Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Taking Photoshop From the Ground Up

I RETURNED TO THE student life yesterday, even if for only one 8-week Photoshop class at the School of Visual Arts in beautiful, rain-slicked Chelsea. I awoke early to square away a few job-hunt activities here and pack. After 2 months out of the workplace, I am beginning to lose the instinct to ready a work bag the night before. A little unnerving.

The class is at 1:00, hours after the passage of the last Hoboken-bound train. This leaves the bus. I chose the second of two potentially timely buses, which ended up getting bogged down in tunnel traffic; next time, I'll just go with the earlier one. I had contemplated taking a train down and making a day of it in the city, but insomnia the previous night cut that plan down. I leave the option open for the future, though.

Between the delay at the tunnel, and the time it took me to navigate downtown, I arrived at SVA a couple of minutes late. Fortunately, I've taken a class there before, so I knew the way around the building. The instructor had begun, but I was able to sneak into the classroom without causing too much of a stir. I noted with pleasure that SVA had upgraded its Macs. I had visions of using the same ones I clunked around on back in the fall of 2001.

The instructor began by reviewing some general academic and syllabus guidelines, then gave us an intro to the Photoshop tool palette. My Photoshop skills are so pathetic that this intro already paid off in terms of skill acquisition. I alternated frantically between taking notes and trying out the various functions. Mastery of the basics was one of my prime goals going into this course.

The instructor addressed another goal of mine: building a book of samples via our homework. I've got practically nothing worth a damn to show potential employers. The work I did at my last company is barely worth bringing along on interviews. I need hard evidence that I can use Photoshop in a broad variety of ways, so I was happy to read the curriculum, in which the instructor listed the skills and functions she wanted us to exercise in creating each piece.

Each session includes an hour or so of classroom-based project work, but the teacher advised us to come up with a way to transport files back and forth if we wanted to back up our work. She advised a flash drive or a CD; she said the process of using an iPod as file storage was, in her experience, more unstable than Apple lets on. I had problems when I gave it a try on mine once, so I gave up on using it as a form of backup. Considering I had already been thinking of securing a flash drive, I am going to take this as my final kick in the ass.

I plan to spend some time this week getting acquainted with the tools in Photoshop and rereading the notes I took. The instructor recommended a couple of books as further reading, which I may try to get from the library. We do have to bring in an object to scan for next week's class, which will form the basis of our first assignment.

So finally, I will get to do some purely creative work. Now I get to see if the long purgatory of my last job, with its rote design duties and few opportunities to stretch the mental muscles, has done any permanent damage to my ability to learn and apply such lessons practically. I do understand that various jobs will require different levels of Photoshop facility, and that some shops will be more lenient of crosstraining in deficient areas, but knowing it well, and being able to create tangible work in it, will get my foot in a lot more doors. As much as the job hunt itself, this course is my quest for the next several weeks. At the end of this course, I'll be just a little bit close to being able to call myself a graphic designer without insulting those already in the profession.


India said...

Harrumph. I've never had any trouble using an iPod--G1, G2, or Nano--as a sneakernet drive. I have, however, had trouble with USB flash drives, the trouble mostly being that they're too small to hold anything worth transferring. If it's small enough to fit on a flash stick, it's small enough to send to yourself using e-mail or any free file transfer service. What's the point? I own three flash drives; I've never found a use for any of them.

But, whatever.

Good on ya for taking a class. I was just thinking ten minutes ago that I should bring my untouched Adobe Illustrator CS2 Classroom in a Book to the office and work through it on slow days. Either that, or I should sign up for some online classes. Gotta look busy; might as well learn something useful.

Schizohedron said...

One of the two books the instructor recommended was the Photoshop entry from that series; the other was the Quickstart guide by Peachpit Press.

From a home-use/laziness standpoint, I stand a greater chance of habitually backing things up onto the flash drive than I do of burning CD-ROMs. Also, my iPod is vintage Nov. 2003 and has its eccentricities. So this ought to work for me until I need to haul giant files around, at which point I'll use Cyberduck and some online storage space, and/or start selling plasma for the 80-gig video iPod (salivates uncontrollably).