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Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Who We Are

It's time to fess up. Because in order to move forwards, we must understand who we are.

Almost two years ago I was wrapped up in a cocoon of my job, my life, and no friends. My best friends for life, John Derry and Tom Hedges had moved away and passed away respectively. I had taken my past and buried it deep in the back yard, metaphorically. All my notes from the Painter days were on the shelf.

Why I Do Dat?

When I was CEO and main developer for Painter, I was on a roller coaster of positive emotions, of hard work, of constant reassurance from my friends. But when the Metacreations board decided to sell off the software, my baby, and I was chosen to do the deed, I accepted the hard task because I knew if anyone else did it all would be lost. This meant closing down the software division, really everything I had built. The people I knew and worked with, all of whom I valued deeply, needed a kind hand to shepherd them through the layoff process and moving on. Again, if someone else were to do it, it might have ended up far worse.

And in the process I was sure nobody would understand the sacrifice, yet some clearly did, which humbled me. So, as I went to consult for Corel for the final 18 months of my work on Painter, I wrapped myself up and closed myself off, and wound up insulated. Even from my friends.

And, as a CEO, I also found that many friends were really not friends, but really fair-weather friends. I have mentioned in my blog many who were not, but still, this realization is a hard fall to take.

So I put my past in boxes and stored them literally on the shelf. Which left me broken.

I can imagine many of us having to do things we don't want to do. Perhaps we do them because they are the lesser of two evils: Hobson's choice. Like going to the dentist or letting a cavity get worse. When it is our choice, we must accept the responsibility. We must own it. When, however, it is someone else's choice, we can more easily be scarred by the process.

Hard Problems

So about two years ago a kind friend started me on a path towards reconciling with my past. Because, in this case, the hard problem is me.

In conversation, I talked about my past and the crazy things that have happened to me. And slowly, I became unwrapped, and un-cocooned. Eventually I started this blog and have done my best to embrace my past so I could move forwards.

And you have seen some interesting posts along the way that talk about ideas, creativity, hard problems, intense development, and even the things we throw away. I have also been hoping that my way of looking at things will be of use to you, so I have given you thoughts on three-dimensional thinking, alternate reality, disruptive technology, and even shared with you my memories of Steve Jobs.

Most of these blog posts are decorated with stories from my past, part of the process of embracing it. Part of the healing process. My posts on Painter and the Fractal Design era are my present to the Painter users and the Fractal Design and Metacreations folk, who I must ask to forgive me.

Moving Forwards

Life is always moving forwards whether we want it to or not. At Apple, I have been moving my development chops forward at an astonishing rate. But I can't really talk about it, except to say that there might be a few patents with my name on them that can point you in the directions that I have gone.

So my job with this blog is to move the rest of me forwards. To continue to develop myself since the future waits for no one; rust never sleeps. I hope for you, gentle reader, to be entertained, to enjoy me revealing interesting topics, all so you can see a few things from my relativistic observation point.

I apologize here and now that you also have to put up with so much stuff that litters my past. It's just part of my therapy.

Some day I hope to figure out who I am. In the meanwhile, I think I understand the ramifications of my past and it has helped me.

But do remember that this blog only reveals one side of me: the part I can talk about. So that may be why it is so heavily strewn with recollection.

Still, I must continue to move forwards.

Let's Vote!

To be responsive to my users, I think now would be a good time to ask for comments on what I should post about. What do you love? What do you hate? What would you like to see? Do you value my point of view? Are my posts on creativity interesting?

Please add a comment on this, dear reader, and help me move forwards.

The relativistic observer,
Mark Zimmer


  1. I can identify with some of your experiences, I got ill a number of years ago and that stigma I then had cost me some friends.

    I'm an early Painter user and currently have Painter 11. I use it quite often to create Digital Visual Art on my blog "gatzkART!" I for one enjoyed the ride from Fractal Design forward.

    I appreciate your honesty and candor, keep up the fine work on your blog. It's refreshing to meet someone who will "put it out there," willingly.

    1. After some introspection, I felt it necessary to explain why I dwell on the past so much. Still, there is plenty of future to comment on as well. And I also feel that the future can still be salvaged if we continue to respect our roots, while taking maximum advantage of emerging trends, like social media. As paint migrates onto tablets and Painter-like features emerge, I can only hope that some of the values that motivated our approach at Fractal Design can be preserved. The artist's style is paramount.

      Thank you for your kind words!

  2. Mark:
    Actually I find everything in your blog excellent. Everything is interesting, relevant and entertaining and I feel lucky for being able to read you . It´s a privilege.
    Sorry for not being able to select one theme. It´s your fault. ;) But your insights on technology and creativity and everything regarding to your experience as creator and developer. Please keep at it.

    Thanks for sharing!

    1. Well, thank you! I will keep sharing and hopefully maintain the level of image-centered posts. If nothing else, I hope to show others how to duplicate and extend this work. It is not easy work, but it is quite satisfying. It's hard for me to post on the new things I do, since they all live behind the veil of secrecy.

      So the new stuff I work on tends to influence my posts on creativity, development, and problem-solving. There will be more on these subjects and related matter.

    2. "But your insights on technology and creativity and everything regarding to your experience as creator and developer are invaluable" I meant.

      You cannot explain what you are doing now, we know. :)
      I´m sure we all enjoying, of course are very tiny reference to Painter, from tech notes to human experience. But you have much to say on much stuff!

