Tuesday, August 18, 2009
Ode to Illustrator CS4
I don't remember when I actually STOPPED using Illustrator. That's probably because I have never fully enjoyed using it, really. Ever. As an artist's tool, to me, it has always felt "wrong". Technical. Mathematical. (Like an Erector set.) Just not the way my brain organically works. Sure, I could have forced myself to work that way.* But, there were other tools available at my disposal that got me from Point A to Point B effectively enough. I was not willing to bend, twist and tangle my brain's working sensibilities to accommodate this particular tool which never really produced the type of results I was looking for. Yet Illustrator's stock in trade is the fact that it produces vector art. It's the number one vector art tool and always has been... AND, it is under the umbrella of creative mothership Adobe. Every illustrator and designer must have a good working knowledge of a program that creates vector artwork, and I am no different - it is one of the bedrocks of what we do. So I've had plenty of struggles with Illustrator. To me, Illustrator has always been like the most popular girl who heads the most popular clique in high school: very beneficial to have in your corner, but as icy as they come. The signature "computery", scary-even line that Illustrator has always worn like a new pair of shiny white tennis shoes has always been a trait that an artist either worked to develop their own style around or beat into submission (and then subsequently blaze trails for scores of vector artists thereafter) or it was something that you just loathed and avoided like the plague... like I did.
(You can force a person to do a lot of things. For instance, I use computers to create art and have for 14 some-odd years. But twenty years ago I would have said "NEVER!!!" We grow... We adapt! I digress...)
Well, now it's just a leettle embarrassing to say how long it's really been since I've experimented in Illustrator. But I guess that's what this post is all about. I will tell you that it's been *cough* years since I have played around with Illustrator's drawing tools. I use it for design work as needed, and I don't mind it. I'm grabbing a logo or whatnot, assembling text, doing production. But actually illustrating in Illustrator -- now that's a different story. For a long time, I simply avoided doing any illustrations in vector format (despite the clear and ginormous benefits) because I so deeply despised the lack of quality of line that I felt I was achievable for me in Illustrator. (Please note: there are plenty of bang-up, fabuloutastic vector illustrators out there that I am truly in awe of. We all have our strengths and our weaknesses.) But, if I need to produce vector illustrations these days, I head on over to Flash instead, where, in light of the comfortable line quality it lets me achieve, I can live with it's small series of imperfections. I've been using Flash for vector drawing for awhile now -- ever since I read this blog post and gave it a go. I was thrilled to have finally discovered a way in which could create vector artwork with a line that I felt was authentically imperfect (and, yes, comfortable) in an atmosphere that I was already familiar with. It's been my go-to vector illo tool ever since.
Well, my curiosity was piqued about a week ago to see what was new in Illustrator, if anything. (That's another story for another day...) So tonight, I thought I'd give AI a little whirlygig once again. Going in, the revisit could have lasted 2 seconds, for all I knew. (I'm not shy about hitting the Command+Q on AI.) My lack of high hopes from the outset may be partially responsible for my elation over Adobe's improvements. All I tried tonight was the Brush tool tonight. And I was this happy about it. I wonder what other improvements have been made. Maybe, Illustrator and I will become *gulp* friends, this time... for real.