Macs at Work
Mike Gorman

On September 4, 1996, in Interview, Macs at Work, by Russ Walkowich

This month we’re going to pay a visit with Mike Gorman, My Mac’s graphic artist and, as you will soon discover, an artist with background, skills and abilities far above those of mortal artists.

My Mac-Mike, welcome to the text part of My Mac! How about telling us about yourself and your art background?

Mike: I was born a poor, … Just kidding. I grew up in a really small town–Winslow, Maine. It’s inland. We moved there after a few years (when I was really young) of living on the coast of Maine. It’s basically built around Scott Paper Company, and maybe has a population of 5000 people. My dad worked for the state of Maine, so we were never a part of the whole Scott Paper clique that everyone else in my town was in.
When I hit tenth grade, my dad got a job with the United Nations, and we moved to Vienna, Austria. I lived there 2 years, which was fantastic. I learned SO much about art and different cultures being there. I went to college at Parsons school of Design, and up until I graduated, I got to go back to Vienna every summer and Christmas. I have a BFA in Illustration from Parsons, which is one of the hot art schools in the country. It’s REALLY hard to get in. Surprisingly, when I showed up the first day, two kids I went to high school with in Winslow where going there too–once again proving how small the world is…

My Mac- What do you do full time?

Mike: Right now I am a freelance illustrator and designer. I’ve worked in advertising, book, newspaper, ‘zine and magazine publishing as well. I had office jobs for a few years, but soon learned I could make more just freelancing out of my apartment. I’ve done a lot of book cover work for St. Martin’s Press, in both design and illustration. The money I make from that alone kind of floats me in between other work.

The majority of work I’ve been doing as of late is on the computer, especially with the strides technology is making in regards to the Web/Internet. It seems EVERYONE out there is building a Web site/interactive game/cd-rom project, and since they all want to have the “hip” look, a lot of cartoonists are cashing in on the hype. My Mac was my first “venture” into the world of electronic publishing, with the exception of a small spot illustration I did for Entertainment Weekly last November that still exists in their archive folder of back issues. I really didn’t know HOW to approach electronic publishing before I went onto the web. The majority of my Mac work was putting together mechanicals for book covers, which entailed scanning in the cover art (usually just fpo) and designing the cover around the art in Quark, later doing the spine, flaps, and back ad, then grouping it all on a Syquest and sending it to a print house. Now that I’ve been doing covers for My Mac for a few months, things are starting to change with my work.

My Mac- When did you get interested in computers, and in particular, the Macintosh?

Mike: I have always loved the Mac. An Apple store opened in town, and I used to go in all the time to mess around on their machines using MacPaint. I thought it was so high tech. I had learned computing on old TRS-80’s, and VIC 20’s my friends had. This was back with the first generation of Macs, when they had like 1 meg of RAM. That was a long time ago. I was always fascinated with the windows (and not Gates rip-off) format. My dad had a monolith of an IBM at home, which basically ran BASIC, which meant a lot of —

10 PRINT “MIKE”
20 GOTO 10

–whereas on the Mac, you could actually DO things!

My first Mac was a Mac Plus that I got in college. It still had the LOOK of the old Macs, like in that comic Bloom County, but had a whopping 2 megs of RAM and I had a 80 megabyte hard drive and printer! It was an ok machine–but I admit I really just played games on it and wrote papers. I mean, you just couldn’t do enough on ANY computer back then.

My Mac- Would you please describe your Mac setup.

Mike: It’s my baby. I bought it as a bundle last summer mainly out of anger towards the company I was working for at the time. I was in book publishing, and was their main mechanical artist (I put all the type together and set it up to go to the printer for the book jackets). Unfortunately, the two years I was there, I had to do almost ALL my work by hand (a lot of Exacto knife cutting and rubber cement). I begged them to get me a Mac, as it would save time and money to do this electronically (and mind you-this was 1994-1995, and I was the only one in the department WITHOUT a Mac!) Finally, after I ordered my computer, they finally caved in and got me one at work. A month
later, when the Mac came in, I was let go! To the DAY! Oh well, they’ve kept me VERY busy since, farming out work to me at home.

The 7100/80 is a fantastic setup for the design world. It’s fast, reliable, and from what I know the least buggy from the 61/71/8100 generation. I have 24 megs of RAM, with Ram Doubler on top of that. I still want to boost my Ram to 40 megs of physical Ram, especially since prices have dropped so much on memory. My hard drive is only 700 megs, but I produce a lot of my work directly on Zip disks, preferring to keep my hard drive pretty much empty. I only keep the system folder, a few games, and my applications on it…and a few other things. I do this because when I first got my 7100, I piled a whole bunch of stuff on it, and my hard drive got corrupted, causing me to have to re-initialize the entire drive. In the wake of the crash, I realized how much work I had lost, and what a pain it was to reload all this stuff on the drive again. You also wouldn’t believe how fast my start up time is now…
Sometimes I wish I had a bigger hard drive, but really I run a lot of my work right off Zip disks. I love the Zip drive. I do a lot of underground film making with my quick cam, and store and run the films right off the disks! Plus, unfortunately for Syquest, it has become the industry standard for sending files. I’m glad. Those old Syquest machines were so clunky, and the disks were CONSTANTLY getting corrupted. I have never had a problem with a Zip.

