Insights and ideas from Russell Brown
Inspiring creative expression
Russell Brown is senior creative director at Adobe as well as an Emmy Award-winning instructor. His ability to bring together the world of design and software development is a perfect match for Adobe products. In Brown’s 26 years of creative experience at Adobe, he has contributed to the evolution of Adobe® Photoshop® software and helped the world’s leading photographers, publishers, art directors, and artists master the software tools that have made Adobe’s applications the standard by which all others are measured. Brown shares a bit of history, along with his inspirations and advice in this interview with Photoshop.com.
Photoshop.com: You’re always pushing boundaries with Photoshop. What are you currently focused on and what inspires you?
Russell Brown: The sooner you can get something off of a computer and touch it and interact with it the more creative you become. Projects aren’t real until we have something we can touch, like a print or a laser engraving or a t-shirt. I’ve been very focused on extreme printing lately, which is all about taking images and turning them into something that you can touch and feel. In the past, I used a laser engraver to turn 2D Photoshop files into 3D wood carvings. Now I am looking at printing Photoshop images on decal material with ceramic paint and then transferring the images to teapots. The possibilities are endless and I am always searching for that next crazy way to work with images. When people say it isn’t possible, I try and make it possible.
Photoshop.com: Describe a favorite Photoshop creation of yours and what grabs you about it.
Russell Brown: I think my favorite image at the moment has to be the one I took of Moose Peterson and his wife Sharon in Monument Valley (Image 2). It is an incredible sunset shot that happens once in a lifetime. The right cloud, the right sky, and two great photographers lined up in the right location. I used Photoshop to merge four images together to make this shot.
Photoshop.com: What inspired the Alice in Wonderland theme for this year’s Russell Brown @ MAX course?
Russell Brown: The main umbrella over Adobe MAX 2011 is digital publishing, so I thought it would be cool to somehow combine really creative photography with digital publishing. Everyone knows I love costumes and characters and Alice in Wonderland is full of both. The Mad Hatter, Red Queen, Alice, and others all have such unique looks and personalities. At MAX we’re creating scenes where participants can take great pictures of these well-known characters, combine them with the famous words of Lewis Caroll, some video, and publish them using custom InDesign book design templates and Adobe Digital Publishing Suite.
Of course, the event won’t be complete without some extreme printing, so participants will also create ceramic paint decals from images shot on the first day and transfer them onto teapots.
Photoshop.com: What do you like about working with people in a classroom environment?
Russell Brown: I find it fascinating how I can put energy into a group and see it multiply. As my energy goes into them, it comes back two-fold! Seeing the results from a class is what is really exciting. The student projects give me the energy to keep doing events.
Photoshop.com: How do you define Photoshop evangelism?
Russell Brown: Photoshop evangelism has changed dramatically over the years. In the early years, it was about getting other writers and photographers to use the products so we could create more evangelists to get the word out. Adobe Photoshop 3 and the introduction of Layers really expanded the market, opening it up to architects, illustrators, art directors, photographers, and graphic designers. Today, Photoshop evangelism involves speaking to the users, making their lives easier, and pointing out things they may not have known about Photoshop. I’ve always tried to throw in an enormous amount of personality and offer useful tips and techniques. Education and entertainment are the foundation of my approach to helping people learn and experience Photoshop in new ways.
Photoshop.com: What role do social media and speaking engagements play in your role as a Photoshop evangelist?
Russell Brown: I never would have guessed that social media would take on such a prominent role. It’s getting easier to get the message out. Evangelism today means being on Facebook, YouTube, your own website, and going out for live performances. Users have easy access to tutorials on websites, YouTube and Adobe TV, which is great. Sometimes I feel like a musician who puts out an album and then goes on tour. But instead of albums, I put out tutorials and then go out and get people excited about all of the new things they can do.
Photoshop.com: What do you think about using tablet devices in photographic imaging?
Russell Brown: Tablet devices seem like they were made for working with images, so using them in the imaging process, whether you’re creating or displaying feels natural. At MAX we’re announcing Adobe Photoshop Touch, a tool that completely expands the boundaries of creativity by bringing a selection of Photoshop functionality to tablets. The ability to take your device anywhere and have the power to play with images on the go opens up some pretty amazing possibilities. We’re also introducing the Adobe Creative Cloud™ software, which gives you the power to exchange and share images using a creative hub that connects your desktop to your mobile devices, without plugging in.
Photoshop.com: What’s your favorite way to share your work with others?
Russell Brown: Facebook has become my primary photo sharing location. A key component to Photoshop Touch is the ability to pull images in, work on them, and immediately share them to Facebook. You’ll even be able to see the comments on your photos from within the Photoshop Touch app. It’s truly amazing.
Photoshop.com: How have you evolved as a photographer/artist?
Russell Brown: When I first got out of college I had no idea what I was going to do. But that all changed when I saw a computer. From that point on I knew that I was going to be playing with computers for the rest of my life. I began doing basic graphic design and working on graphics for video games. Eventually I moved over to Adobe, where I started combining my graphic design background with performance art, which I now use to educate others about what is possible with Adobe software. Creating entertaining ways to communicate concepts helps me get the message across more easily and understandably, and it’s fun. I’ve even had high school teachers that use my tutorials in their classes approach me and thank me for keeping their students awake!
Photoshop.com: Describe the most memorable or remarkable experience you’ve had with Photoshop.
Russell Brown: As my friend Rick Smolan says, every great performance comes from half fear and half talent. I think my most remarkable experience was my Photoshop 20th anniversary presentation. It was a combination of magic and theater and computers that highlighted a special moment while offering a historical review of Photoshop features. It was really a wonderful night.
Photoshop.com: Tell us about any other creative mediums you work in; are there any other areas you wish to explore and have not yet?
Russell Brown: I’m always looking for computer controlled printing devices to fuel my love of extreme printing. I also want to explore 3D imaging and the possibilities around printing Photoshop images on 3D objects. I have so many ideas that might seem unreal, but I know they can happen.
Photoshop.com: Photoshop has been around a long time. What still surprises you about it?
Russell Brown: I’m always surprised by what our engineers can create. They are always thinking about the next thing and creating automated ways of doing tasks we’ve done manually for years.
Photoshop.com: What is the future of Russell Brown?
Russell Brown: The key to success is having more fun. That’s my first criterion when accepting any project. I can’t wait to see what new toys Adobe creates for me to play with.
Russell Brown's detailing action