Wednesday, March 21, 2007


A pencil drawing of Gene Simmons from KISS's Animalize tour.

In an interview, Terry Gilliam once said that he looked back on the interstitial animations he did for Monty Python's Flying Circus and couldn't believe he'd done such a thing. He didn't elaborate on this but I suspect I know how he feels. There's something about the creative impulse and how it works which changes through time. You not only forget how you managed to accomplish a task but also how you ever had the desire to create a particular type of work at all.

A pen and ink drawing of Paul Stanley from KISS's Love Gun tour. The white on the glove was done with liquid paper because the ink was absorbed by the paper so much that the spangled stars were blotted out.

When I was younger, I used to draw all the time. When I was in my early teens, I drew KISS all the time because I was a KISS fanatic. My art teacher used to be driven crazy by this because every project she gave me turned out to be a variation on a picture of KISS. When she assigned us a batik project and I did a poster-size picture of KISS, she insisted that it would be impossible to dye the fabric in a reasonable manner with such a concrete image. Of course, I proved her wrong. I don't know where the batik is now but I do remember it turned out really well and was framed.

As I got older, particularly after I got married, I found I didn't have time to draw and I pretty much "forgot" how to do it. Drawing is a little like speaking a foreign language. If you don't practice, you forget though you may be able to get it back if you start practicing regularly again.

My creative impulses turned to learning how to do graphics on the computer. Even if you are a fairly artistic or creative person, you find that using a computer for art is an entirely different experience. It's pretty unnatural because the tools you use are unintuitive or offer a relatively pale imitation of the real thing.

A very early 3D "gold" landscape I made for a desktop picture. This was made with Bryce when it was in its first version. I think it took 3 hours to render at a smallish size.

Since I started using Photoshop at version 2.5 and all the nifty 3D software when it was shiny and new, it wasn't nearly as polished as it is now, particularly in light of the fact that computers were often too slow to give you good real time feedback. I'd draw a line and it'd take a few seconds to show up on screen. This lead to me giving up pretty quickly on some types of digital tools though I did embrace Photoshop's deeper capabilities with a passion. Mainly I used channels, gradients, and textures to do the sort of thing you couldn't do by hand very well (or at all) rather than attempt to imitate conventional artistic media.

A picture frame made entriely of gradients and textures in Photoshop.

Unfortunately, as time marched on and I learned pretty much all I needed to in Photoshop, my interest in doing creative projects on it also dwindled. You'd think that mastering the tool would fuel the desire to use it but it seemed to render using it a mundane experience.

Illustrator followed Photoshop as the next digital tool I wanted to master though I'm not sure I thoroughly mastered it by the time I burned out on it as well. I can draw nearly anything and can do some pretty nifty stuff, particularly with blends, but I never did much with the gradient mesh tool. That's the tool that lets you imitate painterly effects. I guess that it was another example of my not wanting to use digital tools to imitate what you could do with a brush more easily.

These days, I feel like my creative impulses are funneled mainly into writing rather than drawing or other fine arts activities. I think this is because I spent so much time writing as part of my former job and because it's something which has always come naturally to me. I sometimes miss the fulfillment I used to get from making things with my hands like I used to but find the process of trying to do it again frustrating because I'm so bad at it now relative to how good I used to be. Perhaps we're simply not meant to dwell in one creative medium all our lives or perhaps I've just grown impatient in my "old" age.

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