Thursday, September 29, 2016

Keep Calm and Carry On - 4 Ways How Computers Keep Us from Creating Art (And How to Deal with Them)

Computers are important nowadays. This is why it's so frustrating when they don't function as we want them to.

Last Christmas my old computer said goodbye to the world of the living and for a while I had no access to my writing, art and tools. A new computer had to be bought, an adapter to read the hard drive of the old one was ordered and there were issues with the delivery and, last but not least, once I finally had the adapter, there were technical issues with the old hard drive, so transferring my data was a long and painful process. That adventure inspired me to write about how fragile art becomes with advancing technological progress.

Don't get me wrong, though. Computers are an amazing tool for creating art. Even though I miss some advantages of traditional painting I really, really love toying around with Photoshop and Paint Tool SAI. They are great tools with an endless number of ways to use them. As a writer, I can't imagine going back to pen and paper. On a PC, I can edit a text as much as I want without it getting unreadable because of countless corrections. I can search my text for keywords to look up story details I already wrote. I can copy-and-paste a text wherever I want.

Musicians can create great artworks where they play all the instruments themselves. Movie editing is easy, fast and accessible. Computers and the internet allow us to share our art with others, to discuss it, to learn, to connect. They help us to find other artists and get inspired by their art.

Computers are important nowadays. And this is why it's so frustrating when they don't function as we want them to. And since today is one of those days when I planned to do something creative, but eventually spent the whole day fixing technological issues ... Well, I'm in the mood for a rant.


Almost everyone who works regularly on a computer has experienced it at least once: You have a good, creative day, you're flushed with ideas and you work, work, work ... until the screen suddenly goes black or freezes and you realize that you haven't saved your file for a couple of hours.

Having lost hours of painting progress and pages of text because of crashes, I've become rather paranoid. I feel like I save everything at least every five minutes. And I'm afraid this is the only thing one can do to protect one's art from crashing computers and software. Sure some programs save automatically, but ... not all.


One reason why I prefer the primitive WordPad over the fancy MS Word: It has no bugs. Word isn't bad, but the more complicated a program, the more likely some tiny, but extremely annoying detail won't work properly. I still remember how I wasted days of my life trying to figure out what I'm doing wrong with my page numbering settings, only to realize that Word simply ignores my check mark and that I had to find a way to work around this bug. I ended up with one file where this issue was fixed and I used that file as a base for all my other Word projects that had page numbers in them.

Bugs are also annoying when it comes to artistic communities. DeviantART, for example, is a great place, but, for me, it's one of the buggiest websites I ever had to deal with. It's slow and often certain functions would simply stop working for a while. Just plain annoying.

Is there a way to deal with this? Well, I suppose, the best thing one can do is to simply keep in mind that there always can be something not working properly. Just keep calm, be patient and wait until it's fixed.


There is something that is apparently meant to help us, but ... Whenever Windows is updated be prepared for something to be wrong afterwards. Some programs won't run properly after the update and you'll have to reinstall them. Some of your Windows settings will be changed, and the required steps to change them back will also be changed, so be prepared for much googling, because the information provided by Microsoft definitely won't help you. In other words: If Windows is updated (and in Windows 10 you can't switch off Windows Update anymore) be prepared to spend the whole day fixing issues caused by Microsoft improving your experience.

Program updates can be annoying as well. Sometimes the interface is changed and you can't find your tools anymore. Sometimes the coding is changed and there are compatibility issues. And sometimes an update turns on weird settings and forces you to spend hours to figure out how to switch them off.

The only solution to this problem: Choose the time of every update carefully. No spontaneous clicks on "OK" when your computer suggests an update. Never ever again.


Over the decades of their existence computers have developed from a mere working tool into maybe the most important source of fun and entertainment. Games, videos, social media, messengers ... They all make it really hard to stay focussed, especially when they use sounds to get your attention. And the worst thing about distractions is that the only thing that really helps against it is self-discipline. And there can never be enough of it.

Digital vs. Traditional Art

However, the good news is that working with traditional tools isn't any better. As an artist, you can always run out of paint and good paint is expensive and the supplies need to be replenished regularly whereas my old Photoshop still serves me well, allowing me to use every colour thinkable whenever I wish to. So, in the end, every tool has its pros and cons and despite all the pain my computer sometimes makes me go through - being a child of the digital age, I'll stay faithful to my favourite tool ever.

What about you? Do you see your computer as a hindrance sometimes? How hard or easy is it for you to accept the cons of working with a computer? Do you prefer to work with traditional tools from time to time?

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