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January 06, 2005: Wistfully inclined

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Most of you out there probably have at least some artistic abilities. I'll bet that a majority of you can hold articles of clothing up to each other and determine whether or not they match. Most of you can probably slap a teeny tiny swatch of paint on a wall and somehow find a way to visualize what it will look like in the entire room. Most of you probably would have been able to pick your own house's colors instead of pathetically begging someone else to do it because you have no damn clue.

There are those of us, however, who do not posses the color gene. We stick to solid colors, and basic styles because at least we can be pretty sure we're not wearing things that make people's eyes bleed when they're put together. We're the type that stand, paralyzed, in front of the paint chip aisle, before grabbing a few colors that look pretty, and then sticking them on the wall and leaving them there for years because we have no idea how to go any further. We're the type that cannot visualize designs and hues cannot do it at all. Give us a starting point say a small palette of colors to choose from, or a basic design on which to build, or a paint-by-numbers kit and we will be thrilled, because then we can make a few teeny modifications here and there and do our very best to pretend that we really aren't completely hopeless. Sometimes, however, we get a big fat smack in the face of reality. Right now, for me, is one of those times.

As I work my way through the lessons for this Photoshop class I am slowly coming to the realization that perhaps this was not the wisest of choices for the artistically impaired. The first few lessons were deceptively straightforward, walking the student through the various tools, explaining colors and pixels and bits and far too many file formats and how to move things and crop things and make layers. It was on layers that the instructor decided we should all build something out of layers and send it to him, just to show we know what we're doing.

Oh, sure. Building a thing in Photoshop out of layers is really not at all difficult provided you have the layers to begin with. And if you are not given a set of layers with which to build something, that means you have to make them yourself. And if you are artistically deficient (like me), this means that suddenly you have to come up with not only pictures to mangle down into things that can be used as layers, but you have to come up with something even worse an Idea. A pictorial, layered Idea. Let the screaming in terror commence now.

I do well with patterns that tell me what to do because I can take an existing pattern and modify it to suit me. I can take templates and plans and mess with them at will that part is the easy part. The hard part is making up that pattern or template or plan out of thin air something I'm not the slightest bit good at doing. So suddenly this oh-so-simple little homework assignment has become something big and scary and enough to make me try very hard to forget all about whose idea it was to take this stupid class in the first place, until I finally told myself that this is really stupid and even better, I remembered that once upon a time I actually had an Idea, and actually used layers to do it. And if it can be done once, why shouldn't it be done again, this time correctly since this time I sort of almost know what the heck I'm doing.

I breathed a sigh of relief as I sent off my (probably rather pitiful) homework assignment this evening. But I know it's far too early to start celebrating. I've peeked ahead. The homework with layers is only the beginning. By the end of the class I'm going to have to be creating collage type things from scratch, and I'm not going to be able to dredge up old projects to use instead. Layers I might have done before (even though I had no idea that's what I was doing). More than that? Ha. If I'd figured out how to do more than that I wouldn't be taking this class in the first place, now would I.

I have until about mid February to finish. I'm not sure just what I was thinking. I am currently telling myself that surely between now and then I will be able to dredge up at least one Idea, complete with concept and scribbles and actual pictures. However, if by Valentine's Day I am curled up in a corner whimpering, you'll know why.

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