Freeway I have really enjoyed this software.

Recently I needed to find new software to use to make and maintain my website. www.thomasrgriffith-artist.com I had been using iWeb for a long time. iWeb was nice software. It offered a fairly limiting amount of options, but it had what I needed, it was easy to use, and it was fast to make changes and updates. However Apple has stopped supporting the software, so it was truly dyeing and bugs that would show up are never going to be fixed. O and when I got my new Mac, iWeb wouldn’t work on it. 😦

It took a lot of comparing and searching and more comparing and more searching. I googled, I binged, I…., well you get the idea.

I can not believe how many choices there are for building a website today. I knew what ever I decided on would be something I was going to use for a long while. I was going to have to rebuild my site from the ground floor again and I really did not want to have to change software anytime in the near future and start again. Needless to say I was cautious.

I found Freeway and gave it a test run. It is definitely a lot more complex than iWeb, but it isn’t so complex that I couldn’t figure out most of it within an afternoon. There are a lot more features than I had before and as I have been using it, there are as many features as I could imagine needing.

I have used a lot of software over the years and my pre-requisites for software have become fairly set in stone. Of course there are times that there just isn’t anything made yet to live up to my picky needs, so I end up settling. Freeway however passes all of my obsessive nitpicks.

1 Elegance,
Software should not have a bunch of crap that is gimmicky and useless. This is something that many of the main graphics software has fallen into being.

If you took the bells and whistles that are never useful out of Illustrator it would become something that did not look like the inside of the space shuttle. Most of these frills can be done by using the better computer every artist has (Their Brain) anyways. It has always seemed to me software companies just keep adding stuff so they can sell the next hot upgrade. Many of these extras come off as campy and lame anyway.

Freeway is pretty elegant. The interface takes a little bit to understand, but once you get there it is very easy. For the bells and whistles, Freeway uses Actions which are like plugins. You can find a huge amount of these that are free or very inexpensive. This way if you want something extra you can simply add it and you are not saddled by a bunch of crap you don’t need. You could make a pretty outstanding site with just the actions that come with.

Many software packages are going this route and I really like it. This also makes room for innovation by others outside of the company and that is a recipe for great ideas and useful tools.

2 Not Excessively over priced,
I am not cheap and I don’t mind paying a fair price, however I take the high price of graphics software personally.

When I first dreamed of being an artist way back in the 80’s all an artist needed was pencils, pens, rulers and a drawing table. Some of these things where not inexpensive, but they were not out of range. Also they didn’t come out with Drawing Table 2.0 in a year and make it so if you didn’t have that one you could’t compete in the market place, our worse your old table would’t work in the studio you currently own.

It seems pretty absurd that software companies are surprised that someone would have the nerve to hijack their software. Hey, you make something that is so essential to a person making a living and put it way out of their price range, what do you think they are going to do?

Freeway is pretty reasonably priced and they offer versions with fewer options for even more reasonable prices. They also have told me that you can do upgrades to the better versions. That in my book is cool! I love decent software that I don’t need to take out a loan for.

3 Great Customer Service
What do I have to really explain about that? I like to be able to call an IT person and say “OMG I broke it what should I do now?”

While I was playing with the Demo version I had questions about what if when I buy this and if this or that happens. I emailed their customer support. What!? They answered with clear and reasonable answers before I even bought the software in a very timely manner? Crazy!

What else is crazy is now they have my money, they continue to answer my silly questions. They even had me send them my file and they looked at it and told me what to do. They have emailed me sample files. That is awesome customer service and I think is the best feature so far of this software.

I hope this little rant on a software package that I enjoy is helpful for anyone out there looking to make their own website. Sadly it is only available for MAC but then if you don’t have a MAC, well I send my condolences. Microsoft isn’t awful, it just isn’t a MAC.

O! and here is a link to the software company that makes Freeway http://www.softpress.com

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Published!

I have been waiting and waiting sense I received the email saying “Congratulations, one or more of your entries in CQ28 is a winner. A complete list of winners is posted online and your winning entries will be published in the next issue of Creative Quarterly due out in Fall 2012”

Finally tonight flipping through the mail and there it is! My copy of Creative Quarterly issue 28 and on page 27 and there is my art.