My Mac- What software and other hardware do you use in your work?

Mike: I bought a most excellent scanner–an Avec color Office 2400 scanner. It
was a steal at about $300 bucks, especially because it came grouped with Omni
Page Deluxe, Photoshop LE, and KPT SE for free. It is a great thermal (cold bulb–no need to worry about it overheating, and consequently, no vents to expose its innards to dust…) scanner, with the insane ability to scan up to 9500 dpi (I kid you not!) and
is super fast at scans. I highly recommend one although I haven’t seen them for sale any where in a while. (my friends have looked, too!)

My favorite software products are the industry standards–Adobe Photoshop, Quark, and Illustrator. These are the best. Photoshop is a brilliant program, one that is
SO powerful and interesting that a lot of times, I find myself just experimenting with it for fun, as opposed to watching TV. The work I do for My Mac is first drawn with a brush, scanned into Photoshop, and then I drop in color with the paint bucket tool. I also have another style that is more dark and blurry that I use, where I scan in a picture and manipulate it with Photoshop. I guess they call it photo-imaging. I’ve only had a few pieces published in that style.

Illustrator is a tough one that I use exclusively for putting type on wavy lines or on arches. And Quark is by far the greatest publishing tool out there. I use it to design my comics. You do need Suitcase to use it, though. They tell you that if you drop fonts in the System Folder and restart you can use them, but this REALLY slows down the machine (especially if you’re dumping HUGE amounts of fonts in there), and scatters the System Folder pretty badly. Suitcase lets you open specific fonts until you shut down. I’m getting into DOCMaker now as well. Haven’t finished the project I’m working on with it yet, but soon you’ll all see it. I also use Adobe Premiere for my films. It really is a great program.

My Mac- What is a typical day for you and your Mac?

Mike: Well, I play A LOT of games on it. That’s how I blow off steam. I’m into
those 3-d shoot-em-ups like Marathon. I also am really into (gasp!) America
Online. All my friends are on it (most live out of state) so we all play havoc in the different chat rooms, and email Photoshop manipulated photos of each other back and forth. The machine usually goes on when I wake up, and off an hour or two before I go to bed. I’ve been downloading TONS of Freeware and Shareware, game demos, etc., but I think it’s about time to clean out the closet. I like a machine with virtually nothing on the drive (200 megs, tops!) So that, in the event of a need for re-initialization, I don’t lose too much, and I can be up and running within an hour of such a crash. Jobs are few and far between (and most of my money is made through painting and illustration) so they aren’t part of the daily grind.

So usually how it goes is, I get a call from somebody who is either going to fax or now email a manuscript or idea to me. I usually like doing my own ideas, as I hate art direction. I am pretty quick to get an idea for the drawing, usually playing off the sarcasm or humor of the writer. (No, I don’t do much ‘pretty art’… Most of the jobs I get are for articles that are twisted or sarcastic…) Once done, I labor over the composition of the drawing. That always takes the longest. Especially now, because I’m trying to visualize what, on top of the drawn art, will happen with the color once the
art is scanned in. I’m also trying to explore layering with Photoshop, i.e. what subtle extra elements can I put into the background of the art, to make the art ‘fuller’. So those two new elements are an offshoot of going electronic.

I will ALWAYS draw my work by hand. I can NEVER see my art being produced solely on a computer. I love drawing, especially with a brush, and no Wacom-tablet thingy will ever duplicate the feel of drawing brush to paper. But I have found that I can do a lot of wild things with color on the computer that I never could have tried by hand.

I get the sketch down, scan it in, and email it with notes to the client. After making whatever revisions, I ink it, scan it in, and then start making copies of the original scan, so I can play around with colors and layering. It’s funny, I have barely gotten ANY color illustration work as far as editorial illustration goes, but now almost every piece I’ve been doing lately has been in color. This is one of the nice things about electronic
publishing: there are NO printing costs to deal with (only hard drive space…) so color doesn’t have to be a luxury thing anymore — it can now be something to exploit. Most of the work is done really low resolution, as I then email the art to the client once it’s finished, and unfortunately, the majority of e-zines and web sites HAVE to use low-res art. It does take a little getting used to seeing my labored over ‘as perfect as I can get it’ line work get transformed to low res fuzz, but that’s all that can be done with the web right now…

My Mac- What are some of the new projects that you’re working on or would like to work on (in your spare time after doing the artwork for My Mac, of course!)?

Mike: I just did some work on a web site that I believe is the first of its kind!
Up to now, the world has been able to read just about the dryest political dribble you could possible find in any publication at . Slate is a web-magazine published by Bill Gates and edited by the talented Michael Kingsley.
Well, a friend of mine (a political satirist) whose article I used to illustrate for a local newspaper got together a band of other politically savvy satirists and put out the extremely funny :http://www.stale.com. You have to see the original to appreciate the lampoon. I think this is the first time an actual web site has been lampooned in history! I did the cover art, as well as a lampoon of the comic strip “Doodlenium”, a regular feature in Slate by Mark Alan Stamaty. My lampoon is entitled “Scribblenium”, so
check it out!

