Ki11erpancake @ Adobe MAX 2017

Happy New Year!

The end of 2017 was packed with travel, drawing, and ramping up to my first holiday season as an independent entrepreneur. Now that the dust has settled and I have the ability to sit still for more than a couple hours I wanted to get my thoughts down about one of my favorite experiences I had this year. I've talked a little bit about the drive from Pittsburgh to Las Vegas but haven't gotten in to the real reason for the trip.

This year was my second time at Adobe's annual Adobe MAX conference. (I wrote about my first time in San Diego in 2016 here.) This year they moved it to Las Vegas and I've always wanted to drive across the vast midsection of these United States so I decided it was now or never. Leaving a week before the conference started, I trekked through Chicago, Omaha, Denver, Santa Fe, camped at the Grand Canyon, and arrived in Las Vegas on October 15th. It was amazing but more on that in other posts.

I will say that as someone who has to pay their own way, I do believe my experience is a little different than if I was there on "the company dime". After years of sitting alone and poking away at Adobe products—begging YouTube for advice and pulling what I can use out of exhaustive tutorials that never seem to answer my exact inquiry, it is a total game changer to take a lab from an expert and be able to ask even the lamest questions with a TA on hand for on the spot support. I realized that my questions weren't even that lame! When you're part of a design community, even a small team, you at least are used to bugging someone the next desk over for help and are given challenges by your employer to figure out (maybe you don't like them but hey...). Being mostly self-taught has meant creating the challenges I then learn to solve (like illustrating a whole tarot deck about Pittsburgh). 

They fit 12,000 people into one room. Holy shit.

They fit 12,000 people into one room. Holy shit.

Other Cool Shit

Spent a LOT of time in the vendor market space bouncing inbetween the Wacom and Microsoft displays comparing the Cintiqs and Surface Studio. While I will be purchasing a Cintiq Pro, I have to say that the Cintiq sales reps are almost always really snobby. I guess when your product is as good as theirs you can be but it still bummed me out to talk to a drunk dude who just handed me the same spec sheet I got last year. The Microsoft stand was filled with really nice and accommodating staff and I just wish the Surface Studio had the same powerful tech as the Cintiqs... I also dislike the Wacom pens so much... Nothing is perfect though right?

If you're like me an live in a place where there is no easy access to try out this super expensive tech it's pretty cool to play around with it. Even when I've traveled to New York City there are very few places with Cintiqs on display (thnx B&H Photo!)


Take Aways

At this point, I have covered what I think are the most interesting highlights from my Adobe MAX trip. Some quick final thoughts:

  • The food is plentiful and good (however they should have coffee available at all times and not just for like an hour during snack times)
  • The free stuff is perfectly fine (I started going when they gave out sweatshirts as attendee gifts and just missed the years of Fuji cameras and Surface Pros)
  • The networking could be better (my first year I made a lot of lasting relationships but this year it was less productive relationship-wise) 
  • I could get my regular work done and get to my cherished sessions without issue
  • The first keynote is really interesting to see where they are going as a company and what to look out for (the second keynote is more motivation-y and always feels like a waste of time but that's a personal thing—other people like to listen to famous folks and their pep talks).
  • Sneaks is pretty damn cool.
  • This is a pricey endeavor and while nothing is perfect Adobe MAX is definitely the best creative conference I've attended. If you're looking for hands on experience with Adobe products and the chance to have a brief audience with a person who develops on the program you use everyday then you might consider it! 

I plan on going again next year :) Enjoy some snaps below!

A character created in Aaron Blaise's preconference seminar at Adobe MAX 2017.

A character created in Aaron Blaise's preconference seminar at Adobe MAX 2017.

What I learned

Character Creation w Aaron Blaise

The preconference session I took with Aaron Blaise was one solid day focused on creating a character using his traditional drawing techniques in Photoshop. As a traditional artist and Disney animator he was the best teacher I've ever had in Photoshop. He kept things super straight forward and it was amazing to see my outcome using his method. I'd been on the cusp of figuring out bits of this technique (build up the sketch, create volume and structure, add color, add detail—voila) and he got me over the finish line. Utilizing a little photobashing I was able to integrate a texture from a picture I had taken of rocks at the Grand Canyon earlier that week to make my cow skull more boney and creepy looking. The eyes in the skulls are my own with some drawing magic on top. Sweet dreams tonight! 

Adding a preconference session is pricey but not as much as getting an MFA in illustration so it's all perspective, ya know? (Not bashing on the MFA people out there—this is just my own journey.)

Illustrator Game Changers

I took two labs on Illustrator that reinforced the techniques of each other. The big takeaway way was using the Appearance panel and Graphic Styles to modify shapes instead of manually manipulating a bunch of independent shapes to create images. The focus on efficiency and nondestructive editing plus learning about the puppet warp feature... I'm a gd Illustrator wizard now. Mark Heaps taught one and two engineers who work on Illustrator taught the other, (Yogesh Sharma and Neeraj Nandkeolyar).

These were the big highlights for me. I am always trying to do better in both Ps and Il and taking these labs really helped me. Heaps had us make a poster that I still have and I whipped it up in like 20 minutes. Each lab came with handouts and project files that I do go back to in order to refresh. Heaps also gave out his Facebook contact info and was really cool and responsive when I hit him up with a question after MAX.

Other Stuff

I make sure to take classes in things that I have no knowledge base in so I can get my feet wet and see what's out there. Here's a sample:

  • After Effects: Chris Converse broke down this program in a way that no one else has and I don't feel nearly as intimidated by it. All his classes are online too so get yourself learned.
  • Animation: Joseph Labrecque is a very smart human and his session was super dense with information that was a bit over my head but still really interesting. He also gave a stellar handout that I'm relying on when opening Animation again.
  • Adobe Dimension: (working title: Project Felix) This program does one thing but does it SUPER well. I've since used it to create composite mock ups for how my tarot deck will look spread out on fabric I was designing. I plan on revisiting to create some "fucked up Dali looking shit" in the near future.