Will WebSockets Revolutionize the Way We Think About Internet Applications?

by Anthony Shull

One of the coolest developments in HTML5 are WebSockets which promise to revolutionize web development as much as Ajax has.

Before Ajax came into popular use users could only load new information into a page if they refreshed the entire page. That was a waste of time and bandwidth as every page load would have to include a lot of redundant information (the header, footer, and navigation) that wasn’t unique to the request. From the user’s perspective, it was a jolting experience which was very far from a desktop application. Ajax gave us developers the ability to communicate with the server without having to reload redundant information. It saved a lot of unnecessary bandwidth usage and gave applications a more desktop-like feel. The term Rich Internet Application was coined to describe this new breed of user experience.

Google Calendar is a perfect example of an Ajax application. But, Ajax had one glaring problem. You could send a request to a server, get information back, and then update a page with that new information, but that communication had to be instigated by the client. The server couldn’t send information that wasn’t requested of it. That doesn’t sound like much of a problem, but there are many applications where the server needs to communicate information without it being requested–scores for a football game, stock prices, chat messages, etc. Almost immediately after Ajax came into the spotlight developers started tackling this problem with complicated workarounds which all fall under the umbrella term Comet.

Most implementations involve the use of long-polling which, in a nutshell, means that you send an Ajax request to the server. It is not returned until the server has something new to communicate. Another request is then sent back to the server to again wait for any new information. That’s how Facebook’s chat works. Unfortunately, Comet techniques require developers to use web technologies in a way they were never intended to be used. They are difficult to implement and hard to understand. Furthermore, because they don’t follow a standard, browser support is very spotty. But, HTML5 WebSockets correct that.

WebSockets allow for bi-directional communication between a server and a client meaning they can be in constant communication in real-time. No page loads or Ajax requests are necessary. Data only gets sent when it needs to be. Because it’s a standard it promises to be more robust and simpler to implement than Comet or Ajax.

WebSockets will definitely revolutionize the way we think about internet applications. It will take some time, however. Currently, only Chrome and Safari support WebSockets. But, Firefox is adding support in Firefox 4 and Opera will as well with Opera 10.7. It is still unclear whether or not the upcoming Internet Explorer 9 will also support them. Until support is more ubiquitous socket.io bridges the gap between Comet and WebSockets. If a user’s browser supports WebSockets, those will be used; if not, socket.io falls back to Ajax or even Flash Sockets. Most importantly, it wraps these differences in a common API so that developers only have to program one application that can be used by anyone. So, though the next major development in web communication is a little ways off we can start preparing for it today.

Anthony Shull will be teaching CE 9555 Digital Short Course – Adobe Flash Fundamentals, CE 2416 Server-Side Web Development with PHP + MySQL and CE 2413 Web Design II during the spring 2011 Continuing Education semester.

Keep an eye out for an interview with Anthony later this month!

A Resource for Teaching Artists Online

The Association of Teaching Artists (ATA), a non-profit professional organization providing advocacy and professional development for artists who teach in schools and in the community in NYS maintains a blog full of articles and links that any teaching artist would find beneficial.

The ATA’s mission is to create a community of Teaching Artists; To empower the practice of Teaching Artists as a profession; To provide a network for communication and the exchange of resources; To collaborate with NYS and national arts organizations and agencies; To collaborate on quality professional development and training; To publically recognize and celebrate distinguished achievement by Teaching Artists in arts education.

The ATA’s website contains a listserv promoting discussion and the exchange of information and resources, a link to their Facebook page, information on the Teaching Artist Distinguished Service to the Field Award as well as a wonderful definition of what a teaching artist is as defined by the Arizona Commission on The Arts, as well as a wonderful piece written by Michael Mao a Teaching Artist in NYC, entitled, Who Are Teaching Artists?

Information concerning the Teaching Artist Certificate Program offered by the University of the Arts and the Philadelphia Arts in Education Partnership in collaboration with the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts, an unprecedented program inclusive of all the arts: visual, performing, literary, media, and crafts, may be obtained by clicking here. This research-based certificate program builds the knowledge and capacity of artists to work alongside teachers and arts specialists in PreK-12 classrooms and community settings creating and implementing best practices residency programs that support learning in and through the arts.

