Embracing a New Medium With Pete Maloney

Pete Maloney built a career as a professional drummer in a few bands you’ve probably heard of - and his creativity doesn’t stop there. He draws, paints, and recently began making digital art, to top it all off.

After years of playing hit songs with Dishwalla and Tonic, Pete reconnected with his passion for visual art. Except this time, he’s using an iPad and stylus. We caught up him with to learn about how he got started, what drew him to digital art, and how technology has changed the way he creates.

What attracted you to creating digital art?

Just by chance. My son brought home his school iPad one day and I had never used one to draw with. I borrowed it and found a program called Paper by FiftyThree. I started messing around with it and made my first painting Brooklyn Nights.

I showed a few people and got such a strong response that I did more cityscape digital paintings. I sent my work to a gallery in Berkeley, California - they put my work in my first show and I sold out all pieces I had in the show.

brooklynight Brooklyn Nights

Do you have any essential apps or tools for creating a new piece?

I use an app called Procreate. It’s pretty much the only app I use with the exception of Paper by FiftyThree, which I use once in awhile. They are great apps and are as close as you can get to producing digital work that looks and feels like a two-dimensional painting.


You’ve been a professional drummer for many years and I’d imagine you’ve seen technology dramatically change the creative process. In what ways do you think that improved the way you make music?

Well not very much for me, because I’m a drummer - drums have pretty much stayed the same, tubes made of wood that you bang on! Technology has helped the speed at which you can record songs and edit them.

Has that speed changed the recording and editing process for you?

Before digital editing, everyone recorded on analog 2-inch reel-to-reel tape, so when you had to fix or change something, you literally had to cut and paste the tape on the reel to move or delete a piece of music. It could be very time consuming.

Nowadays, to make edits or changes, you simply point, highlight, and click to delete or move the parts of music you want changed on you computer. It’s so much faster. But there’s something to be said for analog recording. As a musician you really had to know your craft and nail your parts in the first few takes to get an exciting track. Lately, I’m the only one in the room and I’m laying down a drum track down with just a scratch vocal and guitar or keys and a click track, so it just doesn’t have the same excitement as when you’re all “on the floor” recording all of the music at the same time!

From album art, to show posters, to logos, design is deeply connected to music. How has music influenced the art you make?

Tremendously! Anything that is creative needs to resonate with people who see or hear it. I’ve always played drums with no filter. I only play to serve the music, not to impress other drummers.

As with my art, I create out of my own love of doing it, not focusing on making money. If it touches someone enough to buy a piece, that is thrilling.


Would you say embracing technology in music made it easier for you to jump into digital painting with an open mind?

Absolutely. Whether you’re holding a brush or a stylus, they are all just tools and the screen is just a new canvas to paint on. All that matters is the content. Many artists can get hung up on the tradition. While I’ll always use the traditional mediums, it is 2017 and creating art through digital mediums seems like the next tradition to me. It’s exciting to me that everything is new and uncharted territory, a lot like when rock ‘n roll was born: the music was a wide open blank canvas to create with!

What’s a lesson from your music career that you’ve brought to your other artwork?

Always start with what’s in your soul and you will always be giving the best you can possibly offer.

What are some of your favorite works of art and why?

I could go on forever about this topic, but in a nutshell, my favorite film is Casablanca. To me it’s the perfect movie. But there are so many others.

If I had to pick a favorite book, I suppose it would be Fountainhead. It’s about an architect, patterned after Frank Lloyd Wright, who created buildings in the early ’30s that were like nothing anyone had ever seen at the time. His only quest in the book is to create what he feels, not for commerce’s sake.

My favorite song is “Stardust” by Hoagie Carmichael. The song is so simple but so brilliant. It embodies what I think is the foundation of all things creative - soul.


You mention in your shop’s about page that you have experience using oil paints, acrylics, pastels, and charcoal. Are there any techniques you bring from those practices to your digital work?

Yes, most of them. The progams I use allow you to literally paint as you would with a brush, only it’s a stylus. I create digital paintings using a guoache watercolor approach and I use the same brushes I would with canvas.

How does this change your creative process? Is it easier to experiment when you don’t have to worry about buying more canvasses or cleaning up paints?

Absolutely! I often use my iPad to make studies of a traditional medium, such as oil or watercolor, that I’m doing on canvas. It’s great because you can get a picture of what the painting might look like if you added or changed your colors or textures. That way you avoid the potential of putting something down on canvas or paper that turns out wrong. That can be very difficult to fix, especially with watercolor.

I recently ruined a traditional watercolor because I didn’t try a study of the changes on my iPad to see what they would look like before applying them. I just went for it and, unfortunately, the changes took the magic right out of the work on paper. So, for me, that was a hard lesson in taking your time and taking the steps to do it right.


How did you approach finding a way to print your digital art?

Great question! It took quite a while to find the right printer. After trying unsuccessfully to get work on paper that had the exact colors and quality, I found a printer here in Petaluma, California called Digital Grange. They specialize in fine art printing and print for all the fine art museums in San Francisco, and they were right under my nose! They print all of my work on watercolor paper, which absorbs the colors beautifully. I only use them, they literally are masters of printing! The print of digital work is as critical as the print of a photograph, it has to be right or the work suffers.


What advice would you give someone looking to create a physical product from digital art?

Explore all options and keep going until you find the process that works for you. To me, digital art is the new frontier in the art world, and the technology only keeps improving. But the traditional methods of creating art will always be here.

How do you promote your work?

Mostly through Facebook because that’s where I first got reactions to my work. I also use Instagram and my website. With the exception of gallery shows, all my promotion is done online.

swimming hole

Do you incorporate your followers’ thoughts and feedback into your future projects?

I do use comments and likes from Facebook and Instagram as feedback. It’s almost like a survey to see what touches people the most. I think it’s a great resource, too - it gives me a viewpoint from someone other than myself during the creative process, which can really contribute to my own thoughts and feelings on any given piece.

What plans do you have for the future?

To keep doing what I’m doing. My next adventure is to create a children’s book that is created with all digital art. I have two kids who will no doubt let me know if the stories are any good.

Browse Pete’s prints in his shop and follow him on Instagram.

Richard Laing

Product Director at Big Cartel. Music loving, soccer playing Dad living in Seattle, WA.

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