Friday, September 28, 2012

a sad day in mudville

All the signs are positive, the Art Council's gala is shaping up and I relax after a long spell of painting, moving boxes and hanging pictures. I've had my artist's laptop running for a while then the screen gets speckled, then speckled in a pattern. I reboot and it is the same and the desktop does not come up. I thought, oh man, do I have to bake the graphics card again. Some folks said you can do it again and again, I'm so skeptical. In the meantime I will wear a black armband, no. It is so depressing to lose a computer. I'll bake the graphics card again but I'm wondering if the other laptop will go down too.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

the autonomous artist

As you all know I am promoting my right to exercise as a digital artist. Today I dabble, tomorrow the world!, yeah. Part of the problem of the digital artist is the connection to the world via the computer. This is why I say disconnect the connection and get some work done. OK, connection is not bad, but a lot of the time it is time consuming. Hey you, blogger, step away from the computer.

I spend time looking and perusing other artist, research material, textures, fonts and brushes, all tutorials and seeing how I am perceived on the net. NO TEXTING WHILE DRAWING!!!! You people with smart phones have it worst than I, I dare you to turn it off for peace and solitude, I dare you. Ha, separation anxiety, lol. You're addicted like me or phone busy (a phonie). If all our words and finger fussing could be put into a picture what would look like? I'm talking about diverting energy here.

 My secret weapon is a wire bound notebook and a ball-point pen. I carry them almost everywhere. I jot ideas down and review them. I even scan them into my PC so that it is easy to review them. WHY? because ideas are fleeting, but if you let them pass the eyes again and again, they become part of your script. You know you write something down forget it and later disregard it because you've moved on in your thinking. Record the idea to keep it still, then review it to nail it down. The mind thus programmed begins to work it out. You may have to put other things on hold while you attend to this idea, but eventually just swishing past ideas is not going to cut it. And I'm talking about doing art not wishing for a fancy car when you are broke. Hmmm, I wonder if........come on lets keep it real.

Having scanned my sketches into my PC also means I can use them directly. All drawing programs that have layer tools will let you put your sketch on a layer to use as a guide as you draw on another layer, like tracing on onion skin. This is cool because often the sketch has the awkward proportions your mind originally captured, that you can't seem to duplicate with applied drawing principles. Actually my methods haven't changed much from my first epiphany. I took a small sketch to work that I scanned into a file at home. I enlarged it in Autocad and plotted it out on the large plotter. My eyes were so big, it took a week to push them back in. Today I try to perfect my line quality and color and texture and such. Especially because in Autocad we dealt with lines, on todays' inkjet printers we approach photographic qualities even with drawings made in paint and vector programs.

Again as I promote Open Source Art programs, it is about the tools and the processes. GIMP, Inkscape, MyPaint, LibreCad, Blender, there are many more, are cross platform collections of FREE tools with similar to commercial software processes. The important thing is to learn the processes to get the work done, then you can obtain what ever tools you want. Neither the free nor the paid for software will do the work for you. In that aspect they are exactly the same. Ha ha and you can never be totally autonomous with folks like your Linuxville guide around aiding and abetting. So after you read this, disconnect and get back to work.

Thursday, September 06, 2012

pull the plug

Doctor I want him to live. We can't afford to keep him on life support for ever and what kind of living is that? Nurse, go ahead, pull it. There was a long silence sort of like waiting for a pot to boil. Then, thump, thump, thump.........he's alive. Now don't forget my first vision of being an artist was a guy sitting on the river bank, folding easel, paintbox and small canvas. He had this way of blocking out the world while using some subtle maneuvering to capture his impressions of the world around him.

So the disconnected workstation does have the ability to be relocated. My battery life is about an hour, I'm looking for ways to extend that and still have full power. I might have to resort to a small car battery and converter board and get one of those airport luggage two wheelers. Luke Skywalker went to a remote place to find Yoda, in his encampment there he plugged R2D2 into a portable power unit. I gotta get me one of those. You see the laptop's battery is not enough for enlightened work. I mean the screen has to be bright enough for this old man to see. Hey, look you this good when you are old like I? Not how I look, but how I see! Young people see all, old people see what they need to see. That is the way of the force.