Using the New Bristle Brush in Adobe Illustrator

by Laura Lewis

[Self Portrait, Sarbani M. (student)]

The bristle brush is the latest brush added to Adobe Illustrator’s paintbox. This new tool enables artists and designers to create painterly illustrations. The bristle brush is very much like the brushes used to paint by hand.

[Self Portrait, Stephen T. (student)]

Brush shapes cover the gamut of the painter’s tool box, ranging from fan to round tipped brushes. One can build up colors and textures by layering. This natural feeling of painting is even more enhanced when using a pen tablet. By doing so, artists can see the direction and position of their paintbrush in 3D form. In creating their self portrait, many students in the Adobe Illustrator course chose to experiment with this new tool.

[bristle painting by Sam H. (student)]

Students also used the art & calligraphic brushes in the creation of their self portrait. Experimenting with a variety of brushes can yield very compelling illustrations.

For additional information concerning the use of the bristle brush in Adobe Illustrator you may want to check out the following link.

Museum Without Walls Audio Tour @ Ben Franklin Parkway

Interested in exploring Philadelphia’s public art over the long holiday weekend?

Museum Without Walls is an interactive audio tour, designed to allow locals and visitors to experience Philadelphia’s extensive collection of public art and outdoor sculpture along the Benjamin Franklin Parkway and Kelly Drive.

Philadelphia has more outdoor sculpture than any other American city, yet this extensive collection often goes unnoticed. This program reveals the distinct stories behind each of these works; hear the histories of the 51 outdoor sculptures at 35 stops through these professionally produced three-minute interpretive audio segments.

The many narratives have been spoken by more than 100 individuals, all with personal connections to the pieces of art. One example: in the audio program for the sculpture Iroquois, listeners hear a first-person account from artist Mark di Suvero, who discusses the abstract sculpture and its open shapes that invite public interaction and viewing from multiple angles.

The three-minute audio segments are free to access and are available through a number of mediums. You can download the audio, stream it live from the Museum Without Walls™: AUDIO website, get a mobile app or call 215-399-9000 from your cell phone.

TEDx Philly @ Kimmel Center and live stream

TEDxPhilly – Nov 18, 2010

You may be familiar with TED (Technology, Entertainment and Design) for their sought-after conferences and amazing and inspiring talks available free on their website (over 700 talks posted). They seek to find “ideas worth spreading” from some of the leaders in design, creativity, education, science, art, music, technology and more – and to explore where ideas cross boundaries and ignite new ways of thinking.

TEDx events throughout the world are designed to give communities, organizations and individuals the opportunity to stimulate dialogue through TED-like experiences at a local level. At TEDx events, a combination of live presenters and screenings of TEDTalks videos spark conversation and connections. TEDx events are fully planned and coordinated independently, on a community-by-community basis.

TEDxPhilly celebrates what’s happening right here, right now in Philadelphia. The event’s goal is to showcase practitioners, makers, and thinkers who are contemporary and thought-provoking; who are pushing the boundaries of their own disciplines; and who are working towards a more purposeful, socially responsible future. TEDxPhilly is also a framework where Philadelphians will converge to share ideas that matter, and hopefully, turn those ideas into actionable outcomes after the event.

Held at the Kimmel Center, TEDxPhilly will be streaming live all day on tedxphilly.com. The event is multi-disciplinary by nature and the speakers echo the diverse perspectives present in our city. Log in and check it out!

