8: Software, Hard Heads

Say you want to plunge (deeper) into digital. You might start by visiting digitalart.org to look at all the sci-fi, goth, fantasy and commercial stuff being done. No matter what your goals, it’s inspiring to see what some of these “pixel pushers” can do. (Digital drawing by Mazhar Sadiq.)

If you register to put art on that site, there's a pull-down menu to indicate your software. It lists more than 135 programs! With names like Blender, Chaos Pro, Maya, Curvey 3D, Satori. I’m always amazed there are so many. Each has its own personality and bag of tricks. (I’ve played with only a fraction but I’ll nominate ZBrush from Pixologic as the program that most gives you the sensation that you are dealing with genius.)

Remember, you can get a trial version of anything on the planet. I’d say download several and play, play, play. You can make something interesting with even the minor programs. Check this out: I somehow built a whole career on two programs so minor they are NOT on that pull-down menu. How’s it even possible?

The beginning, about 1996, was PhotoMaker, now called Color It!, from Microfrontier. A wonderful small program; I could have spent a lifetime with this thing. But at that time it didn’t have layers, which I thought I needed. (The developers kept saying they would build a new site with a gallery of my early work. Not yet.)

The weird luck continued. I’m a Gemini, I like schizoid things, so I fell in love with the early ads for Canvas: IT DOES EVERYTHING. I finally bought Canvas 7, 8, 9 and 10. All the art I placed in 35 shows was done on Canvas, with seasoning from ZBrush and Eye Candy. It seems I was the only artist in the world using Canvas for fine art. The owners, in Miami, said, “Great. We’ll show your work on our site.” But at that moment they sold to a company in Vancouver. People who decided to market the world’s most versatile program as a one-trick pony: technical illustration. To me they said: “Art???” These Canadians decided that technical illustrators wouldn’t care to know what the program can do around the edges. Hey, Canvas, you broke my heart, but I still love your program.

Here’s my second, even bigger digital disappointment. You’d never guess. Timex. I had many a Timex analog, the best cheap business watch made. Back around 1990, I started salivating: “Boy, it’ll be SO great to see what Timex does with the digital watch. I can’t wait!” I’m still waiting. Timex, Casio and the rest evidently decided that digital was synonymous with 1) ugly and 2) hard to use. (I bought a bunch.) Timex, you great American company, what are you thinking? I wish l had been your design strategist all these years; help keep you ahead of the competition. I do consult. (I just redesigned my art site ArtNorfolk.com, trying to make it aggressively elegant and easy to use--which is what your watches should be.)

BTW: ArtNorfolk.com now shows three kinds of art, not just digital.