Wacom and Adobe, a decade later

Alright. I eh…said a while back that if I got a higher-paying job, I might invest in a graphics tablet. When I got my first (usable) tablet, there were very few companies making quality graphics tablets, other than Wacom.

This must have been back around 2010, or before; back when I was taking graphic art classes. They weren’t really called graphic art classes, but I think it’s safe to say that that’s what they were. While I was there, I learned Photoshop and Illustrator, including some stuff (like layer masks) which I don’t anymore, recall how to do. I’d have to research it. (PeachPit Press is a good source, by the way. Or at least, they were; I haven’t read any of their current materials.)

The thing is: I haven’t worked with graphics for so long, that I don’t know that I need a graphics tablet. At least, not now. Not yet. I’m thinking that having one would ease some stuff in Web Design; however, those are very limited problems, and I could probably bite off a good chunk of that, if I just used a mouse, instead of my touchpad. And I have a wireless mouse I could use. I just haven’t, because I’d have to start taking parts off of old, unused machines.

but that’s techie, right? sasasasasa…

I’ve also given thought to signing up with Adobe. I know: it’s less than optimal. GIMP 2 just has a pretty steep learning curve. I know I could learn it; the thing is that I’ve seen more…well, techies using GIMP 2, because of its customizability, and the fact that it’s open-source and free, while Adobe charges (at least) $10/month just to use Photoshop.

The fact that I’d want vector capability as well as raster, means that either I use the Pen tool within Photoshop CC, or I get Illustrator as well. That’s at least $240/year, and I’m not certain that it’s worth it. And actually, I just tried to check this; Google says that Illustrator and Photoshop are both $19.99/month, making it closer to $480/year for both of them. I tried to navigate to the site, but they want me to enable Javascript.

Which, of course, gets the same treatment as pop-ups: back out. I don’t care that much.

I also know, though, that there are functionalities available with Adobe (or were, at least at one time), which — if I’m recalling right, from the last time I tried — GIMP 2 can’t really do, yet. I’ve noticed tilt and pressure sensitivity, primarily, to be lacking. It’s something I really liked when using the Wacom tablets (likely Intuos) at school, which I can’t reproduce yet, with what I’ve got. (My Intuos won’t do it, with GIMP 2.)

The problem is that from what I can see, Wacom’s customer service is pretty poor (to put it lightly). The entire reason for me to get a new tablet is so that I don’t have to try and use the decade-old one and hope that it’s both possible to update the driver to Windows 10, and that Wacom has actually made the driver and uploaded it. And, you know, I actually found the right one, and stuff like that.

And I mean, I could try, but I’m kinda scared.

But then there’s the other possibility: of getting a new Intuos, and not being able to download the driver in the first place, and not getting any help — with the Wacom site being down or intermittently available, as happened tonight.

The thing is…that it would seem that there is decent competition in the graphics tablet market, now. Wacom isn’t the only dog on the block anymore, I mean; and I’ve been doing offline art for most of my artmaking. But if I went into Web Design, I could use the help with photo editing.

The actual reason for me to get a tablet is for graphic design, which — from what I could tell in my Web Design class — might only use such rudimentary visual skills, that I could do it with just a mouse. I mean, sure it would feel better to make a vector drawing with a pen, but is it necessary? Not really.

I’m just kind of getting tired of rolling my fingertip over on the touchpad to inch a selection over by half a millimeter. It’s not much easier with a mouse. And yeah, arrow keys…

…yeah.

I dunno. I’m going to have to think about it. The major thing is wondering if staying loyal to Wacom and getting something that should work if it’s supported, is worth the extra money, over going with an unknown company. Back in the 1990’s, when I tried an off-brand tablet, it was basically a piece of garbage (“oh you want to draw a diagonal line? and you want it to be straight, you say? HAHAHAHAHA”); but it isn’t the 1990’s anymore.

And yeah, I still haven’t gotten that higher-paying job. I’ve just started to think about what I would do if there were a good deal, since holiday season is getting into gear.

I have a feeling, though, that I probably am going to be doing some off-brand, open-source work: I’m not the kind to buy a Mac and a Wacom and use Adobe, just for brand recognition. That’s not what I aspire to.

But that gets into…some other topics…which I probably shouldn’t get into, now. It’s too late, and I’ll say something stupid. You know I will.

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Re-entering acrylic painting

I did start on a painting in acrylics, today. It’s a small (4″x6″ canvas board) work, very much in its natal stages, but it’s something. In the process I started playing around with mixing (canvas pads are handy), as I had a couple of ideas as to where to go, color-wise, but needed to work out whether or not my choices would be feasible.

