Thursday, June 28, 2012

Roll'n your own

Continuing with the flywheel effect, this is how you make a "but it's not as good as the latest Windows/Adobe art machine" for free or almost free. I said almost free.

I have an older desktop PC, not the most powerful. I took it all apart to clean out the dust bunnies. Then I put in at least 1 gig of RAM. WinXP does not run it's best with less (512mb), Linux runs OK, but more is better. I put in a CD player, a burner is better and a DVD combo is better yet. Don't worry if you aren't a parts collector, the local PC shop can sale you a used PC at reasonable cost (probably with XP on it already).

Hard drive should be 20 GIG minimum, most operating systems take up 4 to 8 GIG, you'll need room for personal stuff. Bigger is better (more storage space). Make sure the motherboard has sound and video built-in or you will have to have PCI cards for both. I am not a gamer so I don't worry about high on the hog video cards, an average one will do, unless you got to have it. Ethernet built-in is good else another PCI card for that. If you can get USB keyboard and mouse, they are nice but standard PS/2 will do. Get rid of your mouse with a ball, the optical mouse is better for computer art.

When it is all together you have a basic, no frills machine. If you gots XP, OK, but support for XP is getting scarce. I did mention almost free. Use XP if you have it and can deal with it. I offer Linux that comes in various styles and configurations, Ubuntu Linux in particular. Now if your PC is skinny on resources try the Xubuntu version of Ubuntu, more beefy PCs can deal with Ubuntu Standard or Kubuntu if you must. Don't look at me to explain here, get your Google search on and inquire. Yes Linux is just like XP, only different. Like but different. Linux is not Windows and will 'NOT' run Windows software natively (out the box).

OK, you got your used, pre-owned, refurbished, rebuilt from parts PC. Most people can go to the PC shop to get XP installed if they can't manage it. Linux is easy enough to install yourself if you are tech savvy. But unfamiliar stuff is awkward for first timers. PC shops can be Windows centered so you might have to inquire for knowledgeable Linux help. Find a geek if all else fails. Ubuntu is downloaded as an ISO file, burnt onto a CD. It is a "live-CD" which means you can run the system off the CD without installing on your hard drive. This is great for trying it out before installing and seeing what is included on the disk. You can't use the Ubuntu software repositories without installing Ubuntu on your hard drive. Installation is a click of an icon if the hard drive is prepared. Yeah, time to call a geek.

Now, once your operating system in installed and you have internet, you can take advantage of the free open source software (especially art stuff) on the net. For XP systems check out for the free open source stuff. For Linux, each Linux version maintains a repository of compatible software that will run that is internet accessible via an included software management utility. Synaptic is one and another is Ubuntu Software Center. Hey click the icon and you are there. Install GIMP, Inkscape and other apps if you want them. They are easy to install and remove if you don't want them. Being in a repository means they are malware-free, not trialware, not feature or time limited, the real stuff, but they are in various stages of continued development. Don't kid yourself, even off the store shelf software is like this. Yes, things get better with time after all these years.

The end result is I have an artist oriented PC that I didn't pay much more than for used hardware options, a blank CD and time to download-n-burn and install. I can do Cad, paint, draw, illustrate, edit photos, do multimedia projects for free. Now if quality is an issue, no one is stopping you from moving on to more so called pro-ware. But with free open source software, no one is stopping you from starting either. Getting to work your ideas "now" is the point. Start now, perfect and go pro later. I shouldn't suggest going pro requires commercial software, but if you are doing commercial work, using what other commercial workers are using makes you cool in the job market. I am a free-range artist so I can use what I please. So in that vein, I recommend open source art software to cut your teeth, get skills, do art stuff with low money outlay. With the quality of open source today, you may not even want or need commercial software, use it then you decide.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

The flywheel effect

The flywheel effect, I know you all know it but hate to admit it, you've done it. Let me paint the vivid picture. In the TV program/movie "the A Team" was the guy Templeton "Faceman" Peck. His forte was to get into character and play it till the mission was over. That's an exaggeration but the shoe fits. For me it goes like this, I get into the art mode with an idea or a research mode with a subject and ride it out till I'm done.

OK, it's called focus but I call it the flywheel effect. The thing is once the focus is in play you can't think of much else. You wrestle and turn the idea until you get a good grip on it and make some progress with it. Then you can let it go.

