Wednesday, April 13, 2011

making a stand for art via open source software

Here at the Linuxville chateau, I work on an antiquated laptop of Win95 vintage. It is under powered for the stuff I want to do but adequate for most. It is because I have installed Ubuntu Linux, ver. 9.10 works well, I have slipped past the world of commercial chaos into a sublime state of nerdvana. Besides being free and easy to use I have also discovered Open Source software, standard with Linux, to meet most of my needs. Open Source Software is often found in both Linux and Microsoft platform versions, sometimes Mac versions.

My quest is this, can a digital artist use only open source software, be productive and survive in an Adobe products on Microsoft and Mac PC driven world?

What, you can't be serious, you need Photoshop and/or Illustrator, or............!?@%#, these are what the pros use!!

My main programs are GIMP and Inkscape. I've heard the barks, GIMP doesn't have this and doesn't do that. The truth is they don't mention what GIMP does do and have because they already do that in Photoshop which they bought, own and use, no need for GIMP. I say if I need those things, I know where to find them, thanks. Over the years, I also see that GIMP has/is acquiring some of those not there things. The same with Inkscape. 

I had a thought, digital graphics is about tools. In Photoshop a paintbrush works like this, in GIMP the same way. In Illustrator the same as in Inkscape. The tools are all the same. There are differences in the interface, tool options, but the biggest difference is in the file formats. File formats are how one company builds and keeps a user base. If you don't use a certain file format, you can't communicate with that user base. This is why folks push for across the board open formats that anybody can use regardless of the originating software. DOC., PDF., JPG., PNG., are all standard formats. I mentioned "Doc." because this presents the problem. DOC's is a Microsoft standard file format. It is under Microsoft's control, depends upon their permission to use it. They can and have changed it over the years. When a file format enters the public domain, it can be used to control access or gather and maintain a user/customer base. Another area where this is apparent is FONTs. Linux even has an add-on for MS standard fonts. When things hit the public domain, it is nice to have a wide margin of liberty.

My next thing is define "artist". If you went to art school and trained with Adobe products, because they are what pros use, are in the industry, etc; be happy, use what you know to do what you do. Just don't say "you can't do that!" Some artist use water color only, some oil paint only, draw with a No2 pencil. I use GIMP, Inkscape, just discovered SK1 (like Inkscape). There are a few others, but as I said it is about the tools. So for me as an "Artist", it is about using Open Source Software to do art.

How am I doing? You can see some of my works at 

This is the art I do. You might do realistic stuff, cartooning, fine art type painting, vector illustrating, digital finger painting or math generated what ever, 3d.

If you are curious about digital art via Linux and Open Source Software -

The folks in the forum are a great mix of pros and noobys.

And by the way, my penthouse main machine (up stairs) is a desktop with the latest Ubuntu 10.10 and assorted artistware. Not top shelf by any means but more power makes the tools work better. 

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

the science of burrito art

Went to Micky D's for my breakfast burrito fix. All things being equal, training, amount of ingredients and practiced construction technique, I can't help wondering why each burrito is so unique. Is the breakfast pace too hurried, is the burrito maker a rookie, having a off day, or distracted? Or are they dedicated to customer happiness, bucking for manger? Do Hispanics from Mexico make the best burritos (sorry I'm profiling)?

Some days they are stuffed, some days they are wimpy, some days dry and some days I wait for the Mariachi band to serenade while I whiff and savior. Why is the Linuxville guy hawking burritos? I'm not but lately I realized that digital art has a kind of stigma in the art world. It is OK as long as it is on a web page or a game or movie effects, a sign or greeting card. You talk about digital art as serious art and people get that burrito questioning look in their eyes. Hey it's not the art educated high mucky mucks who are torpedoed, it's the average Joe and JoAnn who are still stuck on traditional media.  Even the obvious repro needs to have once had brush strokes. I have seen total digital prints covered with gesso and stroked with a brush to enhance it for sale. They wouldn't do that to a silk-screen or a lithograph! OK, they might.

But....all things being equal, the hardware, the software, the training to use it all and still each digital artwork is so unique, hmmmmmm! Then print it, mount it, and hang it. You see I know that if Micky D's didn't have a procedure to stop the burrito maker at the right moment, it would cost $5 each. When we come to digital art, because of the possibilities of the media (so close to photography, animation and movies), we expect so much. The trick is to stop the digital art maker at the right moment so that a $100 picture doesn't cost you $500. The diff? At $100 you can savior, at $500 you buy insurance and a security system. I am talking niche buying, if you chose to spend more, go for it. The fancy restaurants all have their atmosphere plus more substantial burritos (extra for parsley sprig).

Digital art is causing a lot of reconsidering what art is. I can draw a mathematically perfect circle or squiggly lopsided oval or a sketchy round thing, all on my PC. I can alter it, copy it, shrink it or enlarge it. Still, when I am done will it be art? The PC is just another tool/media with it's own procedures and outcomes. You still spend time making art. I am always amazed, this is the art you can make on a PC and this is how it looks when you print it out. The one on the left is a $1 burrito, the right a $5 burrito.........sauce on the side?

Friday, April 01, 2011

first impressions

In the Linux world first impressions are usually almost lasting. I stumbled upon my first Linux in the back of a library book. I found it hard to understand. That stuck with me until Linux became easier and I educated. So in that same vein I came across "Linux All-In-One, for Dummies" (4th edition). This is not a crit on the book, it is very wonderful as are the whole "for Dummies" series.

In the back of this book is a DVD with 5 live CD versions of Linux. Ubuntu, Fedora, openSUSE, Mandriva and Mint. To try 5 versions of Linux in a row is quite a coaster ride. I am already an Ubuntu user but this version did not even boot on my ancient laptop (must be ver. 10.4). The Fedora 12 detected a kernel crash on my system. Fedora always says that about my laptop, it's spooky. OpenSUSE came up the fastest but it had the KDE desktop which my biased self doesn't like. Mandriva gives you the choice of KDE or Matisse desktops. Matisse is very different. I think a desktop should let you get on with your work. But if you learn to use KDE or Matisse, I am sure you will have reasons to like them, just don't ask me.

So Ubuntu is cool but not ver. 10.4 on my laptop. And the last one Mint 8 is.............very impressive. I even like the minty green color. OpenSUSE is green too but Mint is nicer green. When you hit the Mint menu button it is clean, good looking and functionally smooth, way better than other distros doing menus the same way. OK, Mint is Ubuntu based and I am familiar, but Mint is a refreshing good design.

It is cool to have 5 tryouts and look at them while your impressions are hot. Of course, once you have settled you can tweak to your hearts content. First impressions carry a lot of weight with us fickle users. If you can have a good entry perhaps going deeper is easier to deal with. So we know, yes if you don't like what you see, you can change it. BUT, some folks don't and they have to like what they see first. If Ubuntu 11.04 won't work on my laptop, I'm going to put Mint on it. And that's a refreshing change.