Recently I’ve been taking some time to try to learn the web animation program called Flash. As with a lot of these big graphics programs it’s been slow going. The problem is that everything is so wide open that I’m having trouble focusing. That and I was never a fan of making animation. Minor detail.

Flash is more than an animation program because it allows for viewer interaction. A person can start and stop things, trigger new things to happen, and move things around. That’s all very interesting from an artist’s point of view. It’s the part I like. But it’s all new and there are very few guide lines on the subject. There are books and websites devoted to teaching and sharing how to do things in Flash but those are mostly for commercial type work; little animations and web banners. Those are actually not too difficult to do. Creating art in Flash is a whole different thing.

There are certain things that are easy in Flash. Moving things around. By things I mean static drawings sweeping up, down, or side to side on your screen. I call it moving things around and not animation because usually animation is a series of many drawings all slightly different to give the illusion of a character being real and raising his arms or running or some such. Taking a single drawing and moving it around is just, well, moving it around.

Animation is a lot of work. Work that I generally find boring and certainly don’t want to do in my free time. That is one of the problems I’m having in learning Flash. It lends itself to traditional animation which I’m not fond of doing. But it can do a lot of different things too. But thinking outside of tradition isn’t easy. Especially while a novice in the tradition. I get ideas but I can’t chase them down and make them work just yet.

I have stacks of drawings and paintings I can adapt for use in learning this program. But I always want to create new stuff. This is a problem too. It takes a lot of work to create images and characters to work with to learn the program. Creating my own images eats into the total length of time I have to learn Flash but the bouncing ball that they use in the books just isn’t enough for me.

I also prefer learning in a non-linear way. I can’t help but skip around the book. Learning in a straight line is the usual process. Crawl then walk then run. Addition then subtraction then multiplication then division. It makes sense. But for something that involves the creative process linear isn’t always best. Some people respond better when they have sixty four colors to choose from. Some prefer to start with eight. Flash mixes stuff best learned linearly i.e. how to move things around, sync them with sound, and make them interactive, with the creative i.e. what the hell am I going to actually make with this program? So I end up learning a few things at a time and then thinking about what I can do with them. This leads to having to create or adapt more art work which leads to new ideas and having to figure out how to implement these ideas in Flash. It’s very easy to loose focus. I’m usually a focused guy and I find this loss of focus very frustrating.

Speaking of frustrating, I mentioned stacks of drawings and paintings. They are the result of this artistic life I lead. Art hasn’t brought me fame, money, women, or power but I do make things. There is some reward in that. To start something and have a finished piece at the end. Good, bad or indifferent it is something I made. I’ve been working in Flash for a couple of weeks now and nothing is really finished. That is frustrating. It’s expected, I knew this would take a while, but it’s frustrating none the less. I like making things a lot more than leaving them unfinished. Having a few unfinished things around is normal but not too many or despair of ever finishing another piece sets in.

One last thing that bugs me about learning Flash is the constant “think small” attitude. All web programs are concerned with keeping file size to a minimum so that things can be downloaded easier. It is a genuine concern and can’t be ignored but I think so much is made of it that creativity can be hampered. As I’m trying to figure out how to do something I don’t need to be distracted by reading about what I can’t do. My new motto is, “You have to think big before you think small”. A least that’s what’s been keeping me going. Hmmm… maybe I’ll go and paint for a bit.

And there is another little glimpse into what makes me me.