Last year, after returning from Photoshop World in Las Vegas, I wrote a blog entry about the experience and expressed some disappointment about the shortage of learning opportunities for me personally. I also said that it was unlikely that I’d be returning in 2012. The passage of time lends perspective, however, and I’m pleased to say that I will once again be heading back to Mandalay Bay in September.
Why the change of heart? Simply put, I’ve adjusted my expectations and have realized that for the most part, Photoshop World hasn’t changed over the years so much that I have. While I stand by my assessment that there isn’t nearly enough of a focus on design and illustration, I also know that complaining about it on a soapbox isn’t likely to change that. I sent an email to the powers that be last year about that part of it, it was well received and I’m confident that the views I expressed were weighed and considered. I’m content to leave it at that.
This year, weighing the event solely on what it is instead of what I’d like it to be, I believe it still has a lot to offer to me.
As far as the classes go, I won’t even have close to a full schedule, but there are a number of them that I want to take this year, especially regarding the new features in Photoshop CS6. With the new schedule recently revealed on the website, I’ve had an opportunity to go through and see what will interest me most. One obvious choice is Corey Barker‘s 3D classes. The Photoshop CS6 Extended 3D features are apparently greatly improved, and judging by his recent work and positive things he’s said, I’m anxious to learn a little of how he’s accomplishing some of his very impressive imagery. While I have no desire to become a 3D artist, I do plan to incorporate some 3D elements into editorial cartoons on a regular basis. Having done so in the past, it can be a real time saver, which is important when faced with tight deadlines.
There are some social media and business classes I’d like to audit for any new information, and a surprising number of photography classes that will no doubt benefit my painted work. Classes on portraiture, lighting and composition all have the potential to teach me how to improve my paintings, as the goal for both photography and illustration is to end up with a stunning final image.
While the classes are an important part of Photoshop World, especially if you’re new to the game, the official learning opportunities alone wouldn’t be enough to entice me back. There just isn’t enough specific to my discipline. But notice that I said, ‘official learning opportunities.’
Something I’ve been realizing this past year is that there is a lot I can learn from simply being at this event. Over the years, I’ve met some incredibly talented and knowledgeable people, leaders in their own respective fields and niches, and many of them aren’t even teaching at the event, but they’re still there. Simply being connected to these people and talking with them candidly has great value.
Over the past year, I have been fortunate to work with the great folks at Wacom on webinars and other projects, have worked on illustration commissions for renowned wildlife photographer Moose Peterson and Photoshop Instructor Dave Cross, have written for Photoshop User magazine and have contributed to two books written by colleagues. I have realized significant exposure and growth of my painted work and have taken advantage of other opportunities I can’t yet discuss. Much of this has been a result of my time spent, and the people I’ve met, at Photoshop World. If you’ve been following my work for awhile, you’re well aware of the two Guru Awards I won in 2010. Although arguably insular in scope, those wins opened a number of doors for me, and I do believe that without them, I might not be as far advanced in my career as I am today.
As an aside, and because a number of people have asked me, I won’t be entering the Guru Awards again. Were I fortunate to enough to win, the experience would clearly pale in comparison to that first year. I’d rather see somebody else realize their own opportunities.
Furthering the relationships I’ve built with experts and practitioners in the many niches of this media industry is alone worth my time. While many of these connections are genuine friendships, it’s also just good business. Networking is a buzzword that’s thrown around by many without real understanding of what it means. Simply put, it’s forging bonds and connections with other professionals and building relationships that have the potential to be mutually beneficial to everyone involved. While these connections can be made online, it isn’t the same as sitting down with somebody over lunch or sharing a drink exchanging information. I can point to two very specific chats I had last year, revealing very valuable information that ended up directly impacting my career. Both of them were completely casual run-ins in the halls with acquaintances between classes.
This year, I plan to spend some more time with the folks at Wacom and it’s the one time of year I actually get to chat with Colin Smith at PhotoshopCAFE in person. Considering he publishes my DVDs, probably important to talk face to face once in awhile. Since I’ve painted him, but haven’t yet met him, I plan to finally talk with Russell Brown from Adobe, and catch up with a number of others that I talk to online regularly but only get to see once a year.
Freelancing and working from home is a great life and I wouldn’t change it. But it’s often a lonely day-to-day when the majority of your communication is done through email and social media. Connecting with other industry professionals who deal with the same challenges I do, whether it has to do with software, technique, or business has become very important to me and I’ve realized that Photoshop World provides the right venue for me to do that well. I also find that each year I come home inspired and motivated to do my best work, a byproduct from simply being around other creatives who enjoy what they’re doing. That kind of energy is contagious and that battery can always use a recharge.
All that aside, I really like Vegas and it’s a good excuse to get out of the office for a week.