This job was completely handled electronically. I was contacted by phone, emailed the ideas for the cover, as well as the script for the “Scribblenium” strip. I drew the sketchs, scanned them in, emailed them over, and then, after a little tweaking, inked, scanned and emailed the final art. We are hoping to get advertisers to sponsor the site, which in turn will bring $$$ (hopefully!) In any case, this has immediately become a newsworthy event: Newsweek is going to plug it in their cyber review section, ABC Radio, USA Today, and the Associated Press has reported on the event as well! As
of the first 7 hours of being on the web, Stale has gotten 26,000 hits! Not too shabby! (and I just got word that MSNBC wants to interview us! YIKES!) I am also trying to finally finish up three other projects right now: first and foremost, the new edition of “Cold Sweat”, which began as an email newsletter, but now will be an interactive magazine put together with DOCMaker, which is how “My Mac” is produced. It will include the usual news of the weird, jokes and mayhem of past issues of Cold Sweat, but will also have a lot of music/game/zine reviews, and a ton of my color art. I also HAVE to sit down and finish issue 3 of “Air Guitar”, my comic. I have a lot done, but quite a few strips to go. The design work on the interior pages is finished, but I still need a cover, and more page art to be finished (all by hand, no Mac involved). It will be the first comic I publish using actual offset, as opposed to xeroxing, so I’m pretty excited to see how it works out.

Finally, I am going to put together a web page. I just found out that you can post a web page as large as 2 megs PER SCREEN NAME for FREE on AOL, so look for it soon. It will be covering basically Horror movies, comics, news of the weird, and other passions of mine. I’m trying to use PageMill, but I already see its limitations as far as publishing. In the end, I think I may have to learn HTML. I think this will be a positive thing, though. Page Mill is easy, but extraordinarily basic as far as what you CAN do design-wise. I can’t imagine doing eye-popping web pages with this program.

My Mac- What do you see as the future for artists using the Mac?

Mike: Well, I don’t see the Mac disappearing anytime soon in the art industry. EVERY publishing house you go to is equipped with the Mac, and as the saying goes: “Once you go Mac, you never go BACK!” (That’s MY quote, by the way!) I do admit I have ONE friend who works on a Unix-based system doing animation (which, for cell animation, is the industry standard). But he also does some killer computer art. Unfortunately, it’s pretty hard to find the up-to-the-minute art/design software on Windows (one of his other machines that he works on), so he’s now shopping for a Power Mac as we speak.
The point is that the design and art industry is Mac, and will always be. Since Day One when the Mac hit the stand with its printing capabilities, it was set in stone that an Apple was the machine you needed for desktop publishing. Plain and simple. It had word processing and a printer–all you needed to publish! Apple never diverted from that interest, and the Mac’s publishing capabilities just get better and better. The PowerPC processor is just a better processor for graphics and multimedia. I believe this bold statement on my part can be verified by this: Do you remember the commercial that hit television about 2 years ago, for the Intel Inside chip…the ‘Mystical’ chip, floating, darting around the innards of a PC, until it zaps into place, thus releasing its ‘Magic’? Well, such intricate, elaborate animation was just too hard on that ol’ Pentium Intel
Inside processor to execute, so alas, the advertising company who produced the ad was forced to use a Mac to produce the animation…..That about says it all!
Look–Mac people are hard-core fans who won’t give up using their machines without a fight. Now it’s only a matter of time before Mr. Gates gets nailed for monopolizing the computer industry, which can only lead to the dismantling of Microsoft (and the villagers rejoiced!). Billy Gates NEEDS the competition from Apple to avoid the demise of his fortune. So he’ll allow Apple to proceed with its advances with QuickTime (now being integrated into Windows 95…), maintain its new user/educational dominance, and design/multimedia core. I will always be working on a Mac. I know it. Gates knows it as well.
To this date some 90% (I have no fact checker) of all web sites are created using a Mac. Now, if Apple was really going to shrivel up and go away, why would Microsoft (money monster) be paying for a 2 page color ad in the September issue of MacWorld pushing their new Web Browser to a computer company that is allegedly is “going down da tubes”? Why would Billy Boy waste his time on a faltering industry presence? Because it isn’t faltering and WON’T, and because the Mac is where people are creating web pages for his browser to go to.

My Mac- One last question before you get back to the drawing board. How did you come up with the online name of NYCGORMAN@aol.com?

Mike: Actually, since moving to New York, I’ve been having a hell of a time with people confusing me with OTHER Mike Gormans in the area. I took classes at the New School, which at the time had four other Mike Gormans enrolled besides me. Once I went online, I found over 200 Mike Gormans with AOL accounts. Not wanting to be called mgorman197, I chose NYCGORMAN, a name that kind of shows off that I live in NYC (like that’s anything to brag about!)

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