Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Outstanding Digital Art

"Dead End", John Leben
"Summer Pier", John Leben

"The Long Climb", John Leben

I came across this wonderful artist, John Leben, at an art show in Chicago.  His work is visually arresting - it has an unidentifiable, mysterious quality that jumps out at the viewer despite its mostly unintimidating subject matter of landscapes, beaches, and battered wood stairs.  I find it has a retro poster feel I attribute to the stark outlining which makes it appear drawn in thick pen and ink with watercolor or marker adding color. 
In actuality it is drawn completely on the computer using a digital pen.  While anyone can upload a photo and use various programs to transform it into what appears to be a handdrawn work of art, John's pieces are meticulously created by hand without the aid of special programs or photography.  They are created from scratch with the Mac's digital pen as his paintbrush and the screen as his canvas. 
Here is John Leben on his technique:

My digital paintings are not created by the computer. They are created with the computer as a tool, by me. Each painting takes a month or more to create. For this series, the original images (the printing plates) are digital files residing in my Macintosh computer. Each line and each color are meticulously applied layer by layer with digital pen or mouse much like a traditional printmaker would scratch lines and textures with a stylus on copper for etching plates.
The most prolific series, Stairways, features Western Michigan stairways leading from seaside homes down to the beach.  Other series feature dinghies, flowers, nautical subjects, or more abstract "techno" creations.
Ironically, the images of his work I've been able to find on the computer don't really do it justice.  When printed in high quality, they are vibrant and have a real human touch. 
"Tree House", John Leben