A good question, which I used to hear a lot when I started out on my Digital journey. The image you see here is a freehand portrait painted by me in that tricky medium, watercolour. Watercolour is not a good medium for portraits generally, but it does have a great effect if you are very, very careful not to mess it up: One slip and it's ruined. That's one difference; with Digital it's hard to mess it up because you can erase a mistake without penalty to the media (for any non-artist reading this, watercolour paper doesn't like any fiddling). Compare this painting with any of the portraits in my gallery and you'll see some big differences in the results.
Generally though, aside from the convenience of not ruining your media, cleaning brushes, or having quite a bit of space taken up with easels, white spirit, water, dirty brushes and strong smells; it's none of that which makes Digital special for me.
I have and will continue to paint (when I get the space again) in traditional media because it's still utterly briliant. I discovered Digital as a new route to art almost by accident when I needed to paint a young man, posthumously, as a token for his distraught mother. At the time I had no traditional media to hand (I'd stopped painting in fact). I wondered if I could paint something from scratch using Photoshop, and the rest, as they say, is history.
The point of this lengthy preamble is this. I didn't like digital art very much because let's be honest, people use it to 'cheat', taking photos and simply applying digital filters to them. And there's a whole industry around using photo-matte techniques, which produce some unbelievably appealing and exciting results - in skilled hands it really is art-form; But it's still photo-manipulation and, well, I tried it, got some good results, but it just didn't feel like I was the 'complete artist' in control of everything. I'm a 'pedant' who (in the absence of commercial pressure), likes to bother with painting a background for example; the hard way.
So again coming back to the point, many people look at my work and wonder how I did it, because let's be honest, most Digital art looks much the same; like something out of TRON, or a PlayStation video game environment. The best compliment anyone ever paid me about my work was, '...but it doesn't look like Digital art'. There's a good reason for that: I just treat the media as if it was canvas or paper, but take advantage of what Digital is good at - experimenting without penalty. I trained myself in traditional media and I don't know any better when I apply that experience to Digital. So when I say it's a 'Digital Painting' to the few who think that means a computer did it for me; wrong. It's all me, because that's the way I like to create; all of my paintings from about 18 months ago are pure 'paintings', free-hand from scratch; good old fashioned draftmanship.
What Digital gives me is freedom to express without limitations: It gives me the freedom to experiment without the media punishing me, and it gives me permission to have an off day and still be able to create, because it's always ready to go. It gives me the ability to make my own 'brushes' and to create textures that no traditional media could achieve, short of the real masters of those media. It doesn't clutter my home up with zillions of half finished works either, and the kids and the cats can't trip over anything, or spill anything. It allows me to paint huge images, knowing that I can print them out on any surface, at any size, up to and beyond the the size I painted originally. It allows me to paint fine detail that can't be done with a brush, and if I choose, paint microscopic hairs on an old gardener's arms. Sometimes, I just love doing that kind of detail.
That's some of what's special about Digital - it can be anything you want it to be, and for me, the possibilities are endless - with no reason to produce yet another TRON lookalike, or use a swiftly applied Photoshop oil filter to a photo; that's a choice I don't intend, or want to make. Sure, that means it can take me up to seven weeks to complete a piece (owing to my rather laboured style), but at least it's honest, and that's all it needs to be in order to call myself an 'Artist',