Friday, January 2, 2009

Voila! Bugbones...

So after all that work, was my final Bugbones worth it? The homely creature that metamorphosed from bug-gnawed skeleton, to desert-dried fossil, to goofy little cartoon guy? Well, I have to say, "yes!" Bugbones is me! He's simple, really. Take a bug. Give him startled yellow pop-eyes and crumpled antennas. Toss in some silly little dog-biscuit bones and a plump, round belly. Voila! There you have him. A little sick, maybe, but highly representative of the artist's devilish mind. Through blood, sweat and tears, I drew him ~ my computer-generated masterpiece ~ using a MOUSE and Windows Paintbrush. With LView Pro I tweaked him: softer tones, hints of airbrushing, smoothed edges, and (important to me) a transparent background, achievable only through those deluxe art-editing programs. My original cheesy, jagged, flat little lime-green bug was now a softly curved, pleasantly colored, fairly elegant little guy. Bugbones had style, he had personality. He had guts. And they were splattered all over the windshield. By now, I knew how that bug felt.

Oh, the perils of Bugbones.

Fractals, Straight Lines, and Curves

Yes, something clicked in the brain of the fearful geek. It's funny how that happens. I had recently discovered an on-line game that drew fractals. I had never heard of fractals, but the site had an explanation of the phenomenon of structured growth patterns in nature, and a fun little program that let you play with fractals. Now, just after I'd seen fractals in action, here was a guy saying he used the straight-line tool to draw curves. My brainwaves did an electrical arc. It was a quantum leap for me. I suddenly envisioned how I could use a straight line to draw curves, like the sculptor who takes a block of marble and chips away everything that doesn't look like a horse. I would use the straight line to cut away the part of the curve that isn't needed. I would pull each line out at a tangent from the curve, as the line of a fractal coming out from a central point. I now saw that I could use LView Pro to create the highlights and shadows that I needed on Bugbones, then use Windows Paintbrush to trim and smooth the contours of the main shapes. It was a strange workaround, no doubt, but one that I still use today.

"I'm gonna make some art." she said. LView Pro was a challenge. Their icons were good, especially compared to the generic interface of the standard Windows programs I was used to. You didn't have to sort through dozens of generic labels like "File" and "View." If you wanted a paintbrush, there was a nice icon of a paintbrush. Simple. LView Pro had an excellent tutorial, and most of the tools were self-explanatory. But good art editing software is necessarily complex, and some things just can't be explained in words. A video would have been nice. Masks were impossible for me. Curves, too. (My Bugbones sketch was full of curves.) I had the devil of a time getting my MOUSE to behave. I would start drawing a curve, but couldn't figure out the right succession of clicks to pin the darn thing into place. One wrong click and my excellent curve would simply disappear. When I complained of this, one artist told me that he used the straight-line tool in Paintbrush to draw curves. I took this as a flippant remark. Techies are always throwing out flippant remarks ~ just enough to clue you in to their superior knowledge, but rarely in a way that actually helps you learn a thing. This time, though, something clicked.

But, back to LView Pro...

Confessions of a fearful geek: LView Pro presented another great learning curve. I installed it by myself, with a great deal of cursing. Since I already had a trial version installed, it was hard to make my machine recognize the paid version of LView Pro. I'll say this for Windows: it has the memory of an elephant. Once a registry key is in there, it's in there! You delete it? Windows recalls it. I got on-line at LView's support forum and found that I wasn't the only one who had that gripe. I sorted through copious numbers of rants, whines, and curses and finally found a halfway answer to my question. It took half a dozen tries, but in the end, LView Pro was installed. Time to make some art!!!