Scott Deardorff is a digital painter whose medium is Adobe Photoshop, and it’s a medium in which he is a master. While most digital artists work with a large brush and a loose style, Scott’s work is highly refined, with an exquisitely detailed finish. His works beg to be studied close-up. As you can see in the above detail from the portrait “Green Eyes,” there is an almost jewel-like quality to the painting (especially the eyes). This approach to portraiture is quite different from the one discussed in my article about turning a photo into a painting, where only the face is in sharp focus. There are other ways to “step away” from the source photograph. One way, as I had mentioned in the article, is to remove the photographic details. But as Scott Deardorff shows, you can leave the details in and still create a work that is obviously hand-painted. Scott achieves this by changing the lighting, so that it becomes quite dramatic. Here is the original photograph that Scott began with (image copyright by Fred James Photography):
Here is the full-size painted version of “Green Eyes.” Notice how dramatic and warm the lighting is. The background is jet black, eliminating the distracting elements in the original. The cropping is changed, so that the figure has more space surrounding it. The finishing touch is the glowing reflection on the tabletop. When we talk about turning a photograph into a painting, the first question we need to answer is, “What style of painting?” Scott Deardorff is working firmly in the Realist tradition,which has roots in the distant past, before computers or cameras. Some say the early “Old Masters” relied upon optics (such as the “camera obscura”, seen in the movie “Girl with a Pearl Earring”). Perhaps they did, in which case, Scott Deardorff is using the modern-day equivalent of those tools. Whatever methods they used, the masters of the past continue to inspire us today. Take a look at the following painting, by Hans Holbein the Younger, and notice the high level of detail everywhere. Rather photographic, wouldn’t you say?
One final note: Scott is offering an online course through the Digital Art Academy. It’s a four-week course specifically dedicated to using the smudge tool to create paintings in Photoshop. Scott will cover both his animal and people portrait techniques. “Green Eyes” is the demonstration photo for the portrait segment. The class includes about 60 PDF pages of information, as well as about 3 hours of video. Students are able to ask questions via email or class forums, and submit their work for feedback.