Creative Outlets

Creative Outlets

      One of the most important trials an artist must take is one of creative process and decision.  Some artists use literal sketchbook, while others use some form of programs, like Illustrator. Either way, creative thinking is an important part of an artist’s process. When it comes to New Media, or Digital Media Art, it is important to have as many possible creative outlets, including online settings.   An ideal site of this nature would be one where artists could go and work out their creative thoughts. A place like this could ideally have galleries, forums, and opportunities for other users to contribute in a creative, critiquing, or artistic way. Most of this all, this interactive sketchbook could be a place that is fun and free to work in.

A breakdown of this type of workplace will show the inner workings of researching, designing, creating, and linking up a site like this. It will show a brief history of the progressions this type of art space has experienced, with multiple detailed descriptions of successful workspaces fitting the above criteria.  Also a discussion of the benefits and positive attributes will show why the above is such a successful idea.

A website of this nature takes some degree of the technological knowledge that comes with web design and HTML linking. Fortunately for people who may not be as experienced, there are certain tools that one can use to design and create it.  These tools can come in various forms, such as: website history’s and reviews, blog notes, YouTube videos, and webpage hosting software.  Two major steps in the technological building of these type of art spaces will go into detail discussing these tools and the many ways to make an idea a reality.

The first technological step is the building of the website itself.  This is the step where the above-mentioned tools such as the website history/ instruction page, YouTube videos, and hosting sites come into play. The first of many helpful sources is the WordPress.org Codex Main Page. As many people know, WordPress.org is one of the popular and user-friendly sites for people to create their own website. On the Codex Main Page, WordPress lists many links to helpful resources in building a website.  Some of these main helpful sections include: What you need to know about WordPress, How to Use WordPress, Working with themes, Writing a Plugin, and  “contribute to Development”. Some of the most helpful links show users how to create and use posts and pages, using themes and plugins, resources for all of the above, and lists of features. Sites like these are important in the building process, especially for those who do not know how to start from scratch, using other programs like Fireworks, Photoshop, or Illustrator to design their own templates. WordPress.org has a massive resource list for just about every type of designing element. One particular link of WordPress Lessons has a Chosing a Color Scheme section, which goes into detail description of some of the most important aspects of choosing a color scheme to fit one’s needs.  Further down, there are even more link provided for helping choose a scheme, chart, and sites that help pick colors. Some of these include: Kuler- an Adobe/Flash application that helps you select and make your own color scheme; Wellstyled.com has a Color Scheme Generator; and another link that helps you draw out schemes from photographs. This is just one helpful section full of links and tools to help the artist design their workspace.  WordPress.org has been one of the most helpful and thorough resource list and detailed description to help someone get started.  Most importantly, it’s free.

On a similar note, hostgator.com is another leading site-builder tool.  However, hostgator.com is a publishing site, and therefore comes at a price.  Established in 2002, HostGator has reached clients from over 200 countries when it comes to hosting a personal, or business website.  They offer four different packages: Shared, Reseller, VPS, and Dedicated, with packages for both beginners and professionals.  With their packages they offer unlimited disk space and bandwidth, 4,500 templates, and an east control panel. Similar to WordPress.org, it has a Help and Support section with video tutorials, forums, and even a live chat. This is an option for those who may have to money to start up a website.  Other priced tools that help build and design site are: Adobe Photoshop, Fireworks, cpanel.net, and joomla.org. All which if the artist has the knowledge and money, can seriously improve the creative and personal aspect of the website. Of course, YouTube is always free and there is a plethora of artists and instructors, like Sean Otmishi, who have plenty of tutorials to help guide the website building and converting process.

