Not Lying, the Digital Lion Painting is Real


But Real What?



Lately, there is a lot of chatter on the net on what is ‘real’ art with some elitist artists saying photography is even not art. The discussion between the disciplines banter back and forth the merits of both, pitting one against the other. I even get searches on my site asking, like this one this week, “Why is everything painted digitally these days?” Well, I can answer – because it is faster.


Same original photo painted differently than below.

Painting, image editing and photography share an uneasy, inter-dependent relationship in this era of art. They are intertwined in a digital bubble using each other in ways never anticipated throughout their respective histories. Another answer to the above question is the options are limitless because of this.

With ease to say and publish anything, social media has become fraught with critics feeding the frenzy of controversy. It makes for a lot of insecurity in the creative world. Tough Times to be a Creative. I am not currently in the professional art world, yet I still get these crazy searches.


Sketch with Wash

The hackneyed discussion between Photoshop and photography is even louder, shepherding in the third character in the drama, image editing.  This raises the question of what is real. The reality is that photography has become more than job, documentary or hobby, and has made a path into art, no matter what is being debated.

I have gotten a search, ” is wildlife photography real?” Duh, what did they mean by that?


Real lion, but not a real wildlife shot, at least not a wild and free lion.

At the time of photography’s inception, an artist might have struggled accepting photography as an art form, but for photographers, whose equipment has always depended on technological innovation, it seems a bit hypocritical to be upset by the use of Photoshop. The tables really turned too, as Photoshop is synonymous with art.

Of course, we have this search, “real photographers don’t use Photoshop.” Ya, right, who are they kidding?


Color Wash

My image of the lion is only an illustration and not art. This search came in on March 18th, “lion portrait to digital painting psd.”  Clairvoyant or eerily stalking?

Plenty of true art is created on the computer, whether it starts as a photograph or is drawn directly on the screen. I am always in awe at what is being produced in this day of digital. My favorite search, “people who don’t accept digital art as art.” Did they mean me?


Color Build

I must agree that not everything is art though. Just because it is photographed or drawn does not make it art.


Photo with very complex set of filters, textures and painting technique. Not a one click process.

One can take a photo and drop on a filter to call it art – fun maybe, but not art.


Original photo of red cardinal.

NO creativity goes into a one button process.  All Tech and Little Talent.


Mane Detail

By showing you the process, you see how the lion illustration comes about. Sure the debate will rage on what is art, but I believe art is many faceted, and can encompass many disciplines and media.



What matters in this illustration is, does it look like a real lion? Lions and tiger and bears, oh my. What is real art?


Let’s take a moment and sleep on that one.

A few more GWGT digital painting examples:

About Garden Walk Garden Talk

I love to photograph, paint, draw, design, garden, travel the world, and pass on a few tips and ideas that I learned through experience as a Master Gardener and architect. I am highly trained in my field and enjoy my work each and every day. I garden in Niagara Falls, NY in zone 6-B. Find me at:
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36 Responses to Not Lying, the Digital Lion Painting is Real

  1. Such a big debate, huh? Dali, would probably tell you that even the click of a button could be art if you decided to name it so, but I don’t agree, not entirely anyway. As for photoshop… well it’s no more different than paper, paintbrush and paint, just another medium.
    I find your lion amazing by the way!!!
    PS On the quote about real photographers, not using photoshop, I knew a photographer, [real pro and very old when I met him. His photos of the Parthenon and its sculptures remain exemplary to this day] who actually retouched with a white pen or by scratching the emulsion of his b/w print. No one will convince me that he was any less professional. On the contrary!!! I bet, if he was living today he would be overjoyed with photoshop!

    • Thanks for the input Marina. Dali was one strange cookie too.There is no doubt how I feel about Photoshop. It is a wonderful tool just like the camera or brushes are wonderful tools. It is how the artist chooses to use those tools, and in any combination as such. I think these purists are really either behind the times, stuck in a genera, snobbish, or any number of other ways to describe the reluctance to explore while creating. It is funny too, because I see photographs I know had editing and sometimes they are from photographers who have things to say about image editing. The camera only sees a certain dynamic range and sometimes the final images defy this.

  2. What you do with photos and Photoshop IS art! Your art is superb.

    • Thank you Connie. I can create actual art, but it does take time. Illustration is much a much faster process generally, yet there are many illustrations done by professionals that really are beautiful art pieces taking much time and skill.

