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Sharon Steuer and Mordy Golding Talk about Adobe Illustrator CS5

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Sharon Steuer (author of The Adobe Illustrator CS5 WOW! Book) and Mordy Golding (author of Real World Adobe Illustrator CS5) ask each other some burning questions.
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Real World Adobe Illustrator CS5Mordy Golding is the author of Real World Adobe Illustrator CS5

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The Adobe Illustrator CS5 Wow! BookSharon Steuer is the author of The Adobe Illustrator CS5 Wow! Book

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In Part 1, Sharon asks Mordy some questions about his book and Illustrator.

Sharon Steuer: Hi Mordy! I have some questions about you and your new book, Real World Adobe Illustrator CS5. How did you get involved in digital tools, and Adobe Illustrator in particular?

Mordy Golding: I've always had an interest in art and technology, and when I was in high school, I saw the two worlds converging. When I saw a Mac for the first time, I fell in love. The first app I saw and used on the Mac was Illustrator 88, although when I actually bought my own Mac and started my own design studio, I went through Corel Draw, Canvas, and FreeHand before finally coming full circle back to Illustrator.

At around the same time, there was a vector graphics forum on America OnLine (AOL) where I started to get involved with the overall Adobe Illustrator community. At a NYC presentation given by you, Sharon, I met up with Sandee Cohen (author of InDesign CS5 for Macintosh and Windows: Visual QuickStart Guide), who was one of the hosts of that AOL forum. Sandee and I became close friends—she practically took me under her wing—and she was instrumental in introducing me to the Illustrator community.

Sharon: You inherited the Real World Illustrator Book—how many editions have you done? How do you feel that it has evolved since you took it over? Has going to full-color made a big difference?

Mordy: This is my 4th edition of Real World Illustrator—I inherited the book for the CS2 release of Illustrator. Prior to that, I had been the author of Teach Yourself Illustrator in 24 Hours, and had published 4 editions of that book, covering versions 7 through 10 of Illustrator. The Teach Yourself book was targeted for beginners, and I was looking to publish a book that would cover Illustrator on a more advanced level. Since I took the book over, I've tried to do three things: add more technical explanations to better understand why things happen as they do in Illustrator; provide focused content and explanations that appeal to the many different types of people that use Illustrator, such as web designers, fashion designers, animators, etc; and present the material in a specific order that helps artists build upon their understanding as they progress.

Going to color has forced me to be more selective about the examples that I provide throughout the book, and I think it adds a newer level of instruction to the book. Specifically, chapters that focus on managing color benefit from the various color examples I can provide now.

Sharon: You do lots of different kinds of training: corporate, conferences, videos, and books. In what way are books better than other kinds of training? how do you recommend people use your books, and what would you say is the user level?

Mordy: I think it's important to realize that there isn't one "best" type of training. I think that some people learn better using one technique while others learn better with another technique. I also think that more people are successful if they combine various learning methods. Books provide two incredibly powerful benefits. First, books are immersive—you can really achieve a higher level of understanding by focusing on the words of a printed page—whereas other learning materials can often present easy distractions. Some topics are difficult and a book can really help you gain knowledge on a different level. Second, books serve as great reference tools. The human mind can easily remember once reading something and find a page quickly to refresh on the topic or technique. Of course, I personally recommend that those hungry for knowledge stop at nothing for finding new ways to learn. Books are just one great way to acquire knowledge.

The user level of Real World Illustrator is intermediate/advanced.

Sharon: What are your favorite new features of Illustrator CS5?

Mordy: Sharon, that's like asking me which of my children are my favorite! In truth though, I measure "favorite" features by how often I use them. If I find myself relying on features over and over again, that tells me those features are most important to my work. Specifically for Illustrator CS5, I find myself using the Shape Builder tool, the new Paste commands (Paste in Place, etc.), the Align to Pixel Grid, and the Artboards panel most frequently. The ability to specify variable-width strokes and the new Bristle Brush tool has changed the way I think about drawing in Illustrator, and probably have had the most impact on how I approach creating art in Illustrator in general.

Sharon: With more and more of Illustrator's features showing up in other Adobe apps (PS and ID specifically), do you think that more people, or fewer, are looking for training in Illustrator? and have the kinds of people using Illustrator changed?