Well I am pretty excited. 😀

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The digital version will hit their website at some point. http://www.cqjournal.com

The piece is also on my website at http://www.thomasrgriffith-artist.com/The_Art_of_Thomas_R_Griffith/Virtual_Art.html

A very nice conclusion to my day. 🙂

My path to finding purpose to making art.

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I would have to guess that many artist contemplate the purpose of making art. I know it is not an easy question to arrive at an answer to. Some certainly are happy to see art for arts sake is fine. For myself I have always felt deep down it is more than just for the sake of art it’s self. I don’t think I could truly argue or debate effectively that it is, but down deep in my core I simply feel art has purpose. It think it is truly something personal and each artist and each art lover has to come to their own conclusion. It does however seem worthy to share how I see it and how I have come to my views.

I have been pondering this question sense I was a teenager. I have over the years, many times doubted what I believed and many times would have swore I was certain. It would be silly to try to even come close to each and every time in my life that has lead me to where I am on this.

To make it brief, I think it would work well to start at a major early moment in my life that brought me along the way and work my way through just some of them.

When I worked at my grandfather construction company I was exposed to a very wide variety of people. Some perhaps not the greatest effluence on a young mind and some just extremely interesting characters. I think for the most part that experience in my life help make me become adaptive to and excepting of many types of people. One such group of people where some gentlemen who where extremely orthodox christian or at least that is how they would have described them selves. They spent much of there personal time studying the Bible, going to church and discussing things about Christianity. I encountered people from the community associated other times in my jobs during my teens and into my early 20s. They believed or had faith in their convections with such fervor there seemed that nothing would change their opinions on anything. Until the moment I am about to relate I don’t think I ever questioned the value of being an artist or art itself.

One day while working on a job site where we had been building a house for several months I was having a conversation with one of these gentlemen. It’s funny how I can remember the smell of bare pine 2×4’s and saw dust. There was of course the sound of hammers punning and saws cutting. We somehow came along the topic of my art work. His words caught me completely off guard. He explained to me that he did not believe that making art had any value to society. He went on speaking about how nothing was created that could be lived in or used as a tool to make humans more successful. When I reputed by relating to how art had inspired people to change the society in which they lived and such, he simply sloughed it off saying none of that is truly any contribution to bringing us closer to God and all we need is the bible.

Well I didn’t take to much of what this man said to seriously anyway, but it made me think. I suppose because it was a concept that I never had even thought existed. I would never have thought anyone considered art anything other than an extremely important part of our society. For me art was the life of my heart. It MEANT everything. How could I question if there was any purpose? Art had a purpose and though I never wondered what it was I never doubted it did.

I went on in life going about the business of being an artist. Went to college, worked as a graphic artist and so on. I ran into all kinds of thoughts and opinions on just what is important about making art. In working as a graphic artist art became very much about putting food on the table. Art became a means to an ends or perhaps a means to my life not ending because I starved. Art was simply commercial. The quality of my work was driven by a desire to be successful. I think for a long time the part of heart that was burnt into my DNA and lied close to my heart went dormant. Occasionally I would get a glimpse of the past passion and paint but it would never last that long.

At a point when I became disillusioned with making art for commercial use I turn back to the fine arts. I decided to devote myself more to creating art with a passion for art. Initially I stayed focus on a more realism approach and being detailed. The aims of my work was always to convey the emotion of image. I then began experimenting with a more expressive approach and moved further and further into abstraction. People had often seemed to connect with emotions from my art and that pushed me further and further into wanting my art to convey feeling. This became a goal.

When I was able to have a larger audience via the Second Life virtual world art community I found more and more success with conveyance of emotion to that audience. People began sharing with me how my art made them feel and what they conveyed was the feelings I had and was working to convey. I found these successes brought me a feeling of connection.

During these times I had also been struggling with my mental health and depression was a main factor. I came to learn that as with me others with mental illness suffer from feelings of isolation. In fact isolation is seen as a huge contributor to suicide. Over the years isolation even when with other has haunted me. It is very natural for a human to have a need for companionship. We all want others to understand us.

Connecting with others is a beautiful thing and the connections we have with others is fundamental to our over all stability. I would argue that it is also the connections we have to to each other that stabilizes our society. The connection can be deep or shallow but in the end we are not islands. This is what I have found as a purpose for art, music, literature and more. It is all a means for we as people to come closer to each other. Sometimes words can not express our deepest thoughts and feelings. We need images and maybe sounds. These can be the way into each others hearts and souls.

