A Moment of Silicon Silence

Electric Narwhal Original Art Available thru Gallery 1988 SF

I am writing today with a heavy heart.  One of my closest friends and artistic co-conspirators is deathly ill and quite likely not long for this mortal coil. I am speaking, of course, about my faithful iMac.  Pristine and white, and oddly square, it has perched on the back of my desk for nearly 3 years now, providing constant inspiration and assistance in my endeavors.  Recently, it has been making an off-putting clicking sound when starting up.  Then, yesterday, it finally clicked it's last, and will start no more.  Instead of the comforting grey apple floating in the middle of the screen, there sat a file folder and a blinking question mark.  A last cryptic remark on the inability of those left behind to know what lays beyond that last shadowy vale, in that undiscovered country.

Like a good soldier and friend, my iMac managed to gasp back to life long enough for me to copy most of the important files I needed.  I'm sure I'll lose some things, but I grabbed everything that looked even slightly dire.  And thank god for extended warranties.

Actually, alot of folks have been asking lately about the part computers play in my creative process.  Many assume that, because I prefer to work in real-world materials like paper and wood, I'm some sort of Luddite.  The truth couldn't be more different.  I love our silicon brethren who, I'm certain, will one day be our cold and merciless overlords.  Got my first computer when I was in Junior High.  It was an Atari 800XL, and I scrimped and saved my allowance for a year to afford that 64k beast. Since then, I've had some sort of computer following me around, bouncing through uncountable brands and at least 4 operating systems. I've even tried making art on them. It didn't take.

Nowadays, the computer assists with nearly every step of my process.

And let me head the Mac v. PC thing off at the pass. Yeah, I prefer the Mac. The way the system works, especially the filing system in the OS, just seems to be a match for the way my brain works. When I was on Windows I could never find a dang thing. On this machine, I know where everything is, and nearly everything does what I expect it to do. Which isn't to say that Mac is intrinsically better. It's just better for me and my thought process. Your experience may vary. Use what works best for you.

Step one of every project is research and inspiration. There are a million websites out there that help with that. And some days, boy do I need help. From quote collections to photo albums to websites dedicated to some bizarre niche interest, there're a billion ways to get ideas from the internet. I use as many as my deadlines allow.

When I sketch, I work tiny. I have a habit of being a little detail oriented (you're shocked, right?). Doing my layouts in thumbnails no bigger than 3 inches helps me to keep my composition balance and succinct. These get scanned into photoshop, mixed with more detailed sketches and perhaps bits of older work, tweaked, twisted, turned, erased, flipped, squished, altered and massaged, then enlarged to the final size, and printed out.

The next few steps don't usually involve the 'puter (tracing, drawing, cutting, gluing). But all through, I might be scowering the web for ideas for color combinations, details, and last minute addenda. When the manual labor is done, I'll scan in the image. This gets cleaned up in photoshop, and occasionally repaired. If the work is for an illustration client, there could be a few more steps. Objects moved, colors changed, things added or erased.

After that, the digital file is put to a billion different uses. Promotion on the web and in print. Website images. The database I keep of all my work. And on and on. Not to mention the fact that computer has become invaluable when it comes to communication, negotiation, planning, promotion, etc.

All reasons why I will miss my minimalistically styled pal while he's out either being repaired or bid a tearful farewell.