Wednesday, June 10, 2009

the making of a digital artist

Man, you are some artist, not doing much art and you call yourself an artist. Some folks are so tuned they can art on anything, anywhere. Me, things have got to be right. I can grab moments when inspired but mostly things have got to be right. Oh when will they ever be right!

Right is not when everything is in order, right is when I got a goal and I'm on my way to getting there. When I see something and start moving toward it, things are right. The old saying "one thing leads to another" is true. Of course the outcomes are not always as I planned but sometimes better. I dare to take the risk, to wander and wonder, to explore the possibilities, in the spirit of seeing what happens. So, in this creative realm I look over what I have to work with and think, I need to improve some things to not cramp my style.

Two ways to improve things. One is the digital pen pad (new sable brush, brand of paint, graphics software) just ain't working out. It's me, I haven't spent the time to learn, get the feel, make it mine. Second is buy new then return to number one, anyway. The difference between an amateur and a pro is that the newbie spends 95% of the time learning the tools. A pro knows what to expect from the tools and has established workflows for the kinds of operations he wants to do. Say it with me, "tutorials help me develop repeatable results" and become the basis for new directions and discoveries.

Hybrids are a way of life for me, as much as I like to be a Linux graphics purist, many commercial and professional avenues are only channeled via the Microsoft PC platform. Good thing there is virtual machines, emulators and compatibility layers. I've been using Wine which allows some MS Windows platform software to run on Linux without installing the OS (XP or Vista). I have Photoshop 5.0 Light Edition, Artweaver 0.5 and Paintshop Pro all running with some degree of success.

Then I have GIMP, Inkscape, Blender, and other Linux natives. Now being expert on all is impossible for me. You might be the graphics guru though!

As I am an artist dabbler I am pressing into the 95% of spending time to learn my tools. No matter the software a bit drawn line is the same, a vector is the same, a fill is the same. They may use different icons or even allow you to tweak parameters, but they are common tools, thus the user experience is shared. All you need is to remember where each program has put the tools so you can find them. Camel hair or sable or acrylic, each brush has its feel, the same with software, find what works for you and spend some time with it. As a computer artist you have to do the art stuff and computer stuff together.

Not much help at the library!! I just went through all the available books on computer graphics here at my local library. Photoshop books galore, some Paintshop Pro, all about manipulating photos. Very, very brief and little about drawing. With digital cams, cell-phone cams and the phrase "post pics on the web", seems no need to draw anything. Drawing, as it seems, is reduced to an art, but ain't that the point!! Drawing an art!! Now there's a concept!! I am sure you can do sooooooooo much with photos, but do they really supersede drawing and make drawing a primitive and passe art-form? Nah! As far as art goes, photos might require a good eye, drawing requires a good eye and a good hand too. As I am older I am tired of today's realism standard. Please don't explicitly explain it in exquisite pictorial detail, just tell the story well and let me imagine according to all that's in me. Ah, that's art.

When you work with paints, brushes, canvas, you are in so much control over what is put on canvas and what you see is what you get. In digital art what you see on the monitor is not always what you get on the print, if you print out at all. Web art has addressed the problem with web-safe color. They sort of guarantee pictures will appear the same on any monitor and any web browser, sort of. The difference between monitor and printer is handled another way.

I was determined to push aside the color chemistry of computing but alas, even I must succumb to the realities. For the most part RGB (red-green-blue) color makes up what drives monitors, scanners and at least desktop printers. It is satisfying for most stuff but for artwork you want something more precise so CMYK (cyan-magenta-yellow-black) is the way to go. Why? Because and especially if you use a print service, they require CMYK. This is a bit rough on us Linux graphics folk as our beloved GIMP has CMYK as an add-on plug-in, I don't think I've heard much boasting success. There are other apps that have CMYK like Scribus, Inkscape and Xara Xtreme, perhaps others and the ability to convert is there with varing degrees of success. The thing is to establish a track record of workflows that work with Linux graphics applications. You see printing artwork is not just push-button document printing.

So, now you got skills, tools and know-how and output to manage. An artist does a lot the computer can only help with and to do it in Linux is not impossible, just a learning process.
The irony is that even if you can manage all the inputs and outputs, if the final image is poor art, it is just poor art. You are the artist but don't forget your audience. Oh and the disclaimer, "95% of the art process that created this image was done in Linux!!"


Anonymous said...

Hello! :)

Anonymous said...

the k in cmyk is for key