Coming to this conclusion me me brings me to see a great purpose to art. This purpose drives me now and I have been amazed by the wonders of connecting with others. To be able to reach out across the world with an image and touch another person can bring healing to both the creator and the viewer of the creations. If only one persons dreadful feelings of isolation can be broken by one of my paintings then I have found not only purpose to my art but purpose to being.

The OCD Foundation of Michigan featured some of my work

I was very honored and excited to have been ask to have some of my art and writing in The OCD Foundation of Michigan’s Summer 2011 newsletter.

Check it out at http://www.ocdmich.org/pdf_files/2011%20Summer.pdf and please look at some of the great info they have on their website. One of the board members happen to see my post on OCD on my web site and contacted me. It really means a lot if my work can reach out like that. What more can art be about? 🙂

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My Art and OCD

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After years of struggling with troubling thoughts sticking in my head and agonizing over thinking them through, trying to solve things that just did not have solutions I have been diagnosed with OCD. Took a huge recent crash to realize that it was more than just being a worrier and look for help. Now with the help of cognitive therapy and medication I suddenly find me discovering my true self the person outside of the OCD.

Why am I bringing this up in this blog meant for art? Well because art has become part of my therapy and getting help has freed me to make more, much more art and to create more freely. I think this could be a lesson for many really. The difference between someone with OCD and some who doesn’t have OCD is pretty simple. Everyone has troubling thoughts that often make no sense that is just part of life while someone with OCD just can not stop thinking about those very thoughts because they get stuck in a very biological way in the brain. Having thought that are troubling and upsetting in your head for extended periods of time can create intense anxiety, panic attacks and can become very disruptive to ones life, including making art. Most people with OCD know that not being able to stop thinking about these things and that the thoughts are not always reasonable but they simply can not stop.

So the things I have done to help me make art despite my OCD and the way doing this has helped my OCD in general must be things any artist or anyone else could use. It’s like I have tested it out in severe circumstance you know like they do to car parts. Let’s see what happens if we do this with wicked high RPMS and no oil and if it holds up to that it ought to be great under normal conditions.

This is going to take more than just one blog it’s been a lot of to digest for certain. I can’t imagine it won’t be a large part of everything I do from now on it has had such a profound effect on my life to find my way through to cope with OCD and become the true me.

In general I always have agonized over my art and would work rework and rework while all the time never finding any satisfaction. (even if I do say “o this is great”) All artist must do this to an extent. I think everyone does this at least some in much of what they do. The first major break that helped me create art more freely despite my inclination to tear myself and my work apart went like so. I was generally hung up on some memory of someone else likes and dislikes of me or my art imagine and real. Very very stuck. So my therapist wanted me to go home and paint and purposefully make a mistake and keep going seeking to be OK with this mistake being a part of the piece. Well I once heard about a art professor who on the first day of every class instruct his students to make crappy art. I’m probably not phrasing this exactly but you get the idea. I thought about doing this many time in the past but couldn’t bring myself to do. So sense I was on the edge of what seemed like the darkest days of my life I got up the courage and went at it. I wrote down on a piece of paper “MAKE CRAP!” and stuck it to my desk. Oddly I found it’s hard to make crap. Something inside just seems to say o we’re making crap and I felt suddenly free their at the drawing board and feeling free, wonderful things started appearing on the paper as I did. I don’t think I will ever forget that day how I felt amazed and made several pieces that week. I try to apply this to a lot of things now though not always successfully but it helps. Helps to remind me I am human and sometimes I may make crap and thats OK. Sometimes a mistake ends up being just the right move in life and in art.

The Purpose I have found for Creating Art…

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I can’t imagine that many artist have not at sometime asked themselves why make art? It sure is something that has wandered through my mind many times. What is the purpose to this thing I do? Sure, it can bring an income in some varying ways. I find this question comes up particularly in times of creating pieces that are just plain and simply there to be viewed. No real function in a physical way; not in any sense to be used for some advertising campaign to sell goods and or service. Art for art it’s self I suppose is the sort of stuff I am speaking of here.

