EBSQ’s Mark Satchwill has long been known for his watercolor paintings, particularly his portraits of amazing accuracy and depth. Over the last year, Mark has taken those skills and applied them digital painting. I had a virtual sit-down with Mark to discuss this transition, his challenges and passion.
There were a few factors involved. One was simple curiosity – I was seeing a lot of digital art around and wanted to try it. I was also doing regular illustration work and had ended up with a big pile of drawings that were just taking up space – I figured if I began to do that work digitally it would save on space and materials! I also felt I needed a new challenge, something new to learn. So, I bought a drawing tablet and then did some research to decide which art software to buy (I bought Painter, ArtRage and Manga Studio), then set about learning to use them!
What have you found most challenging when working in digital?
I think the hardest thing was learning to use a tablet and pen. It’s almost like learning to draw again, as instead of looking down at your hand on the paper as you draw you, your hand is drawing on the tablet and you are looking at what you’re drawing on the screen – so there is a disconnection that takes some getting used to. I think the other challenge is to retain your own artistic personality and style. So much digital art has a rather generic look to it, it’s lacking that stamp of personality that traditional has but I think coming to digital with good traditional skills makes a big difference in your approach.
For you, what is the biggest difference when using digital vs. traditional tools?
I think it’s the freedom digital allows. As I don’t have to think about buying new materials or wasting materials I can be free to be more experimental. I’m free do much larger work as I don’t have to worry about space. Thanks to working with layers if I paint something and it doesn’t work or I mess it up I can just delete it rather than have to start the whole image again from scratch. And there’s no mess or tools to clean up!
Have you encountered any issues selling digital art compared to traditional?
Yes. I think there are a couple of reasons. One is that if you purchase a digital artwork you purchase it as a file or a print, so that feeling of buying a physical object that someone has created isn’t there. I think people will gradually come around to the idea though. The other reason, relating to my own work, is that people have got to know me for traditional watercolour work and are less receptive to my digital work. I think there is mistrust from many traditional artists about digital – they think that it’s trickery and that it’s somehow easier and needs less skills, that it’s sort of cheating. Of course there are tools that can be used to cut corners if you want to but if you don’t have the basic traditional skills they will only take you so far. Ultimately digital is just another medium and it’s the end result itself which is most important. I’ve barely scratched the surface of what’s possible and I’m loving working digitally. It doesn’t mean I will totally give up working traditionally – there is plenty of room for both!