Erik’s Brain

The reward of a thing well done...


If you know me at all, you know that these days Adobe leaves a bad taste in my mouth. See Exhibit A and Exhibit B. And those don’t even mention Adobe’s accusations that I was a liar and a cheat and the overall nightmare I experienced when I had to “crossgrade” from Windows to Mac in 2007.

It wasn’t always that way. Back in the fall of 1996 (or was it winter 1997?) I was a freshman in college and got myself a copy of The Photoshop 3.0 WOW! Book and downloaded a working demo of Photoshop 3. It was a revelation. I had so much fun playing with that software and learning what it could do. I knew Photoshop 4 was on the way so I waited and pounced as soon as it was released. I think that with my student discount I was able to pick it up for around $270. Best money I’d ever spent. If you’ll recall, PS 4 was the first one to have layers. Yes, there were three versions of Photoshop that didn’t have layers. The excitement I felt about computers and creating things with computers was palpable. I still remember it clearly.

Sadly, today, for whatever reason, those feelings are a faint trace of what they once were. Part of it is because Photoshop CS5.1 is a bloated pile of crap that makes me hate life whenever I open it. In fact, I’ve given up on it and have switched back to CS4 as I patiently wait for a CS5.1 update that will take it from “total shit” to “usable, but still buggy.” Lion’s been out for months. I’m afraid an update to CS5.1 is hoping for too much. I hate Adobe.

However, there’s more to it than Photoshop itself being less fun to use. I think it’s because I’ve forgotten how to play. You know… Playing. Just for fun. Now, sadly, I feel a tremendous amount of pressure to apply whatever skills I have to making a buck or two. Because I have rent to pay and I have food to buy. I think it would be fun to dive into 3D, which is what I originally wanted to do when I was in high school. And video editing interests me. “But Erik,” my brain says. “Why? How are you going to make money with that?”

I expected to have this kind of problem at some point in my life. I was a photography major in college, but I had no interest in being a photographer professionally. I felt like that would kill the joy I get out of making photographs. If I had to make photos I didn’t like in order to please clients, it would suck some of the joy out of photography. And if I had to worry about selling photographs as art, I would end up making photographs I thought would sell rather than photographs I personally enjoyed making and looking at. In fact, the period where I temporarily dropped out of college was the time I was most excited about photography because I was only doing it for my own personal enjoyment. I was shooting what I wanted to shoot, not for projects the instructor doled out. Also, oddly enough, those months when I was shooting on my own for no one else but myself, I learned more than I ever did while in a photo class. I’ve never gone down the road of photography as a career and even though I go through periods when I don’t touch my real camera, I still enjoy photography because the only time I make pictures is when I want to make pictures.

With programming and doing creative work on the computer, I don’t have that anymore. It all feels like work. If I’m doing work on my computer, it’s either because it’s a project I have to do or I’d better be working on something that will damn well lead to money. And that sucks. Not being able to just mess around and play sucks. A lot.

I want to recapture the joy I felt when was first learning Photoshop and when I was first learning what HTML was. When, with no knowledge of JavaScript or CSS, I dissected the source code behind the Jaguar website circa 2000 (which was pretty bad-ass at the time) and used what I learned to make a portfolio site for myself. When I could play with images in Photoshop with no real objective other than learning, having fun, and making something cool to show my friends.

But I don’t know how to get that excitement back.

Yes, this is a downer of a post. I don’t have an uplifting ending to slap onto it. I won’t until I figure out how to have fun playing with a computer again.