Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Leaping Linux lemmings Batman!

Don't try this at home, I'm a professional distro jumper. I was standing by the fence preparing to make a controlled jump and they came in a wave. I tried to stop them and incite some reason. They leaped past me into the wind and vanished from view. Countless numbers over the edge. Dang!

You've been to Distrowatch.com, they are fleeing Ubuntu in droves, going for the greener grass of Mint. Let me say this before the rest of you go flying into oblivion. Mint ain't nuttin but tweaked-n-green Ubuntu. It is made from Ubuntu. It doesn't have Canonical's Unity but has Gnome Shell or XFCE or KDE or Mate, whatever. Yeah, OK, it's very nice and better to some, but it's a short hop to Mint compared to Fedora. I am back to Ubuntu but have installed Gnome Shell, this laptop can handle it, it runs great.

They vanished from view because the grass is tall (needs cuttin), though it does look kind of cool (special grass?). I was jumping to test if there was improvement in video performance between Fedora, Mint and Ubuntu, there is not. From the looks of it the Dell M90 video card takes a lickin then quits tickin, doesn't matter the OS. There is a big graphics chip and a huge honking heatsink on top of it. Heat must be a problem. Seems most pronounced during web browser use. I get weird cursor action while trying to type this blog and also while trying to select a site in a search. And page overlapping when you scroll!?! If I set back it corrects itself but who is patient among us, click click aaagh! If I stop using the browsers, actually, Chrome works better than Firefox on this machine. No stampedes please, but Chrome does work better (rumble rumble rumble).

Printing is what it is. If you got one of those 4 ink printers like me then realize that it is harder to mix the 4 to get all the colors you see on the screen. A printer that sports 6, 8, 12 inks will get better color results when mixing inks. I do love my printer as most of my work is simple and it can do photos but the results are limited. But this is art and not photography, so there. My Epson Workforce 1100 prints 13" wide and up to 42" long if coaxed. I took a drawing file to OfficeMax, they have a 24" wide Canon with 8 inks. A 16" x 20" print on photo quality matte paper cost $12. The print quality is excellent and a 16 x 20 frame is reasonable also. A couple of tricks, make a bitmapped drawing at least 150 to 300 dots per inch depending on detail. Then print to file as a PDF. With vector work you don't have to worry about resolution, just print to file as a PDF. This works for me until something better comes along. 

Saturday, December 24, 2011

but don't mash it

I was getting all settled into Fedora 16 on my laptop, the graphics card seems to produce screen glitches especially when using the menus in Firefox and a few other apps. This appears to indicate that overlapping windows and menus are a problem. Reluctantly I hosed Fedora and installed Mint. Mint runs a tad slower but without glitches. Mint has the same Gnome Shell but I noticed like I said before Debian application repositories have all the popular apps and supplies the video codecs that Fedora doesn't. I think Fedora supplies a Nvidia equivalent video card driver that is not as good as the real Nvidia drivers in Mint.

I partitioned the hard drive so that I can install another Linux without blinking. The home directory in it's own partition, the OS in it's own. I just reformat the OS partition when needed. The optimal thing would be a big USB flash drive for personal files. Then I could move the flash around to different Pc's. The secret is that the hidden files with your personal settings and configurations are in your home directory. If the new installation has the same applications it starts up already configured. This is handy for browser bookmarks, email addresses and multimedia codecs.

I am hedging about drawing, guess I'm not in the mood. So I have a Java app called SweetHome 3D. This app allows you to draw a floor plan in a 2D view while it draws the wall elevations in 3D in another view. Then you can add furniture and textures assignments in the 2D to appear in the 3D. The constructed views are not too good but if you run them through rendering software they become more photo realistic. I plan to model the art gallery space and come up with display ideas.

When you utilize used hardware you never know how much wear-n-tear you've inherited. I have many 'oh darn it' moments. Save your pennies, plan for the long haul and buy good stuff brand new when the opportunity hits. Back at the art gallery we are going to take some old PC's, set up a PC arts teaching platform and then begin to replace them with new hardware as monies are available. The point is that we start now, not wait. Why wait till we can get top shelf when the lower rungs are available. Yeah, we want Macs but PC's will do fine. I was in a company when it switched from pen-n-ink drafting to CAD on workstations. Then another company that transitioned through 2 upgrades of CAD systems. Waiting to pay for the best is overrated when used PC's and free Open Source art software is available now. Build your skills, transition if you must, get down tonite, get down tonite!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

squeezing the tube

I still don't draw on command, especially after not drawing for a while. My equipment is fine, it's me. I start the process by reviewing my collection of sketches and reference pictures. The perfect program for this is called Picasa by Google. If you find Picasa formatted for your version of Linux you are good to go. Another program I discovered is called Fotoxx, this is what I have now. Both of these apps allow you to view a whole directory of pictures. Real cool if you want to compare and manipulate. Photo management yeah, but digital pictures are like digital photos. Most photo management software organize by time stamps and tags, not directories and folders. Directories and folders work better for me.

If I don't rework an old idea I usually see something new to try. Of late, I've been more enthralled by how a picture is mounted. I'll buy some picture mounting hardware and figure out what to put in it. Yeah, I know, this is backward. Sometimes if you change one element of the finished picture before it's done......LOL! I change the frame, it's an architectural thing. If you are not careful the project becomes very big. Scaling it down and or scaling back is painful on the mind. For me also when I am thinking big or needing scale, I get stopped by how to get the drawing big. You can get a service to print it big for you but I can't guarantee print quality or the material to be printed on. What goes through the printer can't snag and that limits the kinds of material you can use. This may mean projecting your image, tracing it and inking/painting by hand. And you thought digital art was less work. It's that label thing, you call something something so that others can get a handle on it. I preface labels with 'sort of-kind of like' but ultimately 'mixed-media' graphics. I say that with great exasperation because it doesn't describe my stuff the way the word 'oil painting' does. Oooh, how does she do that with oils? Oh (only one 'o'), digital graphics, that's interesting! Hey, I want more o's when you see my work. This is why digital artist go overboard to dazzle and amaze. They think you only helped the computer do that. I pushed the mouse the same as she pushed that brush. I constrained the great and endless potential of the computer so that it will do what I want it to do. Do you think it's easy plowing a field with a race horse?

We had a boss that paraded with his cronies through the new CAD department. "Click, click, click and it's done!" Next week he hired two desktop publishing guys that we were supposed to train to work with us. They had no drafting experience or electrical knowledge. We trained and complained, they were let go. Art knowledge and skill applied with oil paint and brush, art knowledge and skill applied with a computer and printer. Not equal but different media and process. Us mixed-media graphic artist of the digital persuasion find the fine arts a mine field of varied acceptance. Publications, ads, web pages, no sweat, bill boards, no sweat. Fine art.........."computers can do a lot!" I guess the antidote is to sign the print by hand.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

nerdvana, I feel it

I went to the penthouse/mancave/art studio. Dust bunnies scurrying about, PS/2 mice strewn about, PC carcasses stacked haphazardly and boxes of papers. The huge honking hard drive on my main machine sputtering and spitting out ancient code. My new printer under Linux can't reset itself with new cartridges installed. Like I said a new strategy is needed. Under the shelf piled with junk I found the XP disc I had lost. I couldn't sleep, my mind turning this new plan. I had to do this.

First, reformat the hard drive of the old desktop to rid it of the mangled XP that was on it. Then install a fresh XP. Darn the Service Pack2 disc wouldn't read. Good thing it's still on the net. This machine will run the printers because drivers are easy to get for Microsoft systems. The Linux printing system works but mileage will vary depending on the printers. An Epson Workforce 1100 is awkward.

Second replace the sputtering huge honking hard drive with a 60gig one. Lesson learned is that Ubuntu will not run well and whistle with 1gig of RAM. So, install Xubuntu with XFCE and be happy. I do all this, I'm happy.

I moved the two support cabinets left of the desk and put the shelves across them. Put the 17” CRT on the XP machine because when tweaking for printouts it a good screen. The 15” CRT which XP can't handle well works great on the Linux machine. I revise all the power cables, put the big printer on a stand next to the shelf on the left side of the desk.

My laptop is my roving art center, I can even take it to the library because the battery works. This is totally sweet. I can work where ever. Next is to communicate between PCs, install the printers and reference materials. I need a couple of tool boxes for my car tools, my computer tools and my art tools. The mancave is a former upstairs kitchen, the cupboards and countertop are supposed to help organize, they don't. Too too many small parts and cables. I have an old tall dresser for paper and print supplies. I will cap off the water supply and remove the sink but that is later.

I don't like to leave my stuff running all day, the meter is running. It's the accumulated stuff running in a house that will shoot your wallet, run lean is my motto. I think this setup will work better than what I had. I even restacked the spent PC cases and junk boxes. I am starting to get the urge to draw............see ya!

