"Adobe Illustrator is a horrible piece of....software"
January 30, 2019 8:54 PM   Subscribe

laser cut peacock mandala: MeFi's own MillMan walks us through the process of creating a mesmerizing, intricate, absolutely gorgeous mandala from 49 layers of 140lb cardstock. [via mefi projects]
posted by lalex (43 comments total) 115 users marked this as a favorite
When I see art like this is when I long for fuck-you money.
posted by longdaysjourney at 9:07 PM on January 30 [6 favorites]

posted by Jpfed at 9:09 PM on January 30

So, so pretty and intricate!
posted by ellieBOA at 9:29 PM on January 30

Beautiful! Link to one of the technical inspirations for the project: Eric Standley
posted by recklessbrother at 9:34 PM on January 30 [3 favorites]

I saw the post and I was all meh and then I was going back to the front page and I thought... wait... and so I clicked, and at first I was all huh and then hrm and then huh again and then ooh and wat and then wow and then moar wow and then HOLYCRAPTHATSAMAZING.

What a work of art. If I had the right setting to hang something like that in, I would totally want something like that! Astonishing. Like the sand paintings only with layers and it gets nearly Pollack at points and it's just totally simply wow!

Thanks so much for posting! Congrats, MillMan, for creating something truly astounding!
posted by hippybear at 9:37 PM on January 30 [5 favorites]

Also, the journey as presented really adds to the experience of the art. Thank you for documenting all that.
posted by hippybear at 9:39 PM on January 30 [1 favorite]

I love everything about this
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 10:03 PM on January 30

WOW *mind-blown emoji* WOW WOW WOW!

This is so cool, I love that this exists in the world. Thanks for posting, latex, and MillMan, amazing work. I can't believe you kept going after you got a corrupt file when you were still at the design stage knowing there was so much work ahead!

I'm a graphic designer, so I work daily with the Adobe suite, and I am often reminded that though I might be considered an "expert" in Illustrator at this point in my career, I have nowhere near the craft and skill of someone like you to create something like this.
posted by the thorn bushes have roses at 10:28 PM on January 30 [1 favorite]

Dude. Whoa.
posted by gwint at 10:31 PM on January 30

That's impressive! I've been looking into making a topo map along these lines, but even a simple map at ~10 layers is a complex affair. That mandala almost broke my mind.
posted by Harald74 at 10:52 PM on January 30

This is fucking. Incredible. And i see you're in Minneapolis part time? I would love to say hi and befriend you.
posted by odinsdream at 11:23 PM on January 30

Prince... Lizzo... MillMan... all the cool artists are from Minneapolis.
posted by hippybear at 11:30 PM on January 30

Wow, this is absolutely phenomenal! This is the sort of thing I find myself idly wondering about making one day, but then I am reminded that it not only involves hard work, but also dealing with Adobe software, and at that point I basically give up
posted by DoctorFedora at 11:41 PM on January 30 [2 favorites]

I want to defend Illustrator, what with it being my main medium since 2000. But it’s a weird damn thing. It’s amazingly powerful if you can learn to think like it does, but it sure does not think like most other art programs. And doing symmetrical stuff requires a whole lot of weird technical bullshit, or a lot of manual cut and paste, which is its own kind of bullshit.

Amusingly enough the metaphor that I started out with, and like to explain it to people with, is that it is magical cut paper. Figures.
posted by egypturnash at 12:04 AM on January 31 [3 favorites]

Inspired on edibles, enjoyed on edibles
posted by edeezy at 12:11 AM on January 31 [1 favorite]

This is amazing, but I just want to point out that at the very top you say

I went with a mandala because frankly I'm not that artistic (or I haven't been in years anyway)

And then go on to completely blow that statement OUT OF THE WATER. Like, seriously, not artistic???

As a former "artistic" person I know exactly what you mean, but... still...
posted by lollymccatburglar at 12:45 AM on January 31 [6 favorites]

This is amazingly cool
posted by aubilenon at 2:29 AM on January 31

I've been an Illustrator user since Illustrator 88. What's kind of ironic here (I think. I'm never quite sure about the word's use) is that, while the artist disparages learning and using Illustrator, my key to understanding how Illustrator thinks and works is to think of your work as layers of paper cut-outs. They're using Illustrator exactly as I envision whenever I'm working on a project in Illustrator.

That mandala is crazy-amazing. And, when I look at all those intricate compound paths, I can hear how much groaning Illustrator must have been doing under that load.

And, yeah, longdaysjourney, if only I had eff-you money...
posted by Thorzdad at 5:19 AM on January 31

Beautiful work. I can't believe he did it in illustrator though. Any (literally any) CAD package can handle this sort of thing much better than Illustrator, with zero stress.
I regularly jump back and forth between Illustrator and Rhino, using the first for the pretty colors and text, and Rhino for the geometry.
posted by signal at 5:49 AM on January 31 [1 favorite]

Amazing, but talk about suffering for your art.
posted by tommasz at 6:07 AM on January 31

The thing with illustrator is that it was clearly duct taped together from various other pieces of software over the decades and it's all just incongruent in a way that even other adobe products are not. Once I learned how to use pathfinder in particular the project really opened up, but the learning process was so unintuitive that I like to crap on it.

signal, I'll look into CAD packages for future projects. It wouldn't have occurred to me to go that route.

lollymccatburglar, that's an identity thing as much as anything. I also associate art skill with the ability to freehand draw or paint, and I can draw a horse about as well as a 10 year old.

