Is Craft and Skill Gone for Good?

Advocate ,
Sep 26, 2016

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I stumbled on this old post over on the Illustrator forums: ornate flourishes . In it, the original poster asks for a recommendation for "an app or plug-in out there that allows you to do really ornate flourishes, or lets you control the radius of the flourish and its thickness." The responses he receives include the following.

What is up with all these questions about plug-ins or tool to do work and replicate skill?

The tool is the pen tool. The plug-in is skill, patience, and experience. You might acquire that plug-in by searching for tutorials.

Skills, you don' need no stinkin' skills these days. You want flourishes? It's all just clip art off of the Internet. You don't need design and typography skills, just type it into a computer and it should look perfect.

...It’s practice, practice, practice. This is all basic stuff which any art school should have explained.

And

The craft age is gone for good.

What do you think? Do we rely too heavily on our software to create art and artistic elements we should know how to do by hand or by using the fundamental tools?

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Adobe Community Professional ,
Sep 26, 2016

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I think it's the opposite. I think we are seeing a resurgence of craft. Craft beers, local farmers markets, boutiques, and bespoke things are everywhere. People are coming back to hand-crafted and well-made products of many kinds. Just because the Creative Cloud has made professional-grade software much more accessible doesn't mean that art is dead. Lazy non-pros are going to be around more, but the true professionals will keep on crafting.

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Guide ,
Sep 27, 2016

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I wouldn't say it's dead by any means. Szalam makes a good observation about the resurgence of all things crafty, but that still seems to be for a particular market. On the other hand, the expectancy that the computer does everything, and that clipart will do, has increased over the decades and shows no sign of stopping. Sometimes you just have to make a decision about whether the extra craft is worth it or appropriate for a particular job.

As for automatic flourishes, it would be interesting and possible, I imangine. I vaguely remember the Multiple Master version of the Bickham Script font doing something along those lines, where there was an axis for how extreme the swashes were.

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Participant ,
Sep 27, 2016

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I'll take the middle ground here.

I took over a decade off of all things programming or web design related.

I missed the introduction of Object Oriented Programming and Responsive Web Design, CSS, and what I perceive to be an over-reliance on javascript  (something I was taught to avoid!)  (Don't worry, that can be cured).

While trying to learn all this new and alien stuff while simultaneously unlearning much of what I thought was the way to do things  (I *still* hate div tags and want to use tables!)  (don't worry, that can be cured too!)  I find commercial templates, plug-ins, filters and actions to be an incredibly useful tool to learn from, and still produce end works which satisfy my clients at the same time.

I make it a point to study how templates are put together, what photoshop actions are doing, and to actively seek tutorials all at the same time.  I also do a lot of modifying the end products.  Very few would recognize the original products in my finished work without (maybe) examining the code.

If used as "On The Job Training" with the goal of ultimately doing it all on my own, I see no problems with these products.  Buying them supports developers and designers while simultaneously providing a means to get better work done and speed things up dramatically.

I guess if that is all people do and never try to improve except by buying more and more plug-ins and templates, then there could be a perceived problem.  But even then, where do we draw the line?  Is using the filters and plugins provided with the software that much different than using a commercial one?

The argument arises in 3D Art Forums about using commercial 3D Models.  They say it's no longer Art if you do that, and you should make everything yourself.

But that leads to questions like should a photographer make his own cameras?  Should all painters create their own paints from scratch?

There has to be a balance, and the propensity of commercial aids in making stuff only changes the balance, but there is still balance.  It just raises the bar for those of us who want to do Original stuff, but I would not condemn those who use pre-made stuffs.

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Adobe Community Professional ,
Sep 27, 2016

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I think a lot depends on the tool and who the main target user is.  For example, if you visit the Muse forum every other question is "which Widget will do this for me?"   Nobody asks, "how do I do this myself?"   With very few exceptions, everyone wants Widgets!  

Jump to the Dreamweaver or Coding Corner forums and the questions & answers are more creative & technical.   Different strokes for different folks.

I use tools to be more productive & increase efficiency.  It's a practical consideration to stay competitive.   But tools & creativity are not mutually exclusive.   Tools don't make products, people do.

Nancy O.

Nancy O'Shea, ACP
Alt-Web Design & Publishing

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Engaged ,
Sep 27, 2016

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Here is an example of me manipulating my own images to create this piece.  https://500px.com/photo/172704375

Some rely heavily on other plugins while others like myself - love getting into the work and learning the tricks and options available to us. It really depends on the artist and their patience. I also love saying - I did this all myself!  With my images, my actions! My manipulation a with the assistance of PS of course.

Had I used other people's actions I would feel like I was cheating - but that is me. However there are some great 3rd party software which helps us do our job a little easier and that does not feel like cheating because it is simply more features to be tweaked to get the results you want.

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Adobe Community Professional ,
Oct 11, 2016

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Right? The new Prisma app turns anything into a work of art !

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Adobe Community Professional ,
Oct 12, 2016

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The portrait photography 'industry' has been hammered by the ease of digital image making. It's been so easy to shoot a ton of images with a digital camera, find one that ain't ... too bad ... then try some automated post-processing or a few things in Lightroom to make it ok at least enough for small web viewing. So of course, we've had a flooded market with new "professionals". Inexpensive to cheap to "hire" ... and well, of variable interest in delivering real images. They'll help you by giving you tons of images on a flash-drive! (But probably ... very few if any really ... usable ... )

Add in, that um ... well, it's pretty easy to swipe an image from a photographer's web-site/galleries, and just put it on your own. Hey, if you can see what they did, you can do it too, right? Or maybe ... not so much. Or at all. Therefore ... how does any potential client know that any photographer with a website actually created all the images on their site? Good question ...

