New adventures in digital painting: artists who are transforming brushworked art

Over the years, painting packages such as ArtRage and Corel Painter have developed into powerful tools and attracted a dedicated following

Tom Bagshaw –Canvas to pixels

“I never touched a computer until about ten years ago,” says Bath-based artist Tom Bagshaw. “Up until that point I was still very much a traditional artist – set in my ways with acrylic, pen, pencil and airbrush.”

Then he encountered Painter and Wacom tablets. “That change my whole outlook on using computers in your workflow,” he says. “It allowed me to create work in a familiar way while cutting out the mess, shortening the time-span and easing delivery to clients.”

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The graphics tablet is key, he says: “You can kind of get away with not using one for some types of work but for painting it’s such an intuitive way of working that if it didn’t exist, I just wouldn’t be working digitally.”

Tom divides his work into two categories: ‘pure’ digital paintings, created almost entirely in Painter and others with painted elements but more graphic elements. However, he’ll also dip into ArtRage, Illustrator and 3D software “when the need arises”.

In his pure digital paintings, the Gothic colour schemes and solemn poses of his exquisite, sensual portraits are undercut with wit. Flashes of colour and extremely contemporary character design sometimes make it seem as though toys have escaped from a Japanese toyshop and are hiding out in a collection of Victorian photographs.

“My favourite tool in Painter is the oil brushes,” says Tom. “Painter’s brushes are quite amazing and I have a lot of custom brushes that I employ, but I do come back to a small selection of oil brushes which I’ve saved with quite minimal custom settings and use them for pretty much everything I do.”

His mastery of digital brushes is indisputable, but he’s currently contemplating experimenting with older forms again. “I hadn’t even touched a paintbrush since I started working digitally,” he says, “but I created a traditional painting for my solo show recently and I’m looking at getting back into it again.”

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Step by step: how Tom Bagshaw composes a painting

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Working from a base sketch, Tom blocked out the basic face in ArtRage and worked up the fine details using the oil brushes in Painter. Then he painstakingly painted in the hair using layer masks and brush strokes in Photoshop, before layering gossamer-fine textures and brush strokes, set within more layer masks, for the clothing, all still in Photoshop.

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