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Book Review of:
The Arts and Crafts Computer
Using Your Computer as an Artist's Tool


Susan Ives is a past president of Alamo PC.

From the October, 2002 issue of PC Alamode Magazine

Computer art could be an oxymoron, like jumbo shrimp or military intelligence. Never the twain shall meet. Jane Ashfordís book will dispel any reservations you may have. Computers and art, far from being an oxymoron, are a natural fit.

The last art class I took was in sixth grade and I donít have a lick of inborn artistic talent. Ironically, my computer skills have turned me into a designer by default. I started desktop publishing in the mid-80s with Ventura Publisher ver. 1.0 and began designing Web sites when merely inserting a photograph elicited oohs and aahs from an adoring public. Iíve had to learn design to remain sane and employed. Books like this have been my salvation.

The first half of The Arts and Crafts Computer: Using Your Computer as an Artistís Tool By Jane Ashford, Peachpit Press, 2002 set the scene for creating art and crafts with your computer. Ashford covers digital tools (software, types of graphic files, resolution and printers); working with photos and scans; using type and design, and gathering art supplies, including paper and adhesives. Her examples are awe inspiring, and in these pages alone I came up with a hundred new ideas that I want to try, from some playful ideas for manipulating photographs to the confidence to experiment with unusual papers in my printer.

The remainder of the book contains detailed instructions for specific projects and inspirations that use these techniques in innovative ways. 

Other projects include making cards, envelopes and several kinds of small books; making gifts and decorations, including mouse mats and coasters; working with special media, such as magnetic paper and cloth; making gifts for children, including paper dolls, puzzles, board games, masks and pinwheels and making small decorated boxes. 

The instructions are clear and lavishly illustrated in color. Templates are included for the more complex projects. There is an excellent list of resources in the back, including sources for exotic papers and high quality clip art.

This book is not for the computer novice. To get full use of it you should have a working knowledge of a graphics program such as Adobe Photoshop or Corel Draw and have access and know how to use a scanner. Some projects are easier than others but even the ones beyond my abilities were an inspiration to learn more.

I was intrigued by the small books, and made a tiny accordion book, not much more than an inch square, to give to a summer intern when he returned to college. Much to my surprise it was a hit and now everyone wants one. Iíve created a monster. One of the unusual papers Ashford uses is a gold-embellished Chinese joss paper, and I was serendipitously given some for my birthday. My next project will be doing something with that. And I really want to try to do something with the backlit Mylar paper Ė perhaps a lampshade or a holder for a votive candle. I want to make a small box out of transparency film. And . . . well, you get the idea. This is a book teeming with possibilities!

The Arts and Crafts Computer: Using Your Computer as an Artistís Tool 
by Jane Ashford
Peachpit Press, 2002

If you canít find this book locally, it is available for purchase from Amazon in the Alamo PC bookstore.

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