South African artist Lee Molenaar spent his childhood under the Apartheid regime during the 1980’s. His father was stationed at the nearby air force base where his early memories include helicopters, cargo planes and paratroopers floating down to earth in mass exercises. His teenage years in the 1990’s were occupied by the transition of government to democracy. In 1998 he moved to Cape Town , where he decided on a career as an artist.

Light bulb by Lee Molenaar
Medium: Oil on wood panel

After a series of collaborative exhibitions, he embarked for London in 2003 where he worked at the National Gallery and The British Museum”s Department of Egyptology. His first solo exhibition of major works was held by special consent in September 2005 at The Troubadour in Chelsea, London. Previous artists who have performed there include, Jimi Hendrix, Bob Dylan, Adele, Led Zeppelin, Paul Simon, Sammy Davis Jnr, and Sir Elton John. 

Morning glory by Lee Molenaar
Medium: Acrylic on canvas

In 2008, Lee decided to relocate back to South Africa where he hosted and participated in various solo and group exhibitions, community projects and workshops during his 11 year stay. He made the decision to move to Cambodia at the end of 2018 where he currently works as an English and Art teacher in the city of Siem Reap, home to the Angkor Wat Archeological Park.

The floating village by Lee Molenaar
Medium: Acrylic on canvas

Lee’s current work and process strives to strike a dialogue with the viewer about his place within a contemporary setting, exploring various facets of modern life. His work is acquired locally and overseas, with fine examples in various corporate and private collections including the South African National Education archives at the Robben Island Museum Department of Educational resources in Cape Town, South Africa.

Still life with light bulbs by Lee Molenaar
Medium: Oil on wood panel

What is digital painting?

During my research, I came across digital painting as an emerging medium for fine artists. Digital painting has always been the domain of animators and illustrators but, recent technological and software advancements have attracted traditional fine artists to experiment with and in some instances completely shift to digital painting as their primary medium for painting. The recent Christie’s auction of a digital painting by the artist called Beeple, fetching a record-breaking price of $69.3M and celebrated UK artist, David Hockney, currently showing his latest body of digitally painted works entitled “The arrival of Spring” at the Royal Academy in London, have done much for elevating and promoting digital painting as an equal to the traditional mediums used in painting. Why would established artists migrate to a digital creative platform? What exactly is digital painting?

Home page image of a digital painting of Siem Reap riverfront
Siem Reap riverfront by Lee Molenaar
Medium: Digital painting
  • Digital painting is NOT computer-generated images.
  • Digital painting is NOT a Photoshop filter.
  • Digital painting is NOT copy/paste collage art.

Digital painting is an emerging art form in which traditional painting techniques such as oils, acrylic, watercolor, pastel, impasto etc. are applied using digital tools by means of a computer, a graphics tablet and stylus, and software. Traditional painting is painting with physical medium as opposed to a more modern style like digital.

Angkro Wat by Lee Molenaar
Medium: Digital painting

Digital painting differs from other forms of digital art, particularly computer-generated art, in that it does not involve the computer rendering from a model. The artist uses painting techniques to create the digital painting directly on the computer. All digital painting programs try to mimic the use of physical media through various brushes and paint effects. Included in many programs are brushes that are digitally styled to represent the traditional styles like oils, acrylics, pastels, charcoal, pen and even media such as airbrushing. There are also certain effects unique to each type of digital paint which portray the realistic effects of say watercolor on a digital “watercolor” painting.

In most digital painting programs, the artist can create their own brush style using a combination of texture and shape. This ability is very important in bridging the gap between traditional and digital painting. Digital painting software such as Krita (which is what I use) give artists a similar environment to a physical painter: a canvas, painting tools, mixing palettes, and a multitude of color options. There are various types of digital painting, including impressionism, realism and watercolor.

City sunrise by Lee Molenaar
Medium: Digital painting

Digital painting allows the artist the ease of working in an organised, mess-free environment, without the constraints of preparation, drying times and cost of materials. It frees up the artist to only focus on creation, speeding up workflow and rate of production. It is a liberating experience for artists who until now have been bound by financial and logistical constraints.

Personally, digital painting finally allows me to paint what I want in a way I’ve always wanted to without wasting 70% of my career watching paint dry.