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Pixel Portraits Showcase the Creative Potential of Vector Art

John Harman wields the vector line like a paintbrush in his elegantly crafted digital works.

by Andrew Nunes
Jun 24 2017, 12:00pm

Vector vs. raster: the endless war between lines and pixels. Typically, the latter wins in creative pursuits, with JPEG being synonymous with artful images and PDF conjuring ideas of tamely typed documents. Yet in an act of defiance, visual artist John Harman works exclusively with vectors throughout his widely varying body of digital work.

Floating between inspiring political images, portraits of historical icons, and reimagined movie posters, Harman wields the lines and shapes of vector graphics masterfully. In some instances, the artist emphasizes the unique linear quality of vectors, leaving the intricate lines of the process clearly visible, like an impasto painter's emphasis on the brushstroke. In other works, Harman hides most of these traces, creating an end result barely distinguishable from your run of the mill JPEG, albeit with a much more complex backstory than most raster images.

Almost as interesting as his practice is Harman's artistic backstory. "I got into making vector art a bit by accident," he tells Creators. "I had spent my time when taking tech support calls years before learning how to use Photoshop to make art as a hobby. When I was working an IT job at a company that also had a design team, I begged to be considered for an open artist/animator position, but had minimal experience making vector art in Adobe Illustrator."

That didn't deter him. "I spent my spare time learning what I could, and understanding how to make vector things. I was given a trial run and had to create around 150 animation frames in Illustrator based on pencil drawings," he adds. "Once I got past the frustrating first couple of months, I finally understood Illustrator better than anything I had ever used before. Since then, it has been my mission to figure out how to do anything I can come up with in vector, sometimes even things that would be 'easier' in other programs."

Now a master of line and shape, Harman hasn't looked back to his pre-vector days since, valuing the nuanced tools the format offers. "The ability to edit your lines and shapes are among the main reasons I prefer it, but the flexibility of being able to be exacting or artistic depending on what I'm creating is by far the biggest reason I use vectors."

Check out the entirety of John Harman's eclectic vector art portfolio on his website.

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