Now let's review that vision. There's the guy dragging his shopping cart of technology around the park. He comes to a spot and cordons off the area in yellow tape. I wonder what he's up too? Maybe he's ET phoning home. I'm glad my cellphones' not that big. He could of bought an iPhone, a lot simpler and portable. Wow, there's a stool, laptop and stand, graphic tablet, cool cup, umbrella, digital cam, paper sketchpad and pens.....Wait, he booting up and.....did the sun just blink for a second? I think I will set up in my backyard, a little more privacy. When technology is both powerful and inconspicuous then I'll venture into the wild.

Maybe I'll leave the power in the house and take smaller graphic recorders on the road. That seems a better idea. It seems such a waste to dedicate a PC just to artwork, PCs have such broad use. But many PCs only do word processing or accounting or control a machine or run a server fetching email and blocking intruders. To dedicate one to the purpose at hand or a particular activity is not unreasonable, even if it can do more. A computer as a light switch, for a whole building, still a light switch.

Wednesday, September 05, 2012

More on the disconnected workstation

Location, location, location, it makes a difference. We have a spare room in the upper parts of the ch√Ęteau. Mostly used for miscellaneous furniture storage  but it does have a ceiling fan and a round table. That's where I set up. The other room has PC parts and art supplies, a cluttered mess. The new room is a long way from the network cable, is quiet and well lit. It is kind of lending to a more open approach to working. Me, I can blog anywhere but to do art requires concentration and being free from distraction and stuff I have to do. Disconnect and shut out the world for a little while.

My am having fun exploring what the tablet feels like and what the different functions of GIMP, Inkscape and MyPaint are. I draw lines and squiggles and shapes. I can think of what kinds of things I might attempt. And I am testing out tutorials. There are some crucial lessons like layers and shaping things by light-n-shadow instead of outlines. Also how to approach the same image as a raster or pixel drawing and a vector drawing. Not that I would become an expert, but find a preference. Vector drawing is like CAD but you can do so much more. Still good old drawing and painting are skills much to be desired.

I heard a video by Scott Ligon of the Cleveland Institute of Art. He said the thing that the PC was best at is bringing different art elements together, synthesis. So I am considering what elements I know, what I want to learn/explore and how to merge them in some projects. I remember at a gallery function a guest ask me what I do. I told him computer art, he said that could be anything. He was right but as an artist I can only use what I know, a subset of all the stuff a computer can do. So I really don't know what the outcomes might be, I am working it out as I learn. I do have to tell people I am a drafter, an instrument drawer, not a freehand drawer. It's not a flaw, it's a feature and I use it well. Some folk clump all artist under the big  "A" title, I'll let you make them straight.

The disconnected workstation is fine. Just installed a virtual machine of XP so that I can run Google Sketchup. It does run in Wine on Linux but is a little unsure about GL graphic libraries. It works then it doesn't work. Found I didn't need Unetbootin, Mint XFCE comes with ImageWriter which does the same thing, format a USB drive and install an ISO image. The cool thing is having a place to go and a setup that is familiar, ready to do stuff you are ready to do.

I did it ya see, and I'm glad I did it!

The other laptop is now the artist workstation. I downloaded Mint 13 XFCE but I couldn't burn it to DVD because I didn't have any. After tearing out the hair I don't have, I downloaded a little program called "uNetbootin". It's cool, allows you to format a flash drive and install a bootable iso image on it. So I did it and I'm glad. Popped the flash drive into the USB slot and rebooted the computer. Of course the PC needs to see the flash drive in the boot table to boot it. It did and it did boot. BAM, Mint 13 XFCE was running in RAM, I hit the install icon and away it went. You know an OS on a flash is faster than on a spinning CD or hard drive. I smell possibilities here. I am still tweak'n and installing files and art tools, looking  good. XFCE desktop is not as glamorous as KDE or Gnome but is simple and functional. XFCE gets out of the way so that more resources are available for the programs.

