Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Photoshop: the awe and awful

I love photoshop. It was like the gift of fire to mankind and artists. One could start with a photo and recreate at will. Layering and collages without glue! Color changes and editing out Uncle Mort's head, easy! No more zits, a result so perfect Dr. Zizmor—dermatologist to subway riders—would weep in envy.

The laws of physics bent to the needs of imagination with a few la-di-da filters and warp effects. (And maybe hundreds of hours of effort.) Like manna from on high it gave us drop shadows and a new reality where all light sources are bright, colors ever ultra saturated, and no random objects daring to interfere. In fact, looking away from the computer screen to the ordinary January day happening outside my window, I see a pallid disorienting mishmash. Where is the focus of the world? Diffuse dim lightsource, really? Why is that power line making an annoying squiggle against the corner of sky? And who put the smudge of smog on the window--very distracting!

But, even as such gifts became part of an everyday workflow, so too did the products. This morning as I walked to the office I passed a poster and flinched. In my brief shuddering eye assault it presented twisty balls of fire, a hero with sweat slicked spandexed muscles, and a robotic lizard doing an aerial ballet of badass. "Ah," I thought, "another example of too many photoshop-like special effects." Actually I thought SPX but this would reveal a disquieting amount of geekyness.

I note that designers are pulling away from using every single photoshop effect on one crummy title...fewer typefaces tortured by drop shadows and beveling and texture and glow effects. A little moderation folks, please. As for me? I plan to go out on my lunch hour and look at the world as it is...until I whip out my camera and think about what I can do to the view, cropped and cornered.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Unexpected visitors

Last weekend was slated for staying at home and doing freelance. I wasn't expecting much beyond my work and concomitant work avoidance maneuvers: reading, iPadding, and watching old movies...

Then I got a phone call. A friend I hadn't seen in two decades was interested in talking to me about getting a website. Along with moving out of NYC she had also pretty much left the digital revolution behind too. I will call her Kay.

"Do you have dial-up" I asked. "Do you have a computer you are comfortable using?"
"I am in bear country. There are no hot spots here. And I don't really like computers." I started explaining how browsers and websites work. I could hear, over the phone, the sound of Kay's brain going off-line. Clearly I had to show her this stuff, it was just gibberish otherwise.

"Actually I am in the city this weekend, would it be terribly inconvenient if I dropped by?"

She came for a visit. Yes, we both looked older but were essentially the same. I had remembered that Kay was smart and had one of those spoken vocabularies that would help anyone ace the verbal section of the SATs. Her vocabulary was richer in everything but the internet and software. It was odd to talk to someone my age who had avoided all that.

I sometimes get frustrated with software and hardware and the constant Keeping Up with social media. But would I give it up? No, never. They will pry my iPad45 from my stiff cold fingers. I know I am just beginning to figure out how to use all these new tools. This blog is a celebration of what I do and how I do. I write, I draw, I design, I photo. Some of it is on paper with pencil, some on tablets with fingers...more tools, more possibilities. And learning to think digital media is like pushing into another dimension with the art and words. I may never master it--think hypertext poetry--but it informs my imagination.

Kay was fascinated by my husband's expertise as a lyricist...something she was doing now too... I loved her creative vision. She has been working on these projects for several years, in the woods. They are seriously great ideas. We agreed to talk more the next day. Kay came back after my first beginners tap class. (Where I was the least able to follow directions of anyone there and totally loved it anyway.) When I walked in the door, on noodle legs and rather bedewed tee shirt and floppy jeans, Kay was sitting on the couch listening to one of Jim's musicals.

"Er, we have more company..." Jim said.  "I see that," I noted, breezily heading to the bedroom to change. Then I saw what Jim really meant, sitting on our bed was an unknown cat. She was fairly small, orange and white in patches, and quite friendly.

I emerged from the shower and heard another of Jim's musicals playing. The unknown cat was cheerfully sniffing our dog's nose and the dog's tail was a rotary blade of joy. Kay was sipping some of Jim's bounty from China, fragrant lichee tea.

The cat had entered the door with Kay but did not in any way belong to Kay. I snapped a photo of the cat and put it by the elevator downstairs with our apartment number. Kay and I looked at various sites she liked and discussed what she might like done.

Then the cat's owner came by clutching her missing cat flyer she had just gone to hang by the elevator. It turned out the cat likes to wander and tends to prefer the J-K line. Kay departed, and I was amazed to find that everyone had had an unexpected visitor.