What is your title, and can you explain what your daily responsibilities are?
I usually bill myself as a Photoshop Author and Educator, though I’m trying to expand that to ‘Pixel Pushing Genius of Ill Repute’. It’s a work in progress… My typical tasks center on writing about, playing in, and trying to break Photoshop. To support this I spend a lot of time poring over various online galleries for inspiration and to keep up on photography, editing, and design trends, and testing out various pieces of software aimed at digital artists. I’m really interested in both painting methods and 3D these days, so have been looking at ways to integrate other applications into a Photoshop-centered work flow.
What inspired you most to become a Photoshop educator? Why did you pursue this as a career?
When I was first learning about Photoshop, I couldn’t really afford many books so I took to discussion forums to ask questions and find out what other people were trying to do. After a short time, I discovered that I learned very quickly by trying to solve other people’s design and editing problems. Rather than trying to invent projects for myself, I could take challenges other people faced and use that as an excuse to build my own knowledge. At the time, the main forum I was on had several thousand very active users so the environment was rich to plunder. A core group of us shared equal passion for sharing knowledge as creating art, and we all just sort of fed off of each other. At some point, I became kind of addicted to finding solutions, which naturally led me to pushing Photoshop’s boundaries.
I still love figuring out how to explain a feature or technique, or trying to reverse-engineer some effect or look. The really cool thing is that nearly everything you do in Photoshop can be done multiple ways, so it really comes down to the individual and how they think about the task or problem in front of them. Most of what I write about with respect to digital imaging is approach rather than recipes, and I’ve focused in on using ‘first principles’ as a teaching method. It’s like teaching someone the skills to climb a mountain and pointing the way rather than chartering a helicopter to the top.
What do you think is the biggest obstacle to pursuing a career in the creative fields?
Perception! Creative industries in general are rife with stories about amazing talent that doesn’t believe in itself, boring work that gains commercial success, and a complete misunderstanding by the lay community about what actually goes into the creative process. Whether it’s the artist or the audience, perceptions seem to get in the way a lot.
I consider the most successful artists to be the ones that make a living creating the art they themselves enjoy, whether or not that means great commercial returns.
With all the new versions of Photoshop and Lightroom what changes do you personally feel are the most exciting or brilliant?
While I started out questioning whether 3D had a place in Photoshop, it’s an area that I think can really open up for designers and photographers all over. The trick with any new tool is figuring out whether it fits into your own vision, and in order to do that you need to play with enough. I think a lot of photographers especially look at 3D and wonder why they should bother. Worse, many probably feel like 3D is encroaching on and lessening the value of photography, which is totally not true.
For pure photography, I think the increased attention to detailed controls is waking up the photography crowd in general to the subtlety and nuance that is possible with digital images. These areas were previously only in the realm of true darkroom experts. Because of this, I see people pushing themselves to understand how tiny changes can have a big impact on an image, far beyond composition and ‘correction’ of things like tone and color.
What Photographers & Photoshop artists do you follow, and why do they stand out from others in your opinion?
There aren’t many artists that I follow regularly, but I like to check in on several. Some of my favorites include contemporaries like Pascale Campion, Erik Johansson, CJ Nicolai, Linda Bergkvist, Thomas Kettner, Vassilis Tangoulis, Tony Stromberg, Bagrad Badalian… You know, I’m just going to stop there.
Really, anyone doing something with a unique perspective no matter what the medium. I thoroughly enjoy masterful executions that defy immediate description; works that demonstrate vision beyond aesthetic and technique so that you’re lost in the feeling of what’s before you rather than wondering at how it was accomplished.
In the flat digital world, my favorite artists tend to be those that remind me of something I’ve experienced or dreamt about, whether that’s illustration or photography or 3D. That’s not limited to the serene, comforting images, either. I really enjoy digging around in the discordant, dark, uncomfortable material.
What social networks do you like most? Which present good examples of Photography the best?
I spend most of my social media time on Facebook, because it’s easy and is a great way to see what other people are doing right now. Google+ seems to have a better presentation, but appears to be more about self-promotion than sharing photography in general. Other photography-centric sites feel overwhelming at times, so I prefer the curation that comes with Facebook.
For keeping current beyond just photography, I enjoy Behance which seems to be growing daily. I don’t know that it’s really a social network, but it’s a great place to browse for what your peers are paying attention to. CGSociety is another place to dig up some of the best digital artists outside of photogs.
What is your prediction of the evolution of social networks? How do you think these networks will showcase artists and Photographers better in the future?
I try not to predict such things because if I’m wrong someone will be sure to point out that I had no clue, but if I’m right, someone will blame me.
What I hope for is social networks to allow even better blending between artists and the viewing public. As artists embrace closer contact with fans and new viewers, there is usually more education for the audience and more business for the artist. James Hance is a fantastic example of how to leverage this closeness on Facebook, sharing his process and thoughts without diving into his own personal life. By showing his works in progress, I feel he is making his art more approachable while at the same time demonstrating his utter command of his media.
So this is an area for artists that I hope develops into the future, enabling some insider’s views to the creative process. If I had a druther, I would like to see social media offer some flexibility for metadata for better filtering. Sticking with Facebook as an example, I think it would be awesome to build a custom search that says “Show me the top 20 photographs my artist friends ‘liked’ today”, or “Give me a list of artists with a current work-in-progress from my Liked Pages.” All this information is already collected, but we as viewers don’t have access to it. If artists could add tags such as “WIP” along with a title, you could easily track the progress of a new project, or keep up with what your peers are doing.
What predictions do you have for the future of Photoshop and Lightroom?
I think we’ll see more focus on getting your artwork off your desk and into other people’s lives. Offsite 3D printing, print on demand, sharing to websites, etc. All of these things are value added, and are present to some degree right now. I’d love to build a collection in Bridge and have a tool that lets me post a social media gallery with a single click.
For a while you could collaborate on images, requesting feedback from invited peers using Acrobat.com. The idea was that you would build a trusted group of reviewers and send them works in progress through the site. They could log in, make comments, mark up the image with overlays, etc. You could see their comments and reviews, and continue the process. This was a great approach for working with clients, as well. I’d really like to see that come back.