Insights and ideas from Nik Ainley
Testing the boundaries of creativity
I’ve always had an affinity for exploration and experimentation, which is probably why I chose physics as my course of study in college. I never expected to be an artist. When I began working with the student university magazine in 2003, it was my first introduction to digital art, illustration, and Adobe® Photoshop® software. I soon realized that my curiosity could just as easily be satisfied by exploring the depths of the creative world as it was by exploring the natural physical world. I was instantly hooked.
I enjoyed the challenge of mastering a new skill, displaying my creativity, and, of course, exploring everything that Photoshop had to offer. Each software feature or technique I found led to the creation of a unique picture or design, which fueled deeper, more daring exploration of what was possible in the creative world. Some of my early exploration of how to use actions over and over again to create fractal light patterns even became one of my trademark styles.
Unlike physics—which is confined by the laws of nature—illustration allows me to freely manipulate images, colors, and light using a variety of tools without restriction. The passion I developed for my art led me to ditch physics altogether and take up illustration and design full time. After school, I began working as a web designer and eventually decided to launch my own design business and promote my work through sites like DeviantArt.com and Behance.com.
I love pushing the creative envelope, trying things that no one else has tried before. I find great inspiration in using tools in ways they weren’t originally intended, and the more tools I have to experiment with, the greater my work can be. The Transform tools, Liquify filter, layer masks, and blending modes in Photoshop give me virtually limitless creative options. Before long I expect I’ll feel the same way about new tools in Photoshop CS5 Extended, like Puppet Warp and Adobe Repoussé.
New feature sets give me a wealth of tools that help me continue to evolve as an artist, refine my style, and continue to test the boundaries of my creativity. For example, HDR toning adjustments in Photoshop CS5 let me manipulate light and shadow more powerfully than ever before to transform even the lowest quality photo into a brilliant piece.
A lot of changes in the work I’m creating and seeing from other artists are due to the 3D functionality in Photoshop Extended. It’s clear that more designers are working with 3D, and I expect that more advanced 3D work using Photoshop CS5 Extended will become more mainstream in the digital art world in the very near future. Personally, I’ve been playing around with the Adobe Pixel Bender plug-in for Photoshop, using a third-party Pixel Bender script to generate 3D fractals. The speed is very impressive, and I look forward to working with more advanced filters that really take advantage of the GPU acceleration.
I’ve been fortunate that the risks I’ve taken and the countless hours I’ve put into my work have paid off. For me, taking a divergent path and following my passion has helped me achieve levels of success and personal satisfaction I’m not sure I could have reached in the science field. It’s a feeling of freedom and liberation I wish everyone could experience.
I hope that young designers just starting out can look at me as a source of inspiration. I’d encourage them to take full advantage of the powerful technologies and design communities available. But mostly, I’d tell them to love what they do, embrace the challenge of making the next piece the best piece, and never be afraid to break the laws of nature in pursuit of their creative vision.
"Cakes" wallpaper by Nik Ainley