A lot of people seem to struggle with understanding what it means to be a digital artist. Sure they know that we work on the computer but apart from that they just don't understand. For people like that traditional media like paper and charcoal and oil paint and canvas are "real art" and everything else isn't quite the same. They are right you know - it isn't the same, and if anything, I look back at my time painting with paint as being a bit limited.
Anyone who has never owned an iPhone thinks that they are merely a cool looking phone and so wonder what all the fuss is about but those who have made the leap into the iPhone world know what I mean when I start talking about the iPhone in affectionate terms. Most people soon discover that the phone functions of the iPhone are actually only a small part of using this device because it is the ease of use of the software and the apps that make this mini-computer such a delight and the most useful mobile phone in existence.
Here is a link to an Apple ad for students which gives just an inkling of what is possible:
For an artist (especially painters and musicians) it is an amazing creative tool. It is great for sketching, and all sorts of other creative note taking. I have come to love the ability to record lines and phrases for poems in the middle of the night when the ideas come to me. I usually do that by using voice recording. I have other ideas and email them to myself. I can draw, edit photographs, create digital artworks, read from a book, check Facebook, IM a friend, watch some video, do a crossword or a jigsaw puzzle, or just listen to a podcast.
This video was a lot of fun to make. It may have a practical purpose but I am pleased with it for the way it ended up. It is also amazing to upload and see how quickly it finds an audience. It might not be as large as the big hits on YouTube but the steady stream of viewers is very gratifying. It is part of the deal of being an artist to to interact with an audience and as much as these videos are very humble they are a growing resource for my students and others interested in art. I am reminded daily of the democratization of culture due to the internet and the way it enables an artist to communicate directly with an audience. It is wonderful thing and is fundamentally changing the definition of what being an artist means.
What a week full of surprises from friends. Firstly Saul visited, then yesterday Phil Aspden arrived just after class. Phil is the other of my closest friends who I met when I was 20 and living in Jake's Monastery. Phil was the one responsible for me moving into the monastery. (in case you are wondering the monastery was not a place of monks - it was an old rooming house full of artists, writers, poets, musicians, writers and other bohemians. I met Phil at an exhibition we both were in just 3 weeks after I moved into the Cross (again - not a religious institution, just the common name for Kings Cross used by locals). He was living in the monastery and let me know a few days later that a room had become available. Saul moved in a few weeks later.
Phil is a very valued friend but he lives a long way away and so we don't see each other very often, although it would be more often if I wasn't such a workaholic. Last night I had a lot of work to do too - I had to do the covers for the sketchbooks for the hens this weekend. But we went up to the Kings Cross Hotel and had a drink at the cocktail bar on the 5th floor. Many years ago Phil had lived there when the hotel was run down. Afterwards I worked on the sketchbooks until 7:30am.
I couldn't sleep. The change in weather does that, but I had also suffered from nightmares. I was in a car being driven by a woman I did not know and she decided to commit suicide by driving at high speed into oncoming traffic. I don't think her death wish had anything to do with me - I was just the unwitting passenger who couldn't do anything to stop events unfolding. Hate that and especially hate that a dream like that stops me from sleeping.
I had had about 2 hours sleep at most but since I couldn't sleep I started to do emails and catch up on some things. It was fortunate really because ordinarily I would have been asleep at the time, but being up I heard a voice from the street calling out to me. It was an old friend from up the country who had come into town unexpectedly. It was Saul Munro and it was wonderful to see him and have him in the studio for a few hours. Friends are such a reassuring aspect of reality after nightmares have earlier been unwelcome guests.
I have known Saul since I was 20 years old. He is a sculptor (very talented) and with an admiration for Zadkine and ancient Middle Eastern cultures. Over recent years he has dealt with the digital revolution by ignoring it. After all clay and stone are timeless materials that existed long before modern electronics and will continue to exist long after humanity has morphed into something else and things digital are long gone. Can't argue with that - it's true.
What has William Shatner got to do with Christmas cards? Not a lot really, I suppose, since he's Jewish. Although if he is like a lot of my Jewish friends he knows a lot of people from all sorts of backgrounds most of whom don't think about religious issues much and he probably receives a few each year and may well reply to some of them where appropriate. But that is beside the point because I was thinking of another more indirect connection earlier.
I couldn't sleep. It is that betwixt and between sort of weather at the moment where it can't make up its mind whether it is winter or summer so if the choice of blanket density is wrong when going to sleep I can wake up from either being too hot or too cold. I experience the same thing at the beginning of winter. I hate this time of year - I would prefer it if the weather would just make its mind up to be consistently hot or cold and make it easier to sleep. Today I woke up too hot.
I had only been asleep for a couple of hours but when I wake up like that the mind starts working and it is hard to get back to sleep. So I got my iPhone from under my pillow (yes, I have to admit to sleeping with my iPhone) and did a few emails, went onto Facebook, said hello to a couple of people, did a quick crossword puzzle and was still not sleepy so I did a quick jig saw puzzle (yes I have a jig saw puzzle app on the iPhone. It is called Allis Jigsaw. It is great - I can recommend it.
Still not sleepy. So I thought I would do some reading. I have just finished the Steve Jobs biography and intended to read George Takei's biography but then I noticed I had an interview with William Shatner in the iPod (for those who are unfamiliar with the iPhone it has a great iPod as part of the phone). I figured it was perfect. The interview is a little less than an hour and a half and would be perfect getting his perspective before starting Takei's book as they both starred on Star Trek together. I only need a few minutes before sleeping.