Monday, December 19, 2011

same curtains different house

I'm in the new digs and it is different, sort of, kind of. Ubuntu has one philosophy and Red Hat has another. Ubuntu has become the base for many versions of the Linux OS to meet the criteria of different user/development groups. Including a Linux version that has all free software. For sure this is the philosophy of Red Hat concerning Fedora OS. What does mean to the user? Some very handy programs are not free in terms of license, or are free yet owned by a company, that is not open source. Some are propriety and are lent or donated by agreements. Some restrictions include political boundaries of countries. So Ubuntu tries to give you access to every program even the non-free commercial ones. Fedora sticks to the free open source policy. What this means is that certain things are not offered but available via third parties. The most obvious are media codecs and device drivers.

On my Fedora machine to get flash video and movies to play I did the Google search for codecs. I stumbled upon 'rpmfusion.org'. This site has some things to read and click to install and BAM, I had You Tube videos and could play other formats. This process is way better than previous. So dealing with all open source software and finding some extras outside of the Fedora standard repositories is the difference between Fedora and Ubuntu. Once educated, you know, you know!

The Dell M90 machine is smooth running and quiet. There are a few video glitches running Linux. This machine has Nvidia Quadro FX2500m video card and not a Linux specific driver. Linux is still a bad word around hardware manufactures. They don't do retro and are vexed to do new stuff. Being only MS Windows compatible makes them the bucks but Linux demand is not going away. A few annoyances, a few complaints but a good solid feel. Ooh yeah did I mention, this has the first finger-pad that works decently for me and that old Wacom Graphire2 works really well also? Better machine, better all over experience.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

dude, you gotta let it go

Well I'm finally going to give up the Gateway ghost. I thought remorse was bad when we lost a cat. But a good friend of mine, an IT specialist, recycled toward me a used laptop in a business upgrade. A Dell with descent specs and 4 gig of ram from the XP era 2007. Yeah it is not spanking brand new but descent is the keyword. As per agreement I reformatted the drive to remove XP and company data, installed Fedora 16, even while we speak, er a write or type. I feel all fuzzy and excited.

The first thing was to Google 'Linux on laptops' to get the opinion of many who have had experience with Linux on this make of laptop, a Dell M90. There were some video concerns but no real gotchas so far. We just gone from the bargain basement to the upper mid levels as this is a workstation. Red Hat has been a staple in the engineering field for years. Fedora is the cutting-edge for Red Hat but does not stray from the rock solid reputation. This visit is to reacquaint myself with Fedora and to get experience with another style of Linux. Actually the only reason I went to the Debian camp was because they had all the applications I wanted without hassles. Part of the whole user friendlier scene is to make application finding and installing better. I think Red Hat lagged on that front for a long time, now it's up to snuff.

I can't make a fair comparison between my old laptop and the new because the old laptop had a 1024x768 screen. The newer one 1920x1200 and the new Ubuntu and Fedora takes advantage of the expanded real estate. For instance in GIMP, overlapping windows on the old 1924 wide screen, descent size work space and dialog boxes on the 1920 wide screen. Then the amount of system RAM, 512mb vs 4gig, and also the larger video RAM makes for better performance. And best of all is my old Wacom Graphire2 tablet which jittered on the old, is rock steady on the new. 

So now in the works is a new studio work strategy, if this new laptop proves it's worth. My desktop has Xubuntu 11.10 and the laptop Fedora 16 with Gnome Shell. All is sweetness and light here in the Linuxville Guide Chateau and the Glad new car smell candle is in the air. Now if I can use the wireless without effecting the TV in the livingroom my wife won't have to call me down from the mancave.

I give you the lowdown like this because many of us creative types can't wait to get all the latest new hardware and professional software. Making art while making due is what we often have to do. When and if we make the cut..........but until then, let's get on with it, now. Stay tuned.

new neighborhood

With every new combination of hardware and software a new experience and/or a new set of problems emerges. My old Gateway laptop has develop some problems that won't let it complete the booting process. I reinstalled Ubuntu 10.11, then Xubuntu 11.10 and the same problem stopped the boot. Could be the used 20 gig hard drive or just that the Gateway is old and can't handle the latest and greatest Linux.

I've been a Ubuntu user since version 3. Ubuntu is Debian based, which means mostly the '.deb" software management system. There is more to it but that is the crux. Today I am loading Fedora 13. Fedora is Red Hat Linux and has RPM or the Red Hat Package Management system. The latest version is Fedora 16 but it kindly announced to me I don't have enough system memory for it. Fedora 13 is installing but since I haven't used Fedora in so long, I am weary of every thing on the screen. It is like moving to a new neighborhood that's really around the corner. Your friends say they will wait till you get settled in to see you and it all looks like a strange environment. Dag man, don't they get it? I need them to make me feel at home in my new digs.

It's just Linux, they are all the same, aren't they? So are cars and within the same brand name there is great variance, choice and options. My Chevy Impala comes in regular, sport, luxury, deluxe sport, luxury sport and bling to the max. Each development group that handles the various Linux has it's path. They chose a core set of values and parameters out of all the available choices. Linux continues to match both the user base and the hardware base while tightly wrapped around the core values. Add to this new innovations and improvements and that is Linux. So in the end, each distribution like Ubuntu and Fedora may handle the same operation slightly different, plus the apps that do the job may look different. If it looks new to you then you are weary of what's going on. They may use the same desktop but behind the scenes the plumbing is different.

How can it be different, well I had my Ubuntu spear and shield along with my street tux and sneakers. In this new hood they sport red Fedoras and look rather dignified cool and assured, no brag just fact. 'It does the same thing!', I go. Naw man, we is so hot we have to control it, else the ice will melt. Yeah, what ever. Anyway my old Gateway is on the way out and new technology is making it obsolete. I find it so amazing that I can still get it to work. That's the view from here, Linuxville, ya gotta love it.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

turning the 'cough' corner

I have drunk way too much water, tea, juice but the cold is finally starting to clear. I have done the distro shuffle on my main box, back to Ubuntu 11.10. I dislike Unity but it is not that bad. Just not handy enough or intuitive enough for me. Intuitive means it works akin to how I am wired so that it seems it was made for me. Otherwise you got to get used to a different way of thinking. This is why choice in Linux is so great. You can find what suits you or tweak to suit. Mint was great but again I don't have the resources to support Gnome Shell in comfort. Comfort means no glitches, hesitations or malfunctions due to low memory and/or older graphic card. All the newer stuff forces you to upgrade, you can't escape it. If you buy a new PC, also buy as much RAM memory as you can afford or will fill it. Sure as shootin someone will write software that demands it and your comfort level will drop. 2 gig of RAM on my desktop will make it run better and accommodate the present software.

Slowly wheels and wires are disappearing. Wireless mice and keyboards abound. I got a mouse with a finger rail instead of a mouse wheel, man did that take a while to get used to. If you invest, PC memory price is stable to the point that old memory cost the same as when first put on the shelf. High when new, high now that it's older and not restocked. Laptop memory is the same way. New memory for new PCs and laptops are a good bargain, cheaper than the old stuff, get it from the get.

My old Gateway 4026gz laptop is resurrected again. I got a used 20gig hard drive for $15. It does not boot from USB flash, darn it, has 512MB ram and has a missing keyboard key. Hey, your first hotrod still under the green tarp, at least mine is running. I put Xubuntu 11.10 on it and it is so cool. The battery needs replaced, the keyboard, I disconnected the fingerpad. I am going to take out the keyboard, put in a filler and buy a USB keyboard. I am not alone in driving my PCs into the ground. When I get stuff to recycle from others, there is not much left but a spent carcass and OT (old technology, what did you think?). I have 4 really old laptops and a half a dozen desktops, a trunk full.

I do have my eye on new or near new stuff. I am ready for a new Desktop and Laptop. I thought about the ipads and the screens are not big enough and the CPUs are not powerful enough for my work and horse play. I still like to install my own stuff and that cloud thing smacks of not controlling my own data. Cable PC anyone?
In any case if you don't need light dimming graphics for photography or 3D work or serious gaming, you could replace a desktop with a laptop. If they can boot from a flash drive then you don't have to worry about the size of the on board hard drive, but get that RAM. Still, make sure the graphics system is adequate.

old PC iss-CHOOOS!

Hi all, been ill lately, graphics not on my mind, I went into the dungeon here at the Linuxville Chateau. It's the realm below the knees, where stacks of stuff have lingered since the DOS days. I gathered some relics from friends to recycle parts. My sister emailed me about her MS PC and malware. I had not done malware removal since I started using Linux 10 or so years ago. Here's the lowdown.

I open an old PC crypt, was immediately attacked by ferocious dust bunnies. I already had a head cold, you could imagine the sound of sneezing fits. My wife was ready to call 911. I got the vacuum cleaner and exorcised the little demons, from the PC, not me! Dust entrails on every device, wire and fans. A through cleaning and it was test ready. I plugged in all the perifs and booted. If I had my own original XP discs I wouldn't have faced this horror but it did give me a chance to practice Malware removal so I could report to my sister.

Being an old PC all the paid for anti-virus protection was done. I had to remove them via the Add-Remove software utility in XP. Then being an Open Source guy I whipped out my Open Disc. It is a collection of Open Source software for XP type PCs. I installed ClaimAV the virus scanner and ran it (takes for ever!). It identified the files of malware, trojans, trialware, games, ads, cookies that were bad and prepared a report in a text file. Then using the report I found the offending files via the file manager and deleted them. Then I obtained a free Registry Cleaner off the net and ran that (takes just shorter than for ever). Then I deleted all the personal data of the former master and all programs I weren't going to use. Finally I did the dreaded defrag (takes forever and a day!).

