Thursday, November 13, 2008

Oh, My user, my user, my user........

Been thinking about the movie "Tron" and how the program characters hoped in their users. A lot depends on the user, you know!

Pencils have been with us for eons yet some still find them awkward and clumsy. I never cared for pencils, barely liked ball-points till those gel-pens came along. Then I am undecided about fine or wide line, depends on the whim and the need. And felt tips are well, if you got to use them......... Computers use keyboards and while I am not a typist, my hunt and peck technique has improved a notch or two over the years. Some can fly blindfolded, others pound with their fists, their heads bobbing up and down at whiplash speeds. Lucky you if you are tech savvy and a keyboard master too.

In the art realm many use what's called a graphics tablet or a tablet PC. What they have in common is a pen to move the cursor for a more natural like drawing experience. There are tablets and then stones with chisels. I have a low end tablet, the pen on it is too sensitive and not very adjustable. It moves the cursor OK, but clicks all kinds of unintended stuff. So, if you are graphics tablet shopping, get one that has all kinds of adjustments from dainty to death grip. Spend the bucks, you get what you pay for. At this stage of the game, having used a mouse for so long, I have become accustomed to drawing with it (the mouse). Hey, let's see how well you draw with a bar of soap. It's a good thing drawing programs aren't like drawing with pencils.

There is much opinion about folks using such and such graphics program. Should you use a professional or a free open source one? Then which one? I have discovered graphics programs are exactly like pencils and pens. There's a lot of them, each are the same but different, and depends on the user. Yes, depends on the user! Every user has their own logic, their own natural quirks as to what works for them. If you actually spend enough time learning to use one program, it becomes imprinted in your way of doing things. This makes you biased to using that program over others. So, what fits you? What fits your way of thinking and working? And do you need it?

It is a funny thing with artist and other such folks. We start off using the best we can afford (usually the cheapest), then as we improve, invest in better materials. Partly because we think if we use the higher end stuff, we will be better or at least appear to be better. Then there is the quality thing. I think some have made a good business out of high end stuff. Computer artist have it over the traditional painters in that you can't tell which program has done the digital art. I know that many will boast in their software, after all it is used in the industry. But don't forget, it's the artist who manipulates the materials that makes the art. That person could just as well use any art software to do what they need to do. So this is my plug for FOSS, that is free and open source software. If you don't have access to the high end stuff, yet still need to create, use free and open source software.

I have been playing with GIMP (GNU Image Manipulation Program) and Inkscape. They are wonderful. I have no experience with Adobe Photoshop or Illustrator, and just a little with their wannabe clones. I can't afford them, don't intend to buy them, and don't want to hear how great they are. If you use them, that's OK with me. I want to dig deep into the graphic bones of Linux and see what can be done here. This is Linuxville after all.

There are other Linux graphics programs, Krita (part of KDE office), Xara Xtreme, XPaint, GPaint, TuxPaint and several others. They are all like pens and pencils in that they fit different folks with different abilities and aims. All I know is that these other programs don't fit me so well, otherwise I'd be using them.

So now, you have no excuse, if you have lots of cash or are strapped, yet you want to do graphics, there are softwares for you to do the job. Most artist only have two modes, needing encouragement to get going and needing to be told to stop for a while. We do get into our work once we get going.

The ultimate artist would have a lap-held tablet PC, the screen is also the display. You could draw in any environment and when you are in range of your wireless network access point, tap into all your resources. Then print your stuff out on any material that will go through a printer. Gee, there's a lot to get into and you don't even have to leave the Linuxville city limits.

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