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InkscapeLately I have found myself spending more and more time playing with Inkscape, the amazing open source vector graphic editor! The main reason being that my oldest daughter has shown interest in drawing and graphic design.  Since we only run GNU/Linux at our house, I had to choose something that was open source and available for my distribution.

My last attempt at anything remotely close to “art” was way back when in the early 1990s when a friend gave me a copy of Paint Shop Pro. This is when it was still distributed by Jasc Software. Back then I was very proud of being able to create small and colorful geometric shapes and felt very at home with Paint Shop Pro. However, the day they decided to add new features and turned it into a Photoshop with all the floating windows and advanced plugins was the day I gave up on doing graphic design for good!

Nerdson online comicNow, I have a deep respect for those who not only understand how to properly use a tool (any tool for that matter) but also have the imagination to go beyond what that tool provides and is able to create something totally amazing. One such person is my friend Karlisson Bezerra, creator and maintainer of what is in my opinion one of the best online comics ever (sorry, it is all in Brazilian Portuguese only, but you should still check out his skills)!

So I decided that I needed to learn a bit more about Inkscape before introducing my daughter to the world of computer graphic design. I immediately remembered about *heathenx*'s web site, “Screencasters”, chock-full of great tutorials by someone who is not only an amazing artist but also a talented screencaster! I started browsing through the tutorials looking for something a “newbie” such as myself would be comfortable doing and eventually got to his suggestion for another post titled “Drawing a rocket with Inkscape is not rocket science”. That little rocket looked like a good start for me, so without thinking twice I plunged into his tutorial.

I must say that having a graphical step-by-step article like this is indeed a great way to teach someone how to learn a new skill, and in the case of Inkscape, being able to read the instruction and look at the picture was very helpful! I made sure not to speed through it either as my main objective was to learn about the tool well enough to teach my kid. Several minutes later my masterpiece was born:


Ok, I must admit that after seeing my first graphic come out the way it did gave my confidence a bit of a boost and I went back to Screencasters, this time looking for something a bit more challenging. That’s when my daughter arrived and started asking me about the little rocket she saw on the screen and if she could draw one too. Obviously after one tutorial I was in no position to teach anyone how to use Inkscape, but how do you tell an excited little kid to wait a couple of days until she can play with her newly found toy? You can’t, of course. :) So we started looking for something fun to do and eventually settled on the Ice Pop episode.

As I mentioned before, reading the rocket tutorial and having the pictures to follow along was great, but now having a video that I could pause, rewind and play at will was awesome! More importantly, heathenx’s didactic method is as close to having an instructor sitting next to you as you can have! It’s like I said, he’s amazing!

Together, the three of us set out to draw a popsicle. Pause, rewind and play, pause, rewind and play. With our eyes glued to the screen we followed step after step, marveling at times at the many metamorphosis our initial drawing went through. Ten minutes into it I was unceremoniously asked to relinquish the mouse and keyboard, and before I could even say anything, off she went on her own… my young graphic designer.

From the kitchen I could hear her excitement as she progressed through the tutorial and before I could even refill my cup of coffee she was done! Smiling from ear to ear she invited me back into the computer room, proudly displaying the result of her labor:


Well, needless to say that the next thing she asked me to do was to install Inkscape in our “home” laptop. My daughter is now slowly improving her skills and wants one day to apply them to create fashion designs for her friends.

There are a bunch, and I really mean a bunch of web sites dedicated to teaching Inkscape out there, but Screencasters has become a favorite web site in the Maciel household.


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