The idea of a painter often evokes a certain image in the mind – paint-splattered garb, a meticulously mixed palette, a menagerie of brushes of all sizes and a studio full to the brim with canvasses.
Parksville-based artist Brian Middleton has been there and done that.
After decades of brushstrokes, tubes of paint, gallons of solvent and stacks of canvas Middleton has embraced a different form. He still has access to all of the same tools, but now, they fit in the palm of his hand.
Middleton has transitioned into creating digital art using a tablet, which he says comes with a host of benefits and has opened him up to new styles and workflows.
“It’s changing art history. It’s changing the very act of painting,” said Middleton.
“Of course it’s not embraced by everybody yet – but I think it will be. I think as more and more people become aware of what it can do.”
Middleton’s work is now on display at the McMillan Arts Centre in Parksville, in the centre’s new digital media gallery which has been dubbed ‘The Cloakroom Gallery.’
Middleton gave a talk at the MAC on Nov. 22 and spoke about how the artistic landscape in the 21st century is being revolutionized by digital painting.
“It’s kind of a democracy of access for artists to reach people through social media, and even to post their process through a video format. Because each of these paintings that I do on my iPad are actually recorded as a video.”” said Middleton.
“I can actually have a look at what decisions was I making to create like, that atmospheric sky. In that process I can recall which brushes I used technically to do that. And that is something that you’d have to do mentally prior to this, you couldn’t do it visually. You can actually re-look at how you actually painted a painting, and all the different layers and ways you painted over something, or erased something, or smudged it, and all of that stuff.”
Middleton says that the artistic principles he learned as a student in his 20s still hold true, despite the fact that he’s traded in oil paints and watercolours for digital light. His show at the MAC is entitled I Paint With Light Now.
“It brings you a whole different understanding of how light effects colour. That’s after many decades of painting – but I think I’m learning new stuff about that even now,” said Middleton.
The lightweight and ease of creation comes with it some unexpected benefits. Middleton can create art virtually anywhere using Procreate, his app of choice. He works on planes, in low-light situations and from his couch at home.
“It’s allowed me to put out a lot more work and save it digitally than I could ever do physically with canvasses and all of that,” said Middleton.
It also eliminates the physical challenge of artistic creation, a bonus for those with mobility issues.
“So somebody who is very elderly, has arthritis, or has had a stroke, or any number of things – they can still create work,” said Middleton.
It’s also environmentally friendly and relatively affordable.
Once you buy the tablet and the app, there is no further investment, and no tubes of product that end up going to the landfill once they’re used up. There’s also no need to store artwork carefully in a temperature controlled room. Although Middleton’s house is home to quite a few canvasses, he’s increasingly storing his work on hard-drives and in the digital cloud.
Middleton’s work is on display at the MAC’s digital art gallery until Dec. 21. More of his work can be viewed online at www.brianmiddletonart.ca.