Well, now it runs well for an old XP machine. I normally would have reformatted and installed Linux, but XP is still useful for many things. I installed Open Source programs on it, free of course. MS Office and Explorer are gone, LibreOffice and Firefox are installed along with GIMP, Inkscape, Corel Painter Classic. The only thing that bothers me is the screen resolution and the CRT itself. The old HP monitor has had it's day and the videocard just doesn't adjust right in lower resolutions, all fuzzy. The highest res is sharp as a tack, but it's a 15" screen and I feel the rays if I get too close to read it. Hey. I'm an old guy. Blessed are they that have newer monitor, keyboard and mouse.

Yeah, I know iPads and smart-phones are the rage, but you can't run GIMP or Photoshop on that now can you, unless its cloudware? If your touchy screen can be the peripheral replacing the monitor, keyboard and mouse for the PC, that is cool. But it needs to be BIGGER for real work. Wacom already has devices like this, but they are hooked on art production and are toooooooo pricey for common folk, hummmmmmm! get your hack on!

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

la de da and yada yada yada

Still in a seriously playful mood here. Once you got all the things about you ready to roll, think about what you want to do, how your art is to be applied. Note that you are not really in business until you got some customers. The same with art, you got to produce something for others to look at. That's the whole point, right? Yeah you can do it for your own amusement, but you put that much effort into it for your own enjoyment? Oh none will know about my secret life as an artist. No, you don't have to go commercial and all, but maybe a few close to you might appreciate a shot at seeing the inner workings of you whom they love or hang out with. Art isn't always about a job and to relax via art is very cool. But to hide it all away is a crime.

What is your art for, to decorate a home/office, make a statement in a museum or gallery, or be in magazines, or a web page, a comicbook or a greeting card or cubical workspace?

Art has a place and subject matter, it says something or nothing so much like an abstract design. When your art is in someone else's hands, who knows how it will be applied within their life, where it will fit. So make the jump into your art already.

When in school I lived to sketch. When I worked as a draftsman I had an epiphany. I was making prints of electrical drawings on various plotters, then it hit me. I was making little drawings into big prints, what if I did this to one of my sketches. I took a pen drawing, scanned it into a file at home and plotted it out big on vellum paper at work. I almost screamed with delight to see my little drawing so big. I did similar on my home printer and when I upgraded to one of those photo able printers that sealed it. A number of friends make artwork for web pages, but to make stuff meant for print like posters. I can't afford a big printer/plotter yet but there is Kinkos, OfficeMax and Staples stores that all have print facilities/services and can print posters.

How are prints received in the gallery where I display? Next to other media print sometimes appears to be a little hokie because that print could be a magazine page. What sets it apart is the material it's printed on and scale. Glossy photo paper, matte paper, card stock, canvas, all help make the print more than just a print. Printing is as much an art as drawing the art itself. Of course the better quality materials does help. And who's to stop you from altering/augmenting your print via traditional art medias? You can go on and on but I hope you know when to stop, frame it and display it.

Saturday, December 03, 2011

hoop-la la land

Welcome to hoop-la la land, the place where the rubber meets the road and get rubber melted all over it. No, it only looks like tar.

First thing is read the instructions for all the tools you use. A glancing look is OK until you got a question. Like that Abrams guy on "the yankee workshop" be sure to use the safety equipment, lol. Make adjustments to get things working right. Wait! GIMP and my Wacom Graphire2 won't play nice. I've got to dig deeper into that, I'll "Google" for help. In the meantime, my old Wacom does play well with MyPaint. For Inkscape the mouse is less stress. Hey, it's how I roll, you find what works for you.

My first desire is to not do finished art, but to be able to sketch ideas the same as I've done it in my notebooks. Pictorial notes, storyboarding, sketching, they become a mental bookmark. When I review my sketches often I remember everything I thought about concerning the sketch, including the mood I was in, music associations if I was really into it. I even get a rush of desire as if the original inspiration were present. I can then pick up where I left off. I also save ideas to reuse them and combine them with other ideas, hybrids are all the rage.

Well I mainly use Inkscape because vector drawing is similar to CAD programs like AutoCad. Check out LibreCad, I did and It's cool. Bit-map or raster drawing makes me feel like a traditional artist. My cursor is not constrained. This freehand sketching loosens you up.

For precision tightness you need pen practice. Check out this  site http://clippingimages.blog.com/2010/06/20/graphic-tablet-exercises/  Now this is a tute by "Dusty Ghost" who's web site is down. The exercises will help you get a grip on your pen and mouse. Thanks to the folk on Clipping Images. Another inspirational and instructional site belongs to David Revoy http://www.davidrevoy.com/tutoriel.html ....he is awesome, dig deep, he's got some serious help for open source artist. And park your cursor over at http://linuxgraphicsusers.com/forum/ because we are drowning in the Adobe suite world and the little nation of open source artist needs an oasis, the forum is cool. No offense Adobe fans, what ever tools you have at is cool wid me!

OK, you got the hardware, the software, the gall, the time and the motive, all you need is the effort. Ain't nuttin to it but to do it. OOOh! There is this open source app called Tux Paint for kids. Don't let the kid thing fool you. It's got a few tricks of it's own and in the hands of a smart-aleck, unkid like magic can be made, lol, my grandkids hooked me up.

Friday, December 02, 2011

Play, grunt, serious play, that's art

In college I loved music. I went into an orchestra room by myself and a few things became apparent. I was not a trained musician, each instrument required it's own attention and listening required much less work than making the music. I played the saxophone by ear, in my imagination I wanted to play jazz like John Coltrane. It was all glory, I didn't really want to put in the basic music lessons. I did join a drum troupe, played conga and made Trane like noises. Most of the crowd ate it up, but they were as clueless of the "art" as I.

In my so-called art training, we surveyed several kinds of art activities, hands on. Macramé and appliqué, wire and clay sculpture, life drawing and creative drawing. Then my study as an architecture student. I had liked drawing houses before, my rendering won me a scholarship, but not having basic engineering math hindered me greatly. I covered a lot of not taught in class study while working at the campus library.

All things added together, be inspired by glory but get the basic work done, the rudiments, the rote, the fundamentals, the ABCs, then hack it, improvise. I improvised it all. That is not the way to go, lol. As fun as that was, it's also hard. In the end, an artist uses what he knows, both training and vision make the artist. Had I.....well I would be a different artist, if not a better one.

On the computer I became a draftsman before an artist. Luckily, that was my basic training. Working on a PC requires a certain level of procedure, how do you get there from here. You need to know so many UN-intuitive things. Sitting there with a drawing program before you, it has all the tools and possibilities. Like being in that room full of instruments. If you have background, there is much you have already dealt with.

I place a lot of value on play, you got to play with it. Roaming, doodling, making a cyber mess and erasing it, doing it again. Play helps get you to know what to expect and builds confidence. The next great step is the tutorial and the project. Tutorials and/or a teacher gets you to follow a path (procedure) to get a project done. There is a lot to think about from expectation, to setup, to executing, to finishing. Doing art is all about playing but new info/experience takes it to a new level each time.

Serious play/performance/production is the goal, the best of my ability, not someone else's. There are better and worst than me, but I'm an original. When all the elements come through me this is what you get, no brag, no shame. It was funny I went to the music institute to borrow a practice room. I made my Coltrane like noise, the students walking by looked in and smiled, waved and thumbed up. I was just making noise like I heard. The music is more than that. Eventually I put the horn down because I didn't have the basics to move beyond the noise I heard. I could fool a few people, I couldn't fool myself. I enjoy the music, without the training I couldn't really play it, just the sound of it. You can fool some, but you know. Can't draw, pick up a camera, but there is an art there too. It's not the tools, it's your eye. Everybody has eyes but photographers see more precisely. You can't escape doing the work. Play becomes work becomes serious play........eh, it's an art.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Linux shell game update

I'm not getting any work done because I like to blog and play with my computers. The latest thing is a tussle on a Linked-in Ubuntu discussion group. Just short of slinging colorful metaphors, we politely answer the question of hating the Unity and Gnome Shell desktops. There is then Mint Linux jumping to the lead on Distrowatch. Let me state for the record I tried and I'm tired.

I didn't like Unity, still you can like it if you want. Gnome Shell for me is much better but on my PC it only works off the Live-CD. Fedora ventured out first with a full Gnome Shell and it was cool on the Live-CD. I tried to install Gnome Shell on my Ubuntu 11.10 and it didn't work. I just don't have the Ram and Videocard for good clean usage. Enter Mint Linux. I didn't want to jump on the bandwagon, but having tried Mint before we go for it. The Mint Live-CD was the bomb as Gnome Shell worked flawlessly closer to what I am looking for in a desktop. Then I installed it and it didn't work. But never fear, Gnome Classic was there and also Gnome Classic without effects. Also Mate was there which is pretty cool as a menu system. So I got Mint but no Gnome Shell. If Gnome Classic goes away I got Mate which I like and can live with.