One thing I can say: Cerulean plus Phthalo Blue make a really nice blue base to work from, together. I didn’t print out a color version of the photo I’m working from…I’m not sure if that’s a good thing or not, frankly! I may be edging more blue-green and red-orange than the original photo, but then, I don’t have to make it like the photo.

I might try redrawing the original photo in my art journal in a number of different compositions, to see what is working in that photo that I like, and what’s unnecessary. I have already started this, in a way, by redrawing the image on the canvas board. I have wanted to do this by just marking out areas of color with brush pens, and then seeing where that leaves the composition.

(There is another use for that Marker paper I was talking about!)

The image I’m working from (in this case) is below. I do have a good number of these little canvas boards (they were sold in a 5-pack), so I have room to experiment.

orange bell-shaped flowers on green stems with a bud
I’m pretty sure I took this photo at a Garden Center.

As it was, tonight, I started out by drawing from a grid, then gessoed over that, then painted over that. My lines are fast disappearing, though I have a tendency to use even heavy-body acrylic paints like watercolors. So I have a couple of thin layers of gesso and paint, on top of the underdrawing. (If I had thought to do so, it might have been better to make an underpainting with pastel, seal it with Glazing Medium, then work on top of that, instead of using pencil for outlines — which, in practicality, doesn’t tell me much.)

Watercolor-like use of the paint isn’t intentional, on my part. If I continue to do it, I should probably use Glazing Medium so that the paint doesn’t just come off. I’ve never had it happen (aside from when one of my instructors scrubbed through my paint film), but I’ve been told it can happen.

flowers in greyscaleNow that I see this photo again — maybe I should print it in color. It will, at least, tell me what tones are where, and the color and value juxtapositions make up a large part of what I find appealing, I think. Plus, without color, it’s hard to tell leaves apart from flowers, since they’re both near the same values (“value”=the lightness or darkness of a color or tone, as if the image were a black-and-white Xerox copy).

I have come to the place where I’m fairly certain that I want to work with abstraction, now or in the future, but I’m not sure about how to do it. I do have one book which may help me (Abstract Art Painting: Expressions in Mixed Media), which I suppose is a start: but I can’t let it be an end.

And yes, I am looking at this image and realizing that I can likely add some color information and make it into a duochrome (instead of monochrome) image…I just don’t know exactly how I would do that, yet, or if my version of Photoshop supports that capability.

I can see that the juxtaposition of areas of high and low value at the top (and minorly, bottom right) of the image make it stronger. I love the orange against the yellow-green tones, and how that makes the blossoms step forward. I also love the diagonal alignment of the orange flowers, and the globular forms created by the converging petals. I’m not really crazy about the green bud in the center (I think my camera must have insisted on making that the focal point), but I have noted that I like to paint living flowers, as versus cut or silk ones. The diagonal alignments of the stems move the eye around the page…

…and I think that’s a good start as to what draws me to this photo.

There has been other stuff that happened today, but I’m just now realizing that it’s nearly 12:45 AM, and I should be getting some rest (I’ve been trying to keep my immunity up!).

I should note, though, in closing: tonight, I realized that acrylic paints are very up to the task, if I want to work abstractly. I think I just have to be brave enough to do it. The worst that can happen is that I get a painting (more likely, paintings) that I don’t like…but I have to go through those to learn how to make the ones that I do like.

Dealing with design work

Well, it…at least feels as though, it has been a long day.  Although I’ve been monitoring what’s been going on with my class, I haven’t really been participating, today.

What I can say is that I feel like I’m relatively prepared to work with Graphic Design.  Relatively speaking — which means, as compared to people who have no experience in either Art or Design (which seems to include most of the class).

I don’t have a degree in Design, and I only have an AA in Art; but that training allowed me the experience of critiquing the work of others (over and over again), so I have some grounding on which to base my opinions.  I also have experience working with computer graphics tools…and with how to note down design ideas in the middle of the night.  (The latter came from being kept up with story ideas in undergraduate work; the former came from taking Digital Imaging courses, plus one Graphic Arts course.)

This meant that the exercise we recently undertook in my UX class — redesigning a couple of signs — was fairly easy for me.  I had thought of working things out by hand, like I did in my Intro to Graphic Design class, but I actually had the tools I needed so that I could manipulate elements digitally.  It vastly speeds up the process, and makes it easy to place color fills and gradients, and work with type.  And quickly change the font, size, spacing, placement, and color of that type.  I was actually kind of amazed at how easy Photoshop makes these things — and I’m not even working with Illustrator, or InDesign.

I’m hoping that the MLIS program will give me the background knowledge to make functional Design, as versus Design which looks nice but is nonfunctional (due to a lack of consideration of the end-user’s experience).