I should have expanded on the glib drug comments a little bit. Most of my work on this was done sober, even most of the creative side. But the thc definitely cracked it open creatively, even if it took a day for my mind to chew on where to go next, which it usually did.
posted by MillMan at 6:14 AM on January 31 [6 favorites]

I would think Rhinoceros would be perfect for this.
posted by Mei's lost sandal at 6:44 AM on January 31 [1 favorite]

I gasped at In retrospect I think I would have liked gold for the top layer better.
posted by Vesihiisi at 6:58 AM on January 31

That is beautiful.
posted by Dip Flash at 7:05 AM on January 31

I posted a thread about Eric Standley awhile back, and every once in awhile, I visit the website of the gallery that reps his work and despair that I will never have that kind of coin to buy art.

Now I can also despair that I will never have the kind of coin to buy a laser cutter!
posted by jacquilynne at 7:20 AM on January 31 [1 favorite]

I love this. I love all of everything about it.
posted by nikaspark at 9:10 AM on January 31

MillMan, I saw your work the other day in the "SHARE YOR HAPPIEZZ" meTa and it immediately reminded me of the ceiling work on the Dunhuang Cave shrines. And I am glad to finally know the reason I've always had an uneasy relationship with Illustrator, and revert to angry simian mode whenever I use it. Truly lovely, thanks for sharing it!
posted by Rube R. Nekker at 9:13 AM on January 31 [1 favorite]

jacquilynne, if you're in Toronto I can guarantee there's a maker shop near you that will have one. I don't think owning one is worth it unless you're running a business.
posted by MillMan at 9:22 AM on January 31

I'm not in Toronto anymore, but I'm sure Ottawa has maker spaces, too.

I actually have a fairly long time craving to own one of the cutting machines directed at crafters -- which is much more in the realm of coin I can drop and probably will once I sort out my housing situation for the long term. It seems like it should be possible to do small scale pieces of this sort of thing using a Cricut or a Sillhouette cutter?
posted by jacquilynne at 9:47 AM on January 31

How very elegant!

I can't imagine the tenacity it took to stick with Illustrator. I've taught myself tons of software, including CAD and various open source tools like Inkscape and Photoscape. I even had to bludgeon my way thru learning basic DOS back in the 80's in a small town where no one was doing anything with computers yet!

I've tried so many times to learn Illustrator over the years and it's just the most counterintuitive and clunky piece of shit software I've ever tried to use. I've given up every time.
posted by yoga at 10:49 AM on January 31 [1 favorite]

I would think Rhinoceros would be perfect for this.

I've used Rhino and agree it's an amazing, but you legally use Adobe Illustrator for significantly less than $1000.
posted by Mr.Encyclopedia at 11:54 AM on January 31

Very beautiful and inspiring work.
posted by oceanjesse at 12:41 PM on January 31

Man that was so much more impressive than I expected both technically and aesthetically.
posted by ShakeyJake at 2:37 PM on January 31

I've used Rhino and agree it's an amazing, but you legally use Adobe Illustrator for significantly less than $1000.

Just to add; Rhino is freely use-able for a 90 day trial period.

(disclaimer; I have been involved in Rhinoceros development but have no business interest with McNeel, its creator)
posted by Mei's lost sandal at 3:02 PM on January 31

As a design student, this physically hurts me. TEACH ME YOUR GLUEING TECHNIQUE PLEASE
posted by yueliang at 6:32 PM on January 31 [1 favorite]

Yeah, this is mind-blowingly intricate. "Beautiful" just doesn't do it justice.
posted by WalkerWestridge at 5:00 PM on February 1

You could work up a Mandala-creator in Grasshopper in Rhino, not to do something as intricate as this but to get you started and be able to move a couple of sliders around to try out different configurations.
Or just learn some scripting and do the whole geometry in Python. Most CAD packages, including free ones like Blender, have Python as a scripting language.
posted by signal at 8:27 PM on February 1

To clarify, I'm not saying you could replace the incredible work done by MillMan with a simple script, but rather that a (complex) script would be a good starting point to experiment with a few hundred different geometric configurations, before picking one to develop.
posted by signal at 6:37 AM on February 2

Regardless I'm intrigued to try out Rhino and python scripting. So on my laptop, yeah, illustrator was driving my CPU to the edge starting half way through the project. On my mid-level gaming PC, though, I was running illustrator on a 4k monitor with no lag at all. If my next laptop is much beefier, future projects shouldn't be too bad. Unless I start going to 100 or 150 layers...

I'm tempted to turn this into a small business too. Build up a small portfolio over the next few years and see what I can do with it. Worst case I have cool art for my walls that I was going to make anyway.
posted by MillMan at 2:19 PM on February 2 [1 favorite]

If you do an artwork that is 150 layers of cut cardboard glued together, you'll need to reinforce the wall you want to hang it on.
posted by hippybear at 3:27 PM on February 2

MillMan: hit me up if you need help with the Rhino and/or Python.
posted by signal at 4:37 PM on February 2 [1 favorite]

This is truly awesome!!!!
posted by natasha_k at 8:35 PM on February 2

The thing with illustrator is that it was clearly duct taped together from various other pieces of software over the decades and it's all just incongruent in a way that even other adobe products are not.
Illustrator was Adobe's very first application, so it's less "duct taped together from various other pieces of software" and more "grown organically, like the Winchester Mystery House".

That said, modern print and digital publishing was built on a handful of applications and Illustrator is one of them, so I give Adobe props for three decades of creating and evolving such a powerful (if imperfect) brush.
posted by ArmandoAkimbo at 4:36 PM on February 3

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