Inspiration: The Hatch Show Print Shop

Hank Williams Poster, Image from Hatch Show Print

John Legend poster, Image from Ryman Auditorium Gallery

Check out these examples of letterpress type. Since 1879, Hatch Show Print has designed and printed posters for some of the biggest names in music. Based in Nashville, with woodblocks and metal type, the business developed a distinctive style in the early 20th century and soon took on vaudeville acts, minstrel shows and the budding motion-picture industry as clients. Show posters created excitement, covering the sides of buildings and barns in cities and towns throughout the country. The golden age of Hatch was from the mid-1920s’s until about 1952. It was a golden era for country music as well, and Hatch captured the spirit of the times. Hatch worked on other musical genres as well, doing work for the great African-American jazz and blues entertainers of the day, such as Cab Calloway, Bessie Smith, Duke Ellington, and Louis Armstrong.

In addition to musical acts, Hatch produced posters for smaller jobs such as filling stations, laundries, grocery stores, and movie theaters. Now owned by the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum, the Hatch Print Shop currently reprints classic posters of Roy Acuff, Bill Monroe, Johnny Cash, and others. The Hatch Show Print Shop also continues to design posters for the Ryman Auditorium with event venue posters for such current bands as REM, Elvis Costello, Margaret Cho, Lou Reed, Neil Young, Trey Anastasio, John Mayer Trio, Smashing Pumpkins, Olivia Newton John and more. Hatch Show Print History Book

An Interview with Professional Illustrator + CE Faculty Member: Matt Stewart

Please tell us more about your art and design background and what made you become an illustrator?

I’ve been drawing for as long as I can remember, even before I realized I could make a living out of it. I used to buy Dungeons and Dragons manuals and magazines just for the covers. It wasn’t until I was in art school that it hit me that if I was going to make art my living, my best chance at success would be creating the art I love and to emulate the artists I grew up looking at. After graduating from Parsons School of Design in 1999, I worked with Duirwaigh Gallery, where my art was used for the products and prints they sold. They also worked as an agent for me, securing my first private commissions and then my first book covers. I spent a lot of time during that period creating samples for clients I wanted to work for and just trying to get better. It took time to get my stuff out there (and a lot of work) but it paid off in the end.

Your work is full of fantasy + creativity. Where do you draw your inspiration from?

My love for fantasy was cemented by the great fantasy art I grew up looking at–Keith Parkinson, Jeff Easley, Alan Lee, the Hildebrandt Brothers–all those guys got me hooked. (That, and the fact that I’m as big a Tolkien fan as anyone can be). In college I would go to the Metropolitan Museum of art a lot and look at many of the medieval and 19th century paintings. They inspired me not only in the subject matter, which dovetails nicely with what we think of as fantasy, but in the craftsmanship and emotion in the painting. Observation of the real world is also probably the biggest inspiration for me. I love history, science, geography, and literature and fantasy is a place where I can indulge and utilize all those interests. It’s wide open. Anything can exist in fantasy; you’re only limited by what you can imagine.

Could you describe for us your typical ‘start to finish’ work flow when working on a project?

Everything starts out in a sketchbook as thumbnails–small drawings no more than a few inches in size. From there it’s scanned in and the drawing is developed in Photoshop as far as it can go just from imagination. Then reference is gathered to aid in the solidification of the image, whether it is photo reference, maquettes, studies from models, etc. Next, a comprehensive drawing is done to really nail down what I want. Then the drawing is transferred to a primed board, and the painting can begin. If everything goes right, the finish should be done relatively quickly and easily, with all the hard work being done in the preliminary stages.

What are your tools of the trade, both hardware and software?

Probably the most important tool is a drawing pencil. It’s the workhorse. My finished paintings are done in oils, usually on MDF (medium density fiberboard, aka Masonite). I use Liquin as a painting medium, to speed up the drying and to control the viscosity of the paint. Photoshop is also invaluable to me, both in preliminary stages of images, but also for reference, and for refining finished image files for clients.

What, for you are the pros and cons of being a designer?

As a freelance artist many of the pros and con are two sides of the same coin. Being my own boss means I have no one to blame when problems arise. There are no working hours, stuff just has to get done, regardless of how long it takes or how much sleep I might not get. I’m also responsible for managing my own schedule of work, so I have to be very aware of what I can and can’t take on. Waiting to get paid can be frustrating as well. It’s all worth it, because it lets me spend my day doing what I love to do.

