Saturday, February 27, 2010

Vector Representations and Coffee Mugs: The Value of Perseverance

Eureka !

During Wednesday's Interactive Exhibit Design (February 24th, 2010) class, Bill asked us to work through one of 10 of the Best Inkscape Tutorials. We are learning about Vector Representations, which are a really fabulous way to create images: instead of using pixels, vector representation identifies specific points and parameters to make much sharper images. I'd worked through the tutorials before class and felt fairly confident as I began Peter Anglea's "Creating a Coffe Cup with Inkscape" (an ode to my favourite beverage).

I was absolutely stumped by the Bezier curve. I'd played around with Bezier curves with Mark Hoefer's demo, but didn't really understand the concept. I got frustrated and couldn't figure out how to make the curves and points settle in the spots I needed them to. I finished Wednesday's class with an image that was about half-way through the tutorial, and the Bezier curves forming my coffee mug were unfortunately shaped. Instead of using the Bezier tool to form the entire shape, I was creating small curves and then copying and rotating them to form the mug. When I tried to fill in the mug with color, the fill looked terrible because instead of creating my mug as a single shape, it was a mongrel of various curves.

Lesson learned: what looks like a shortcut only caused me grief! Instead of persevering with the Bezier tool, I got fed up and decided to try things "my way." Well, even if I thought my shortcut was brilliant, the computer disagreed. Moral of the story: don't try to use shortcuts, since the computer can tell you're not doing it right.

I decided to revisit the tutorial this afternoon, and spent some quality time playing with the Bezier curve. Low and behold, after practicing with it enough and getting a feel for it, I could create my coffee mug! After getting the hang of the Bezier tool, I could effectively work my way through the rest of the tutorial.

Now, not only do I have a lovely coffee mug, but I've also learned a valuable lesson about shortcuts and the value of perseverance when working with computers.

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