Monday, June 16, 2014

Dealing With Quark 10 vs InDesign

Many of my readers know that I gave up on Adobe's InDesign and moved back to Quark. That might have been a good decision as awhile back Adobe's Cloud went down and no one could access their work on any of their programs I believe on and off for several days. So much for the Cloud!

While Quark has fallen out of favor with many design professionals, brought on by their missteps when Apple went to OS X, they have managed to shoulder on. As a lesser entity offering what appears to me to be less than before. No one yet has given me an answer on whether you can export layouts as HTML as you could in even version 6.

I got 9.5 and had issues but finally I got past that and was able to use what I consider an old friend. Slim or no documentation, I found to my delight that the old commands still worked. Luckily I had kept at least one of the Quark QuickStart books. As to new features, unless I stumbled on them they were unknown to me. The new ribbon bar at the bottom held many things now and I would poke at them to see what they would do. Drop shadows were one of the things they finally made easy to create.

I probably would still be using 9.5 if when I upgraded (for once Apple gave us an upgrade for free) Quark had been ready for OS X.9 Mavericks. After that free upgrade Apple cost me a fortune in new or upgraded software.  I got Quark 10. A few weeks later there was a patch for 9.5 but the project was done and so I didn't go backwards.

Its been about a year now as my tech support has just expired. Just days before deciding whether I would renew my support and maybe get Quark 11 at a good price,  I again had to spend hours on the phone trying to get it to work. This time I asked for the highest supervisor on duty, he called me back hours later and again I spent more than an hour getting things rearranged yet again.

It was a tough decision to renew as during this year I have spent 20 - 30 hours on the phone with Quark doing everything imaginable to get it to work. And we do until I launch it the next time and want to use it again.

Everyone has been kind and patient where I have not always been kind and forgiving. I felt and still feel that their software is a work in progress, much like Microsoft who throws new versions out there and depends on the users to find the flaws for them. That HAS been documented.

I didn't renew. So far, knock on wood, it has launched each time I need to use it. Since I have been doing several paying projects that IS crucial. Before I click on the upgrade to Apple's new Yosemite though, I will think long and hard. Apple too has not been good about getting their primary vendors on board. I will most likely lose my PhotoShop 5.1, Illustrator 5 and InDesign 5.5 versions. I don't want to pay Adobe monthly or yearly for the privilege of using their products. I want my own version, on my hard drive that may or may not need to be upgraded now and then. I did it once and at 68 can do it again.

I think that more of us need to be more vocal about these stunts to keep the cash flow flowing. Do we all really need this? I know I don't. Again, it appears to be the tail that wags the dog. I still hear complaints about Office 2010 and beyond. The ribbon takes up half the screen and there are about 15 of them. Does anyone know what they mean? Better yet do you use them?

Quark put much of their commands on a ribbon on the bottom as well. You need to have the memory of a elephant to remember what each of them mean.

I'm using it but it is not what I thought I would get and seems to be an offering of less between the world of publishing and the Internet than ever before. Where I used Quark 6 to design a web page for a client and tweaked it in Dreamweaver, there seems to be no way today. Even the demo I saw of Quark 8 made a point of showing us how easy it was to keep a consistent layout between your printed brochure and page in the Internet. I don't think that feature exists today. If so, I haven't found it and what documentation Quark provides might as well be in Mandarin.

My advice? Check out those features before you buy.

P.S. After working on and struggling with creating both collated pages and a PDF I had a heated discussion with the printer about the PDF Quark created. It appears that "no one" uses Quark anymore and that everyone uses Adobe's InDesign. Well, if there is ANY plus to be said for Quark their tech support is top notch. With Adobe you might as well be looking for chicken teeth. I can't understand how Adobe got where they are today. If it wasn't for Illustrator and PhotoShop, both programs that Quark always worked well with, Adobe would be nothing.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

It's About Choices

Awhile back I got hooked on a Sci-Fi  series called "Fringe." It was about our world and another dimension just a bit different from ours. The bad guy was Leonard Nimoy who had discovered how to move between the fringes. Things got really bad when a mad scientist in this world kidnapped his son from the other world after the son could not be cured and died here. It set off a war between the two world's.