Funny thing with Linux distros, there are sticking points and standout points. Otherwise they are the same as the rest of their families. The Debian based distros are one way and the RPM based ones in their family and the family similar to Slackware. Now mind you, I don't promote distro-hopping as a sport, but if you don't fancy virtual machines or bootable USB drives or flash drives, then here is safe distro hopping. Divide your hard drive into several partitions, 20 gig is fine for each distro you install. Since I am not a nut, I did one 20 gig partition for my choice of distro. I do one partition to match the size of my system RAM memory as a swap partition. Then the rest of the drive as space for /Home directories. My /Home directory never changes, the same directory for what ever distro I install. I reformat only the distro partition and install a new distro without effecting my personal files in my /Home directory. The cool thing about this is the hidden files stored in the /Home directory are still there if you install the same applications, you don't lose settings or bookmarks or email or some configurations.

So what do I think of Ubuntu in second place to Mint? Distrowatch is about the number of search hits sort of like the Jason Bourne movie when the gov phishes for the word "Blackbriar" on international wire taps. It does not indicate installed systems. I heard about Mint, I had to investigate, I liked what I saw, told others, they did the same. Mint is being checked out in droves being made from Ubuntu stuff but lacking Unity desktop. It features Gnome Shell instead and it's own Gnome Shell extensions. I like it but I can't use it on my present system. Linux as far as popular use systems goes, is not focused on low end and older hardware as in the past. The standard has been raised. For me the comfort level is higher with Mint.

Don't forget both Ubuntu and Mint will improve because of all this attention and or the shift of conversation. Welcome to the world of Linux.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

the machine for art and the man of art

I have a scattering of pens on my desk, some papers. I stare at them intently wondering about my own art history. Every artist has a history, work that passed through their hands, ideas that they entertained, attempts, notes, urges, and finished works. Sometimes our training hinders us, sometimes it is what's needed, we make it work or we stretch it to extend our creative reach. Sometimes we explore new territory perchance a new technique will bring about new ideas or a new outcome. Darn it all, there is a core we can't escape, a sweet spot. The artist who draws all kinds of stuff but finds drawing/painting horses is a bliss/blast. OR the impressionist vs the photo-realist, the meticulous vs the slosher/splasher.

For me it is architectural forms, interior design, and decoration. I had a hard time accepting this as I compared myself to fine artist. Turns out my meager training has been about what I love all along, no need to think I'd like to be something else, or measuring up to something else. Turn envy into appreciation of others work. It's OK to appreciate and not have to do it yourself. When I scan the internet a great portion of fine art is about people, faces, figures. I feel more like a stage designer, setting the stage for people to perform on. I'm drawn to sculpture, lighting, and how a picture is framed, the shape of things. My stuff seems empty without people standing and acting in front of it. If I put people in the art then it would be locked. Though some viewers need figures in art to make a immersive connection, "What if I were in there."

The sweet spot sets the art motive into play, the art purpose, the art reason. You may venture to your limits but the sweet always calls to you. Could very well be a big part of your signature, that recognizable flaw that distinguishes each and every artist from other artist.

There is also the mirror effect. When you yourself survey over your own body of work and you see the character of your own hand, an annoying quality you want to change so bad, you will try different things to obliterate the flaw. News flash! That's not a flaw, it's a feature, it's who you are and HOW YOU ARE WIRED. It comes out in your work. Old stuff, you have to embrace yourself BEFORE you let yourself go. Else it will haunt you for ever. You put your hand to a work, did you somehow think what you created is separate from you? LOL!

Man has always made his mark from the first time he furrowed the dirt with a stick, a burnt stick on a rock. The implements today are so refined, the talents so well honed, yet the urge is the same, we make a mark and call it art.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

the wonder of two PCs

I sit here listening to my music in the background. I'm in a Pharaoh Sanders mood right now. Music is a great transport to clear away many of the thoughts that cloud the drawing process. It also inspires and adds it's own flavor into your work. Trust me head banging thumping and grinding is different than smooth and sweet. We are not immune to the environment we are immersed in. Nature calls, the wife calls, the cats want attention, the phone, the mail in the mail slot, the outside noise, the inside cares.........music soothes the savage beast, so I can draw. I don't want to concentrate too hard but be on that edge of vivid sleep. That is where is doesn't matter if I can't do it, I will not stop myself from trying. If I can get it roughly, in time I will get it out smoothly.

Why two PCs? First I don't have a dual quad core with a graphic card so potent-n-powerful it can be the hub of a 4 screen cinema and do the marquee too. Second I do have an older spare dust bunny generator PC that still works. If I set it up as a media player/reference display, I won't have to divert any power on my main PC to doing those things while I am drawing. Plus the second display means I don't have to page back and forth between work spaces. It's all good. Like watching a tutorial on one PC and practicing it on the other at the same time. Not so mad am I? Having pictures of some idea on one screen and you working the sketch on the other.

In your studio accommodate yourself, that is what it is for. I would like a large wide screen or a video projector. Now that's thrilling. Maybe venture into 3D graphics. Although computers can produce wonderful output, they shine in the brain assist. I scanned my notebook pages into my PC, onto CD, then I review them in slide shows. You will be surprised at what you can learn from your own work, what you can teach yourself. That program by Google called Picassa is a gem, an absolute gem. It will play each picture in a folder or selected set at the interval you choose. There is a collage tool I just discovered. You take a batch of pics and twist and layer and resize and reposition interactively.

Perhaps one day I might get an extreme hardware upgrade. Seems you can get laptops that do everything you want. Desktops seem cheaper for the same result. I rather have a light dimming desktop in my studio and a laptop that can do a lot but not be too expensive. I wouldn't want to carry around something I would have to be extra careful about. Hey look at that guy with his case handcuffed to his wrist. Must be a federal courier! Nah, that's Rno the digital artist!

Monday, November 14, 2011

art life after desk overhaul

oooooh man, I know I'm jumping the gun but I've got to play around a bit.

OK, on deck is My Paint which is fast and furious for playing around. For serious painting, I'm not the one. You see I've been an Electrical CAD drafter for years and the only digital drawing I've done you see here. I've got stacks of paper and notebooks with scribbles but this is new. I do have a desire to adjust my pen and tablet to feel like I am drawing in my notebook. Actually there are many considerations to account for in doing real art, like what is the outcome, will it be printed?

You got to think ahead, especially with bit-mapped drawings because if your stuff isn't a good resolution and size it will be pixelated if you enlarge it. Of course drawing or painting things require a more trained eye and that persistant spirit.  Most of us use the trial and error exploration method. We stumble upon stuff that is cool with us until we learn otherwise. I came across some tablet exercises on Deviant Art, I'll have to find the link. You got to get the machine out of the way so that your work is flowing out. You could do this with a mouse, yeah, good luck with that. A cheap tablet is fine if it works well, you can always upgrade. Linux users should for sure to get a Wacom brand tablet as the drivers for Wacom are in the OS.

Freehand drawing requires practice to make the cursor do what you want. Doing vector work with Inkscape is kind of like CAD and requires more nudging lines that putting down and erasing dots. Feel the pen on the tablet surface, learn to trust it. Adjust the software sensitivity of pen pressure. find comfort. For me the mouse works better with vector drawings, the pen with bit-mapped work is more natural. You may have to get ink, paint and charcoal scented candles to.......er, never mind.

You'll need some help like a cheat sheet of keyboard short-cuts for each drawing program you use. You can't remember them unless you use them. Like in My Paint "d" makes the brush smaller. One hand poking the keyboard and the other holding the pen, I can change brush size on the fly. Oops, I don't know what makes the brush bigger, where's my cheat sheet? Aah, "f" makes the brush bigger. So, think about the final output of your work and compensate up front. Planning ahead is very important. Save your work often, I learned this in CAD work. The biggest thing in playing around is learning what you can do and knowing what to expect trying different stuff. It's getting fun.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

the non-digital part of digital art

Here in the humble adobe of your Linuxville guide, looking through the near naked trees and oh my, my garage roof needs fixin. The penthouse studio is shaping up. I work on one of those pressed wood computer desk. Today the workspace just wasn't big enough. The writing/keyboard area is not big enough, the right side under the cabinet is useless and I keep banging my knee on the right side drawer. Let alone putting the flash sticks and CDs under the desk, I watch the dust bunnies become jackalopes and chase the cats around.

So, I raised the CRT on it's shelf and pushed my old wooden drafting table over the writing/keyboard area, against the front of the desk. Then put the all-n-one printer/scanner/fax/copier on the shelf above the CRT cubby and the PC box on the same shelf on the right end. I can see everything well. The reaches are still a stretch but I don't inhale dust bunnies.

The drawing table is just under counter height and just above the desk chair armrest. The table is big enough to rest my whole arms on when I type and use the digital tablet. Well, the Wacom Graphire 2 is an 8"x 8" plastic square, try holding that in your lap or a narrow desk area. I was thinking about 3/8" chip board for a drawing table cover. I could cut out recesses for the keyboard and for the digital tablet. That would be too static for me, my work situation changes as you can tell. My big printer sits atop an old dresser next to the desk, print supplies are in it's drawers. On the other side of the desk on a printer stand is my spare PC which I can load with reference stuff or run tutorials on. Running two PCs can be a headache if they are not similar. You don't want to do too many different things when you are working. Every operation requires your attention at some point.