Tuesday, September 04, 2012

disconnection notice

Usually when artists do their work or practice they do so away from the hustle and bustle of daily cares. Enter the digital artist whose PC might be set up in the dining room. Oh wait I got a laptop, I can go anywhere and work. I got to check my email first and maybe see what the homey's are doing vis Facebook, and.............

I have two almost identical laptops. The one has all my stuff on it plus Internet and wireless. I do spend a lot of time blogging, reading and vid viewing. The other laptop is the spare and I am reluctant to beef it the same as I have the main one. Do I really need two laptops, no, but wait a minute, what if..................

I could put the minimum 1gig RAM in the main laptop. I seem to use it to communicate more that do art. In the other I could have 4 gig for graphics and dedicate it to art work. Yeah I do use the internet for art work, but I have to admit I would probably get more work done if I didn't. If I was using acrylic paints on canvas, no internet. Why do I need internet to do PC art?. It is weird to think that a PC will work without the internet, to some that is unthinkable, even impractical. Relax, my laptop has a net connection so if I need to I can plug in. I was thinking of removing the wireless card. Now no one can probe-n-find my PC on any network. I won't be fishing around the internet when I could be working.........reasons you see.

I can download what I need beforehand or load a jump drive, then go anywhere and work in isolation, yes.....I need to trust my own thought and processes.

I like all the bells and whistles on my main PC. On my artist laptop I want a less resource greedy operating system and more memory for graphics. With Linux I can do this. My main laptop has Mint 13 and it is beefy. The performance is not bad at all and as I am not a gamer, I am not going to fry anything. I think I will put the 4 gig in the spare machine and install Mint XFCE as a lighter resource desktop. This machine will be the graphics workstation. Not having remote internet means a little extra planning but I could get more outcome out of my time on the machine.

What brought this on, well when you get hooked socially, you share openly. Artist a great deal of the time don't want to show off the process, the work in progress till the project is done. The internet sort of bends the rules. Disconnecting brings the rules back into play. Security is a big word, you can't probe what you can't find. The most secure PC is severed from the net. Control your IT and you control your IP. IT= Internet Tech, IP=Intellectual Property. You think about it, we are afraid of connection but disconnection is even more traumatic.

BUT in all my purpose is to set up a work habit. When I approach this isolated machine it is for art work, it is set for art work. I guess down the road I can get a smart-phone or a netbook for the social stuff and a power crazed laptop for a workstation.

it's all in your wrist

Us humans are something else. As creative beings we dumb down how the mechanics of the process is explained in a kind of humility. Artists run in the family and I don't know where the genes for art came from. In my book there is genetic potential or probability and environmental happenstance and some kind of inner drive. Copy that, express that, "Honey, we don't mark on the walls in this house!" "Dear, we better get him some paper and crayons." Of course they do so but they don't put the paper on the walls where he likes to draw. In a coloringbook, scattered pages on the floor or a proper desk or table. You got to control the energy to make a mark.

Control from the mind to the hand. Why some folks can draw what they see, some see it but are denied the ability to draw it. No we all don't have the right combination of stuff. Drawing can be learned to a point. You can learn the mechanics and stir up a motive force. In the end either you have it or you don't and that is in degrees.

We are taught that the mind is everything, but the brain is not the whole mind. The whole network of nerves from the clump in your head to stub sensors in the tips of your toes are also the mind. Muscles have memories. Emotions are imprinted in our character and motions are imprinted in our muscle memory. A boxer's range and speed of motion is all visible, his trainer hones and sharpen those skills. Harder it is to train the motive force that makes him breach his opponent's sphere and retract into defense ready to strike again. Reaching a little further, a little faster and control, timely strikes, timely withdraws.

The artist can learn all the tools, but what is needed is the muscle memory in the hands and wrist. Drawing a circle over and over till it's second nature. I have problems drawing the human figure because I have not practiced that. I can draw an electrical circuit in a second, that my muscle memory knows well. I can draw a straight line and a perpendicular one too. I know drafting, freehand drawing is a different matter. This new physical workout craze is on spot, where they vary the exercises so they are not routine. You blast muscles from many different angles. If you are a computer artist, go take a freehand drawing class or a drafting class. The motive force is the same but the reasons and procedures will give you muscle memories you didn't think you had.  Then when you hone in, your skill set is wide yet focused because what you practiced your body remembers. It is now at your command.