"Stairway To Heaven," version 1
"X-File" and conspiracy geeks no doubt loved this show but what stuck in my mind was this. Crossing over to meet the mysterious Nimoy they are looking down the East River in NYC and we are all startled to see the Twin Towers. Nimoy's character dismisses this by saying, "Different choices were made."

Unbidden, that line returned to my consciousness as I took a painting I started several months ago but dismissed and wanted to throw out.

As you can see, it is a lonely scene, one I happened on in Scandinavia that I thought had possibilities. It was lonely and bleak and maybe a bit too depressing. I found myself being TOO accurate. It reminded me of a Bergman film.

Then, after doing the wild, expressionist portrait using colors and distortions I would normally never use, I looked again at this painting and wondered. It was either experiment or toss it out. The time had come to cut my losses of the failed art and concentrate on the paintings that had possibilities.

"Stairway To Heaven," version 2

What, you ask, does it mean? I grabbed a palette knife and putting the paint directly on it, began from the grass line that met the sky and worked a yellow green down. Then one after another color was added...Indian Yellow, Lavender, Napthol Red, Sap Green, Ultramarine Blue, Cobalt Blue and unbleached Titanium White. Between dirty brushes softening some areas, a comb giving textures to others step by step I built up the ground until it became a cacophony of color and light! It begs us to climb that hill. The cross beckons across the darkening sky. As opposed to the loneliness and near desertion of the original, the vivid colors of the revised painting become joyful, estatic. An evangelical would know exactly what I mean. You have the feeling that you could look at it a 100 times and find something new to consider.

The new color palette is shocking, brilliantly so. It would take a special buyer and a collector used to seeing and enjoying this use of a color palette. 

I ask the question yet again, can we make different choices? At the beginning of each work of art there are so many possibilities. The problem is choosing the one that most closely mirrors what we see in minds eye. Does that leave room for error? Of course. Probably some of the most breathtaking breakthroughs in art were happy accidents. Unless you are willing to try and try again, you as an artist will never know. This past week certainly taught me that lesson all over again.

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Thursday, June 12, 2014

Is Done Really Done?

When I was a graphic designer one of the challenges with a client was getting them to sign the final proof. Because it is so easy to make changes in desktop publishing, the options were infinite. Sometimes there were changes daily. New photos, relocating photos, type faces, where this page goes and that. What got it printed, finally, was their own looming deadline. At that point we were done.

"Meteor Cactus" final version
When I was recovering from surgery, after a few weeks I began to paint again. My stamina was pretty short but I started and completed a series of four 12" x 12" cactus paintings. I had heard that we should try sets or series and in a kind of mental delirium I was game to try.

"Meter Cactus" was not the first of the series but it was very bright and almost graphic in its execution. I liked it but it was missing something. However, I set it aside and went on to the next painting.

One of the classes I took at the Society of Decorative Painters (maybe a misnomer name) was from a woman in the Riverside area that only teaches online or by some kind of video. Her class was teaching us a Flemish technique where you painted with layer after layer to develop the rich colors and shadows that most modern art lacks today. No one in that class, after 8 hours, got done, but the technique she taught us intrigued me.
"Meteor Cactus" revised

Using DecoArt Traditions blending medium we learned to put layer after layer building up colors for a richness and depth you cannot achieve with one layer alone. I was hooked.

After about four layers yesterday, this is what I ended up with. Using Payne's Grey from Grumbacher blended with DecoArts Traditions blending medium, I began to work on the background. She had us coat the area with the blending medium, wipe most of it off then add the color. There were two things I wanted to enhance - the moon and the meteor streaks.

In between drying times, I then tackled the red cactus. I darkened the parts the moonlight couldn't reach. Then finally, I realized there were edges the moonlight did touch and so rather than using white, I used an unbleached titanium for the edges of moonlight hitting the cactus.