How does your job as an illustrator influence your life? Do you feel that you see things around you differently for example?

I’m always thinking about art. I might see a gnarled up tree in my neighborhood and think, “I’ve got to do something with that tree in it.” I see people in the street and think, “That person’s face would make a great wizard or hero or whatever.” And being someone working in the fantasy genre, it gives me an excuse as a 34 year old adult to still remain a 12 year old at heart.

What are you working on now?

Aside from Magic: The Gathering cards, which I can’t show until publication, I just finished a portrait of Strider from The Lord of the Rings. You can see it in the studio shot on the easel. It’s a personal piece of mine, inspired by the NC Wyeth and Howard Pyle painting.

What are your favorite 5 websites, and why?

To name a few that I like..

  1. Gurney Journey, the blog of Dinotopia artist James Gurney . I’ve learned a ton of useful information about art techniques, art history and science from his blog.
  2. The Illustration Exchange. It’s a meeting place for artists and collectors.
  3. Jon Schindehette’s blog Art Order. Jon, the art director for Dungeons and Dragons, blogs about great art as well as the business end of illustration.
  4. Underpaintings. Great blog if you’re into 19th century and contemporary realism.
  5. Creature Spot All about creatures, featuring incredible art by some of the best concept artists and illustrators out there.

What does your workspace look like?

My wife Gina (who is also an artist and a University of the Arts grad) and I have a small house where the entire upstairs is our studio. We basically bought the house because of the space upstairs. It’s a great space to work in. We intentionally never refinished the hardwood floors so we don’t have to worry about spilling paint or anything. I have an easel and drawing table, along with bookshelves full of books for reference and inspiration. On one side of my easel is a moveable taboret where I keep my palette and brushes. On the other side I have a computer where I can bring up photo reference. There’s a big closet in the back to store all my paintings and some equipment and supplies too.

What is your typical day like?

It’s pretty simple. I start the day by trying to get all the busy work–emails, paperwork, errands, etc.–out of the way in the morning. Then I paint or draw from the late morning until the afternoon. After lunch I go back to the drawing board or easel until my wife Gina gets home from her day job as a graphic designer. After dinner, I do the dishes and spend some more time with Gina. Around 9 it’s back to work for a while. The end of the day depends on how up against the deadlines I am.

As a final word, do you have any tips for upcoming artists and designers hoping to break into the business?

I guess the most important thing is to work hard, draw a lot, and try to find that balance between what’s hot out there and what you personally like to do. Just don’t regurgitate what you see. That way, you separate yourself from the herd, but you still satisfy the needs of the market.

Visit Matt online by checking out his website.
Matthew Stewart will be teaching CE 1006 Illustration Portfolio this spring, Wednesday evenings, 7 pm – 10 pm, Jan 26 – Apr 6. For details about this course visit the Continuing Education website

Inspiration: Illustrator Charley Harper

Cardinal Close Up Wall Mural, Charley Harper, image from Charley Harper Studio

Charley Harper was a Cincinnati-based American Modernist artist, productive for over six decades, best known for his highly stylized wildlife prints, posters and book illustrations. In a style he called “minimal realism”, Charley Harper captured the essence of his subjects with the fewest possible visual elements. The results are bold, colorful, graphic and often whimsical.

Renowned New York based designer Todd Oldham rediscovered Charley’s work in 2001, and collaborated closely with him; combing through his extensive archive to edit and design a stunning coffee table book celebrating his illustration style. Harper passed away in 2007 at the age of 84.  Todd Oldham wrote of Harper, “Charley’s inspired yet accurate color sense is undeniable, and when combined with the precision he exacts on rendering only the most important details, one is always left with a sense of awe.” Enjoy clicking through some inspiring images at:  Charley Harper Art Studio. And to see the book of Charley’s work that Todd Oldham co-authored, click here. I hope his art inspires you and provides some illustrative design history context for your work.

