Tuesday, November 02, 2010


 the original, airbrushed, non digital illustration

Well The Hobbit is here to stay and we are all happy here at work as we power ahead. Unfortunately I can’t tell you anything about that because well, you know the drill; confidentiality and all that... But I can tell you that my Photoshop skills have improved out of sight. Nothing like doing something for 10 hours a day to make you really good at it (now if only I could apply that to my novel writing...)
I sit at my monitor layering colours and textures and pause to marvel at how far I have come technology wise. Having been trained as an illustrator back in the computer free days and witnessing the arrival of such marvels like fax machines (my first one cost me $1,800 and that was with a dodgy deal- tell me can you even give them away now?) I thought old dogs would find new tricks hard work. And they are and it requires courage to learn and then to execute them. How far does a painterly poodle have to jump?

I’m now onto my 3rd laptop and 4th  latest version of Photoshop and with my new Android phone I can email, blog, tweet, sync, upload, download, file share and store my histories somewhere in cyberspace. My grown children tell me to get off facebook...but it wasn’t an easy personal upgrade.

Back in, oh, 1994 or so, I saw a sign up at our local copy shop ‘Learn Photoshop, night classes here!’
I knew the writing (or illustration) was on the wall for me as younger graduates emerged from Design school with this knowledge under their belts and ready to rock. It was time for me to take the plunge and up-skill. When freelancing this is always done in your own time at your own expense; no company training sessions with morning tea thrown in. 

I asked at the counter if it was suitable for beginners ‘like real beginners who have never even turned on a computer?’ Obviously they thought I was prone to hyperbole and assured me it was. Little did they know, I wasn’t exaggerating in the least. I didn’t own a computer, never had and was reluctant to forked out thousands of dollars for a Mac (back than you had to mortgage your house to buy one). So off I went one Tuesday night and sat down in front of a screen. We were asked to open a file and I looked around for a manila folder. You can see where this is heading can’t you?

I’ll spare you blow by blow agony of my evening except to say that the last straw came when following the cursor on screen, my hand slipped off the edge of the desk.
                ‘Excuse me,’ I said, ‘my mouse pad isn’t big enough.’
People snorted as the tutor came and showed me how to move the mouse with small flicks of the wrist. I sat red faced, crying on the inside and then, looking at my watch, declared my babysitter was waiting and I had to go. Mustering up the shreds of my dignity, I packed up, walked out, got in the car and burst into tears. I cried all the way home, all over my husband and all over my drawing board, convinced that I must be the only illustrator in the business who was a dinosaur. I wrote this poem for Next Magazine the very next day.


'Drag me into the nineties' I said,
Before the decade is out,
Teach me about computers and stuff,
So my cred is left in no doubt.

Before you could say 'digitize it',
They signed me up for a course,
If a P.C was water to drink from,
It follows that I was the horse.

'Lead me to it', I cried with glee,
Not knowing my RAM from my ROM,
Then I was asked to open a file,
But where had the cabinet gone?

As mouses clicked (I thought they squeaked),
The others were having a ball,
I realised, then, like School Cert Math's,
I shouldn't have been there at all.

Shamed as I am by my ignorance,
I know that two things remain true;
Photoshop's where I buy my film,
And Windows just let the light through.

Digital illustration, now, I can do. Program the DVD player? Nah, but then, that’s what your kids are for...


Mary McCallum said...

Lovely Fifi. We've all managed it haven't we? I am amazed what I've learnt. I remember being flummoxed by the way things opened in on things which opened on more things - it seemed illogical to me - and then one day, bingo! I got it. Where would we be without them?

Vanda Symon said...

Gorgeous. I'm attempting to get more computer savvy, because I've always just got Hubby to do it for me, but have realised that's a bit of a cop out and I have to dive in, because big girls can look after their own software!

Rachel Fenton said...

Seen your link on Bookman's and Mary's but only just ventured over - this made me laugh (in the "I've sat baffled in a computer class too" way). All I can say is thank good ness for tabs because all that navigating and surfing confuses the stuffing out of me, still!