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There’s taking pictures, and then there’s “taking” pictures…

I possess no talent for drawing, or sketching, or painting-hell, even for coloring with crayons. “Useless” is a suitably good word to describe how I feel when staring at a blank sheet of paper, and no one has asked for an essay in under 500 words, or so much as a folded paper airplane.

I don’t even like my own handwriting…

wish I could draw. I envy the people who are disgustingly good at it. And I envy them mostly because they can create fascinating things-creatures, other people, shapes, and colors, and all manner of strange worlds from out of their own imaginations, from out of their own fingertips.

Me? A stick figure with its head on fire was about the most visually compelling thing my artistic capabilities could produce.

And then I discovered Photoshop… 

image

I. fucking. love. Adobe Photoshop. I now have a voracious hunger to create digital art. And yet… And yet, I’m not particularly proud of the way I go about doing it.

My artistic process, at it’s most fundamental level, is “predatory.” The world wide web is where I go hunting for images and photographs. It’s like the African Savanna, teeming with big game and life and color and beautiful scenery taken by some very gifted photographers. When I go searching for these images, I go very much like a jackal. And just like any other beast that makes its meal from the hard work of some other larger creature, when I do find the work of another artist who has what I’m looking for, I grab a piece and take a bite. No permission is asked. None is ever given. Next, what I take is broken down, and combined into a new composite until I finally have something that best resembles what I saw in my head and what I wanted to achieve visually.

Not to digress, but my process could also be described as “perfectionism on cocaine meets adderall.” Hours have been spent tweaking each and every element that I bring into an image: the lighting, the position, the filtering effects. Look at the picture above. Thirty minutes or more was lost in deciding just how high the lady and the child’s feet should appear off the ground: five pixels or seven and a half. Predictably, it can take a long time before any project I’ve been working on is as “finished” as I’m willing to let them become finished, and then posted online.

I love what I’m finally able to create, and I love the creation process, but the act of thievery still bothers me and opens up an unsettling question.

I feel as if I’m an artist, but am I really? I do create, and what I’ve created looks radically different than the original source material. But am I really just a thief when you get right down to it… I create using other people’s creations.

Where do you draw the line?

(no pun intended)


-NMC

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