I love the idea of combining traditional and digital to trick people and playing with their mind >.>. I am not judging the liberian you were flirting with (kidding) but I know some people who think digital is a way to get thing done quickly (misunderstanding) while some think that digital kind of lack of "soul". I believe it's all personal preference. Sadly I can't answer your question about the eyes of Publishers which I am curious about what others have to say. Thanks for bringing up this topic!



  • Hahahahaha, I totally laughed at your "flirting" statement. I'm pretty sure that that particular librarian was old enough to be my grandmother! (Nothing against grandmothers!)



  • Great Topic, thanks, Shinji, for bringing this up. :-)
    What I find interesting about the digital - traditional discussion is, that with the new hardware and software sometimes the readers and viewers cannot really judge anymore what is digital and what not. But I guess they call everything traditional, what looks traditional. I guess, for this discussion we should be clear how we define "traditional": Traditionally done or looking traditionally. My interpretation is that the librarian means the second one.
    By the way, I have heard this statement about prefering traditional many times, so it is definintely something, one should think about! Thanks again for this discussion.



  • When I am working traditionally, I always feel a lot more connected to the piece and there's a romanticism of feeling lead crumble off the pen and affix to the paper, or mixing your own paint and getting the smells and senses of attached to that, but at the end of the day I do full digital pieces far more than I complete full traditional ones.

    I still prefer sketching traditionally and getting smaller details from expressions and stuff because for me (I know this doesn't apple to everyone), the feel isn't there for me yet and isn't anywhere close. I use a Cintiq and even with the different nibs I've tried, I just can't get the tooth I like.

    The people I've spoke to that have tried the iPad Pro all say that it feels nice to draw with. I guess only time will tell, but I'll be pre-ordering one next week. I'm hoping that I get used to and grow to like the feel of it, then it can just be my digital sketchbook that I take everywhere with me and I can do all my character design work, thumbnailing and even painting now Procreate have increased their canvas size to 8192 px x 8192 px. That way I can work from a bean bag, a coffee shop or on top of a volcano.

    I'll make some videos on the iPad Pro on how it feels and performs when I get it if you'd be interested?

    Cheers,
    Ace

    Ace



  • I really like using both. I find a blank screen much more intimidating than a blank sheet of paper. I love drawing out the base image, then rendering it in photoshop :) I think the digital images i have tried without that first step have failed miserably. I've noticed it is getting harder and harder to tell traditional and digital apart.

    I think everyone should work traditionally before even thinking about digital though. I think it's the Jim Madsen video where he talks about committing to a line. In digital, you can undo undo undo, whereas in traditional that isn't always an option. I think it makes you a bit more confident in your work, and you learn more on how to adapt to mistakes lol. Inktober has helped even more with that...!#@$ unforgiving ink!!



  • Here's my bias: I love, love, love the look of traditional, with all the imperfections and irregularity. And I have no experience with Publishers.

    But imo, if one can develop the artwork digitally to look like it was done traditionally, I suspect the publishers (and artist) would come to appreciate the digital medium more. It might go without saying, but one has to ask: Which format would you rather be making changes?

    The good thing is that digital is obviously easier to change. The bad thing is that digital is easier to change. The publishers know that.



  • I think that both work. Digital is looking more traditional now where I think that many people might think of rollie polie olie as what digital looks like. I think digital can be more tricky because if you are sloppy it is more noticeable and if you make your images too render-y it looks very digital. I think the main thing is to do good your best work in whatever medium you choose. A publisher wouldn't throw out a chance to work with a great digital illustrator or traditional illustrator.



  • Just came across Will's latest video just now, and I have to post this. He made a good point on digital and traditional work at 27:28. Follow him and check his channel out.
    Here the video https://youtu.be/J3KMT4BrRWM


  • administrators

    I've never had a client ever say anything about preferring one over the other. This is a dated idea that a few people still have left over from when all digital artwork looked like it was airbrushed and had gradients everywhere. I wouldn't put any stock in it now...



  • I suspect that what your librarian meant to describe was, ‘I don’t like that airbrushy look’. I think that in general people are attracted to an organic, natural, ‘real life’ feel to a piece of art, that creates a connection, and these days digital can do that just as well as traditional, it’s just that normal non-artists don’t always know that because it can be hard to tell the difference.