Mordy: Remember that while more and more of Illustrator's features end up in other Adobe apps, more and more features from other Adobe apps also are finding their way into Illustrator. So it goes both ways. In my own experience, I'm seeing a huge interest in Illustrator. This is especially true since designers these days are being asked to repurpose art for so many different needs and uses. More designers are seeing the value in creating vector artwork so that they can easily repurpose their artwork for virtually any need at virtually any size. As is clearly evident in your Illustrator Wow! book, Illustrator artwork can appear in so many different styles, and designers and artists are no longer restricted to that blocky vector look that was once the hallmark of vector drawing tools like Illustrator.

I definitely think that the kinds of people who use Illustrator have changed—and are continuing to change. Adobe has built support for native Illustrator files into virtually all of their applications. With support directly within applications like After Effects, Premiere Pro, Flash Professional, and Flash Catalyst, there are so many professionals who are looking to Illustrator now. This is of course, in addition to all those Photoshop and InDesign users who have traditionally relied on Illustrator.

I also believe that there's a huge demand of hobbyists and other professionals who would LIKE to use Illustrator, but who are discouraged because of Illustrator's high learning curve. Sadly, Illustrator does require a serious investment in time to really learn how to use it well, and many who try the app become frustrated and are turned away. Hopefully Adobe will continue to find ways to reduce the barriers and make using Illustrator fun and easy.

In Part 2, Mordy asks Sharon some questions about her book and Illustrator.

Mordy: Hi Sharon! Here are 5 questions I have for you regarding your latest book, The Illustrator CS5 Wow! Book. How do you find all of the wonderful art and artists that you feature in your book?

Sharon: For the first edition, it was by asking whose work I loved, and then asking each of them who they recommended. Now coauthor Steven Gordon and I keep an eye out for folks we think are great. And nowadays many of the artists contact me—they admire the book and ask us to consider their work for the next edition!

Mordy: You're an artist yourself, Sharon. What artists inspire you? And do you still create art?

Sharon: When between book editions I'm still a full-time artist. The artists who inspire me are many, and varied, but artists currently on my most-favored artist-status are probably William Kentridge, Joseph Cornell, Pierre Bonnard, and then there's always Rembrandt and Van Gogh…do you want more?

Mordy: Have you ever had to reject artwork for your book, and for what reason?

Sharon: Well, we have some strict rules, such as Peachpit rightly insists that all artists must have written releases from any model or photographer that is referred to in a work, so we often have submissions of lovely work that can't be published for that reason. And we also don't include "fake commercial" work—only actual client work, or "fine art"—so many works are disqualified because an artist creates a fake ad for this product or that. And sometimes the work just isn't professional-level work, or there might not be something unique technique-wise that we can focus on.

Mordy: According to my count, you've published a Wow! book on the past 10 versions of Adobe Illustrator. How do you compare the art from 10 versions ago to the art created in today's version of Illustrator? Do you feel that newer versions of Illustrator allow us to be more creative? Or were we just as creative 15 and 20 years ago?

Sharon: Actually, The Adobe Illustrator CS5 WOW! Book is the ELEVENTH edition! I believe that you were my first contributing author on the series, for the 2nd edition (Illustrator 6 WOW!).

I think the biggest change is that the work is able to look "less vector-y" now. Although there always were artists who could create photo-realistic work with Illustrator (such as Brad and Tom Neal's cars), now with gradient mesh some artists like Ann Paidrick and Yukio Miyamoto are doing astoundingly complex and gorgeous photo-realistic work. And with the new brushes, we're getting more painterly work created solely in Illustrator. Lisa Jackmore, Greg Geisler, Janaína Cesar de Oliveira Baldacci, and cover artist Lance Jackson, each create very different kinds of painterly works with Illustrator brushes. And in fact the Illustrator work that I still do is mostly work with the brushes.

Mordy: With so many distractions these days, people have less time to learn new things. What is your advice for those who seek to learn while balancing a busy schedule?

Sharon: Take it slow, in small and focused chunks. Don't try and multi-task when you need to learn something new, stop with the emails and phone calls for a bit. And I think it's important to pick a particular project that you want to complete, and learn what you need to, to get that project done. If you don't have something in mind, you can look through the WOW! Book for work that inspires you, and pick a couple of things that you'd like to incorporate. If you are focused on a project, instead of just features or functions, you'll be more motivated to learn, and you'll better retain the concepts.

Thank you, Mordy!!!

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