The Underbelly Project

Damon Ginandes, a New York artist, putting the finishing touches on his painting.  Copyright 2010 The New York Times Company.  Caption + Photograph via NYTIMES.COM

This summer, over 100 artists from around the world contributed to ‘The Underbelly Project,’ a project in which artists were asked to (illegally) create large-scale works on the walls of an abandoned New York subway station.  You can read about the project in Jasper Rees’s article for the New York Times, “Street Art Way Below the Street.”

To see what was created, check out the video and slideshow below:
VIDEO: The Underbelly Project
SLIDESHOW: The Underbelly Project

Related articles:
The Ghosts of New York Subway Stations Past
Police Arrest 20 Who Tried To Sneak Into Unused Subway Station Filled With Art

More images of the works:
via Luna Park
via Vandalog

Follow-Up: Night + Low Light Class Takes in Center City Nightlife

Cheryl O. shooting Rachel on the street near Hinda’s studio (photo by Hinda)

On Wednesday, October 13, Hinda Schuman’s (CE 1745) Night + Low Light photo class met at 23rd and Arch to photograph the Cira and Comcast buildings. The following mages were taken by the students and represent only a small portion of the photos captured that evening.

“We all set out to photograph the same buildings and bridges. What I enjoyed most was watching how some students zigged when others would zag. Some students chose to look away from the Comcast building and photograph under the old railroad bridge; a great location beautifully illuminated in orange light with its massive concrete forms with pieces chipping off; all bathed in a strange light which made the walls seem ominous. One photographer included a lock and chain from a parking lot in her image of the Cira Center- and many students ended up lying on the ground to capture different angles. I thought the final photographs were wonderful scenes of Philadelphia at night – each person saw something slightly differently – and this is what makes photography exciting.” -Hinda

“I love how the nighttime sky transforms the city; creating a beautiful composition of colored lights against a black backdrop. Shooting the bridges and buildings whose lights were softly reflected in the Schuylkill River was a serene experience. I could have stayed there all night. In complete contrast, later that evening, I was set up with my tripod on the traffic island in front of 30th Street Station, photographing the cars as they streaked past–very exhilarating! The city of Philadelphia has so much to offer visually, it’s a great place to be a photographer and this class has made me much more aware of the varying qualities of light at different times of the day- this new awareness will forever impact how I take photographs.”-Susan K. (student)

“I chose this photograph because I love car trails. This picture gives me the feeling that the cars went right up the street and straight through 30th street station. I hope everyone likes it as much as I do.”-Cheryl O. (student)

“The classes shoot with Hinda by the river and 30th station was not only interesting, it was an important start towards understanding how to shoot a cityscape. Working as a group out there on the street was a great setting for sharing and learning. I look forward to more!” -Marie S. (student)

(photo by Marie S.)

“I wanted to take a nighttime photography class because I have always been interested in capturing motion and light. The night offers many opportunities for exploration — just varying the exposure allows one to create a mood that would not be seen by the naked eye.” -Valerie B (student)

Ed braves the elevator in Hinda’s studio- he survived the ride.
(photo by Hinda Schuman)

“It was a very instructional experience. Hinda gave us the freedom to do what we wanted to do but was there to help us when we needed some help and guidance. This class in particular illustrated what I like about these continuing ed classes. They are education and quite competitive but also lots of fun. And they are instructed by someone who is a true expert in the field.” – Mark S. (student)

“We learn so much from Hinda on how to photograph different scenes. I love this photo because it almost looks light time is standing still since the water is so smooth. -Kristen K. (student)

“I loved shooting long exposures this night and capturing the natural light of the sky, street lights and building lights all together.” -Kristen K. (student)

I thoroughly enjoyed the downtown class shoot. Although I have gone out many times on my own to take pictures, the dynamic and energy of the class and guidance from Hinda really made this an experience a step beyond what I could of accomplished on my own. – Cheryl T (student)

(photo by Cheryl T.)

(photo by Ed M.)

(photo by Ed M.)

(photo by Mary Anne B.)

(photo by Mary Anne B.)

(photo by Mary Anne B.)

(photo by Rachel P.)

(photo by Rachel P.)