We were introduced to the idea of “personas” as used in marketing, this semester — which seems as though it draws off of creative imaging skills.  I have an abundance of these, but I was never told that I could work in Business in a Marketing department, utilizing the same skills I had used in Creative Writing.

Aesthetics seem to be placed below functionality, so far as Design is concerned in the classes I’ve been in, in the MLIS program.  I can’t help but think that this is the case, however, because people have been taught how to make things look nice, but not how to make them usable.  And I’m not sure I would fault the Graphic Designers for a lack of overall consideration of the user (although the Graphic Designers seem to take the blame — is this why they don’t get paid as much as others?).  It seems as though someone isn’t doing their job…and I’m not sure if it is the Graphic Designers, that is.

I’m almost wondering if the MLIS program will help me progress more in my chosen career path, more than a degree in Design would help me.  I’ve heard Design dismissed offhand in the Art world (most notably, as “selling out”), but in reality I think that even though both Art and Design utilize skill in working with images, visual communication, and fine motor movement, Design is a totally different category of activity, than Art.  They’re not anywhere near being the same things, and it becomes extremely apparent when you’re dealing with things like user research (which seems to utilize Social Science techniques) and usability, among other concepts which are hard for me to name right now.

I’m not sure if people in the Art world realize this (or if Clement Greenberg — the person I am thinking is most responsible for the current idea that money corrupts art — knew enough to realize this), and nor am I sure I’m totally up to picking them apart, at the moment.  It is a question that has continually been in the back of my mind, though.

I haven’t been writing so much recently because I’ve been trying to see what it is like just to live, without recording my life for several hours a week (each of these sessions is more than an hour long).  It’s apparent that logging my experiences is useful, but I don’t think I should do it out of a sense of obligation.  At this point in my life, my thinking is cohesive enough that I don’t really need to work at drawing it all together the way I had to, say, four years ago.

What I really do need to do, though, is keep some kind of practice where I put thoughts into words and into text.  It’s a great strength which declines when I don’t write.  That doesn’t mean I have to write about what I have been writing about…or in such volume…but I need to write.

I’m getting pretty tired right now, so I should log off:  though I had wanted to write about moving back into my toned paper journal.  But I had wanted to look at this from the perspective of considering Design to be a creative activity in which the message I’m communicating is somewhat predetermined.  I’ve been dealing with a lot of trouble starting because of not knowing what to communicate, or what to draw, etc.  Maybe Design can provide that for me, but really it does feel like …a puzzle.  Like creating a solution to a problem which just happens to be functional, useful, and beautiful.

I think I’ll leave you on that note, right now, run and brush my teeth, and try not to collapse before I get to bed.  🙂

Experimenting with camera settings and Photoshop: suminagashi prints

I’ve been taking photos of the last suminagashi batch so that if and when I cut them apart, I won’t miss them.  😉  (Part of the nature of suminagashi is that it never turns out the same way more than once.)  This set turned out much more photogenic than the last — although that may also be partially due to my experimenting with the light settings on my camera.

Today was overcast, so I used the “Cloudy” setting on my camera, even though I was indoors with only window light.  This gave me a batch of photos which appeared dim (all values were shifted towards the black point in the Levels histogram), though I was able to adjust how the computer read the files by using a Levels adjustment layer in Photoshop and hand-tweaking each color layer, which worked out more aesthetically pleasing than letting the computer take care of it through Auto Levels.  I’m actually really amazed that it worked (for most of them, anyway):

Heh!  Nice!  Ah, right:  I’m hoping you can click on the images to see a larger version!

Like I said in the last relevant entry, I changed my working pattern for this set.  I can see where it would be useful to rinse off some of my papers after printing them — two or more got a weird haze of ink over the top (though I tossed one of them because it was so messed up); another got blotched by my not drying excess water, which caused a pooling effect.  Overall, though…it worked!

I’m trying to fight an urge to go back and try this again…mostly because I don’t want to have to clean off the craft table again, but….

Pale imagery

O hi.  So…even though I did not succeed in using the Stonehenge paper last night, I did pull around 10 suminagashi prints which were decent.  Unfortunately, they are so subtle that I question whether it’s worth it to show them.  The one print which breaks this pattern is shown below:  first having adjusted the Levels (color balance) on Photoshop, and then with no color adjustments.

3395wl
suminagashi print utilizing Boku-Undo inks and Sumifactant.  This was the brightest of the set, though I have enhanced the color using Photoshop’s Levels option.

I’m including this one first because — at least you can see the patterning, here.  The rest of my prints are fairly pale.  And even this one is not quite as deep as the Levels adjustment makes it seem.  Here is the same image without the Levels adjustment, everything else the same:

3395w
Without the Levels adjustment.

