Wednesday, 21 January 2015

Digital Deluxe

Following on from the previous post about the joys of the Amiga home computer and the musical inspiration I gleamed from the games scene, it's now time to shift the focus on to art.

My journey into digital art began way back in 1990 at the formative age of 12. Up until that point, I had got by just fine with pencils and paper, without the addiction or distraction of a home computer. Of course, all that was about to change.

One day at school, our art teacher, Mr Cronin, took us to a dark and dusty corner of the art room, and introduced us to The Computer. Its was an Acorn Archimedes, and it had this thing called a Mouse – which looked like a house brick on a cable with a funky ball mounted in the underside. Mr Cronin then went on to demonstrate the power of a paint program, and the mouse swung into action.

This was the moment.

First he created a gradient from red to yellow, and before long we had a sunset! A few clicks of the mouse later and we had a house with windows. Wow. Up until that point, my only experience of computers were friends’ C64s or Spectrums that played pixely games with chirpy music. The notion of making artwork on the computer hadn’t even crossed my mind.

Mr Cronin then took the excitement up to 11 – by clipping out a section of the image and creating a brush… which he then zoomed around the screen and painted with, creating an impossibly crazy pattern.

I was sold. I’d seen the future.

I got home. “Dad – Can I have an Archimedes?” 

My pestering for one of these mysterious Archimedes machines went seemingly ignored, until one day when my Dad went out one morning and came back with this exciting new computer – a Commodore Amiga A500.

I still remember the squeak of the polystyrene packing as I extracted the Amiga from its box. Of course, the computer coming with the 10-Star Games Pack, would lead to a whole other distraction, but also in the bundle was this exciting looking software package entitled Deluxe Paint II…

Deluxe Paint – or Dpaint as it was usually referred to – was made by Electronic Arts and for a long time the main art/paint program on the Amiga. And it was the answer to all my artistic needs. The Amiga being smarter and more advanced that the Archimedes, Dpaint offered so many functions and hundreds of colours.  I’d soon be drawing cartoon illustrations, Daleks, space ships landscapes, you name it. All with the mouse, I should add! And as I progressed through later versions of the program, I’d explore the joys of even more colours and animation features too.

DPaint opened my eyes to digital artwork. I’d go on to design my own games on the Amiga, make comics, write stories and even do my school work at any given opportunity. 

Fast forward to the mid 1990s and my arrival on a college course in computer graphics and design. I was delighted to find a room full of Amigas. Of course, I already knew Dpaint inside out. The following year, it would all change and we’d be working on Macs and PCs running this new thing called Photoshop. But Dpaint’s user interface proved to be the perfect training ground for the more advanced Adobe software.

Some of the last work I ever did in Dpaint on the Amiga was some college coursework from that time – a journey inside a giant computer, giant engine and giant machine – and here it is! What fond memories.

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