I also discovered something. You know when I wanted to be an artist, I struggled for context and meaning. My cousins would draw any and everything, but I didn't like to draw like that or that much. What I saw was already done, no need for me to draw it. Their eyes were open to what was around them, me, I was not impressed. One day while watching a new home show that came on before the Saturday cartoons, I found my muse. There was a flurry of drawing that erupted from my hands. I really liked drawing houses. Of course folks around me tried to get me interested architecture as a profession. But sometimes the pressure of the potential in the hands of others kills the enthusiasms of the present, so I ignored them. Also the stars of educational opportunity refused to align themselves to meet me half way. My point is that a muse did come, I enjoyed drawing houses.

Over the years that followed, I did investigate the many areas of architecture. I enjoyed the pure design aspect but not so much the grunt of planning for a real structure or the actual building work. I liked interior design and interior decoration a lot but was more mused by the art in the space and the art of the space. This is where my interest today are. I get the most spins out of the flywheel, just like the toy spinning top that is so balanced and smooth it seems to go on forever.

I was thinking perhaps a sweet-spot presents itself in our life that allows us to use all our skills, talents, history, interest at the same time. Yeah, I'm looking for the follow your bliss kind of thing. It's kind of true. More like you prepare for opportunity if and when it comes. Are you changing your focus by the minute? Like I said in a previous post, you can't take it with you or do it all. Choose a face (wisely) and play it till the mission is over. Do what you can do, that's what I do, what I can do. The absolute strange thing about art is that we can draw the same thing and it comes out different because we are each different. Now go brush up on your skills and don't bother me, I'm chasing my muse for a while.

Oh and by the way, GIMP 2.8 is out and it is as sweet as ever, it has a single screen mode. No big deal if you have a small screen but on my wide screen, sweetness and light. I'll have to explore to see if other new features are here. Bye again.

Monday, June 04, 2012

art weapon, I got a permit for that!

Two things in life I know, you can't take it with you and you can't do it all. Time is not on your side even if you can do it real fast. Art takes time for someone to do it. Think about it, we are not blessed with Bill Murry's Groundhog Day (go watch the movie).

This is the old guy talking. If you are a younger artist you can still apply this but it hurts more. Something to do with frontal lobes, lol! Older folks can look back and regurgitate experiences especially the things they did well at. This is quite an art arsenal. You young folk will have to open your eyes to where you are at, be adventurous and experimental. You will go through many changes to find your sweet-spot. You have tendencies, taste and preferences added to your affiliation with the times. That is the things your age group seems to think about. There are a lot of patterns that effect our makeup as an artist.

I always think of art as something for the house related to the interior design or the architecture. You might have a different perspective. That perspective becomes the realm from which your art flows. Say a comic-book artist, we all know the story is way bigger than could fit in one book because they are serial adventures. The characters come to life partly in your head and mostly when ink hits the page. Or greeting cards or sci-fi spaceships and scenes. The realm extends with your efforts and becomes the source of self inspiration, you know, the what's next thing.

As you all know I advocate Open Source art tools. GIMP, Inkscape, My Paint and others. I also recommend video tutorials because other artist have this show-n-tell thing going on. There is nothing like downloading them off YouTube, watching them a few times to "get it down". Another tool is Google or Yahoo picture search. Type in a search word and peruse but don't steal. Don't look too hard, just glance and go. The mind is funny and remarkable in how it takes in and handles information. It also slices, dices and makes Julian fries. That's what happened to my pet potato Julian. Anyway, put the pictures of ideas you like in a folder and use a picture viewer to review them. Just do the slide show thing or click through them, even better with your favorite music playing in the background. That distracts part of your mind and allows stuff to slip past your attention. Or it enhances the "ambiance", makes the ideas stronger. Don't forget to get away to do nothing, rest and be disinterested. Go play golf, baseball, kick sand at the beach, be tech free. Get ready, the urges are coming, so get a notebook to record ideas, a sketchpad. I life with several wire bound notebooks. I scan them into my PC and do the peruse thing. ooh, what a rush.

This all goes into the process of an artist, the part outsiders don't see or understand. The secret life of artist would make a good book, lol.