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.


monicalee said...

Ohmi! You are just like me! Mine just sits on my computer taking up space. Why did you get a new version if you don't use it? My version is sooo old. I am thinking about getting a new version along with Photoshop since I am going to get a Cintque. This looks good, only 4 does this, right?

Pickledog said...

Really enjoyed your AI autobiography Kathy. Your brushes in the sample look incredible! I use Illustrator (CS2) almost exclusively, but have found myself porting more and more work into Photoshop. I just invested in the Cintiq 21, and I'm enjoying the feel of it much more with PS. I'd love to hear more about how you use Flash too, I haven't really used it in years but it looks like it might be worth catching up with it.

Abby Creek Art said...

I'm with you, Kathy...never enjoyed using Illustrator. Blech! I'm a total Photoshop girl...my brain functions better with it.

Ginger*:) said...

Allright all right... already. I downloaded the trial copy of CS4..

I have always been so intimidated by Illustrator, and this version just has so many nice new features...that is is worth looking into. I already spent a good hour having fun with this new creature.

Thanks for the heads up Kathy.

Fraske Designs said...

hahahah i appreciate your honesty! fun results!

Kathy Weller said...

Hi Monica!
I have been keeping up on Adobe software, because I use several of them, so I buy the packages which is how I end up with things like Illustrator that I hold onto but don't use much. The Adobe packages make sense to buy if you use a few of the products, because the programs are so spendy to begin with.
I am very excited for you and your new Cintiq!! That is worthy of a celebration! It will change your creative work for the better I suspect!! :) It has revolutionized mine. I LOVE the thing. Congrats!!

Pickles, you can read all about Flash drawing through that link in the blog post. Bob Flynn is an animator and Flash artist and he has three really good tutes on his blog (links to all of them through that link to his blog post). I also did a blog post on drawing with Flash not too long ago - it's on this page (along with a few other Flash posts):
Finally, CONGRATS on the Cintiq!!! Go for it!! I got one mid 2007 and it has changed my work on the computer - isn't it the most amazing thing ever? THANK YOU WACOM.

Linda - Me too! Me too! PS Power!! But after fooling around with AI, I think I will be doing a lot more experimenting soon. This brush tool, I simply love it - I need to use it more to see what I can do here (and of course, what I can put up with - or what I'll HAVE to put up with in AI in order to continue using it and see what is possible. Hopefully AI has shifted to a more user-friendly program? We'll see ;)

Ginger - YAY!!! You probably have experienced a lot more in AI CS4 than I have yet. I didn't get past the brushes. It had me at the Brush... Ha!

Allison, thank you for the support!! True confession time, eh??


Mary Beth Cryan said...

Hi Kathy,

I'm not sure where you are located, but I teach a beginner and advanced Adobe Illustrator class at the Rhode Island School of Design. The emphasis of the class is using Illustrator for illustrating. Imagine that! The beginner class starts 9/14.

Also, I'm a self declared Adobe Illustrator expert. Feel free to email me if you have any questions! I love, love, love Illustrator and have used it every week, at least 40 hrs. a week for a little over 9 years now.

Good luck with your blooming friendship with Illustrator.

Julie Vecchio, owner/operator said...

What a fun (and informative) post.
I LOVE YOUR DOODLING!!!! and ALWAYS have, as long as you've been alive!

Corey McCarty said...

Read this post and I gotta say.. I dislike Illustrator too.. right there with ya.. try as I might.. I cant actually SELECT an object!?! I can make the program do backflips in other ways (blends, masks, brushes, etc.).. but have never found an easy way to select the exact shape I want in a complex illustration. The only solution I have found is having very organized layers.
I am a former Freehand addict.. where in order to select any object you simply held a keystroke and magically clicked down through the illustration... no need for OCD layer organization. See ya on Twitter!

Anne Leuck Feldhaus said...

Kathy, I knew I needed to upgrade (from CS!) now I'm convinced, thanks for sharing about the brush tool!

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