AI: Uphill, Both Ways! – The Art & Tech Edition

When I was in art school, about 4000 years ago, there were no computer classes for illustration majors, that I remember. The graphic designers all used Photoshop, Illustrator and Quark for everything. (I remember that one year when all my friends’ external drives failed (was it Seaquest? Syquest?) and how excited everyone was when the G4 processor was released). I never really felt the push to learn the programs, but it was reiterated by one of my favorite teachers, Jack Endewelt, that we should view these programs as tools that we could employ and that we shouldn’t be afraid to try them out even though we were mostly taught “Traditional Illustration” (painting, drawing, etc).

Cut to the present and I have, at this point, taught myself how to use Photoshop fairly well, but I’m still clueless when it comes to using Illustrator. I’ve only opened the program a few times to toy around with it. And I am certain that I could learn it and use it to great effect. In fact, I mean to do just that. But it’s been a long time coming. I don’t think I was ever afraid to use these programs, but I never felt that I really needed to until recently. Every time I look at the freelance job boards for some work, it seems clear that being able to use this technology is essential. And I’m okay with that because I love learning new things.

How has the switch in technology used in your field (whatever it may be) changed during your life? Are you happy about it? Angry? Ambivalent? How easy or difficult was it to change over? How do you see it changing again in the future?

The ART Inquisition (or AI) is a question posed to you, the Mad Art Lab community. Look for it to appear Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays at 3pm ET.

Brian George

Brian George is an illustrator and designer who lives and works in Brooklyn, New York. In his spare time he makes videos of Spirograph drawings and complains about doing laundry. Website: Twitter: @brianggeorge Insta: @brianggeorge If you're into what I'm doing, feel free to throw down a bit in my tipjar here: @brianggeorge

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  1. I’ve always been pretty embracing of technology. While folks in my video courses were trying to master the ancient wall of switches and plugs from the 1970’s that sat in the back corner of the studio, I was teaching myself Flash and Final Cut Pro.

    Though it wasn’t until way later that I put all my paints away (I found them the other day while packing!). See, for years I struggled with my scanner. Dust, color correction, size limitations. I had that thing for nearly 7 years, and when they finally stopped making drivers for it, I decided I needed to cut out the middle-man and go digital. So I put money down for a WACOM tablet. Never. Going. Back.

    I’ve since become a better painter, and being better at photoshop in general has opened up so many avenues and opportunities over the years. Plus, I’ve saved so much money from not having to buy supplies all the time.

    Now, before I start sounding like too much of a digital fanboy, I regret losing that feeling of drawing on a huge sheet of paper, or the spontaneous nature of watercolors. I also secretly fear that if I ever had to go back to the brush on some project, that photoshop will have somehow crippled my abilities. But other than that, investing in this tool was one of the greatest decisions I’ve ever made.

    But what’s really interesting is that in some ways, I just traded one middleman for another. I had to practically relearn how to draw on a tablet due to the drawing surface/hand disconnect. So I wonder occasionally how much better I’d be at drawing without it. Granted, I could always solve this problem with a $4000 Cintiq monitor. *sigh* Uphill indeed, Mr. G.

  2. For years, and all through university I worked at getting to a proficiency I’m reasonably comfortable with in oil painting.

    I had thought about digital painting for a long time though, and it wasn’t until I saw screenshots of the digital painting program ArtRage in an ImagineFX publication that I was really excited about it – I bought a Wacom Intuos 3 (days before the Intuos 4 came out, but whatevs) and shortly after bought my first ever, not-a-hand-me-down-8-years-out-of-date computer. And ArtRage.

    What changed for me is likely the same for yourself Brian, and Maki and other artists who have made the transition. The ability to Undo, the ability to work on separate layers and move them around, not worrying about different media overlapping, and not being on deadline and waiting for the art to dry enough to scan – all those things. Digital painting comes incredibly close to traditional these days, and ArtRage lets me mess about as if I still have a palette. No drop-down menus, it’s right in front of me like IRL.

    But I haven’t abandoned oils completely. The two complement each other well (and I admit, I am guilty of putting a lot of wet oils on my scanner because I have no patience).

    What will change again in the future? Gotta get an iPad for my portfolio. And my favourite program is available there too.

  3. I love the idea of technology for art, but it never gets produced in large numbers or gets out there the way it should. You would find the better technological pieces at an expensive music festival here or there, but never on the walls of homes or on the streets (many exceptions of course). That and they always seem way too delicate to operate and never really provide a lasting emotional or life changing feeling. Then again, every form of art includes some form of modern technology that is always evolving. Even my paintbrushes use a new rubber grip because I tend to grip the brush like I am strangling it and cheaper modern acrylics provide for better coverage.

    Technology succeeded flawlessly when I created a website where I could display my various forms of art. It gives me something to feel motivated about and to work on. It is also something I am more proud to share than through a social networks photo sharing service.

  4. @Sean: You bring up a good point that I hadn’t considered when thinking about the article. Namely, using technology AS art. There have been some high profile examples, such as the sculpture that perpetually sells itself on eBay, or the artwork of U-Ram Choe who makes mechanical lifeforms and gives them histories and scientific names. There are many other examples now that I think of it, including Steve’s lightup, color-changing cuff links. Hmmm… I smell another article.

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