Is one version better than the other? I don't know. The bold colors are darker. However, they are still there but the rawness has been replaced with a much subtler painting, with greater depth. All the colors are there but rather than a cacophony of color, the colors are more blended, you can see their interplay with each other. They actually enhance each other in ways they didn't before.

Do I continue to modify the other paintings in this series? Maybe. What I do want to achieve is a signature style and as I discovered yesterday one that includes greater depth that can only be achieved through layering. I can be profligate in my use of colors now realizing I can tone them down with a technique I really like and admire.

I guess in many ways this answers the question often asked...why take classes from other teachers? The answer has to be, because you will be taught things you don't know. Things that will have a profound on your own art.

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Wednesday, June 11, 2014

The Abstract Portrait: More Than One Way To Skin A Cat, Part 2

After a nice nap, I wanted to continue and even finish my abstract portrait. It was done along with another painting that I had started and realized after classes at the Society of Decorative Painters, really wasn't done.

"Jon" step three
My portrait, labeled "Jon" continued where I had left off. This time, I filled in the face that had been left alone as I defined the colors around the face.

As you can see, the colors mirror the surrounding colors but are not necessarily the same. I wanted there to be a contrast of face to background but not so different as to seem from another picture!

Continung on the challenge was to define the abstract face. However, it had to "be" a face, not something merely appended there. That led me to this next phase where I began to show the nose, eyes, mouth.

As you can see, all the colors are there but not in any particular order.

Portrait of "Jon"
What marks a big difference for me is the colors. They are my traditional colors...Napthol Red, Vermillion, Cobalt Blue, Phylo Green, Purple, Yellow, Indian Yellow, Black and even unbleached Titanium White. What surprised me after it was pretty much done was that it was so Vassily...Kandinsky... so Expressionist.

It isn't my cup of tea but until you try, you will never know. I really love the colors but.... it is so unlike anything I have ever done, I can't say that its something I would ever do again. However, I will keep the colors and love the way they contrast against each other.

Its only a canvas and the lessons learned will last a long, long time!

The Abstract Portrait: More Than One Way To Skin A Cat, Part 1

 One of the fascinating things about abstract art is that for the most part it was a creation of the 20th Century. Oh, there was Edvard Munch's "The Scream." in 1889,  and we can only surmise what Van Gogh may have done. By the time of his death his paintings were getting looser and increasingly abstract. Picasso was in his "Blue Period" but still recognizable and Braque led the charge and the floodgates were open by the time of the Armory Show of 1913. Critics screamed yet oddly, the collectors and the public were supportive. Maybe, this new century needed a fresh start.

Original Distorted Image
If you haven't tried a portrait abstract, I discovered it isn't easy. I am anal, detail oriented, attempt to be literal and have a hard time making that distorted leap. A good friend sent me a series of images, amazing distorted images that he hoped would finally set me free. I looked at them, had a good laugh but then after looking again decided there was one I really liked.

It had possibilities. Suddenly in minds eye I saw all kinds of shapes and colors, something that I had never done before.

Grabbing a square canvas with a deep frame all around, this is how I started my portrait.

I sketched the rough outline of the face and then selected a variety of colors that were used to completely surround the face. These will be the core colors...or at least that was the original intent. Will it work? Can I successfully incorporate these colors with subtle variations to create a new, abstract portrait? That remains to be seen. However, one of the beauties of acrylics is
that one color doesn't work? In 30 minutes, or
less, I can try another. In fact I feel that this might be very successful as a heavily textured Rouault.

I had already decided to use a thick black border around the face. If all went well, this could create a striking three dimensional portrait. While we may never know who the original was, it is a means for me to free myself hopefully for now and for the future.

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Thank you for reading.

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Variations Of A Blank Slate

Artists of any stripe start off with the same thing...a blank slate. Music sheet, page of paper (or computer) canvas or anything that you can paint on. Mankind has been doodling and recording the world around him at least since modern man, estimated to be 50,000 years old, went into those caves in France and just about every year since.

