Insights and ideas from Julieanne Kost
Keeping ideas fresh
Ready to be inspired? You’ve come to the right place. Julieanne Kost, whether she believes it or not, is one of the most inspirational people you could meet. Her passion for new ideas runs deep, so much so that she eschews television so she can spend more time exploring new creative mediums. Her background in psychology taught her the importance of letting go of what you think is real in the world and exploring the unknown. As one of the faces of the Adobe digital imaging team at conferences and in online tutorials, her biggest wish is for people to follow their hearts, whether they’re a professional or an amateur. In this interview, Kost offers some insights into her creative process and how she stays motivated.
Photoshop.com: When did you become interested in photography?
Julieanne Kost: I can’t remember if it was my mom or my dad who got me interested in photography. My dad loved black and white photography and converted our laundry room into a darkroom. My mom used the darkroom to create kodaliths for silk screens. They were both very influential, with my dad patiently teaching me the technical aspects of photography and my mom encouraging me to always try to create something new and different. It’s amazing how your background becomes obvious in the work you create. The silk screens my mom created were probably my first exposure to taking a layered approach to artwork, which is now so much a part of what I do.
Photoshop.com: What inspires you and how do you keep ideas fresh?
Julieanne Kost: People inspire me. People who are deeply passionate about what they do. People who take the time to really master their craft inside and out. People who are dedicated and infatuated and tenacious about pursuing the knowledge they need in order to create. It doesn’t matter what discipline they are pursuing. It could be making sculptures out of pipe cleaners. It is their passion that inspires me. I like to surround myself with people who believe in something bigger than themselves.
Photoshop.com: How did you develop your recognizable style?
Julieanne Kost: Style is something that evolves over time. I’ve always been interested in compositing images. Even before Adobe® Photoshop® software, I printed black and white and color photos and cut them up and put them together. Maybe it is because of my background, but I’m always trying to discover the difference between what people reveal to others and what they hold inside. Artwork that incorporates layering and transparency provides a distinct parallel, letting me control areas to tell a story and hide other parts, ultimately influencing what people see and how they react to the work.
Photoshop.com: What advice would you give others who want to develop their own personal style?
Julieanne Kost: Everyone should keep true to their own vision. The computer and Photoshop should not be threatening. New technologies and new techniques are just tools that offer more options and let you be more creative. Photoshop is a very robust and complex program and sometimes people can get caught up in pixel level detail editing. Instead, they should think about the big picture and try multiple things. Look at and create as many images as you can and figure out what you like and what you don’t like. You can’t pursue your style without first knowing what you like and why it resonates with you.
Photoshop.com: How did you get the idea for your photography book Window Seat?
Julieanne Kost: There were two main reasons for the book. I travel three out of four weeks a month for Adobe, so I’m constantly in an airport, airplane, hotel, convention center, or cab. I was struggling to find something interesting to photograph. Flying home one day, I realized that I had been missing some of the most spectacular views I could imagine by sitting in the aisle seat! The second reason was that I’m actually afraid to fly. But, when I put a camera between me and my subject, it creates a boundary so I can look out the window through the camera and not be afraid.
The scenery from 30,000 feet is amazing. The photos in my book were all taken on commercial flights, just looking out of the window, with no control over time or weather. They are very different from my composites, which are more influenced by internal factors, such as my dreams and life experiences.
Photoshop.com: What image/project are you most proud of and what was your process for creating it?
Julieanne Kost: I’m probably most proud of “Isostacy” (Image 1). This image focuses on the concept of isolation and abandonment. The image was created in Photoshop, and is a relatively simple composite of several images, the primary ones being the landscape, clouds, textures, and tree limbs. The individual layers were interwoven using layer masks and blend modes (overlay, color, and multiply). The tree limbs, which should be reaching for the sky, have been placed at the bottom of the image as if they have been turned upside-down; looking as if they are displaced roots. Yet, although they are “under the landscape,” they cannot take hold for that is not their intention as branches. The landscape, a field in fall taken after the grass has been cut, has left an island of trees, segregating the land mass from the viewer. It becomes unreachable. The breach between the roots and the landscape is definitive; they cannot be joined. The beautiful clouds that should be drifting in the sky are tired and worn; they are covered with scratches and decay. Looking up into the sky, the view would be vague and ambiguous, looking down, as if through the surface of the earth, the warm glow of embers is all that remains as if after a great fire.
Photoshop.com: How has your digital artwork evolved?
Julieanne Kost: I believe that everyone's work naturally evolves with their personal experiences in life. I know I’m not alone in the life events that I experience. By trying to portray some of those events conceptually in my images hope people will be able to relate and see that they are not alone in how they feel.
Technically, as tools such as Photoshop and Photoshop Lightroom® software advance, so do the methods and approaches that I take to my artwork. New features bring new opportunities to explore areas that I may never have otherwise thought of. Recently, my work has also been influenced by mobile tablets. I love the Adobe Photoshop Touch app and I’ve been carrying that around for last few months. The tablet has freed me to experiment without committing and brings a sense of play back into compositing.
Photoshop.com: When you are training others, what is your main message?
Julieanne Kost: I want people to know what is possible. When you train in a large group you’re bound to have different levels of knowledge. It is important that advanced people learn something tangible, such as a new technique or shortcut, and the newer people see what can be done. If someone is in a training course, they’ve already decided that they want to master the tools so they become an extension of the creative process. They don’t want the tools to get in the way, they want to get the ideas in their heads, into the computer, and out to the world.
Photoshop.com: How do you define your role at Adobe?
Julieanne Kost: My role is to help people overcome the technical barriers that they might find when using the computer, Photoshop, and Lightroom to communicate their ideas. I really enjoy teaching people the tools that they need and watching the proverbial “light” go on when they realize how they can use the tool to communicate their own message. The other part of my job is taking customer feedback and product feature requests back to the development team at Adobe to help make the products better and easier to use.
Photoshop.com: What types of problems do you most like solving for people?
Julieanne Kost: I love killing the intimidation factor associated with computers and software. People worry too much about doing things the “right” way. Everyone can have their own way and it can still be right. I like when people want to become adventurous and want to learn because they enjoy it and so they can make the images they want to make.
Photoshop.com: What are your favorite product features in Photoshop and Lightroom?
Julieanne Kost: I love the entire way Lightroom is laid out. It is workflow driven and forces me to do things that I might otherwise skip—such as consistently keywording and organizing—which is good for an artist like me that might want to immediately start playing with the images. The Develop module is also fantastic for fine tuning single exposures before I take them into Photoshop.
I don't know if I can choose a favorite feature in Photoshop. For selecting, the Pen tool is my best friend. When it comes to compositing, layers and masking are critical to my workflow because of the added flexibility that they give me. I use adjustment layers, selective image adjustments like dodging and burning, and clipping masks. One hidden feature that I like is the “Blend If” sliders, located in the Layer Style’s Blending Options, because they help me to blend one layer with another based on the composite grayscale values, an individual channel, or a combination of the two. I also take advantage of the ability in Photoshop to automate things. If I do any task more than three times I try to automate it.
Photoshop.com: Are there any other creative areas you would like to explore?
Julieanne Kost: There aren’t any creative areas I don’t want to explore! Every year I take on at least one new and completely unfamiliar task or project. One year it was scuba diving, another was painting with wax, and another I learned to can tomatoes. I even joined Adobe’s marksmanship league! Right now I’m intrigued by video and I’ve been doing some experimenting with time-lapse photography. I’m also interested in creating on and publishing for tablet devices. A lot of people are concerned that technology moves too fast, but I encourage people to embrace it because in the end, it is what moves us forward, and I’m looking forward to it.