My last job at Microsoft was dev lead for Acrylic aka Microsoft Expression Graphic Designer. It is a very cool artistic and graphics program, and one of the most fun parts of working on it was interacting with talented artists. We hired some to help test the product as target users, and we also hired one on contract to help create and update the content that shipped with this product: Aaron Jasinski.
Aaron is very skilled and talented and a hell of a nice guy as well, one of his projects was to make caricatures of the team members. Since that time I've used the one he did of me as often as I can.
Go check out his site, he does amazing work.
As for Acrylic, it is still available for free trial.
While on our last vacation, in southern France at the time, I took some photos of my wife taking photos of flamingos. I told her I was inventing the art of "Meta-Photography", photography of photography.
I also invented the "Laser", but that's another story.
She really loves photography, so when I pondered how to do one of these silly pieces of "art" for her I naturally thought back to those pictures, since they were action shots of her enjoying her favorite hobby.
I had a very interesting conversation with Aaron Jasinski today about art, the art scene, and some about Seattle vs. L.A. Aaron is a very talented artist and is getting some real recognition in the hip L.A. scene, and is in a show coming up soon at Gallery 1988. Very exciting.
I fancy myself a bit of an art collector (small time), we own a number of originals bought from different places around the world, whenever something catches our eye and won't let go until it is hanging on the wall. The most famous artist we own is a painting by Claude Theberge, although it isn't especially unique it very much his classical style and the first original available that we felt strongly about (we had been waiting for a few years for the right original for a semi-reasonable price to show up).
One of the latest additions to the collection is a couple paintings by Kal Gajoum, one painting of his was sitting on its side on the floor of the gallery in a room filled with his work, but that painting kept drawing me back to look at it sideways. When I have that sort of reaction it can be very difficult not to buy it and put it up on the wall.
The discussion with Aaron was very interesting, and I came away with a few impressions. One was that the Seattle art scene is as dead as I thought it was (my wife claims it is because music is the happening thing, not art). Another is that L.A. is now the happening scene for art. Finally, that my taste in art (like the two artists I just mentioned) is pretty conservative.
I believe that is mostly due to what I'm exposed to, by which I mean that when you want to excel at something you need to be surrounded by others who excel at it, and who push your boundries and challenge your limits. In a situation where you're obviously better than everyone else, it is much more difficulty to find the path to further growth. In sports you need to play against those better than you, and the same is true with most skills.
I think of the taste in art the same way. The more art I'm exposed to the more I know what is possible, what people are doing, what themes are being used and how. Once I've seen enough I can start recognizing old, tired techniques and styles. I can be challenged by something new, and if I'm familiar enough with what is being done I can tell whether it is really new.
I collect art for the enjoyment of the art itself, thinking of it as an investment strikes me as speculative and overly optimistic. At least that ensures that when I spend the money it will be because I actually like what I'm getting, and not that I think others will value it higher later.
I didn't intend to stay up late working on this, but I wanted to play with an interesting workflow that Acrylic has enabled in the beta. I imported a picture of turtles my wife took this weekend as we canoed around Lake Washington over the weekend. After creating a pixel layer, I traced over the turtles in the photo with pixel brushes to make a simple pencil drawing kind of thing.
Then I created a vector layer on top of that and made the simplified shapes based on those sketches. For the shell and eye I applied an inner bevel effect, and for the legs and belly I did a simple drop shadow effect on each. Three small strokes for details (mouth, highlight on the nose, highlight on the shell) and select the gradients for the fills, and it is done. Not necessarily done in that order.
This is one that I did a few weeks ago. Started with another photo my wife took, this time a very long exposure of a harbor in Vancouver, BC. I used the modal selection tool (started with the boats generally selected, select 'Start In/Out Region Marking') to build and refine a selection of only the boats in the photo. I then used the Poster Edges effect Image Filter on the selected region. I really like the way it turned out, subtle.
Only because I think I'd better post something semi-artistic. I'm not a pro, I don't claim this is good:
I made this by importing a photo my wife took of one of the frogs that lives in the pond in our backyard as a vector image object. I then created another layer in front of it and started tracing the photo with the B-Spline tool in order to get an approximation of the shades (generally No Stroke and with a simple color fill). I did that for the eyes, the top of the head, and the bottom of the head.
I went back to add a couple hilites, specifically on the eye, the nose, the 'lips' (frogs got lips?), then later near the eye. After that I went back and added the spots.
The eyes, top, and bottom of the head are all shapes with No Stroke and a fill color, the hilites are all done with variations of Skeletal Strokes, mostly "pointed leaf", "perfect felt", and "scribble" which are in the Ink category in the Acrylic Beta. Oh right the color around the eye, simple strokes I think both are the perfect felt stroke.
The initial tracings were all pretty awful but I used the Node Tool to adjust afterwards. All in all it was pretty painless and the results are much better than I'd expect given my lack of artistic skills.
The XPR file itself still has both layers (including the original photo) with the photo's layer hidden. I could theoretically fill out the rest of the frog but I think I'll be content with the success I've had.