Every line is important when you draw but not for the finished piece. I watched many artist working. I think they put too much effort into their work and the final piece looks simple compared to how much work goes in. Why not just start drawing the final piece. I have done stuff where I drew a line and that was the finished work. I always wanted to improve upon it. In the process of the draw, many lines shape both the idea and the form. When they are solid, then lines are taken away or covered over. Guide lines, sketches, scratch efforts are all the way we think, work it out. We draw upon our muscle memory to shape what we see. Just think, if we did this on paper how many miles of lines we draw. On the computer it less messy and wasteful of materials. I want to tell people, the computer is not that big a shortcut in the art process. Actually you have a very wide pallet of resources and techniques, you can't do them all, just what you know. The process is the same when you apply what you know, that is what your mind sees and your muscles remember being triggered by the motive force. Tell your friends, "it's all in the wrist, or art runs in the family".

Monday, September 03, 2012

release the artist, let go

No, not let loose the wildness. I'm sure you don't need me to tell you that. Unless a school arts program took that away. Well get it back, then put it away for later. Wildness is a fundamental part of play and discovery. Ask any kid. Come on who turns out to be the better kid. The one whom mom tells "stop that!" or the one whom mom yells "You be careful!". Yeah, yeah, a little of both. But you get my drift, think about what you got and where you are. And I am talking about doing art.

Mom and dad see you scribbling and think 'ooh we got a bidding artist!'. They do back-flips buying you the best tools money can buy. Or you discover it yourself and you hound them for months, 'can I please have some software to do this, I'm getting good?' Hey there might be all kinds of compliance here I don't know, but think about it. You just are working up a lather and you want the top shelf product to make you like the "professionals". UH UH! Art software is like the football jersey of your favorite team. You can rah rah all you want, but until you play yourself, you'll never fill that jersey in reality.

Enough with mind bending, snap out of it!! Open source art apps are the way to go. You can get your feet wet or drink the ocean, your choice and if you find it's not your cup of tea, you delete it off your PC. No cash to buy, no reselling to recoup, no embarrassing odor from whining. I got to get what the pros use because, because, because. "Professional" is a tag line to sell a product. If enough of you buy the product, it becomes true. Suppose you look at the tools in the product. Does the pay to play draw lines, yes. Does the Open Source app draw lines, yes. Can you distinguish which program drew the line after the line is drawn, no! Yeah it's a bit much but I've gone from bending to warping your mind. It's the tools not the pedigree.

On "My Computer" is this stuff, and I remind you I'm running Mint 13 (Maya) Linux. (zero cost!)
 This is the new GIMP 2.8 in single window mode. Does photo editing, drawing and painting. (zero cost!)
 This is the new GIMP 2.8 in multi window mode. (did I say zero.........?)
 This is Inkscape, does vector drawing very well. It is my favorite app. (zero cost)
 This is MyPaint and it handles painting. You can paint if you have the real media skills. I play and I learn. I do like abstract art. (Zero cost)
   This one is Libre Draw of the Libre Office suite. Don't use it much but it is there. (zero cost)
All these softwares come in MS Windows, Mac and Linux versions, there is no excuse, download them, install them, start using them today.

Well, using a mouse works good with Inkscape and Libre Draw. For GIMP and MyPaint, lose the mouse, get a drawing tablet. Go cheap to start, I have an old Wacom, it works just fine. As my skills improve I will consider an upgrade. OK, go buy all the top shelf stuff. But if you wind up a too busy to draw Insurance Salesman with 4 kids, a trophy wife and a lap dog, I warned you. All the above software is zero cost, but if you want to support it, you can donate. Remember to check the tools and set aside the "professional" tag till later. Also get a drawing tablet. Then play like crazy, use online tutorials and/or find a tutor. I like a four door but a two door is OK! Hey would I steer you wrong? Bear with me, one more pun. Be sure to FLOSS every day, Free Linux and Open Source Software is here and is guaranteed by me your Linuxville Guide or you'll return to your regular software kicking and screaming.