  3. Jackson Pollack’s work looks like meaningless drips of paint to me, but he is held up as a great artist. Many people find the work of Norman Rockwell and Thomas Kinkade to be meaningful and emotional, while other people dismiss the work of those artists as kitschy. I just look for things that inspire me and leave the definitions of art to other people.

    • A good way to see art I guess, but Thomas Kinkade would not be on my list of favorite artists, although since his death, he has been getting more acclaim. Pollack always was revered even before his death and you are among many not understanding his work. My 36″ long tiger pencil sketch might be more art to some because it is done on actual drawing media, but that may be because of its large size too. Realism has fallen in and out of favor through history and so has skillful drawing.

  4. janechese says:

    I really like these, I am no where near to doing this but appreciate what you have done. I do consider this art, you are just using new tools. And even with a photograph I see the difference between photographic art and a snapshot and it doesn’t have to have super enhancements with editing programs to be that way..

  5. I must admit I am awed by what can be done with digital technology. As to how it relates to art, I feel like I am entirely without the knowledge or intellectual tools to make any judgements. Honestly, I’m like the comical philistine who says he doesn’t know about art, but knows what he likes, When the end result pleases me and I do not understand the tools in any meaningful way, then I cannot judge the tools.

    • Makes sense. I am finding much humor in the ongoing ‘battle of the arts’, being but a bystander to these discussions. Somehow, I guess because I do so many drawings here on GWGT and tag them as digital art or something similar, I get a lot of searches that end up here. Many are my art getting clicked on in Google, but somehow they end up coming to see what I wrote too. There are a lot of experts, photographers and true artists in this discussion on the web, so I find it funny people searching me out.

      I also question what they discuss too and have a lot of posts on creativity. Funny how it works sometimes. I had 906 hits the first day on my Hawk painting, so there really is a lot of people out there interested. Thanks for commenting even though you feel unqualified. That is what is interesting about art. It really is in the end all about what one does like. I bet a lot of expensive paintings get bought just because they are liked and not understood.

  6. Phil Lanoue says:

    Well I really like your work on Mr. Lion here I think it is quite creative. And glad to know you are not lion. 😉

  7. Beautiful and yes…art! I know there is much controversy and I do not see myself as an artist but art is definined as, “The expression or application of human creative skill and imagination, typically in a visual form such as painting or sculpture.” Art can be expressed in a multitude of ways and it takes a certain degree of creativity and expression to take a photograph and alter it digitally or in your case Donna create a painting digitally from scratch. If a piece is appreciated or admired then I feel it is art. Even photography can be seen an art as in the way the photographer portrays the subject. I am in the process right now of learning and appreciating all that Photoshop has to offer and at the moment when I am transforming a photograph into a “painting”…I feel like I am creating “art”. So what is art…it is an expression from within.

    • There really is quite a discussion on this subject. May different, impassioned perspectives too. I am enjoying your Photoshop journey. I wanted to send two videos to you showing the watercolor technique process. The size is too large to email. Time Warner will not allow such a large file size to upload. I can’t put them on YouTube either. Sorry, but I was thinking of you. If I find sites to send you to, I will forward the link.

  8. Gardengirl says:

    I was just having this discussion with my neighbor this morning as she was photographing a quilt for me. She is an amateur photographer and plays around with photoshop and lots of other technical stuff that I don’t understand. My father-in-law is a professional photographer who went to school to learn his craft and has a hard time with all these people editing photos on their computer until they look good and calling themselves professional. I believe that art is in the eye of the beholder. Some people love the pure photograph and some like the super edited photoshop pictures. Both have merit, it just depends on your individual taste and both require knowledge and skill.

    • You do know that Photoshop can be used so minimally that the edit is slight. Most pros do this to enhance, not change the integrity of the image. Honestly, there is not much of what you would call the pure photograph unless you are using a film camera, and if you read Brian’s comment, even the best of the best manipulated in the darkroom, even extensively. Thank you for your thoughtful comment. It really is a subject that has many opinions.

  9. As far as I am concerned anything that you create with camera or paints or any other medium is art because you are a true artist.

  10. Brian Comeau says:

    Your images above are wonderful.

    If people knew how much time Ansel Adam spent in the darkroom they would be amazed. Is that any different than Photoshop today. I’ll admit that I wasn’t a fan of digital at first 15 years ago but have changed my tune. I look at someone like Trey Ratcliff and how they manipulate an image with HDR. It’s incredible art. Art will always be in the eye of the beholder whether photography, music or sculptures.