The second step for creating this type of art-space is the adding of the drawing applications that allow users to “sketch” out their creative ideas.  Just like website creating resources, there are just as many for the creative applications that fit into the site.  An interesting tool is at naldzgraphics.net, who teaches users to convert their PSD files into HTML code as well as to CSS. This allows users to turn their designs into something that is truly original. Further down in the article, naldzgraphics.net lists over twenty tutorials on how to do so.  They include step-by-step instructions from the very beginning, such as creating a folder that holds the site files, and one for the images. These tutorials- both print and video- suggest code editors, style choices, and even instructions for the creation in Photoshop and the coding itself.  An important part of this second step is the development of the drawing application, if one chooses to do so.  A very basic drawing app is a good place to start.  William Malone is a software developer from Denver, Colorado. On his personal website, Malone has various “how-to” articles, a “works” gallery, about him, and his contact info. One particular helpful article he has posted is one entitled “ Creating a Drawing App with HTML5 Canvas and JavaScript.” In his tutorial, Malone goes over the demos for many attributes of a basic drawing application. These include colors, sizes, tools, and outline, a simple and a complete demo.  Throughout the demo, he provides detailed markups of the HTML5 Canvas code for the specific functions. Here is an example of the code he uses for the “Mouse Move Event,” a command that draws when the user presses down- like they would on a paper:

$(‘#canvas’).mousemove(function(e){

if(paint){

addClick(e.pageX – this.offsetLeft, e.pageY – this.offsetTop, true);

redraw();

}

});

The ending result is a basic drawing application, applicable to any website, in a fashion similar to MS Paint.  Another site, active.tutsplus.com, also demonstrates how to create a basic drawing application using Flash.  Just like Malone, this site also gives a detailed overview. The third helpful how-to site is one called flashexplained.com, like the previous it explain in multiple user friendly steps how to create an interactive drawing sketchpad.  The goal is that after studying the written tutorials (with detailed pictures) one should be able to create simple buttons and tell them what to do using Actionscript, duplicating these buttons, what the drawing functions are in Actionscript, and how to use move clip and button events. Flashexplained.com is by far one of the most attainable tutorials, making it easy for any artist to create. Technologically speaking, once these two main steps are taken, websites and projects are free to evolve and change.

Obviously, the idea of the free and interactive is not one that was discovered recently. For years and years people have been promoting the idea of freedoms, knowledge sharing, and community. Only these past few decades has the notion of free software and virtual knowledge, open-source, and virtual communities come to be such a vital issue among the web-goers and digital artists. Like every evolving thing on earth- inorganic and organic, a beginning start can create the platform for evolutionary success. You have to start somewhere. And just as the above mentioned basic site builder and basic drawing applications evolved, it is important to also understand why and how we are able to create and share such creativity and ability. There are a few related ‘historical’ and defining ideas and events that led the digital web artists to a point like this today.  This includes the idea of open source, the Free Software Movement, and the idea of the virtual community. All which once explained would show how they played a role in the completion of the free and creative art workspace online.

An important associated role in the virtual sharing objective is one of open-source, the intention of sharing.  Open source allows the user can take what they need from the software/program/project and make it their own. There is a non-profit corporation called the Open Source Initiative (OSI), who dedicates their time to educating others and advocating for the benefit open source software to build upon the already open source community. To them, open source is “a development method for software that harnesses the power of distributed peer review and transparency of process. The promise of open source is better quality, higher reliability, more flexibility, lower cost, and an end to the predatory vendor lock-in.”  This allows them to evolve it and reallocate it to other users. This attribute aligns open-source with all of the Four Freedoms of the Free Software Movement.

As most digital scholars know, the Free Software Movement surfaced in the

1980’s when software program source code was withheld to increase the profit of the developer and company. Their non-disclosure agreements and patenting of software concepts prevented what Richard Stallman (the “founder” of the movement) would later on describe as the Four Freedoms. Which Stallman wished to clarify that it meant, “free as in free speech, not free beer.” These Four Freedoms set a guideline for the proper and sought after right way to treat software information. These freedoms are as follows:

Freedom 0: You are free to run the program, for any purpose.