Just like some people can sleep anywhere, some can draw anywhere. I am not so inclined. I am trying to set a comfortable spot that is flexible but doesn't change that much. For years I've been a vagabond artist in my own house. We are not talking dream studio, for that I would renovate the garage. This is a spare room I can use that is not in the traffic flow.

The table is light enough to move it if I need to and provides a drawing posture better suited for taming the graphics tablet. You say I am beating around the bush, and not drawing! Yes! This is all part and partial of the whole Gennie gig! Art is not a thoughtless process, perhaps a haphazard one, but not thoughtless. Besides, there are drawing tutorials galore but studio setup ones are rare.  Getting your work space in order helps you to be comfortable when you work. 

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

incredible incremental improvments

If you are an unimpeachable penguinator like myself, who likes the well appointed display of desktop bling, gadgetry and and a flagrant flasher of the sweetened eye-candy only to find when you want to work, ya got to shuck the mess down to the penguin skivvies........Closer inspection of satellite photos of icebergs show the gray coloring due to thousands of top hats and tails strewn about in mass. Why dress then shuck is anybodies guess, but the notion of showing off is very strong among us. Who is their tailor? Do they recycle?

My last improvement was the Cairo-dock, I rolled with that until I noticed some response overload. Hesitation after a mouse click was quite apparent. I thought, I have 1 gig of main memory, it should be enough. I love the dock, it is so handy.  The culprit is called compositing. All the newer graphic cards can do it, but the older ones will find it a challenge. There are alpha layers, shadows and animated effects that look so cool and steal away your work capability. Ever wonder how or if a bling encrusted banger brushes his teeth? Now that's a sight, yeah man, I'm down wid the paste dude, forget the whiteners, I got my metal polished to the gleam. It's why cops wear shades, bling glint could be mistaken for a muzzle flash. Hey, assume the position and quit cheesing.

So, I had to remove the Cairo-dock. Then I installed Docky. Docky was part of something called Gnome-do, a intuitive device that let's you type in a few letters and it anticipates what you are looking for. Sort of like a spell checker coupled to a search bar. That's not how I roll so I was glad to see Docky as a stand-alone dock application for just the dock stuff. Down to the skivvies, that's what I want. Simple and quick response and boom, I'm working. And it has options, some small bling to make it look cool. It doesn't slow down my system. It's like turning a top hat into a bathing cap and a tux coat into a swim suit (when wet).

Man, you guys always want visuals:
 Of course Docky disappears when a window is overlapping and has the usual drag and drop the icon features. The point is to make the desktop wonderful yet responsive. Resources are precious to us of the lean means. Even if your PC is a Hummer (hums with power), this will help you optimize and become even more powerful. That is power that can be felt in your drawing mouse or pen tablet, smooth glitch free operation. Like a penguin gliding through water, I want you all to swim with the sharks yet not be lunch.

What's that thing in the pic? It's my rendition of an African thumb-piano or mbira done in Rhino-beta on a XP machine. Yeah, I came from there too. I'm as free as a bird today, water bird, er, extreme water bird. Penguins rule! Your Linuxville guide on the edge of the berg, bringing you the desktop play by play.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

improvement I think

It is my nature to try to make things better, here in the penthouse studio. This new Ubuntu 11.10 is OK but my hardware is older. I just have to get it to where I can fiddle a little. I removed XFCE desktop because there were some background conflicts that annoyed me. Sometimes when more that one window manager is on one Linux installation, if there is not a clear shutting down of the one not being used at the time, they leak into the one you are using. XFCE has it's window manager and Gnome and Unity has theirs. It is common to share code so that redundancy can be limited. I would get some features from Gnome leaking into XFCE acting funny. So having removed XFCE and installing Gnome Classic desktop I ended some background stuff.

It figures, you want details:

Now the dock on the side is called Cairo-dock and it does require a little compositing power and I do have it to be hidden when not in use. I have the app menu at the top and on the dock, status bar on the top and tasks and workspaces on the bottom. Believe it or not, it is faster than Unity and Gnome-shell. This eliminates two or three mouse clicks between grabbing the mouse and starting the application. Most times, one decisive mouse click allows you to keep your train of thought. In the mortal words of entrepreneur Ron Ronco, "set it and forget it!" There is nothing worst in the whole world than stopping what you are doing, doing a bunch of something else, then finishing what you started, all the while trying to remember what it was you were doing.

Why I talk all this mess? Because once you get your work space to where you want it, it is a breeze to use. In digital art you want to do things when you think about it. The OS and desktop should get out of the way, the applications should be snappy, responsive. The older Wacom tablets are fine if that is all you have, but get an optical mouse, but, but, no lose the ball mouse. I haven't had luck with wireless keyboards and mice. If that is fine with you, OK. The latest technology is not always the advantage. NASA even uses older CPU technology because they have wider circuit traces, generate less heat, very good in spaceships even if they have slower clock speeds.

I have a second old PC I can use for tutorial viewing while I am drawing. I discovered I do not multi-task well. In the past I set it up with Synergy which allows me to share a keyboard and a mouse between two or more computers. I just move the cursor arrow to the edge of one display onto the display of the next, boom, I control that one, and back, I control this one. Also on this PC I can view reference pictures from my stash or from the net. It is obvious to me also I like the tech side as much as the art side. Keeping it all simple, of course. I am just saying the older tech is cool if it still works, use it till it's dead.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

what were you thinking?

There are two kinds of artist, them that must recreate what they see and them that must see what they will create. I am the artist of the third kind. Coming from a drafting background and loving architecture, interior design, I am more prone to design the picture frame than the picture. But I did have some training or more correctly some classes in college. I took a teacher training arts class where we explored various media.

Macramé was big stuff, fabric crafts, then clay handling. I didn't get to throw a pot but hand building was cool and I did a bust of myself. Well it was a head that kind of resembled me. Wire sculpture was fun, I got to bend and soldier some brass rods into a wispy pseudo-futureistic form. Life drawing was awkward but eye-opening revelations of perception and proportion and accurate recording on paper, yeah and a naked body. On the Architecture side there was art history and lots of discussions about the industry and the class project. We had to take $5.00's worth of any materials and construct a seating unit to sit on all semester.

My own time was spent in the library, I was a shelver, a great job for me I scanned through many books I had no interest in. Architecture magazines galore, it was a wonder I got my work done. In my dorm room and in an apartment I had later I did acrylic painting, dabbling and smearing. I don't recall doing anything life-like.
When I left the campus life I became an electrical drafter. We worked with pen and ink on vellum and pencil on anything. Then computers came in. I was trained on CADD, Computer Aided Drafting and Design. I was into the task of engineering drawing. The art side didn't dawn on me till one day while running a plotter I wondered how a hand drawing would look plotted big. I drew something at home on paper and got it scanned in the PC, took the file to work. I felt sneaky and like a little kid about to do a crime. While I was plotting my regular stuff I slipped in my lined freehand drawing. My eyes got big with excitement, had to push them back in and hide my joy. It was hard to go into the plotter room after that. Big plots are the bomb man! I gotta get me one of these!

To gather it all together, you see that life shapes the kind of artist you are. All the experiences and other stuff that gets dumped into you. It all activates the art gene, that must come out. The fun part is when I get to laugh at ones who survived traditional artist training. They are often like war vets, good but boy did they take a beating. I've met the incurable crafters of the cute and cuddly, the "I've got something to say" clan and the "it's a job" commercial artist. Everybody loves what they do sort of, kind of, it's a blessing and a curse thing. You can not escape the coming out, the expression of the art gene, you will express!!!

Monday, October 24, 2011

ease of use?

I heard the cry "ease of use, ease of use" out there among you icon clickers. Relax, please. Now repeat after me "I do not need to make a habit of using the command line unless I want to." And "I disavow any knowledge of the command line but reserve the right to recollect if I need to." It's a good thing we done this because I was going to breakout Imagemagic a command line graphics application that could make you the next Wizard of OZ. LOL we could be down here in the cave of wonders for weeks.

My main infatuation is that you too can turn your average to geek-busting PC into an art studio for a small sum, next to nothing in fact. Yes in Microsoft Windows too. Check out the Open Disc project: http://www.theopendisc.com/  These are MS Windows compatible open source programs compiled into a DVD iso image. You have to download it and burn it. The cool thing is that the risk of malware is not there. Not for the DVD image and not among the apps on the disc.

But hey, I'm a Linux guy, Ubuntu in fact. I will list the rundown of Apps that I am using.

Libre Office is an office suite a fork of OpenOffice.org

GIMP or GNU Image Manipulation Program is like Photoshop - bit-map

Inkscape is like Illustrator - vector

MyPaint is like Corel Panter - sims natural medias

LibreCad is like AutoCad, sort of

Then I have a collection of other apps to round out things like viewers and printer control apps, color pickers.

If you suffer from creative block once in a while. Put as many of your own sketches or reference pictures into a folder, then use a screen slide show function of a viewer to replay them. Sometimes fast, sometimes slow, study them intensely or out the corner of your eye in a casual manner while doing something else (like cleaning your studio). I rigged an old standby PC for this. Add music or not. Things will start cooking again.