So, almost an hour and a half later I had finished the interview. Oops, didn't mean to do that but the interview was dangerous in that once started it was impossible to put down. William Shatner is a real gentleman, he has a wonderful attitude to life. At an age when most people start slowing down he is a whirlwind of activity. Best of all - when he speaks he speaks from the heart, a quality which has probably given him a few personal problems over the years but which also endears him to his audiences as a general rule.
Before my iPhone 3G S I had never owned a video camera, had never made any kind of video. Now I have made 3 and number 4 is in progress as I write this (processing the clips for stabilization which takes quite a long time). With 3 movies on YouTube and viewing numbers going up quickly I am having fun but also experiencing a crash course in editing. The editing process is at least doubled because I spend as much time with my nose in the manual as I do making the edits. Fortunately Apple's iMovie makes it easy for beginners like me. My rapid progress is obvious in the 3 clips (all now on YouTube) however I don't think that the Academy Of Motion Pictures is going to be contacting me any time soon to clear shelf space for an Oscar.
As good as an Oscar (for me), however is going on YouTube. I think YouTube is a huge social change. It removes the artificial barriers of the past between "real artists" and everyone else and gives everyone the opportunity to be a filmmaker and share slices of their life with the world. By uploading videos I had to "sign up" for YouTube which is really easy and has expanded my YouTube usage to more than just looking at videos. I never knew before that YouTube Channels existed. I am loving it.
iCon: The Greatest Second Act In The History Of Business
Earlier this year Steve Jobs had a liver transplant and the world is faced with the prospect that his life will eventually come to an end. When a man is as young as Jobs is questions of death are rarely raised but the seriousness of his illness and his unique role in the digital revolution that we are all experiencing brings attention to the details of his life into sharp focus.
I find Steve Jobs a fascinating character and because I love computers I regard him as an incredibly important man. He is a very flawed human being by all accounts and yet is role in computing is so essential that it could be argued that computers would not be the ubiquitous devices in everyones homes that they are today if not for Jobs. He is the person who changed their development from being the toy of engineers and turned it into the first real personal computer as we know it today.
It might have been Steve Wozniak who was the engineering genius who designed the circuitry and programming for the first Apple computer but if that was all that happened it would be nothing special. There were many brilliant minds in Silicon Valley who had the desire and ability to make circuit boards for computers that anyone (not just universities and government departments) could buy. But none of then, Wozniak included, saw much beyond the circuits and geek talk.
Alan Turing had done the math for the first computer algorithm back in 1936 making him the father of all electronic computers but they remained huge and inefficient machines until the transistor and the integrated circuit enabled miniaturization in the 1960's. The first personal computer was the Micral in 1972 and several others followed over the next few years. Problem was that all these computers required expert knowledge. The computer was just a collection of components and the user had to use a soldering iron and screwdrivers to assemble the machine. Then the software had to be installed into the machine every time it was turned on. No wonder people had to be very enthusiastic to use one. It probably helped to be a genius like Wozniak.
But then Steve Jobs came along. He didn't know much about circuits or software. He was a college dropout who had studied Zen and calligraphy. He had a vision which was that a computer had to be something different to what it had been up until then. It had to be able to be operated by ordinary people without a degree in computer programming. It needed to be fully assembled when bought - you should be able to just plug it in. It needed and operating system that stayed in the computer memory. It needed a television screen so graphics could be seen (previous microcomputers relied on flashing lights) and it needed a mouse to make it easier to control. Wozniak apparently didn't agree but Jobs was insistent and so he drove Wozniac to make computers the way Jobs wanted them to be made. The Micral may well be the first personal computer but it was the Apple was the first one that you and I would recognize as being one. The modern personal computer market was born. And it was Steve Jobs who envisioned it in a realistic way and made it happen.
It is almost a year since my last post, a very emotional year. Sometimes dealing with the ups and downs of life requires a little privacy, or in this case a lot of privacy. Hence my blogging has taken a back seat for a while.
Not that it has been a year without good things. Some of them have been very good. I went on an extended holiday to Queensland with my boys in a mini-van so they could have Christmas with their grandparents. It was very special. It was also a big year for computer purchases with 2 computers for my boys, and an Axiotron Modbook for myself. There has also been the joy of the iPhone and most recently making iPhone videos to upload to YouTube. Over the next few weeks as I get back into making regular diary posts I will intersperse them with posts under the general heading of "The Lost Year" to detail some of the major happenings so we can catch up better.
Recently I returned to Facebook after an absence of several months. It was wonderful to catch up with all my friends. I know that this diary has a good readership so to all of you - it is a good feeling to be back. I love social media and the way it has revolutionized life.
On Sunday I took the train up to Windsor, partially to see Saul, my sculptor friend, and also to try out mobile drawing, especially on my new iPhone. This little drawing is my first result. While I had drawn and painted a few experiments back at the studio, this is the first true sketch outside. I love that the iPhone is so flexible that it allows sketching like this. The possibilities are endless, and I look forward to what I can do as I gain skill using it.
To highlight the abilities of the iPhone, this entire post is composed and published on the device.
Seeing Saul was great, but sadly, I was so tired when I returned, I managed to accidentally delete all 88 photos I had taken. Fortunately, my sketches were here on the iPhone.