One of the discoveries has been that while I can paint a variety of things on a canvas, but still not with the freedom and spontaneity I do with my crafts.  This very fact has been pointed out more than once.

I am always one for a deal so I decided to buy four beautifully made wooden "to-do" boxes. Once I got them, I couldn't decide what to do with them. It was an evolving process with this first creation using my new fondness for Rosemaling. Reds are very, very popular in Rosemaling and so that was the color I used. However, many of the colors I also used were more colorful and domineering.

Then on a binge of California themed birdhouses, I created another to-do box using what I thought was wonderfully fun and colorful.

Using Hiroshige waves and California palms, this letterbox or to-do is as different from the original as could be. The colors reflect a far different mood and motif. You couldn't get any further from the original design. And yet, it is still "the same box." I know an artist shouldn't get too emotional about their creations, but, well, there are creations that still make one happy. Will I sell it? Of course. Its listed in my Etsy store.

Rose To Do Box
Then, when I came back from the Society of Decorative Painters Convention in San Diego, I spotted the other two boxes glaring at me on my work bench. After several classes, I decided to use them up and see just what I could do with them. And to sweeten the pot, I added hooks to make them far more usable. After all, these are "to-do" boxes. Why not make them even more useful. These things are built for the centuries. The hooks will be an added bonus. Now mail, keys, and who knows what else can be added to make the box even more useful. Any one of these would be a wonderful and colorful addition to someones home.

What I wanted to show here and talk about is that blank canvases can be used in so many ways. A visit to a museum is proof of that. Though it might be hard to do, a trip to Egypt is another stunning vision of what blank canvases can be. To see the tombs, temple after temple, Abu Simbel.

To stand in front of a Van Gogh is to bring so many emotions to mind. If you go to NYC be sure to hunt down his "Starry, Starry Night." The second most important painting in the world, you can read a wide range of emotions in both the painting and yourself. Its that powerful.

Not everything we create will be that powerful. Look around you. How many objects surround you that bring good memories. Is it art? Maybe. Is it something you love? I would have to guess yes. That is why I crete. I want to create things my customers love. That is usually the motivation behind every creation.

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Thursday, June 5, 2014

Moments Of Whimsy

Purple Passion Birdhouse
Every now and then, I take a kind of leave of my normal artistic sense and play. Of course not every "played" item is worth keeping and either I throw it away but since most of my products are wood all I need to do is put another coat of acrylic paint. There is yet again a new blank surface.

My PURPLE PASSION BIRDHOUSE is a case in point. I was experimenting with how to fade paint on wood. Its not really all that different than a canvas though, as I quickly discovered, wood accepts colors differently than either watercolor paper or a canvas. In fact, wood is very unpredictable. Anyway, I went on with whatever I was working on and there on my desk sat my experiment or what I had done with it.

As an aside, whenever I visit a craft store, limited to mostly Michaels, or if I've made the trek to Hobby Lobby or sometimes go to JoAnn's with my wife, I look at all the bargains. You just never know what you might find. If it remotely might be used and its cheap, cheap, cheap I will give it a chance. That's how that glittering bird got pasted on this birdhouse. I figured since its a small birdhouse, no bird would ever use it so why not put a bird on the perch?

As I was looking through my boxes of goodies one day, I happened upon the glittery birds. Looking at the unfinished birdhouse I realized I had the perfect color "birdie" and picking up the birdhouse, sketched some Pennsylvania Dutch motifs and painted away.

It was sold today and of course a flood of memories, those talked about above, came to mind. Despite what we may think, anything you create has a intimate relationship with you. Just as a composer or writer or any other kind of creator, what we create is deep down a part of ourselves. Just as we may not always like what we create, I have been surprised many times to find that others actually do. If you created it, put it out there. If we all liked the same things the world would be a boring place. Keep that in mind when something doesn't go the way you wanted you put your heart and soul in it and still, run with it!

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