Use old technology like a pad of paper and pen to take notes of your thinking. Then scan them into your folder for mental viewing. Pay no attention to the man/mame behind the curtain.

cave of wonders

We go today down through the catacombs into the cave of wonders. Most are afraid to go down there but if you remember to only touch the lamp, you'll be OK. I'll explain it in a different format so that you'll get it. Carpenters all over the world know you measure twice and cut once. So you read the formula, type the recipe, check that it is correct, then hit the return buttom. Simple.

We are talking about the terminal window or command line in Linux. It's sort of like the similar terminal window on the Microsoft OS but in a different neighborhood. OK, we all know you have been to trained to push the icon on your smart phone, tablet and PC, get over it. I will drag you through the process of this discovery. Cave of wonders, remember.

First I wanted to take a book that was a folder of scanned pages (JPG files) and turn them into a PDF document so that it was easier to handle and read. I tried a number of applications thinking it would be easy. No one application could do what I wanted to do. I was looking at converting and compiling and editing.

Second, when in jeapordy put your answer in the form of a question and Google it or Yahoo it or..... My question, (how to) "turn multiple jpg pages into pdf document in Ubuntu." Scanning down the results and bypassing all the add this application and that (you have to learn how to use each application!) there was the convert command. The person described what it was and how to use it. I took the folder with the files in it and copied it on my desktop, then opened the terminal, typed in his formula using my folder names instead of his:

cd Desktop   --   change to desktop
cd tim   --   change to "tim" folder on desktop
convert *.jpg timbuktu.pdf  --   convert all the "tim" folders ,jpg files to a single pdf file named "timbuktu.pdf. Use a carriage return or enter key after each line. Remember the carpenter rule, the first time I did it, it did not work. Then I put a space between convert and *, it work more than fine and fast. When I opened the "timbuktu.pdf file there, low-n-behold, was my book in PDF format, no extra work on my part.

Linux has a lot of commands in it's cave of wonders, but we like GUIs and Icon. I problem is that the pretty covers are usually ganged functions for ease of use. The command line is often more articulate and precise. Either obtain a book on the subject or Google like I did. The convert command is built into Linux, we never knew it was there, now we do. Come on now, I saved you from installing and learning 3 different applications and don't trip over the flying carpet.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Just when you thought it was safe

Ah yes the quiet retreat, away from the hubs and the bubs. The SATA hard drive on my upstairs machine "the penthouse" started having boot problems. I was trying to do stuff, it was acting funny. I thought maybe I should have done a fresh install of Ubuntu instead of the upgrade I did. It seemed like my CD drives were in on the excitement too. I swapped out the hard with a used one, the CD drives worked fine and the hard drive I now have works but is an older IDE drive. I reinstalled Ubuntu, this time a fresh install and I repartitioned the drive to have a separate partition for the operating system and another for my "Home" folder. And did I mention if I have to do this again I would only have to change the partition with the operating system on it. And of course I save my "Home" data from the previous hard drive on a 4 gig flash drive so that could reinstall that also. And finally it's all quiet again, order is restored, at last, and gosh that was a blast and now I am wondering what to do next.....oooh, I'm out of breath typing.

I went over to the art gallery today, the weather was nice. My wife allowed me to be talked into helping with the mural in progress on the back of the building. OK get on Facebook and click in Lorain Arts Council and look at the pictures. Yeah I am not the one holding the camera and I am not in the pictures. I am never there when a camera is there, go figure. Anyway if your penthouse/man cave/mame heaven/art studio gets to be too much, get out and do art in a different media under a different circumstance. I got paint on the wall now, outlining figures, painting over flaws, adding touches and feeling I did a lot more. Looks pretty darn good.

 In one of the back rooms a sculptor was working on a sandstone piece. I've seen this guy dressed to the nines in a show, to see him in overalls making dust was a shock. We are talking developing more studio space, a darkroom, a video lab and even a dance/rehearsal/recital space. We do have a bistro, what we don't have is member volunteers in droves. We have a few faithful, so be it. I always have to be coaxed into deeper participation, lots of conflicts of interest and little pay. But darn cool it is and once I am there a while I don't want to leave. I think I am going to help with the Lorain Arts Council newsletter since I am blogging anyway. I'll race ya back to the studio, got to get some of my own work done.

Friday, October 21, 2011

It's gettin homey Homey

I am settled in and the view is fine from here. There has been a desktop display war going on and a lot of Ubuntu users are effected. I don't have a pimped out machine so I can't test all the eye-candy and new "Shells". Canonical's Unity desktop has proved to be too much in the way for me and my video card has a hard time with the Gnome Shell. I think that says all that needs to be said.

I hate screens full of icons. You don't really remember what is behind them or at least you aren't really sure. Then there is too much space between them, you have to scroll down a page to see them all, plus sometimes two layers deep of search. This all equals too much thought between the first icon and the app you want to use.

I am going to add to what Linus T. said about operating systems. The OS should not get in the way of the user, neither should the desktop interface. So to that end I am not using Unity nor Gnome Shell. I have the standard Ubuntu 11.10 and added XFCE desktop. Here's a pic:

Just like Unity and Gnome shell I have a panel of favourites on the left side that hides when not needed. On the top the file manager is very handy, then on the bottom the menu, task-bar, work space, clock, etc.

Pretty much everything is one click away and faster than the shells. I don't want to work through desktop layers to get things done. This is a hybrid solution that works nicely for me. And I can change it around to look and work differently. I haven't even added tweaky-geeky stuff to achieve this, simple is cool.

I am also starting to play with the graphic tablet more to get the feel of it. This old mouse masher is used to doing vector type drawing. I'll have to work on some project to push my practice of digital freehand.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

penthouse life

From our vantage point let's zoom in. Oh wait, that's the back of the gov photo satellite, whoops, my bad! There's the dot on the glob, I mean globe, a land mass, then....Google Maps photo doesn't show my home there's a glut of trees.....aaaugh! Kids with laser pointers.

I'm getting settled into the penthouse life, a throwback in time.......no, not that far back. I have CRTs because the flat screen video driver boards are shot on my two displays. It cost as much to replace the boards as a new flat screen monitor. There's the hum of the PC box fans on the floor and racing electrons through circuits when the data to the CRT changes. All my art stuff is up here, drawing table, pens, pencils and exhumed technology laying around. The mouse table, the digital tablet and cat hair like clouds or rolling tumble weed. One desk and one chair and room to pace. OK, it's a man cave, but it's a studio to me.

You have to create a place where your world is under your control and your thoughts can rest. A place where you can say "what if" without saying "OH Darn, what now!" The production of art is all about extruding a line of energy under your guidance. Especially, this is true with art on the computer, you are using known procedures to accomplish your ends. Just about every facet has a tweak, an adjustment before you use it. Sort of like using a recipe out of a book. First you follow it to the T. Then you change it slightly to match your "Taste". After you've forgotten where you got it, you say "a pinch of This and a pinch of That", when someone asks.

PC's are all about repeatable results, this is why on-line tutorials are gold to the video artist. You may not discover it, but someone may have and already did what you want to do and has that let me show you gene. To teach is a blessing but to brag is mental torture. Lookie what I can do.......bang, bang bang, the loud music, the talk not clear. Sure the natural state of things are fine for some, but teaching is also an art. I would like to learn your method and prefer my own music turned down in the background, thank you.

On the drawing surface of the video screen, the cursor coaxed by the digital pen on a tablet or the mouse, leaves a trail of pixels. All the principles of art apply plus the added hand-eye coordination. Some have a pen tablet where video display is the tablet but most do not. Especially us casual artist. A mouse driven cursor is awkward for some types of drawing. For engineering CAD work or vector drawing a mouse is sufficient and efficient. For freehand drawing, sketching, painting, a digital pen is best. The digital pen needs a lot of practice to get the adjustments and feel right. I hope to get close to a natural feel like using a pen on paper. It's trusting the media and sensing what it will do when you are doing it. When it becomes second nature, it's right, effortless!

Art on the computer is all about layers. Layers of procedures, layers of operations, layers of pixels. It's how you control things. If you put it all on one layer as with a single piece of paper, you lose the advantage of the computer. That again is your choice, how you work. Layers make life with pixels more manageable. When is all said and done the layers are mashed into one view for viewing or printing. You can see it all from our lofty vantage point, we digital artist have to hone in. That is our daily practice so we can get down wid our content.
Hey a shadow, it's the ISS........is that graffiti on the side? Pimped out man!

Monday, October 17, 2011

Laptop goes quietly

 Hey everyone, I blogging today from the penthouse and the view would be great if it weren't for the tree. It's just starting to get the autumn tinge. As usual it waits till all the raking is done and the first sloopy rain/snow mix, then it looses everything. The chateau was renovated with the updated Xubuntu and then the hard drive would not boot. It a classic Gateway 4026gz with original equipment. Kind of beat up it was but comfortable to use. I will probably buy a used 2.5" drive for a few bucks and resurrect it. Yeah, I'm that good! LOL!

