Kyle Webster, Baron Fig, and Adobe Fresco
This is a story about a collaboration that resulted in an imaginative solution for savoring quiet and filling the minutes between things with something less like distraction and more like guided creativity.
It wasn’t a concern about society’s collective inability to savor quiet that compelled illustrator/Photoshop brush creator/Adobe evangelist Kyle Webster to contact Baron Fig, well known in the creative community after launching a successful 2013 Kickstarter campaign with a single hardbound notebook. But, with the tagline Tools for Thinking and a mission statement “Do your best thinking—at home, work, and in-between,” the company seemed a perfect collaborator for some of the ideas Kyle had been bouncing around.
So he reached out to Joey Cofone, a co-founder and CEO of Baron Fig. It wasn’t long before their like-mindedness resulted in a concept. And a plan.
When they landed on the topic of the meditative qualities of drawing they knew they were on to something. Kyle remembers it this way: “We started talking about how drawing can provide a pause in the day where you can allow yourself to not become distracted by whatever else is going on.” Joey, a designer, remembered a time when he was learning to draw and how tracing not only fostered drawing skills, but took his mind off more pressing concerns, “I used to trace as a way of studying human anatomy; it was not only educational, it was relaxing.”
They decided on a series of illustrations printed faintly on the pages of a notebook. Anyone who didn’t want to have to think about what to draw didn’t have to; and those who did could use the tracings as jumping off points for further creative exploration.
With the concept cemented, all they needed were the drawings.
Kyle jumped right in. And, even before it was completed, the project became a solution. Kyle used his downtime—time he could have spent on social media, reading emails, or making phone calls—to draw. On long flights, in crowded airports, and the solitude of hotel rooms, he transformed spare time into something other than activity-filled space. Sure it was work, but it was also a stream-of-consciousness exercise during which he would simply start drawing and see where he ended up.
Draw. Hide. Repeat.
With an idea, but never with a focused plan or a concrete vision of the final drawing, Kyle would take out his iPad, launch Adobe Fresco, create a new vector layer, and draw. He said about his art: “The cool thing about was that I would just start drawing; they are pure line art exercises that have no preparation and no underdrawing. So a lot of them may have started as one idea and changed as I went along.”
Because he’d been so heavily involved with Adobe’s engineers in the development of the raster brushes in Fresco, and because most of his Fresco demos focus on the more fanciful strokes of those same brushes, Kyle hadn’t spent a lot of time with the vector brushes. But the project was a return to a former, often-used style, “If you were to go back a decade or so, and look at my work, most of it was flat color or black-and-white line art for spot illustrations. I would do all of it in Flash (which is vector).”
Kyle’s process, in brief, went something like this: 1) Open a new canvas in Fresco. 2) Create a vector layer. 3) Draw. 4) Hide the layer. 5) Repeat Steps 2, 3, and 4 as many times as necessary. “I didn’t do separate illustrations or there would have been too many files. I’d just hide and go. Hide and go. It’s really fast to do it that way.”
Sending the work into the world
Kyle called a canvas “done” when it had ten layers (each a separate and distinct drawing); that’s when he’d save it as a PSD and send it off to Baron Fig. He sent Baron Fig eight files each of them with ten drawings. Never once having had to sit at his desk to draw (or to send the files).
Joey, at the start a bit concerned about the sheer size of the commission, had this to say about the process: “Kyle is a machine. He was just churning out drawings. And sending them ten at a time. I was insanely impressed.”
Saved as PSDs, and sent directly from Fresco, Kyle’s files could be opened in Photoshop, where the vector layers would automatically convert to Smart Objects, preserving their ability to scale without loss of resolution. It meant that Baron Fig didn’t have to worry about the quality of the line art as drawings were resized. It made the whole process effortless.
The result is Trace, a Baron Fig Special Edition soft-cover notebook with 72 lightly-printed illustrations drawn by Kyle. The point? Creative meditation.