Monday, July 28, 2008

the artist tool kit

Just like when you go to the theater and are awestruck at the visuals, you still can't fathom the behind the scenes activity that went into putting it all together. It is the same with most visual arts. On one side there is the disciplined training and determination of a practiced hand, then you spill the paint, step in it, "hey, that looks quite good". There is a flow of ideas, alternative ideas, adjustments, additions and deletions. These things are easy or difficult depending on the media. I have anguished over mistakes while painting with acrylics, they dry too fast and painting over painted areas is not the same textured surface anymore. With digital media I don't worry about drying time and the wonders of undo and remove are without bounds. I can add virtual textures or print it out on a textured canvas. Some even go through the trouble of simulating textured brush strokes. The outcome of most art is eventually digital. There might be an original oil painting, but sorry, you can only have a copy and lucky you if you own the original. Copies of most art today are usually prints. The process of making prints have evolved and improved over the years. You can capture the quality of any art work with a camera or a direct digital file and print it out on almost any material from glass to canvas to carpet. What has this to do with Linux? Your Linuxville guide, who also happens to dabble a little in art, has found that the digital artist tools found in Linux are quite good and very powerful and free. Not "free for personal use only", but really free. The GIMP is pretty cool if you can put down Photoshop envy for a while. I use the Gimp interface to access my scanner. I scanned most of my hand drawings and will use another application called Inkscape to trace the scanned images and turn them into vector images. Think of bit-mapped images as pictures made from grains of salt, tiny separate grains. Vector images are made of strings, outlining objects. It is easy to edit the strings. Also the strings are stretchy. You can blow it up to a larger size, keeping the same original proportions or bend and distort. The computer as an artist tool can be very automatic and/or hands-on to twiddle with minute details. The computer can help you to blend many artistic techniques, simulating traditional artist media or scanning or photographing or what ever. There is still a lot of controversy over how digital media is regarded. People haggle over monetary issues all the time. Should an oil painting be worth the same as a digitally produced picture? Then if the digitally produced copy is the exact same as the digitally produced original, what is the value of either and who owns the original? The market is not so much in the digital picture itself as it is formatting and producing the output. The same digital picture can be posted, plotted, or printed in any imagined way. Oh, I'm giving away all my secrets.......... Anyway there are a whole slew of services out there so you don't have to own the equipment yourself. You've got to get your name and work out there. Man, it's a crazy world. It is a sign of the times, the deskchair artist, the roving laptop artist, have arrived.

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