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Friday, February 17, 2012

Art From Deep Inside the Psyche

Me, 8 years before Fractal
I must be a twisted fellow indeed. I like to draw, and I have felt this way since I was old enough to hold a pencil. I wasn't ten years old before I started drawing Evil Santa. I totally embraced counterculture when I was in my twenties. I think I started letting my hair grow and grow when I was 14, about the same time the Woodstock album set came out.

Too bad it was all destined to fall out.

But before that happened, I became a CEO and started a company, Fractal Design. And I guess I had to grow a responsibility. Which didn't come easy. And apparently still doesn't. But there are some things I am conscientious about: a bit of self-improvement.

And I still like to draw.

In the early days of Painter, I celebrated the idea of being able to paint with pixels and get the results I could get before.

And, with every new tool I created, with every brush, I felt that my own style could expand.

I would never have done a dumb piece like the one on the left before I became a toolmaker. But I was giddy with celebration and a little bit of pride.

Mostly I wanted to let others in on it as soon as possible: look what I created! Hey! You can do it too.

And I know that Kai Krause often felt the same way when working with the KPT team. Building tools and selling them was a total win-win situation for us both. And we knew it. We both liked to show off. I had the same experience with John Derry when I first saw him demoing Time Arts' Oasis at a Macworld show in Boston in 1991. I knew he felt the same as I did.

For instance, when I created the scratchboard tool in Painter, John Derry showed me some of the better work in scratchboard, and I just wanted to do it too.

Oh, and I just had to have my own chop mark as well.

There is something about a left hand pointing to the right that comes from deep inside my psyche.

But wait, I think the symbolism just flew out the window. I can't remember it now. Maybe that's what I'm pointing at!

Anyway, my left eye is practically blind and I think this might just have led to a greater utilization of my right brain. At least in the visual centers. The ones that count.

I like hard-edged graphics because they are visually interesting. Crisp. And you can generally resize them easily enough.

I have mentioned my predilection for three-dimensional thinking. Back in 1995, I was toying with silk screen (John Derry and I had an industrial park suite we called the Wet Lab for working on traditional media). And I made some designs. Interlocking things.

The first one was like a red-green-blue pixel split up into three pixels and interpenetrating.

Kind of a pleasant simplicity, I think!

The interesting part of silk screen to me was the separation into multiple layers for sequential screening onto a common backing. This builds up the final print. For this one, a blue layer, a red layer, a green layer, and a black layer would suffice (if you ignore the yellow background).

My next image was more ambitious. What is it about interpenetrating three-dimensional figures? Is it just me? My convoluted psyche?

This piece is now sporting a more realistic, less abstract form, but still with lines and even a halo. Now there is a material: wood with a nice grain.

In fact, it looks positively carved.

Eventually my style moved away from hard-edged graphics, but the edge remained. We'll get to that in a minute.

This silk screen idea was implementable quite easily: you would need only four layers of screening on top of a nice white sheet of paper.

I began thinking about how we could extract layers from a drawing and then turn it into a silk-screen look. This culminated in the Woodcut effect. But there was much more to that effect than just layers and spot colors, of course.

Here on the right you see the beautiful layering that it takes to make this piece seamless. But on the left below you can see another piece I did.

This one's a little more strange. In the Fractal Design days I was a developer: one of the guys. But I was also a CEO. And somewhere along the way I figured I had sold out.

Don't get me wrong: I didn't want to sell out! But when you are part owner and on the board, you do get to feel a bit jaded about it all. And even resent the fact.

So here I am holding my own persona as a mask. This piece was done using Detailer and I used imported 3D scan and texture-map data from the Viewpoint 3D scanner. And then touched it up in Painter.

The head is bigger than life for a reason: I knew I was too full of myself. It's pretty easy to make fun of it all when you are in the thick of it. Sometimes that's what you need to do in order to survive.

I had the occasion to do various pieces for print work that went into brochures and ads. Mostly we had a fantastic design crew that did these. But they humored me from time to time.

This is a piece that I did a bit of work on. I believe I supplied the A and the h. And maybe the R. John Derry did the rest and made it into a cohesive piece. I'm pretty sure the glass i was his.

You can certainly recognize my handiwork in the design of the A. Not unlike the interlocking blocks.

The final piece I'll show is remarkable indeed and represents an even more troubling world view.

That's my left hand you see there.

I guess what I was going for was that Painter 5 was full of new brushes and all you needed was to look at your own hand to see the 5 burning reasons for buying the new release.

It was what you could do with it.

When I created this, I had a kind of illuminati feeling about it: like it was a symbol for a secret society.

Also, when I was a kid, my dad had a bottle of Mercury. Yes, the liquid metal. I picked up that bottle and it was heavy. Not what I expected. And, you guessed it, I held some and rolled it around in my hand.

I'm probably sorry I did that, because Mercury is so poisonous. But I have suffered no ill effects (save for my twisted psyche and the associated dementia).

So I was reliving a scene from my childhood.

And Painter 5 had a new cool liquid metal brush based on 2D metaballs. And a fire brush as well. And a great water droplet brush, creating the look at the bottom.

All these new looks were designed to be eye-catching stuff for an ad.

We ran that ad.

And people got it.

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