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Artists and Technology

September 16, 2010

Del over at invited me to take part in a feature about artists and technology that he’s running for the blog in order to graph the technology used by artists and the influence it has on their creative processes, which will then go towards demonstrating how technology shapes the industry and give new artists an idea of what others in the field are using.

I had been meaning to write a post about the equipment I use so this was the ideal opportunity for me to do that and expand on the subject more than I’d been originally intending.  Below you can read my response in full but be sure to also check out the WordPunk blog.  Del plans to post more responses to this question from other artists and has already posted a similar feature which posed the question to genre writers and editors.  That feature can be read here.

What technology do you use in your artistic/creative process?

Technology now plays a big part in my creative process. I started off painting and drawing using traditional methods but when I discovered what could be done with the aid of Photoshop in helping to realize the ideas I had for imagery, I started incorporating various bits of technology into my creative processes. The artwork I create now is made by importing various hand-drawn and painted elements, photos, and scanned objects into Photoshop and then combining and digitally manipulating them and adding further digitally painted or created elements to form the final image.

In the process of creating a piece of art now, I may use a desktop scanner to scan in hand drawn/painted elements, textures and objects or a digital camera to shoot models etc. I used to take photos on my SLR on film but since digital camera technology has improved, I switched to doing it all on digital. Shooting on digital allows me to take many more photos without worrying about the cost of film and developing, and I can see the results straight away rather than having to wait for them to be processed, so I can re-shoot something immediately if necessary. At the moment I’m using a Canon Powershot SX10 IS – its flip-out screen is great as it allows me to easily take photos at awkward angles which is handy when I’m out and about taking pictures of things that can be used as textures and such.

Using Photoshop gives me a huge degree of flexibility as I’m able to work with various parts of the image on different layers, undo actions and try out different colour variations, so I have a lot of room to experiment without it taking up as much time as it would when using traditional methods, and it makes it easier for me to tweak the final image if the client requires any modifications.

One thing I would say though, about the almost limitless options Photoshop allows, and the ability to take and store thousands of photos on a digital camera, is that it can  sometimes overwhelm you with too much choice. It’s easy to take far too many photos than is necessary of a model just because you can, rather than spending more time making sure a few carefully chosen poses are shot well, or spend hours endlessly tweaking the colour or position of an object in Photoshop rather than making up your mind and committing to something. So if you’re not careful, these bits of technology that can save time can end up making you work less efficiently and waste more time. The trick is to be disciplined, and know when to stop.

For years now I’ve been a Mac user and currently do all my work on an iMac with a 2.7Ghz Intel Core 2 Duo processor and a 24” screen, and use a Wacom pen tablet instead of a mouse. As mentioned above the main software I use to create my artwork is Photoshop. Sometimes I’ll also create various elements in Illustrator, and when necessary I’ll do design layouts in InDesign, such as when I designed my own art book, and I also use Dreamweaver for creating and maintaining my online portfolio. So all the imaging/design software I use is part of the Adobe Creative Suite, which makes it easy to work between thedifferent programs and import files from one application to another. I’m now on version 4 of the Creative Suite.

As big a part as technology now plays in my creative process, when starting a project, before touching the computer I still work through all my ideas with pen and pencil on paper, scribbling down notes and making rough thumbnail sketches of compositions that come to mind. At this stage, I don’t do anything on computer as I find that I can get ideas down a lot quicker on paper than trying to sketch anything digitally.

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