    3. My posts on creativity and development strategies will continue.

  3. Hello Mr. Zimmer
    I think you are a genius and so I idolize you a bit. I dearly love Painter and am still using version 4 on my xp machine. I am a cartoonist and so I was disappointed that Corel took out the excellent single point line under scratchboard tool that got so incredibly thin. It imitated a crow quill pen so well. I was also frustrated that straight lines does not have an option to automatically drop the line after each line. I could have used this to layout comic book pages, draw furniture and gadgets, and draw architecture. Someone suggested I look at Manga Studio for the straight lines and so I have been experimenting with that program. There is a learning curve there so I miss Painter. Thank you for all your work. Also thank you for all your blog posts. Ron Power

    1. OMG thank you!

      With respect to the tools in Painter, I am always adjusting and rolling with the brushes as I use them, and I am happy that the brush's state is maintained in the recent brushes list at the top (this is in Painter 12). Actually, though, I think Painter 4 was my personal favorite version. ;-)

      And I totally agree with you, the scratchboard tool rocked back then!

  4. I've enjoyed the graphics algorithms you've posted. It's fun to look over your shoulder as the magic behind the shapes and textures evolve.

    1. I find textures and patterns fascinating. It is even more fun to see them evolve on screen. If I can figure out ways to capture and post movies of evolving textures, I will.

  5. Hey Mark!

    I've been reading and enjoying your blog. Thanks for sharing. There's some fond memories in there for me. I just wish I was smarter and could fully grasp more of the technical ends of things. Whatever you write just keep writing, it's all interesting.

    1. Thanks, Rich!

      Pretty much all the Fractal folk I have spoken to can look back fondly at a time where design was interesting at a company with a heart.

      I do my best to make technical stuff accessible. Even though I used this technology at Fractal, I didn't know really much about how it really works until I came to understand it recently. I was just someone trying our lots of stuff and finding a little beauty in the results.

      The first step in a journey.

    2. Fractal had a damn good soul.
      The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step...

    3. Rich,

      As I said in the Fractal Design Formula post, it was really the people of Fractal (and of Meta and Ray Dream) that were the formula for our success. They were a hard-working, earnest, and well-meaning bunch. With heart for days.

      Our success had nothing to do with what Rock Stars we associated with. It was the people in the company that made it special.


  6. Dear Mark,

    Thanks for sharing about your journey, you are an amazing man and creative genius. Thank you for giving us artists the gift of Image Studio in the BW days and later Painter. It has been a joy and a privilege to work with you over the years.

    Painter is still my favorite digital application for painting and illustration. I still love to build brushes and textures for Painter, and writing The Painter Wow! Books is always a delight. Thank you for all of your inspirations.

    Warm wishes,
    Cher Pendarvis

  7. Thanks, Cher! It's good to hear from you again. Perhaps my new posts "An Anatomy of Painter's Brushes" will be of interest. I have also done a series on "Creativity and Painter" that reveals the crazy things we thought of while trying to get the product out, design ads, set up a design language for the user interface, and all the insanity in between.

    You know, one of the things that really impressed me through the creative process of Painter and beyond has been the wealth of wonderful books that have come out about all of Painter's features. And, of course, the Painter Wow! series has been a landmark in channeling that creative essence. Because it takes an artist to really show off Painter and exhibit what it can really do.

    So hats off to you, Cher, because you exemplify the very reasons that Painter was created in the first place!


  8. Good morning Mark. I'm enjoying reading your posts, which are much like a nice conversation with you. Thank you very much for your kind words about my art and the Painter Wow! books. You have given us artists an incredible gift and we are grateful.

    Steve and I hope that you and your family have a lovely Easter vacation.

    Warm wishes,

  9. My favorites thus far, and those marked with an asterik are strongest interest to me:

    * Factoring Numbers In My Head
    * Transparency: the Way of the Future?
    * Thinking Backwards
    * Post-PC
    * Hard Problems
    * The Things We Throw Away
    * Intense Development
    * Image Sensors
    My Early Painter Art
    The Illustrated Evolution of Painter UI
    2011 - The Year of Steve
    Different Modes of Thought
    * Energy, Part 1
    * Hackers
    Hackers, Part 3
    Drawing On Your Creativity
    Keeping It Cool
    * Mess and Creativity
    * Respecting the User's Input
    Disruptive Technology, Part 2
    The Fractal Design Formula
    Painter Splash Screens
    Where Do Ideas Come From?
    * Future, Part 1
    The Painter Can
    Creativity and Painter, Part 5
    Painter's Image Hose
    The Most Useful Painter Feature
    * The Domain of the Apostrophe (about dark matter)
    Handling Serious Events
    Three-Dimensional Thinking
    * Prime Numbers

    1. Wow! I think you are the cerebral reader! I am reminded of how *many* posts I've made! When I go back and read the early ones, I am actually thinking I should redo some of them to be better illustrated. Maybe more coherent.

      My blog needs more navigation so people can find their subjects better. At least there's a search...

    2. Navigation that groups similar posts would probably be very helpful.

    3. I agree. I've been looking for a gadget that will help me do that on a blog.

  10. Hi Mark, I enjoy all your posts, even those that are a foot above my head!
    About the gadget to make it easier to group the posts, I think you can create categories in blogger and mark each post as one of them.... that will break them down in groups.
    Thanks again for this blog and for painter, I agree with all the above comments on the importance of Painter for us artists, digital and otherwise.

    1. Thanks, Daniela!

      I have added a categories thingy at the bottom and I do believe it works as advertised. Good suggestion!

      Obviously I still use Painter every day, and I will continue to advocate it, of course.