    • Yes, Ansel was a true artist of landscape photography. His work is as amazing today as it was during his long career. I was kinda late to digital too, happy with my Nikon F2. But honestly, as much as I loved darkroom work, nothing beats Photoshop. No darkroom smells. As for Trey, do you know how easy HDR is with Photomatix Pro? I am not taking away his from his talent, because he uses textures as well in his HDR work, but a three image HDR is such a simple process. Even laying on textures is easy. I have shown some in post, but I do not use HDR very often. If I do, I make it so slight, so as not to be able to tell. Skies give it away often. Pick up Photomatix, it is an inexpensive app and it is fun to play with. It can help enhance an image and give it drama, but it is too easy to get carried away with the dynamic range that is possible.

      • Brian Comeau says:

        I haven’t used Photomatix but I have friends who have and speak very highly of it. I done a few HDR in Elements and Paintshop Pro and that was enough for me.

        I not had my own darkroom but have been in a friends and think I prefer digital as well. I did work a lab tech for a camera company and don’t miss mixing and printing with chemistry.

  11. I echo Carolyn’s comment! P. x

  12. Lucy Corrander says:

    I think . . . I think . . . whether art is art depends on the impact it has on the person viewing it, not on how it’s created. I think . . . I think . . . it’s to do with whether it opens our minds to a new way of seeing or thinking. I think . . . I think . . . this is how we differentiate between a snapshot and a photograph. The snapshot is of the external. (Which is not to de-value it.) The photograph a hint of what is inner or beyond – which means there needs to be something unique about it – not the subject matter but what says about it. This is why skill may be needed to create art – but not necessarily. An amateur can hit on something real either by luck or because they have the ‘eye’. It’s also why copies or ‘inspired by’ pictures may not be art – we’ve already ‘seen’ what they show when we saw the original.

    • With your definition, I believe there would be much less art so to speak. That or in the case of some individuals, everything is art if it depends on the impact of those viewing. I agree that it is based on what is being seen beyond, or felt. I see photographic art by its beauty, originality and difficulty in achieving. I did a four part series on creativity and one of the posts dealt with inspired by art. That is complicated be cause all creativity is based on what we have been exposed to at some point in our lives. I have seen photographs done copying great masters’ art and they are as much art as the original paintings. One I saw, used his five year old daughter as the subject of each masterpiece in the reproduction images, and they were beautiful. It was a copy, but one done originally. There are many ways to view inspiration. I also did a five part series on inspiration, also a very complex thing to define. You have a good comment, one that makes people think.

  13. Lucy Corrander says:

    Sorry, this is a non-comment – but I forgot to tick the ‘notify me of follow up comments’ box, so I’m doing it with this.

  14. Christy says:

    Regardless of the debate going on, your art is beautiful! I also agree with Carolyn. (After several attempts I was able to get into your post.)

    • There is something strange afoot. I was having the same problem with your site, but have been having with others as well. I leave comments and it appears to accept them, then I go back to read a reply and my comment is missing. It is something with my log in ID that is causing it. It happened a long time ago too.

      I am sorry to hear you are having trouble loading the page. That is not a good thing because it must be happening to others as well. Thank you for continuing to try to load the page.

  15. I also echo Carolyn…you are a fabulous artist Donna….I tend to think anything that someone creates is art…it depends on the medium…your designs are even art…they take a creative mind and to me that is the mind of an artist.

    • I guess in the really broad sense of the definition, “a skill at doing a specified thing, typically one acquired through practice.” Or, “art for art’s sake used to convey the idea that the chief or only aim of a work of art is the self-expression of the individual artist who creates it.” I am not really of this belief. It takes something away from those that really do it well and have years of training or experience. It is like you as a writer compared to someone just making a simple, cheesy rhyme that is not poetry, and therefore not art. It is like my example of a mechanical action that has no creativity, just a desire to change something for the sake of change. The action is that of a machine and the decision barely an action.

  16. Fergiemoto says:

    I still call it art. Whether it’s digital or not, photoshopped or not, each technique requires it’s own skill set and creativity. If a tool is available, why not use it and expand our thinking on how to shape a final piece? I imagine that any time there is a change, it is a struggle for some to accept. I have had the same opinion as you in that artists and painters may have had difficulty accepting the camera and photographs when they first came out.

    The lion artwork is amazing, whichever method you used!

    • I agree, but it takes time for some to come around. I love Photoshop for both art and photography. There is so much one can do and even if the photograph is manipulated, the result is more beautiful or interesting. That is the point.

  17. I am in awe of the capabilities of the digital medium. You do well and I like it.

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