First and foremost, I am a digital artist. As opposed to the generations of artists before me whose tools and media were physical, my creations are developed in a virtual, computer-generated environment. I am no purist, however.
I find that there are many approaches to achieve the types of images that reflect my artistic aesthetic. I love the freedom to be a photographer one day, and then a fractal artist the next. My formal physics training and Native American-based spiritual path are complementary influences on my work, and provide context for my creative process. They are at the heart of what drives me to explore my art and the approaches needed to achieve it.
While the bulk of my work is performed on the computer, it is not the medium in which I wish to display what I create. In this regard, I do follow in the footsteps of the artists who have gone before me. My digital art is made solely for display in the physical world, as original fine art prints. And so the final, most vital step in my artistic process is making the leap from virtual image to physical print.
Editing A Fractal Image
There are typically nine steps I go through from start to finish in creating my digital art. Here is an overview of my workflow:
Generate Digital Image: Everything begins with the acquiring or producing of an initial image in its raw, unprocessed state. This can include downloading a photo from my camera onto my computer or selecting parameters to generate the first pass of a fractal. This step represents the starting point for my entire process. Here I determine whether an image is worth pursuing and how it inspires me to move forward.
Catalogue Image: I use Adobe's Lightroom program to catalogue all my digital images, not just my photography. For me, it is vital to keep organized and I do it early in the process so that my creativity is free from clutter. Lightroom is a powerful organizing tool and I use it extensively as such. Additionally, at this stage I update image metadata, such as my copyright information and category tags.
Post Process Image: Even though each type of image has its own set of challenges, the bulk of my time and effort is normally spent in post processing. Quite often, I know ahead of time what I am striving for, and so the process involves transforming the initial image into its final look. Other times, the initial image is just a jumping off point for experimentation, and the final outcome is an aesthetic result that was not pre-planned. Either way, I must tackle issues of composition, color, lighting, subject matter, and technique as I proceed. Adobe's Photoshop is the program I use most in this part of the process because of its comprehensive quality for image manipulation. In addition to Photoshop, my post processing often involves Lightroom, Painter, Bryce, Ultra Fractal, Mandelbulb 3D, and Mandelbulber, depending on the type of image I am creating. All my completed, post-processed images are saved as multi-layered Photoshop files.
Test Print Image & Edit: To translate the visual feeling of an image on screen into print is not always straight forward. Therefore, creating a test print is crucial in judging whether a piece is done or needs more work. The physical characteristics of a printed piece directly influence its impact as a work of art. Primarily, these include, the size of the printed piece, the paper it is printed on, and the dynamic color range of the image. It is amazing how the feel of an image can dramatically change when its size is altered, or when it is printed on glossy or matte paper. It is these kinds of decisions that are so important to make, but can't be done until an actual physical print is made.
Final Review: I have found that after working on an image intensely for hours, days, or weeks, it is important to step away from it for at least a day before I consider it done. Coming back to an image after a day or more of not seeing it, lets me review it and judge it more clearly. It is also at this point when I decide whether the piece will be sold as a Limited Edition or a Signature Edition print.
Create Print-Ready Image: Once the final review has been completed, I create and save a print-ready image. This means, in Photoshop, I add a border so that the print can be matted and framed at a later date.
Print Artist Proof: I print one artist proof for my archives. It is my version of the final print without any edition number on it.
Digitally Archive Print-Ready Image: I save all my work on my computer's principle hard drive, plus copies to both my LaCie external drives. It is critical to have multiple copies in case one of my drives crashes. If I lose my data I have no way to recreate my work without backups.
Post Image To Website: The last step in this process is to create and upload an image that I can post on my website. Once this is done, then it is on to the next image, and the process begins all over again!