Troutman, LU students explore digital drawing

Christopher Troutman, left, instructs his students on life drawing, both digital and analog, in the Lamar University art building. Photo by Andy Coughlan

We are all used to the feel of a pencil on paper, the way the graphite has a slight drag as the nap of the paper adds tension. That is drawing. Or is it?

Once upon a time, all painting was done in tempura — pigment mixed with egg white. Then oil paints became the preferred medium before acrylic paints became ascendent. Will digital drawing become the dominant medium for painting and drawing on the future? Well, the jury is still out on what is still a nascent technology, but that doesn’t stop Lamar art professor Christopher Troutman testing the limits of the medium.

Alex Williams does life drawing on a digital tablet during Christopher Troutman’s drawing class in the Lamar University art building. Williams is among the the students showing digital drawings in “Christopher Troutman and Lamar Students Digital Drawing Exhibition” at The Art Studio, Inc., opening Nov. 5. Photo by Andy Coughlan

“Christopher Troutman and Lamar Students Digital Drawing Exhibition,” on display at The Art Studio, Inc. beginning Nov. 5, offers a glimpse into the future. The show will feature a selection of works by Troutman and 15 current and former students from the past three years.

“That’s what the exhibition is about, just trying to figure out and learn how to use these materials, so that I can incorporate them into the class and create the opportunity for students to use it, that I had some feedback,” he said.

Alex Williams, a junior art major from Orange, said she had dabbled with digital drawing but not as much as traditional analog drawing, which she said is her “bread and butter” and where she works best.

“For the most part, I feel like it has some easier things to do over traditional. If you make a mistake, you can always just either hit undo or just swipe the brush and it’s gone. But the rendering process is really different.”

With traditional drawing, Williams said, the artist can feel how they are making the mark, but digitally, it’s different.

“It’s more emotionally disconnected,” she said.

Art student Kenzie Marriott said she realized in seventh grade that she was good at drawing and that was a career she wanted a pursue. She said she was pleased with the way her drawings came out.

“(The) initial success, that’s how everyone gets into their field,” she said. “If you’re good at something, you want to do more of it, and how good my digital drawing turned out it really excited me to further continue the digital.”

Williams said that she likes to scan a drawing and then manipulate that image digitally on the tablet.

“We go back and forth about whether if you do something digitally, it’s kind of like a cheating,” she said. “But you have to know what you’re doing, just like before.”

Troutman, who has exhibited widely and is a master draftsman, has been experimenting with digital technology in his work, sometimes working exclusively digitally, but also often adds to the printed images, creating a hybrid of manual and digital creation. He said it allows him to feel connected to the work more than if it was simply created digitally.

“Physically feels different, the roughness of pencil on the fibers (as opposed to) the different nib across the drawing tablet,” he said. “It seems like it should be easier than it is.”

Kenzie Marriott draws a live model on a digital tablet during Christopher Troutman’s drawing class in the Lamar University art building. Photo by Andy Coughlan

Troutman said the tablets are trying to be more natural, even replicating the feel of paper with screen covers, but it doesn’t give him the satisfaction of drawing on paper.

“If I know it’s going to be something like a comic, or something that I know is supposed to be mass produced, then it’s like, OK,” he said, “But if it’s big drawings, I can’t do the same thing.”

While Williams enjoys playing with digital technology, she prefers traditional media.

“I still always go back to my roots,” she said. “That’s just where I find my strengths.”

Marriott said that traditional drawing and painting will endure because of the personal connection to physical drawings.

“I think that that will always stick around because it’s been around forever,” she said. “Everyone’s always felt the paper, the materials, we’ve kept going with it. (but) digital is definitely a new path to go down. It’s another facet.”

Troutman said he hopes the exhibition will show people that Lamar students do strong work.

“Their interests are driving innovation in our program,” he said.

“Christopher Troutman and Lamar Students Digital Drawing Exhibition” opens with a reception, 7-10 p.m.., Nov. 5, and will be on display through Nov. 22. The Art Studio, Inc. is located at 720 Franklin St. in Beaumont. For more information, visit http://www.artstudio.org.

This story first ran in the Oct. 27, 2022 edition of the Beaumont Enterprise.

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