Process: Photoshop vs Painting

I’m a digital artist and pen to paper illustrator, and I’ve been tasked with painting with actual paintbrushes.  They’re amazing, and I’m really enjoying this project.  Here’s some jolty time-lapse of the progress on this 18″x 36″ canvas (made of actual canvas).

This process documentation is chronological (and then reverse).  This video is funny to me because I can’t tell when it starts to go in reverse.  I cover up so much of what I’ve already done as I move forward.

When I show my process from Photoshop projects, the sequence isn’t accurately represented because I typically move around layers, change their content size and position, copy and paste them, and “undo” them.

With painting I’m realizing I’m still doing a lot of undoing and redoing.  I’m working on foresight.  I’m working on patience.  I didn’t have to wait for paint to dry in PS.

A few years ago, my dear friend Ash told me that when painting, it’s good to start with what is furthest away.  I typed that brilliance into my label maker on the spot and posted it on one of the cabinets in my room.  I’ve read it thousands of times.  It’s a great focusing thought.  When there are so many decisions to make, it’s best to figure out what is furthest away.  Everything else goes on top of that, because it’s closer.  Makes sense for this project.  [Part of me wants to do the exact opposite, though, and see what happens!  Art plans!]

This project has made me very aware of the editing dispositions and expectations I’ve developed throughout the past 5 years as a digital artist.  However, Photoshop, my medium of choice, is hardly the only contributor to my digital dispositions.  I’m a part of an app culture.  Screens and windows and clicking.

It’s quite lovely to paint IRL.  I still immerse myself like I do with my digital art, but it’s different.  I can do it standing up.  It’s nice to be able to see the whole canvas at once, instead of scrolling around.  It would be nice to be able to zoom in.  I suppose that’s what magnifying glasses are for…

During my most recent painting session, I noticed my digital mind narrating my thoughts as I painted.  I thought about what I would do in Photoshop to make the changes, progress, decisions for the art.  The narration became a dialogue.  The knowledge transferred.  I could apply what I learned about art from Photoshop to art in this different medium.  [Many of those lessons are still chatting it up in my head: inconclusive, ineffable, or both.]

My biggest challenges, thus far, have to do with my tools and technique.  (So, basically everything…)

My painting toolkit is infinitely more limited than my PS toolkit.  I run out of paint and brushes.  Painting takes more foresight because the layers are tangible and change in malleability as each second passes and the paint drys or doesn’t.  I keep layering, and that seems to be working, it just takes time.

I need to remember: start with what’s furthest away.  For some reason, I often can’t see what is furthest away until I’ve drawn something closer.  I can’t see the forest for the trees.  In this case, palm trees.  Distance is relative, and I’m figuring out how to see many distances.

[I applied this distance explicitly in a digital drawing I made of my friend Sarah and me in a parking lot.  Check it out!]

I wish I knew how to use the brushes better and mix the paints better on and off of the canvas.  I’m having a great time learning, though.  I’m interested in mixing mediums, too, like adding some charcoal and pastels.  We will see!  This won’t be my last painting!  I’ll post the final canvas when I’m done!

Here’s the source photo.  The patron wanted something with a Volkswagen.  I used a photo I took of this gorgeous Seal Beach sunset, then found a photo of a VW bus on  She said she wanted green in there, so in the painting I changed the VW from orange to green.IMG_6927

The blank-ish canvas.  (You can kind of see my pencil lines.)sunset painting process 11x8 blank w

Some of the first layers:sunset painting process 11x8 start distance w

My latest stopping point:sunset painting process 11x8 final wip w

To Do List:
I still need to bring up the yellow and peach of the sunset in the mid left and clean up the horizon.  The last additions.  I painted them and painted them for proportion and position reference.  I know that I’m going to wait to finish everything behind them and let it dry over night, before I go in with a potentially pervasive black.  I need to figure out what’s going on with the ocean in front of the bus.  That part is blocked by a car in the source image, so I’ll have to make it up.  There’s a fence I need to add.  And!  Oh yeah!  I need to cleeeeean up that bus, fix its color, and add black.

While I do that…

You can find me on
Facebook: @LornaAlkanaArt and @LAWordSalon and @AffectComic
Twitter: @LornaPhone and @LAWordSalon
Instagram: @Lornaphone and @LAWordSalon

I update my Exhibition Page with events and galleries Lorna Alkana Art is featured in.

I post on (or around) Mondays with new art/discussion of the process of works in progress, and Fridays with Comic Lorna in the form of an audiobio comic series called, Affect.


  1. I’ve experiemnted with charcole, chalk, water color and even marker and crown. I have yet to try oil piants, but I really want to! I’m just too much of a clutz to use oils in the house without ruining the floor, walls and ceiling. I’m also too shy to go set up a canvas in my yard. It’s almost funny how inspiring the work of fellow artist can be.

  2. Sabotage Turtle! Thank you for sharing this! I’ve never painted with oil, but I think I’d like the medium because it looks like it blends more smoothly than acrylic. Oh it’d be fun to set up a canvas in the backyard! What do you paint?

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