When I came to rewrite my 80s manuscript Manslaughter early this millennium, I scored an old IBM pc that was being biffed out by my partner, Michelle’s work. It was so much easier than the typewriter I had drafted it on. I had a painting in mind for the cover and I bought a scanner and managed to digitize an image of it. It didn’t look quite how I wanted it so I tried to adjust it, with mixed results.
I brought a little camera that was so weak in pixels it was pretty useless but it came with a primitive Photoshop-type program that allowed me to manipulate images and doctor photo files. So I took pics of the carvings I had been working on and some paintings and mucked about with them – they were almost like demos, they were so tiny.
After our big bust-up I got a much better computer and a slightly more powerful camera. I had lost the taste for painting and carving at that point and found my visual artistic outlet on the computer screen.
It was difficult to render anything with that old graphics package that I had off the original camera but it was great for working with pre-existing images. Layering and erasing became my tools. I photographed my guitars, my paintings and myself, plus various textures I liked and started playing around with them.
That second camera I had was still pretty bad but I found a way, by making up grid screens and layering them on the pics, to make them look like paintings. The contrast, brightness, inversion, colour balance and transparency settings all proved useful for turning the images into something akin to art.
The guitars made particularly handy items to work with. I worked up some landscapes and spacescapes for them to fly around and I made hundreds of frames – intending to animate them into a sort of space opera.
With the telecaster pictures I could layer and reverse and build up “mandalas” that became very intricate and pleasing to the eye.
Ten years later and here I am on Facebook. In those intervening years I lost that computer and was without one for ages and went back to painting with paint, although I did manage to salvage some back-up discs of the work I had done. All that graphic work I did was in isolation and incredibly naïve but when I did finally get back on line the artwork came with me and it resonated well off the screen still. There is a timeless and original quality there that I feel represents one part of my artistic journey and I’m proud of the work.
These days I’ve got Photoshop but I rarely use it. That old program I had seems to be no longer available. I will go back to making new computer graphics at some point I know and I might even get around to animating those telecasters flying around planets and the event horizon.
The Ghost of Electricity –War Stories by Jon McLeary is a new initiative at Off The
Tracks, a series of stories and reflections from painter, writer and musician Jon McLeary