As I paint today I am even more contemplative on this. I know for myself when I am making art I do my best to listen to my gut and it is in a very large sense a soul searching process. It’s an exploration of self and how to put self and beyond on paper I often have this sense that it is my way to explore the world around me inside and out and sort it out. But why? I can’t think it is just for me and me alone. I sure do get a lot out of it and find it helps me grow as a person. But just for me? What purpose does it give to the world and those around me? I can’t help but feel that anything worth doing brings something to those around us. I certainly do not revel in anyway the idea of making art in a closed up room and just be in there with what I made and nobody ever sees it. I don’t think I would even feel like making art if that was the case. In the very least I’d want someone to see it. There is no doubt that every time I make a piece of art I am driven to run out to someone; be it  a friend or my wife and say “Hey Look!”

I think back to times when I would be making art but had little outlet for others to see it except close friends and family. They would on occasion see my work and comment “O that is really nice”, or “wow your talented”. This is all good and fine in it’s self but truthfully I didn’t make so much art during those times. It was after finding an outlet where a broader scope of people would view my work that I found something in it all. It indeed drove me to create even more art as the work got to be seen by more and more people. In the social part of that is where perhaps someone would say how the piece made them feel. At times when some one would remark on how some piece reminded them of something in there lives. At times someone may say it seems you where feeling or thinking this or that when you did this. It dawns on me that is why I want to paint and is the purpose. It’s this communication between my fellow humans. Somehow art reaches out and it creates a sharing a path between people and each others thoughts and feelings. 

We are social and we do much better when connected to others. Art, Music, Literature all of that brings to our world a means of connection. As an artist there is nothing more inspiring than when I realize that something I made touched another person. In that moment we connected with each other in what can be a very deep and profound way. Perhaps this sharing is also a way for each of us to gain understand of others. I hope that this understanding is then carried out to the world in a broader sense. If this in the tiniest way helps people be more understanding of others in there lives then that art piece has served a very good purpose.

This is a public service announcement

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If you find yourself around an artist and they share there work with you please show them the respect that we all deserve. The creation of art is a very courageous, emotional, spiritual and psychological labor. When commenting about someone’s work keep in mind, that work is most often a part of the person who created it and to a great extent represents that person in some way. Now I’m not saying that constructive criticism is not important and needed, I myself find it very helpful. It is common in art courses to have group critiques of everyones work and there are rules that are followed. These rules make sure that the critique is constructive and most importantly not destructive. Since many have never been involved in one of these or have forgotten the rules, here are some guidelines when speaking to someone about there work.
Always remember that beauty is in the eyes of the beholder. Don’t make sweeping statements like those colors should never be together, the composition is all wrong, the proportions are not right, or no one is going to buy work like that. Statements like this do not help anyone and after tall there are truly no rules for creating art. There are guidelines, but artist accidentally and purposefully bend or even break these guidelines all the time. Some of the great innovators did just that and now there work represents great artistic movements such as surrealism and Dadaism.
Ask the artist about there intent. If you understand their intent you can now speak to them with that in mind. Perhaps they used some seemingly conflicting colors to make a point or strayed from proportional guidelines to express something in particular.
A term you hear in management often these days is a compliment sandwich. Start with something you like, insert a constructive criticism and end with something else you like. Such as; I really like the colors you choose for this, perhaps the composition could be a bit stronger but the piece shows off your skills with texture.
Don’t speak in unequivocal terms like; it is, you should never. Use words like I think, I feel. After all there really is nothing unequivocal about art anyways and using unequivocal terms only shows you are ignorant to that fact. Art is an expression and no one has the final word.
Ok so you’re asking, why should I pussy foot around about what I think about someone’s work? Well I guess it’s up to you, but try to keep in mind just how would you feel, and remember that it takes a lot of guts for an artist to put their work out there and thereby them selves out there also. It makes no sense to crush someone when you can help lift them up. Who knows; you may be stomping down the next great artist or you could be a part of helping lift up the next great artist.
Finally I would like to share with you that as an artist many damaging although often well intentioned things have been said to me over the years by friends family and yes even art instructors. As with many artist when I sit down at that drawing table staring at that blank white piece of paper working up inspiration from deep inside my soul the stupid negative crap from others crept in and has many times blocked me and left me frozen. Creating is so emotional and extra baggage never helps.
PS. For all you artist out there who find them selves over analyzing your work because of words from the past. Keep going, the process of creation is a beautiful thing and just doing it will help clear out the garbage. Always remember there are no rules, only guidelines that you choose to follow or not to follow. Well there is one rule always follow your gut and be free. Maybe that’s two.