I think it’s more subtle and tends to hold together better.  The actual color balance is somewhere in between these two images.  Seriously, though…?  This is the deepest colored swatch I got out of the batch.  The rest of them are very subtle, for example:

3402w
Beautiful in its pattern, but very very pale.

This one actually looks like I was making stationery for a really nice hand-inked letter or drawing!  Something where what was on top was supposed to take center stage.

I feel like trying this again — I don’t see how I can do much worse than last time — it’s just that I have something of a hesitance to work with the materials (as regards exposure to chemicals).  I did look up my initial query and the main ingredient in the Sumifactant which I was unfamiliar with:  I don’t think I have much of anything to worry about.  On the other hand, this is messy!

Or not messy, so much, but wet.

I’m thinking of trying the yellow and orange also this time, too.  It might contrast well with a violet print.

Of course, though, then I also have to cut papers down…again…*sigh*…but then I get to use a sharp thing!  😉  (I dunno why I like this, except that it demands high concentration of the type I’m used to from martial arts.  The same applies to using torches for hot metalwork.  But it does not apply to using toxic paints.  I don’t know why…)

Yes, in Art, books do (actually!) help.

I’ve heard it said that one can’t learn Art through reading books, but sometimes those books actually help urge someone into action.

I’ve been reading in a book on Chinese ink painting techniques…and may just have gotten the inspiration to work on a painting (I’m not giving away the title until after I’ve decided whether to buy it or not).  This is on the canvas I intended to start on last semester when I got my easel (the canvas is 30″x30″, just under the 34″ maximum height my easel can take), but a different image than originally intended/settled for.  If I can pull it off, it may turn out to be a beautiful, wonderful painting.

I think a large part of the reason I haven’t started on this yet (besides time pressures) is the fact that the canvas is square, and so it isn’t entirely straightforward to think of a way to make the composition dynamic.  Though, it is possible.

I had wanted to work with an image of this plant before, but I thought that maybe I should work on something less…daunting? perfect? instead.  What I’ve done is taken one of my second-favorite images (not the most-favorite one, which this one may be a prelude to) and cropped it down in Photoshop, then printed it.  Next step is to gesso the canvas with a base color, then work loosely with vine charcoal over the surface to draw in the shapes.  After that comes glazing over the correct lines, wiping everything else away, and starting in with color (which is where I may want to bring in the colored pastels — given that I have no time limit).

I might want to do one or more practice versions of the drawing first, though, just so that I know where everything is…though that will mean working on not-so-great paper (full size is…pretty big, and the only thing I’ve got in that size is cheap butcher paper that’s kind of irritating to work with; moreso than newsprint).  Or — a better idea.  I could do a smaller version of this on one of my square watercolor blocks, though…the methods differ.  I would need to mask some areas, if I used watercolor.

Hmm.  I think that what I’ll do is work at about 2/3 scale on a newsprint pad, first, including value renditions if I can (including white as well…I am not sure if I want to go into colored pastel on newsprint); then go into drawing on canvas (given that I haven’t worked in charcoal for months).  Watercolor is just going to be tough…unless I do it loosely, and very small.  Also, that method seems to work best when one hasn’t decided on a layout yet; I have my layout already.  What I need to do is figure out where everything is placed, and get my arm used to the directionality of the lines and forms.

At least I’m getting back into the art…

Even more drawings:

As much as I want to, my better judgment warns me against putting out the two self-portraits I did (head and shoulders, basically), on this blog.

Today was a productive day.  I completed six drawings, not including the blind-contour of my hand (which is a scrawl — I’m not posting it because it’s really not worth it), and the piece after Jean-Francoise Millet, which I’d started before.  I took photos — mostly trial photos, at this point, because they all had to be done in non-optimal lighting.

It’s also hard to tell which drawings will come out well once photographed, until that work has been done and I can see things in Photoshop.  I was using my graphite sticks up to 9B today, but I can’t remember in which drawings (except the one after Millet) — so I need the photographs to show me where things look faint.

Good thing, though!  I’m starting to actually wear down my graphite sticks!  It might also be good, though, when I’m using those, to keep some sharpened B pencils handy to work in sharp details.  It wastes a lot of graphite to sharpen down a Cretacolor Monolith.

I also did find out that tinkering with Levels will remove colors projected onto my photos by my camera…and apparently, Levels can also tell how many different grades of pencil I used.  😀  (It’s in the histogram.)

Okay, well, on to the photos:

I actually had more fun with this than it would seem.  I’m actually kind of amazed that the two foot images came out so well…yes, it does kind of make me want to do graphic novels again!  yes!  it does!  but:  in time.  I might actually want to concentrate on drawing them out more than writing them, though…strange turn of events.