Photoshop versus Illustrator

I started using Photoshop when I enrolled on an art foundation course a few years ago...I'd heard lots of things about it and even had a very old version of the programme but had never actually used it. The strange thing is that whilst I only used it minimally on that course it felt rather that I had always used it which I think is a testament to just how good the programme is. All the Adobe programmes I have used from Final Cut to Illustrator have what I think is an intuitive quality about them. The only programme I have had real difficulty migrating skills I have learned from others to is Dreamweaver but that's another story. What I especially treasure is the myriad different pathways you can find to achieve the same result. If you can't do it one way you can bet that if you string together a bunch of other techniques you've got you'll get there and learn a whole bunch of new stuff in the process.

It was only in my final year of a Drawing degree that Photoshop became a process in itself and it took me a further two years beyond that to start rendering or drawing directly into the programme using a tablet but I'll come back to that. I wrote and illustrated a children's story for my degree project and ended up editing all the images in Photoshop which is probably when I became totally hooked.

It really suited the way I make images as well. I tend to make bits of my compositions separately then tie them altogether. I've included some images from a project I did last year (above) - someone asked me to draw them some snow geese and this is what dropped into my mind. I drew one rough thought sketch which was the initial impression from my imagination and then worked up the other images using this which I scanned into the programme. These base images (to me at least) are more interesting than the end result because image's evolution has real movement which ends up in final piece. I'd just like to mention an artist called Ed Gray at this point. I visited him at his studio in London in my final year at university because I had become fascinated with the movement his urban landscapes seemed to have in them and wanted to know how he managed to do this. I was pretty stunned by the number of canvasses and layers of paint he used to build up into the creation of the final facade. What was striking about them was how static they seemed until that final rendering of the completed painting.

Anyways I digress....I don't know why it took me so long to start using a tablet, some sort of weird snobbery about drawing being dependent on using a pencil and paper but it sure made life a lot easier and on a more abstract level it really made me think about what is actually real anyway. I can't see a distinction anymore between a drawing I make on paper or one that is pixelated and drawn directly into a computer. It's all a matter of perception anyway which is only consistent with the thought which created it in the first place.

Which brings me on to the other side of my illustrating coin. I began using Illustrator at the end of last year and I think I am more enamoured by it than Photoshop. It might be that it is still a big novelty but it has made me think about the images I make in a different way. I found a good summary of the main differences between the programmes - someone blogged (thank you btw) that whereas Photoshop uses layers to make images Illustrator uses objects (or something like that) which I think is pretty good. I started using Illustrator because I have long looked at editorial illustrations and wondered how the artists always seemed to get that slick design heavy feel. When I started using Illustrator the penny finally dropped. I'd even tried creating an editorial image for an online summit (see below) using Photoshop which I think was quite successful because you can still construct an images using shapes in Photoshop but they never look as snappy.

Anyways I watched a lot of YouTube videos and then took a headline from a newspaper and set about making my first image in Illustrator - I've included some of the steps below. I learn't so much doing this, from learning to build shapes, using the pen tool and applying effects so by the time I came to make my next image I felt like I knew what I was doing. The same intuitive ways of doing things that I referred to earlier are ever present in Illustrator as well. There are, for example so many ways to create shapes but you inevitably develop your own preferences and working styles. There is also a satisfying randomness to using the pen tool as well - If I create a character using this there is always an element of uncertainty to how the final rendering might turn out unless of course I faithfully trace around a line that I've already sketched...also for me at least, it encourages me to exaggerate characteristics which I never tend to do with a pen and paper in hand.

What I like particularly about these images is that it shows the point at which I went from making more realistic renderings to ones that were more stylistic. In the early graphics I am getting to grips with the pen tool but as I get better I started to play with the images more. Rendering the fruit machine was perfect for learning how to make shapes and cut bits out of them and place objects behind others using the path finding tool and shape builder ( I pretty much do everything with the shape builder now) and then finally I applied some graphic styles (not so fond of those now). I also tried to get to grips with the perspective tool as well.

Since then I notice that all the tendencies I have when I make images in Photoshop are showing up in Illustrator as well...this shouldn't surprise me really but it does...the programmes are really different... it just feels like I am finding different ways to do the same things. Huh!

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