Freedom 1: You are free to study how the program works and adapt it to your needs

Freedom 2: You are free to redistribute copies so you can help your neighbor

Freedom 3: You are free to improve the program and release your improvements to the public so that the whole community benefits.

This structure-to-live-by has benefited many projects/ groups, such as GNU/Linux, Apache Web Server, Firefox, and even WordPress. In NetWorks, the book published by Routledge, Stallman compares his four freedoms to Adobe Photoshop. Although bits and pieces of Photoshop slither into characteristics of the freedoms, PS’s model is based off of profit and not support and customization, one of the most important aspects of the movement.  These freedoms assure that the sole benefit of software and programs benefit more than the creator, but the community.

This brings on the role of the virtual community.  In Howard Rheingold’s 1993 “The Virtual Community”, he explains why this idea is so important and so beneficial.  A virtual community is created when “people carry on public discussions long enough, with sufficient human feeling, to form webs of personal relationships.” This is a direct goal of the types of artistic workspaces this paper is discussing. Virtual relationships not only connect people, but they help people discuss and grow.  Some of the most important aspects of the virtual community are one in the same with the other ideas of open source, the freedoms, and the hopes for all open and creative sites. Motivation to participate in these communities is an important aspect of the design of the virtual community. The forums, links, commenting, and critiquing give the satisfaction to the want of the peer approval that the virtual goers have.  Creating and sharing are the two most important purposes of the free and the open.  One of the works discussed, “Add-Art”, the Firefox add-on developed from AdBlock, is a product formed from the aforementioned attributes. Not built by one sole person, but by many contributors, this advertisement replacing artwork was created over the course of many years with a lot of help. The developers of Add-Art came up with two conclusions which describe the theoretical important of this project.

  1. The importance of open licenses and sharing that allowed multiple people to create, build upon older models, and succeed.
  2. “Releasing Early and Often”- releasing the free and open-source project so that users can contribute. If waited until ‘just right,’ one misses out on the contribution of some helpful ideas.

Over the years, many artists have used the concept of free software, virtual community, participation, and creative apps to create wonderful pieces of art.  The first to be discussed was developed in 1998 by Golan Levin called “Yellowtail.” This piece uses interactive software systems for gestural creation and performance of real time abstract animation. It can be experienced with source code in an interactive Java app. However, it has a portion that has a price- $0.99 for use on any Apple i-product.  Three years later, in 2001, as many know, “Glyphiti” was created by Andy Deck. This interactive drawing site allows many users to draw and change already created items in real time.

More recently, beginning in 2005, Phillip Hennermann created queeky.com and it’s drawing application QueekyPaint.  This is the project mentioned in the opening paragraph. This website allows users to use a highly evolved drawing app to do phenomenal creative works. All of these works can be submitted into galleries, and viewed and critiqued by peers as well ask seek advice in multiple forums. There are multiple tools such as QueekyPaint 2.0, Palettes (beta), and MultiDraw. Users can also participate in contests and themed galleries, and export their works to their own computers.  Artists also have their own copyright to their images.  Making it an ideal community for artists. Another more advanced online community for artists and art lovers is deviantart.com, established this year. Like Queeky, deviant art has its own evolved drawing application called deviantART muro. They allows users and viewers to look at millions of original artwork, exhibit them in galleries, communicate and collaborate with others, and for those who are interested- sell their work in the shop. DeviantArt is also free for users, and allows them to export their own artwork. Among these super giants are a few smaller hosts with equally the same creative goal. Some of these programs include: SumoPaint, Inkscape, GIMP, Pixen 3, DrawBerry, CloudCanvas, TuxPaint, ArtRage 2.5, LiveBrush, and many more.

Throughout this, the importance of free and open software and the interaction of users have been explained through technological description, theoretical reasons, and multiple examples. The benefits of these types of artworks and workspace are vast and plenty. Creativity has another outlet. Interactive and virtual communities are formed and used for the betterment of everyone. Most importantly, the idea of the free and open software movement has not been wasted and is actively remembered.

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