    Recently I’ve looked back at illustrators who I thought were traditional…then I looked closer at the way the textures overlaid each other and thought ‘aha! I think that is actually DIGITAL coloured pencil! That’s how they did it!’ I could only tell the difference once I had got better with digital myself.

    One last thought…I see a lot of average digital work making it into published children’s books, but I never see any bad traditional art getting published. Maybe that’s because I have a lot of books for young children which favour bright flattish colours, or maybe the novelty of the texture combinations won over the publisher…or maybe I just remember the ones that are digital because the airbrushy style stands out easily.



  • @Lee-White That is a relief to hear. I think because she was a librarian and was around children's books a lot, I (unreasonably) started to worry about what she said.



  • @Naroth-Kean Yeah, I had watched that video a while back, and then I watched it again last night to hear what Will's thoughts on it were. He touched a lot on the publishers preferring digital because of the convenience of it. But I was curious to know a little more about the argument from an aesthetic viewpoint. One thing that is mentioned in the video that I totally agree with is that "Image is always king".



  • Agree with what @Dulcie and @Lee-White said.
    When I read your first post my immediate thought was: she doesn't know what digital is (she assumes it's the airbrush/gradient style).

    I suppose there ARE people who like that style but I don't think I could name any. One of my goals is to get good enough with digital that it looks like traditional. There are many examples of artists that can do that so it is definitely possible. Then you have the best of both worlds!



  • @mattramsey That's what I was thinking as well...that maybe she isn't really aware of what digital illustrations are like nowadays. But I didn't want to get into an argument about books with a librarian...

    Btw, watched Will Terry's new vid. It was as if he answered this question because he talks about how in general, it'll be easier to find work if you're able to work digitally (all things being equal) because publishers prefer to work that way. So digital it is. But I do plan to try my hand at traditional mediums sometime down the road, just to fulfill my own creative itch.



  • Awesome topic! I love thinking this one over.

    Every time I come back to it, I have to say I'm "adding digital to my artistic toolbox." I'm not a die-hard traditional artist or tempted to think digital only -- it really depends on what I'm doing. If I'm doing a commissioned piece for someone's home, it's traditional. Other things might be digital.* Artists can be versatile, I don't think we have to "marry" one method or the other. They even combine beautifully in one piece!

    *Still learning digital painting. Just on the "editing" level for the moment. ;)



  • I think that the librarians inability to point out illustrations created digitally shows to some degree her inexperience in judging the difference between the two. And actually now there are more programs out there that allow you to mimic any medium. Will Terry has a super YouTube video out called, "Traditional or Digital Art? Ready fight! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uECsz33kTHk. And another great children's book artist that went from traditional to exclusively digital now is Christopher Denise. He also talks about this in an interview where he explains that he can work so much faster. It used to take him 6 months to illustrate a book, but now he can produce one in less than half that time! if you intend to work in illustration, I think it's important to think about how you can produce work the fastest in order to make a living. There is a new program out there that amazingly mimics watercolor and gouache perfectly called 'Rebelle' created by Escape Motions. And many people love sketching in Sketchbook Pro which you can get for as little as $2.99 a month. You can even do animations in it. And remember, you can always do both! But do watch Will's video for a great rundown on the two. And on SVSlearn.com he does a great video called 'Mixed Media'. He also did a great one on "Digital Pencils". Enjoy!



  • @Carey-Bowden Carey...I really love your illustrations! And blog. I can't wait (soon) to read it all. Awesome, awesome work!



  • @Edie-Ostrowski Wow, thank you so much! That's very kind of you. I checked your SVS profile and I see you recently joined the forums. Do you have a website/blog/online gallery? I'd love to see your work!



  • @Naroth-Kean and @Edie-Ostrowski Thanks for posting those Will Terry video links. It resonated with me when he drew the diagram about the four stages of being an artist...I used to think I was pretty good because, like hey I can draw cats and stuff!....now I think 'Oh I have SO much to learn' and I have a list as long as my arm of all the things I need to improve on...


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