Saturday, May 7, 2011


It's the first weekend in May and FINALLY spring has shown it's pretty face. I've started biking to my carpool everyday and am enjoying the fact that I can. 

So, what is "semi-digital" you may ask? It's a term that my Mom coined a few years back. When digital cameras came on the scene my whole family fell for the new technology. Everyone but my Mom. She loved her old camera, that used this strange film called advantix. She felt that since she received a CD with her pictures on it and that there was a digital photo counter on the back of the camera that it was practically digital. Or semi-digital. Eventually our family deemed it her "semi-dig" camera. As the years went by advantix film became scarce and fully digital cameras became the norm, Mom stayed true to her "semi-dig". We even bought her a nice new fancy digital one and she still found ways to use her old technology. It was always "Oh! Well, I just found these 5 rolls of film in a drawer at the cottage- I can't put them to waste! Once they are done I will retire the semi-dig". She must have stashed film all over the place because this went on for YEARS. In fact, the official "last photo" took place in November last year. It was momentous to her, and a LONG time coming for the rest of the family. I am happy to say that she hasn't looked back. and she hasn't found more film. Technology 1, Mom 0. Actually I'd say it's win-win. 

As much as I made fun of my Mom for holding on to the past and not giving in to the latest and greatest I have to say that I do the same thing. It actually applies to my illustration work in a big way. When I graduated from college I created my illustrations 100% traditionally. In fact, I didn't even have a scanner at the time so in some cases I would hand deliver original work to art directors. More or less, this is the way that I worked for the first four years of my career. In 2008 I started using photoshop and illustrator not just to enhance and correct my art, but also to pretty much create it. I found that it saved time on all sides of the process, and the final product looked cleaner and brighter. I could pick and chose colours, and if I made a mistake or didn't like the way something turned out I didn't have to start over again- a control Z here and magic wand tool there and "presto!", instant do-over! Though I still create original paintings for exhibition and will always hand ink my line work for my illustrations, I have been working "semi-digitally" for years now. 

Just recently I have been looking back on my body of work and comparing the differences between my digital illustrations and my hand painted illustrations. Though some may say, especially with my clean style, that you can barely notice a difference, I totally can. Here is an example:

This is some of my hand painted work, using gouache and ink.

Copyright Claire Manning
I can see the subtle details and variances in the paint strokes, but I painted it. Perhaps you don't see what I see. 

This is an example of my semi-dig work: inked by hand, but coloured and constructed in Photoshop.
Copyright Claire Manning
Using this technique allows me to layer colours and create clean cut outs in colour, like in the grass and with the buildings in the background. 
Copyright Claire Manning
Here is a side by side comparison of some spots I did for Canadian Family Magazine. The red head girl is hand painted over an actual cut out of kraft paper. The sunny baby is digitally layered. Can you tell the difference? I can. One took considerably longer to do. But the question remains: is it worth the time? Is there anything missing in the digital format rather than the original painting? I am feeling nostalgic for the days when I would have physical art at the end of a job instead of just some black and white line work on illustration board. Recently I was asked to do five spots for a magazine. I was intending on creating them with paint, but then decided to go digital at the last minute. I think they turned out really well, but a part of me wishes I stuck with my original plan. My next illustration, regardless of what it is, I will hand paint. 

Seeing as it's Mother's Day tomorrow I'm glad I got to write a little about mine. Though I deny it, I guess we do have some common traits. I am my mother's daughter after all!

Have a great day to all you Mommies out there!

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