Rory Kurtz - The Digital Frontiersman

Rory Kurtz’s images combine the delicacy of watercolour with rich hues that are closer to oils or acrylics, scuffed-up finishes and a precision that is purely digital. 

“I painted a bit with watercolour – I loved how watercolour and ink washes let the lines of the drawing show through,” says Rory. “However, watercolour doesn’t allow for much reworking once it’s dried, and it can’t effectively be painted over either. Painting digitally allows me to endlessly make adjustments.”

Rory recreates the feel of traditional painting alongside using effects that are hard to achieve by classical means. “There’s a patina and texture to traditional paint that I bring into the work to keep it from looking too processed and soulless,” he explains. 

 

“At the same time, working digitally allows adjustments that you just can’t get with paint. Depth of field, tonal shifts and layer masks are techniques that would be laborious with physical paint, and yield spotty results, [but] are a blast to experiment with digitally.”

Basic artistry is key. “I still labour more than anything over the drawings that come before the paint. It’s pretty difficult to badly paint a well thought- out drawing, but nearly impossible to save a terrible drawing with digital paints.”

Working from these sketches, he uses Photoshop for colouring. “Along with the tools Photoshop offers for ‘painting’, its photographic tools offer solutions that give the art a mixed-media feel,” he explains. “I’ve tried Corel Painter, but the results look... too generically digital. But that’s just my knowledge of it.”

Rory’s trademark precision is the result of painstaking attention to detail: “You don’t paint digitally by inches, but by pixels.” 

He says that digital painting is still in its infancy: “Right now, it’s such a new medium with unlimited possibilities.”

Looking at Rory’s work, that’s an exciting prospect.

rorykurtzillustration.com

 

Step by step: how Rory Kurtz composes a painting

1. Rory says of sketching: “I’m sparse with the lines, allowing for the colour to give it tones and dimension.” He redraws images dozens of times to get the perspective and proportions right.

2. “I’ve got the drawing sitting on the very top of the Layers list in Multiply mode,” explains Rory. “From this point on, all the digital paint will be done as a clipping mask to the isolated layers.”

3. He created an underpainting using contrasting colours, staying deliberately loose to “see what happy accidents” crop up. He also decided on custom brushes for the finer detailing.

4. Rory’s pencil drawing is still on the top layer, which is set to Multiply, while each element is still in its own masked layer, which allowed him to tweak them individually.