This economy sucks and I've been stuck with low budget hardware far too long. The good thing is that you appreciate what you can do with what you have. Limitations can be OK, but not always good. Open source has been a staple because availability and hardware requirements have not hindered me thus far. I lost my XP disc long ago. I think that was a good thing, trusting everything to Linux was a slow and exciting process. And yes I would have used Open Source had I still had XP.

Mind ya now, I am no code on the command line geekaholic as many think Linux users are. Though I've used MSDOS, I never gotten used to it. Linux has always had a windowed desktop in my experience. I am a mouse masher to the hilt. I do use the command line when there is no other way to do it. Mostly I am taking instruction from others who've written what to type. I just follow along in hope of repeatable results. Yeah man, computers do that well!

Speaking of desktops, Ubuntu's Unity desktop is in heavy use, it is not as efficient as the old drop down menus. You just have to embrace the way it does things. A step or two more to get to the icon you click to do stuff. People talk about improvements but the swiftest thing yet was the DOS shell on a 286 computer back in 1980's. Doesn't that sound a long time ago? That was before MS Win 3.0. What slows things down is graphics. There's a thousand words of code behind each picture or icon, you can't get around it in data. You have to process the picture AND the thousand words of code behind it. Now everybody wants fancy effects on screen, eye-candy, takes even more power. Not a problem, technology is keeping up, look at what you can do on iPads type devices, that's impressive.

The penthouse is kind of isolated, I miss the chateau in the hub of activity. 

Saturday, October 15, 2011

the art mind on pc fan fumes

I have talked a lot about hardware and software but not enough about the inner workings of the artist. It is not so easy for me as I am a trained draftsman in the electrical CAD discipline. You know circuit design is only a representation of the actual circuit. When I did some printed circuit board design, that was more actual. If I had done mechanical part drawing, that is a modeling of the real thing. Doing artistic work is a challenge. Drafting is realistic like a photograph in a way, the data depicts the actual. For me the challenge is putting down the idea in a non-explicit way. I can go from drawing a blob and calling it a house to drawing a house realistically and nobody has to ask what it is.

The drive to draw a perfect representation of an known idea or concept is so strong. I have to tell myself I can draw a blob and call it a house. I don't have to draw a perfect house or a good house. I love Japanese water colors but not the calendar art where the planned flaws are obvious. I struggle for those happy "accidents" where the ink hits a spot on the page with too much water, but it's OK. I struggle because doing art on a computer is rather mechanical. I am trying to make it fuzzier or more unpredictable, more flawed like we are.

To date most of my impatient nature shows in my work. I do solid color fills and thin consistent lines. To grunge things up slightly is an extra step that would add interest, texture and depth. This trains my person to live with the process for a little while longer, to think and work in another dimension.  You see a draftsman doesn't do "art", he draws an idea that is a plan for something to be made. It is precise so that someone can make it. Artist draw so you can get the gist of it, being a thing, person, landscape or a mood, feeling or concept.

I really don't draw abstractly or altering something until it's unrecognizable. I draw shapes and lines and colors and parts of patterns. If the mess reminds you of something you know, that's an epiphany on your part that makes my art, art. I also like to pimp out a room beyond traditional but not to the point it is overwhelming, because "ya gotta live wid it!" 

Friday, October 14, 2011

more cafe dining

We're still at the Linuxville Seaside Cafe. You know penguins, seaside and ice! Just finished remodeling the chateau including the penthouse and I'm letting you in on my take of the Linux madness. What a rush the new Ubuntu 11.10 is here and I downloaded and installed. Actually I downloaded so that I have a copy to pass around but on my two machines the chateau and the penthouse I did the on-line upgrades. Doesn't that take for ever? YES! But I get to save most of my personal files and configurations. A key thing is to put your HOME directory on a separate partition. That way swapping in a new OS or an upgrade does not effect your data., just the partition your OS resides in.

The penthouse is my upstairs desktop, for it I have Ubuntu 11.10. The chateau is the laptop in my dining room downstairs. For it I have Xubuntu 11.10. Since I am one of stretched resources, I don't have top shelf equipment, older but sufficient for now. I consider myself the bottom line. Xubuntu is perfect for my 512mb laptop, it is not bogged down. I did try regular Ubuntu 11.10 and it choked. It actually tried, didn't crash, but choked. The new whiz-bang idea is that most people can afford a little more umph!, so why not raise the bottom bar. To be comfortable the laptop could use 1gig memory. Neither the new Gnome Shell or Canonical's Unity 2D worked well on my laptop, period. I didn't try Gnome Classic because it works OK, heavy but OK. For the best, fast and efficient desktop Xubuntu's XFCE is king. And if you want spic-e check out Enlightenment 17( E17), very hot and fancy to boot. Pardon the pun!

In the penthouse/cave of wonders/studio/etc; my desktop sports 1gig memory. Regular Ubuntu 11.10 is in full play but..........short. Gnome Shell doesn't work well at all. I am so surprised Gnome is supposed to run on anything. The Classic desktop works, the Shell doesn't. Unity works and if you want snappy download Unity 2D (without the effects). What!?! effects are the key here. Effects are alpha channels, you know transparencies, shadows and overlays. Some graphics chips/cards handle that stuff well and some NOT. Having more memory can overcome this sometimes when the calculations are handled in software but doing it on the graphics chip is effortless.

“We have a verdict here!”, the penguin judge said as he slaps the fish-gavel on the table! Unity is improved and will take a while to develop efficient user navigation the likes of the older drop down menus. Same for Gnome shell. Reminds me of Win7 and the dreaded ribbon interface for XP users. A fresh approach requires a new mindset (and practice), it also invites new perspectives and new possibilities. Now, if the old ways are wanted, Gnome Classic (for now), XFCE is still here and E17. Upgrading your hardware is most valuable to increase your enjoyment of the new interfaces Unity and Gnome Shell. AND in the spirit of Linux and Open Source, the land of multiple solutions, if you can't come to grips with this, change it to that! And if that is not enough, MS Win7 OS and Mac OS are still available. You still compute, but you'll have to leave the Linuxville city limits. Not a worry, Open Source Software will let you in on fun we have in Linuxville.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Open Source cuts the mustard

In the Linuxville Cafe the conversation is lively, the food is great and the views are unnoticed. Everybody's got some device to click, pat, tap or talk to.

Of Course I only scratch the surface! When you go too deep there are droves of folks running out of here. Only the faithful remain and the two-bit gotta say something not terse person. But you know the Open Source crowd is a gaggle of winers and diners. We savor what we use and exercise our discriminating taste with that hint of distraction, “suit yourself”.

Oh to buy or not to buy commercial software? Shall I suffer the outrage of difference or the consequence of being labeled “not a professional” or “not a seriously engaged artist” because my software is a little light on the economic scale? or “Why isn’t his name brand the same as ours?” or “You know the Swoosh was probably made on an Adobe laced PC, that’s good enough for me!” An air of compliance drifts into the space. The do I measure up question is suddenly written on everyone's face.

At our table there was a commotion after that last overheard remark, laptops flipped open, a buzz of key clicks. Then we all turned toward the pro-ware protagonist with the laptops held aloft, a swoosh-stika on each display and a laughter that rippled across the room...."the tools man, not the brand, the tools!”

GIMP or the Gnu Image Manipulation Program
GnuPaint or gPaint
My Paint
Tux Paint
Xara Xtreme
And many more, some polished and some in various states of development, all up and running. All costing nothing but the time involved with it to learn the tools. In the end you create a file that's art.

All that professional stuff......, depends. Do you need to share files mid-project or work with others who use the same tools both in house or out? OR maintain a professional industry standard, OK. Examine your needs, then proceed. Tools and files are the secret to Open Source, no need to be hindered or limited. They don't make you an artist any more than pro-ware. So, bust your chops for nothing, then if you must go pro! If you are young and broke or old and broke (like me!), Open Source gets you in the game doing graphics. Ooh!, pass the wipes, mustard on the mouse is not cool.

Friday, October 07, 2011

Linuxville news

I am going to expose myself to the would be art world to teach them the art of being an artist, digital artist. This coming from a guy who learned PC art via electrical drafting. What has computer aided drafting to do with computer art. It’s the tools man, the tools. There is some hardware needed to draw, then some software code used to draw. Guess what? The code was changed to accommodate the different kinds of drawing. Using a drafting program like AutoCAD is very similar to using Inkscape in the way it draws lines. Now trying to draw or paint in GIMP is another thing altogether. I think teaching how the tools work would work. So, I am not teaching how to be an artist but how to use digital artist tools to make art. Let the artist be the artist or discover he/she is an artist. This is all about the work side, the side most people don’t see.

After mildly bragging about using Linux and all the free open source software, I let it slip that there are Windows versions of open source also. Today I downloaded a DVD called Open Disc from http://www.theopendisc.com/   There are over 40 software titles on the disc. What is special here? They all are Windows versions of open source titles. The disc includes manuals and description pages, install executables and no malware. That’s NO MALWARE!!  I make a note here because I helped a friend download and install Real Player and down his computer went. I do not use Windows myself but a lot of my friends do. Downloading software for the Windows platform is scary business. Since I’m not an avid Windows user I don’t know which sites are safe to download from. Linux on the other hand has protected repositories from which to download from. So, the Open Disc is a safe way to get the Windows versions of Open Source software without extra crap slipping in.

