Friday, March 22, 2013

Poor Craftsman

They say it’s a poor craftsman who blames his tools.
To which I say, “So?”
I don’t necessarily disagree with the point.  After all, some people are poor craftsmen.  What of it?
That being said, sometimes poor craftsmanship can be exacerbated by poor tools, or at least inconsistent tools.
As an “artist,” I do most of my work in Photoshop, in large part because it’s what I’m most familiar with.  After all, I’ve been working in it for almost 15 years, and for several of those years I did so in a professional capacity.
Beyond that, it’s a very powerful tool, both for image manipulation and adjustment, and for image creation.  It has many tools that work very much like their real-world equivalents, all of which have additional capabilities that can’t be matched – at least not easily – through the use of more traditional tools and media.
Paired up with my Wacom Cintiq, it makes the experience of creating art (“art”) in a digital medium a much more natural experience.  (It also makes it really damned expensive, but that’s beside the point.)
That said, it’s not without its limitations.
Some of them are just inherent to a digital workflow, or to the various peculiarities of the Photoshop interface and its rather steep learning curve.  However, while there are still things I’m learning about what Photoshop can do after 15 years – particularly as new versions come along and add new features, or change the way existing features are accessed – for the most part I’ve adapted to those peculiarities in one way or another.
Lately, though, I’ve been running into a lot of new frustrations that have been pushing me into areas that lead to accusations of poor craftsmanship.
I’m not sure where the fault lies – I’m sure there’s plenty of blame to go around – but I often say that the cause is rarely as important as the effect, and effect has been pretty damned annoying.
So it doesn’t matter to me if the problem is with Photoshop, with Windows, with the Wacom drivers, with my video card’s drivers, or with all of them.
To give you an idea of what I’m talking about, I’ll use an analogy based on working in traditional media.

Imagine that you have a piece of paper and a pencil and you sit down at a desk to draw something.  Frequently, as you touch the tip of the pencil to the paper, the color of the desk you’re working on will suddenly change color.  What was brown is now green.  Now it’s brown again.  It’s distracting, and annoying, but not completely disruptive, given that your focus is on the paper.
However, every so often, the paper itself suddenly turns completely transparent.
And all the while your pencil keeps periodically transforming itself into a leaky fountain pen.

Poor craftsman or not, I think you’d be justified in complaining about your tools.

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