JULIEANNE KOST interview
Senior Photoshop Evangelist Adobe Systems
Ric Okay, so just to kick things off Julieanne, could you introduce yourself and tell us a little about what you do.
J Sure, my name’s Julieanne Kost and I have been working with Adobe since 1992 and went to work with them because I couldn’t afford the software at the time and knew that I wanted to be a photographer. Actually got a degree in psychology and biomechanics of movement and my parents weren’t fond of sponsoring the arts at the time, which I totally understand now.
Ric So they wanted you to get a real job.
J Totally yes, and I now understand what they were saying. My mum was a silk screener and did elaborate artwork that she sold for barely enough to cover her costs so my father I’m sure looked at that and said “no, let’s not do the arts school”. But I went back and got a degree in photography, afterwards.
Ric Psychology then photography!
J Which the psychology was good, because I went to work with Adobe in tech support and a little psychology always helps. So I’ve always wanted to make images and that’s why I have my day job.
Ric Did you know that psychologists and sociologists make good graphic designers?
Ric They can reverse engineer a piece of visual communication you know by working out what people are responding or reacting well to first, and then go and design something appropriate.
J It makes sense.
Ric David Carson a well known designer from New York once told me that he trained first as a sociologist and then later became a designer and this he believes is one of the secrets to his success. Hope I haven’t given away too much there David.
J Oh yeah. I know who he is.
Ric What do you do currently?
J I actually travel around the US and around the world and teach people, try and educate them on Photoshop and its features and hopefully get the technical part across so that they can focus much more on the creative part.
Ric So at what point while using Photoshop did you start using Wacom tablets?
J It was actually kind of late in the game. Probably like eight years ago I started using a tablet. I think the reason is I bought the really big one, but it took up to much space on my desktop, I went and got the smaller one (Intuos3 4×5)… which also took me a little while to get used to, bit of a slow learner, I guess. It probably took me two weeks to get really comfortable with it. Yeah, I’d say a week, because I kept going back to the mouse, because it was something that I knew and then one day it just kind of clicked. You know, you just … it’s like, you can’t really teach anyone how to use it. I mean you pick it up and it seems intuitive but it doesn’t because I was using the mouse for so long.
Ric ‘Mousing over’ is the key; after I show somebody how to ‘mouse over’ which is to actually float the pen point over the tablet, people start to get it. First time tablet users often don’t realise you can do that.
J Another interesting thing is that you can do that also to make sure that you get a brush stroke right. It’s like you mouse over without doing anything to practise first and then you can go back and lay down the stroke. It’s beautiful, yeah, it’s great.
Ric What Wacom tablets do you use now?
J I use the Intuos3 4×5 in my shows because it travels better and I have the six by eight in my office at Adobe plus I have a Cintiq21UX at home. So I think that the thing that’s interesting to me is that coming from the darkroom I knew how to dodge and burn, and then you really have to relearn that when you start working with a mouse and it was like I finally got comfortable with that, just because I learned to adapt to the mouse. So as soon as I got a Wacom tablet it was quite a lot easier than using the mouse itself. It wasn’t so much as me being a slow learner but again it was just me adapting to another thing and, you know, that was eight years ago and obviously I’ve never gone back to the mouse for any of my work.
Ric Talking with Russell Brown over many years and as my career has spanned using systems like Quantel Paint Box, Lumina and other painting systems like that, I originally learnt to paint and retouch digitally in real time. Then PixelPaint, ColorStudio and Photoshop came along on the Mac/PC, trying to do the same things without enough processing power, so that nothing worked in real time. I found Russell’s presentations always fascinating because he showed his techniques for creating selections and blends to create similar results but just not in real time. Channel operations, Airbrush blends all done through a selection process, editing channels, and whatever rather than to just paint the thing in. I feel that the last 10 years have been like a renaissance of sorts for digital photo retouching and illustration. Finally being able to digitally paint and draw on a PC in real time is very empowering, would you agree?
J Yes it is a bit. I will say that the biggest benefit for me is the control, because I mean I can do stuff that there is no way I could ever do in the darkroom. Some people can but I don’t have the patience, and the same with retouching. I’ve seen people do it traditionally but I would not have the patience to do that.
Ric When you say traditionally do you mean using acid washes in the dark room?
J Yes absolutely and cutting friskets and then using the dyes. Yeah, no way. I would not have the patience for that.
Ric In my interview with Richard Luxton a professional photo retoucher from the original discipline, who’s now probably one of the most experienced in the country for digital fashion photographic retouching, he says he went directly from the dyes and masking to a Kodak Premier system, which used a Wacom tablet. And so he’s been using that from the very beginning, and then from there to a Mac based Photoshop scenario to the point now where it’s just how he does everything. And he says it’s just that he can’t understand how anyone ever, at any point, used a mouse for this kind of work. I’m often talking to people in conferences and trade exhibitions and someone will come up to me and say ‘Tablets Oh yeah, but I can do all this photo retouching stuff with a mouse”, I just say “Well, that’s great and I’m pleased for you but maybe really you’re holding yourself back. If you can do all that with a mouse, well it’ll be amazing to see what you can do with a pen!”