Man, there is building excitement a brewing in Linuxville. No lines like at the Apple Store, but users hunched over their keyboard all waiting to download the spanking brand new Ubuntu 11.10 dubbed Oneiric Ocelot. Hey, I just use them, I don’t name them. Maybe the controversy will be over as both Canonical's Unity desktop and Gnome’s Shell will be available. Oh it’s crap, it’s well....., No it’s great. I will let you know my two-bits when I see them myself. Stay tuned, Oct 13, 2011.

Monday, October 03, 2011

Art by the bits

I'm working on a lesson plan to teach some folk about digital art via Open Source software. After a couple of days work, I was reviewing the plan so far. I had made a list of the software I was going to use.

GIMP for paint/draw in raster type work.
Inkscape for vector illustration type work.
My Paint a raster paint application that mimics natural paint methods.
PhotoPrint for versatile printing options. 

Hey, I didn't do that intentionally, I just looked down and there it was. GIMP and GIMP, I think that is a sign everything is cool. LOL!! There are a lot of other free or low cost softwares I could have used, but I haven't used any of them and they don't spell GIMP when you stack them. 

If you are thinking about learning digital art, there are things to be concerned about. One is that the process is as long as the process using natural materials. If you use a mouse get an optical mouse not one with a ball, better control and precision, no cleaning. Get a mouse with a tail, the wireless ones can lag so the response can be behind your hand movement. The same with a tablet and pen, there can be a lag. In some cases the wireless pen can pick up interference and behave awkwardly. I wish todays pens were wired to the tablet like the older CAD tablets. They were cursor pushers and didn't have pressure sensitivity. Practice drawing with a mouse or pen as if you were marking with a pencil. It will become normalized after many hours, the feel and coordination is different.

The first thing to learn after you're familiar with the program is layers. LAYERS, LAYERS, LAYERS. Even in my life as a CAD drafter, layers were important. Learning layers will save your sanity in doing digital art. 

Set time for work and play. When you work, work and when you play, play. Why? if you play you will play a lot, might not get any work done. You see, you are not wasting paper, canvas or ink on the computer, only electricity and time. You might get play happy, still you won't get much work done. In digital art there is a lot of planning going on, a mind to work it out and get it done is good. There is always time for fooling around, experimenting, play. Why limit play time? Get away, do something else. Step away from the machine!

Friday, September 30, 2011

Open Source art world

Here in the far recesses of the Linuxville Guide office things are changing. The mom-n-law in residence, former art teacher, artist has a new gig with the Most High. She has left the building for the here-after. Reflecting on the stuff she saw in her lifetime of 93 years is an avalanche of change. Me, I am 6.0 in decades and some considerations are before me to re-invent myself again. I like digging new holes to find gold yet keeping the old holes just in case I missed something.

As you know I am an advocate for Free Open Source Software and Linux. Since joining the Lorain Arts Council, I have thought about classes in Digital Art. The computer has revolutionized the art world like every place else. Getting into digital art has been about buying expensive professional software to get started. If you are like me building on casual interest, you can't afford to commit cash for stuff you might change your mind about. The free software world has been the bane of artist for years. Programs of poor quality, shotty look and feel were typical. Open Source Software was at one time like that also, but overtime one person development mushroomed into development teams, the quality went way up.

So as things stand, there are Open Source Softwares that rival commercial softwares. They are not the same but close enough and depending upon the usage can exceed all expectations. My view is like this: There are standard tools and operations, all you need is a comfortable interface and quality, reliable and communicable output. The interface, tools and output. Standard tools and file sharing between other computers (Linux,Windows and Mac).

At the Lorain Arts Council site we are talking about getting some donated computers for digital art classes. This is so exciting because while some wouldn't do art with natural materials so easily, would be totally into it on the PC. So why push Open Source when the professional art world lives on commercial software. Freedom! Free from money restrictions and the mental construct of having to have so that you can be professional. After all we are talking beyond simple photo editing into the "fling of creative thinking", with low or no cost.

My personal software choices are GIMP (Gnu Image Manipulation Program) which is like Photoshop, Inkscape which is like Adobe Illustrator, My Paint a natural painting program, Scribus a desktop publishing program. For kids there is Tux Paint, very cool. I am not expert on any of these but online video tutorials help take away the mystery.
Also these programs have Linux, Windows and Mac versions, are free and if you have a laptop are portable too. And did I mention free?

There I am sitting at the riverside cafe, with GIMP on my laptop. I whip out my cell-cam take a pic, then transfer the pic into GIMP. Shall I manipulate it or use it as inspiration for a digital painting from scratch? We haven't even touched printing, a whole other world indeed.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

I'm still at it.

Where is RNO the artist today? Mostly with my head into tracing what happened to the Hebrews after Jerusalem was flattened in 70AD, where did they scatter to and who are their descendants today.??? But also doing some art where I take portions of figures from my sketchbook and play around with them.

You got to love how a computer can be the hub for art. I can draw on paper, scan it into the PC, then use a number of softwares to manipulate things to make art I probably couldn't do so easily on paper and print it out. You want to see?

There are a number of things I can do with this but the part that bugs me is at this time my funds are short, so I can't get this printed the size it needs to be. I really like when you go into a gallery and there is a nice big painting. But since I am not a painter I am robbed of the scale my prints could be. I am working on that. Right now though it feels strange to be satisfied with smaller prints.

I haven't named this yet, I was thinking about how real African history is recorded in stories and legends and in the writings of witnesses from other countries passing thru. When you put the pieces and snippets together in a pile, patterns start to emerge. It is so weird to zoom in for a close look, them zoom out for a global view. When you zoom out and change the time frame, the items stay the same but the names, languages and situations all change.

I ordered some memory cards for my ancient laptop, they came but didn't work. Right size and kind but loose in the slots (I thought). The old ones don't have any problem. Still I get around having adequate memory by not doing lots of fancy stuff in the drawing applications. This is what artist do, work with limitations. In fact it is harder to work with a full pallet of colors than one limited to a few. I think this is why some only use a primary set, then mix other colors as needed.

I am told over and over to use more color. This big splash of color is great if you want to compete with a flat screen video monitor or commercial displays. I am targeting the home, many people like a more subdued approach for home art. I think art for the home needs to blend in with existing decor, unless you like unavoidable attention getters in a room. Also when I show in the gallery, the picture is in a wide open space. The home space is small in comparison, the lighting much more subdued.

You learn that people rarely agree with your reasons for doing stuff until after you explain it to them, still "you could use more color." Hey, who is the artist? You do one with more color if you like that. Is that a commission or an unfunded mandate? "No, just an opinion." Oh!

Back to my quest and see ya!

Saturday, July 16, 2011

calling all artist of Lorain County Ohio

Hi there fellow artist and art fans of Lorain Ohio. You are all invited to participate in the Lorain Arts Council's efforts to promote the arts in Lorain County. We in Lorain have been thru the muck for a long time. Some say cesspool, some say compost heap. I go along with the compost heap because that is good fertilizer over time. So, now it is time to plant something wonderful in the rich fertile soil we created in our mutual suffering as a city and county. So the call is out wither you become a member of LAC or not to do art in Lorain.

How many cities have used the arts as mortar to plug holes between the bricks in their towns? How many have turned what is regarded as pastime activities into catalyst for change and revenue streams? The paint dabbler become a recognized artist, the garage band from internet videos to mainliners in shows, idea note jotters become book writers, playwrights, it goes on and around each activity is all kinds of business opportunity. The city gets transformed because people work together, face to face. People lose the fear of taking risk when the vision of improvement is shared. What risk? The risk of trusting others with your time, money, goals, dreams, etc. Who wants unfulfilled lonely dreams? Nobody! Get together with like minded and goaled dreamers and realize shared results.

At present I am the only Black, African American, on the rolls of the Lorain Arts Council. There are others of various origins, that is not an issue, at this instance I am addressing African American artist in Lorain County. We have a good mix of cultural heritage in Lorain, yet Blacks are invisible in Lorain. Yes, you can go to Cleveland, but here in Lorain adrift between the Oberlin college and Lorain County Community College is a big empty space called the ailing city of Lorain. To have a strengthened Black voice in the arts would stimulate Black hopes and progress in a lot of areas. It would be light in the eyes of hundreds of people who live here without pride in themselves. Don't give me that “I've got pride” stuff, pride in self is lonely, and hard. When you can see what others like you are doing, thinking, dreaming, you have a sense of place, more so if you participate.

Lorain County was part of the Underground Railroad, Toni Morrison was born here, what are we doing and thinking today, here in Lorain. Besides, I would love to talk about art and art business and collaborate and innovate and push the envelope and by all means to raise the standard of living in Lorain. The word diversity for many Blacks has meant blending into the woodwork. I rather use the word African diaspora so I do not lose the savor of my flavor while being included in the diversity. I hate we have to resort to “the African American presents in Lorain” tactic but we are already late to the party, need to get on with it. We live here too.

So, I invite all Lorain County artist of every discipline and art fans, especially those of the African Diaspora to hook up. LAC website is http://www.lorainartscouncil.com/