And finally, "we" all have Devices ... phones & tablets ... that take ok pics by the hundred at no cost, so people have been overloaded with pics and not really valuing them.

There's a subtle shift in the stills portrait market now, in reaction to all this. What seems to be changing to a varying degree upon region of the US, is that there are people who've gotten tired of just having pics on a device ... they want a real and beautifully crafted image in their hands or on the wall. They've become jaded looking at photographer websites, and don't really trust what they see. They want to know that X photographer actually knows how to do good work, and it gets OUT to clients reliably.

This group isn't wowed by galleries of images. They apparently prefer to see images of the photographer's work on the walls of clients, preferably with both the photographer and client in the image. And they want to see several such images. With the photographer in each image. And a pic of the photographer on the web--site essentially for verification.

So ... there seems to be a slight resurgence of the potential clientele in getting an honest-to-gosh real professional who delivers good quality physical work ... and on time.

But there's still a ton of people who are either completely satisfied with cheap schlock or too bored with pic overload to care at all.

So I suppose ... it's yes to both sides. Some interest in craft, some total lack of interest or valuation whatever.

Neil

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Adobe Community Professional ,
Oct 12, 2016

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R Neil Haugen wrote:

how does any potential client know that any photographer with a website actually created all the images on their site? Good question ...

You should pay for digital watermarking.

Photography Copyright Protection Solutions | Digimarc

Nancy O'Shea, ACP
Alt-Web Design & Publishing

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Adobe Community Professional ,
Oct 13, 2016

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It isn't whether or not someone steals our images that's the point there ... it's that the general public is well aware that images are frequently 'borrowed' .. and do not trust a photographer's galleries as necessarily sacrosanct.

So whether or not our studio Digimarcs things is rather a non-point to my comments.

Neil

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Adobe Community Professional ,
Oct 13, 2016

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Maybe you missed my point. If your work is digitally watermarked, there's no question about rightful ownership.  And if you care to, you can drive that point home on your website.  Not just to protect your work but also to educate prospects that your work is indeed your own and not "borrowed" from another source. 

Nancy O.

Nancy O'Shea, ACP
Alt-Web Design & Publishing

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Adobe Community Professional ,
Oct 13, 2016

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True, And I don't want to dismiss that.

But again, to the general public, I don't think most even pay attention to that. They just "know" that photos are up for grabs. How many people actually like, read the manual, let alone the informative text on websites? Hmmm ... not as many as we would hope!

Neil

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New Here ,
Oct 26, 2016

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I have never been taught or had any experience in design software but have had to teach myself to use GIMP and Adobe for work (You can see some of it over at this experience days website). What i found was that i could do the basics and became really good at one type of design but could never do any advanced work.

None of the design came easily, i didn't feel i was naturally good at this which is the complete opposite to my colleague who picked it up no problem at all from scratch. I rely completely on software for this type of art as i don't know how to bring my own creative ideas into existence on a computer.

What works best for the company i work for is to have the naturally skilled artistic creators put their ideas down on paper and then give that to the developers to into into digital from.

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Explorer ,
Oct 26, 2016

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It might have more to do with age and experience. Someone that learned the auto tool, begins creating and it becomes their only way of doing it. Photography is one of my hobbies and some of the best pictures I took was with my old manual 35mm camera using filters. I have a nice digital camera and can reproduce a similar effect digitally with a plugin. But it's still not the same, even with the digital camera when I pull out my box of filters, the picture is unique.

I love using tools and plugins to speed up the work, but I don't like not knowing what it's doing. I need to know how to do it manually. In my experience with my many different crafts and skills, is that the auto tool doesn't always do what I want or the result isn't what my vision was.

Websites, photos, illustrations - I see a lot of canned and generic look and feel. Sure the designer made it, but made it from an auto tool. Each tool generates a certain kind of look or feel. Then when you see the same look and feel somewhere else, then yet again and again. The unique, individuality, creativity (what every you want to call it) is just not there.

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Adobe Community Professional ,
Oct 26, 2016

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I still have my film cameras .  I loved working with film. 

Nancy O.

Nancy O'Shea, ACP
Alt-Web Design & Publishing

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Adobe Community Professional ,
Oct 26, 2016

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My office/editing suite is in our old B/W darkroom which was also our second color enlarger room/station. The custom enlarger station with all the drawers for boxes of b/w paper and the drop-table with drying racks below for the enlarger, the enlarger, color & cold heads, the 10-foot custom built sink with the shelf above it holding chemicals and tipped-dowel rack (that's for beakers, measuring cups, etc.), four individually temp-controlled spigots, specialized lights with switches right below the front edge of the sink, 24" Zone VI archival print washer, all the tray slots with trays & bulk chemical storage below ... it's all sitting there just as it was the last time we used it probably in around 2003.

The enlarging station is along the long north wall, the wet-area takes up the entire east wall, and my two-section desk/computer station 'faces' the south wall in the southwest corner. You can barely get around my desk's left section which sticks out nearly to the enlarging station ... but one still could print and develop there.

The rest of our complete color lab is either dumpstered ... or sitting in a large machine shed on our home property ... just couldn't throw those beautiful matched optics into the dumpster ...

Neil

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