J It’s also their speed. It’s so much faster with the pen on a tablet. All you have to do is look at someone’s history palette in Photoshop while they work. When they are working with a mouse you can watch each stroke whereas watching them with a pen, it’s just a blur and it’s done. If I’m doing hair or if I’m doing skin or retouching or anything, you can’t do it with one stroke. You have to do it with a lot of small strokes or it’ll look like you painted one stroke and it doesn’t look like an eyelash, or you remove something and it looks like you did it with one stroke. You really need to get in there and dodge and burn. I know with my illustrations I could never get the mouths just right without using a tablet.
Ric Julieanne you have two very interesting sides to your career, one side being the on-stage Photoshop master and the other side being Julieanne the published artist. Tell us about Julieanne the artist?
J Julieanne the artist is not very in balance [laughs] because Julieanne the evangelist seems to take all of her time.
Ric You have to sneak that art in there when you can.
J I try, I do.
Ric I noticed that it comes out in your presentation.
J I don’t nearly spend enough time making illustrations. I mean, I think it’s because I do them for myself, and I really enjoy that and I want to do them and you know, an illustration can take me three to six months. I mean, people always ask “well how long did it take you to make that” because I’ll use a lot of the illustrations to then demonstrate features and I tell them you know “thirty-eight years it took me to make that”, because it’s like that. They are the sum of everything that’s come before and I like that. I love the fact that I can take pictures from different points in time and assemble them and make something that does not exist. Not only that it doesn’t exist, It’s not just a place that doesn’t exist but it’s a feeling that doesn’t exist and it’s a point in time that doesn’t exist, so it’s somewhere between that decisive moment where you’re capturing what’s happening, and then cinematography where you’re telling a story over time. I’ve got snippets of time and place, but in a still image. And I like that. I like that a lot.
Ric It’s like you’re conjuring your own reality.
J Yeah, oh yeah it’s not a reality that’s out there at all, and that’s where the psychology comes in too, because every time I finish a piece I can look at it and go “oh, yeah, I remember when I did that. I know what that’s about.”
Ric Your using a tablet as a mouse replacement, to your dodging and burnming, to illustrate, so tell us a little bit about your workflow using a tablet? Is there a workflow?
J Is there a workflow? I’ve never thought of it as a workflow. A workflow implies work, and the tablet doesn’t really make me work, it’s kind of the anti-work.
Ric Now that’s nice. I’d like to use that. [laughs]
J Yeah, it’s indispensable. I think one of the problems that most people have with Photoshop and with computers in general is just that they’re struggling with the technology, and the Wacom tablet is one of the few things I don’t struggle with. I mean, it’s very intuitive. It’s going back to drawing again, and it’s more intuitive than anything I ever did in the darkroom, that’s for sure. You had to cut out little pieces of paper to dodge and burn that way using Photoshop with a Wacom pen, it’s so much more precise. A mouse just isn’t interactive at all and the tablet really is. I think the only time I ever use a mouse is to do email or whatever, and then obviously I’ll switch over to the mouse because I don’t want to type with the pen in my hand. It’s just easier to type with the keyboard and mouse but once I’m in Photoshop, there’s really no reason. I have the Cintiq21ux at home and I love it. It’s great, you just work right on it, and at first you know it was kind of odd because your hand seems to get in the way but then I started thinking about it – “Wait a minute, I drew for years and my hand never got in the way and I’m not smudging anything. Like how fantastic is that, I can drag my hand over the artwork that I’ve just done and nothing is smearing.
Ric I used to have a special piece of paper and little tricks to prevent that from happening but now there is no need.
J Yeah, all those things are gone.
Ric I remember airbrushing and splattering white paint on my artwork at three o’clock in the morning and the project had to be ready the next day. That splodge of white paint ended up as a beautiful cloud. [laughs]
J Ah yes those little work-a-rounds.
Ric You mentioned about the intuitive connection between you and the computer when using your Wacom tablet. Did you know that Wa in Japanese means harmony? Wacom is all about creating harmony between people and computers, and of course with the new brand direction for Wacom being ‘Open Up, Sense More’ so it’s all about creating better human interface solutions and so a really interesting question I like to ask people is; what would you like to happen in the future around making technology better and easier? Maybe for you it’s with Photoshop? Is there’s some special thing that Wacom could innovate that would make your life better or easier or more creative?
J I mentioned the integration with the keyboard, just because I would like to use my left hand for the keyboard and still have the majority of the screen area to paint on so that I don’t have to sit there and fumble reaching over to the keyboard.
Ric So you would like a software touch type keyboard actually on the screen?
J Yeah, I think that would be great. Anything interactive that I could pull up with my pinky and a keyboard appears and I just grab what I need temporarily and let go of it and have it disappear.
Ric Yes I think we’ll have something like that for you. It’s coming but will require some software integration from Adobe.
J Okay. That’s what I want then.
Ric The touch and point technology is definitely on it’s way. There are already some Tablet PCs that use our tablet technology and also have touch screens built in.
J Yeah, I tried one of those. I think it was an IBM which reverses out and then you can just write on it, it was quite nice.
Ric We licence Wacom technology to many major laptop manufacturers.
J Yes, and this was definitely Wacom technology. I love my little Intuos3 tablet you know. If I travel with it, then it has to speak for how much I love it because I try to travel very light. I have to travel so much for Adobe that I am very tired of carrying everything around.
Ric Well thanks Julieanne, this has been fabulous.
Ric Thank you for your time and I’m sure everyone will take great pleasure in looking at your images in this book.
J Well I hope so.
Ric Thank you for participating in the Art of Making Marks.