Libre Graphics Meeting 2010

Already the fifth edition, Libre Graphics Meeting continues to grow and to become more relevant. The meeting was held in Brussels this year, in a great venue: De Pianofabriek. Exactly the right size, cosy, comfortable, engaging and located in a lively neighbourhood. While LGM was going on, parts of this cultural centre were used by kung-fu, folk dancing and classical music classes. There was some good eco beer to be had in the canteen as well.

Both attendance and organization were amazing this year. There were, of course, the developers of the various libre graphics software projects: gimp, inkscape, scribus, mypaint, nathive, blender, krita, laidout, nodebox, shoebot, phatch and many more. But there were also users of these applications, and, making the attendance even more varied, people from the art schools and institutions as well as professors and art philosophers. I can’t say I was in tune with all of them; the quilting guy, Pete Ippel, had some beautiful slides, but I didn’t get it, and that went even more for some other talks. But having just returned from India, I felt I could really connect to Hong Phuc Dang talk on “How to get contributors to your Free/Libre/Open Source project from Vietnam and Asia”.

The organization was so amazing. We had a wonderful lunch every day, middle-east, greek or thai (well, the thai lunch wasn’t as good as the other two, which were utterly delectable…) The wifi network never ever failed for me: a conference first! Talks went smoothly, almost on schedule. The content of the talks was very interesting; there were highlights every day as well as total revelations, like the presentation of Laidout. And the organizers had also made sure there were teams of notetakers for the Bof sessions, people creating a conference magazine. I can’t express, and I’m not usually tied for words, how impressed I was with the result of all this hard, thoughtful, inventive work. Yay Femke and team!

Some clear trends: designers (who are not a target group for Krita) are more and more turning away from the traditional design tools like Illustrator and using scripting to produce their work. We already saw that with Stani’s Open Source^W^WArchitectore Coin, but we also had the news that the most prestigious design company in the Netherlands has moved to a Python-based design method, not using any Illustrator anymore at all. Nodebox and similar applications fit in this trend, as well as the work presented by the team from Rotterdam, from the Piet Zwart Institute.

I wonder, though, how much this is a trend: much of work created by these programmatic approaches to design is very similar, almost (well, it’s programmed) formulaic. It’s a bit similar to when Photoshop introduced layers: suddenly everyone produced these murky collages of photo’s, scratches and sketches superimposed on each other. Look through your stack of back numbers of Create Arts and see for yourself.

We had a really good BOF session on OpenRaster. The main work on OpenRaster is done in MyPaint and Krita, with one MyPaint developer, Jon Nordby, also developing the Gimp OpenRaster plugin. The BOF was extremely well attended. We’re still working on updating the spec; Martin from MyPaint and me, we really lacked the knowledge to formalize it correctly, and I was too tired to track down the right people to help us and then do it.

Actually, tiredness was a big problem for me. I arrived after a rather difficult train journey around midnight and still an hour or so of work to do, plus, I’ve travelled a lot recently and I already was tired. I’m afraid I even skipped the closing ceremony because I was too tired to hang around and wanted to catch an early train to Deventer.

One highlight of this LGM was that it coincided with the release of Krita 2.2, which is the first release that starts approaching our vision. At this meeting, Peter Sikking helped me refine our ideas for the brush settings dialog — he also helped f-spot to a vision! Soon, there will be no libre graphics app left without a vision!

Lukáš Tvrdý’s talk, by the way, went very well! We rehearsed his presentation the night before, timing it to 25 minutes, but we hadn’t counted with the delay on starting, so it was slightly compressed. But the most interesting paintops got demoed, and he showed some very impressive artwork by Enkithan, David Revoy and N-Pigeon. And then explained how to write a paintop. Lukáš will be improving and expanding this presentation and speak about brush engines at Akademy: be there, or watch the LGM video.

Kaveh Bazargan, from Rivervalley, was again present to record all talks. Many are already up. Follow the “tv” links from the Libre Graphics Meeting Program and enjoy them!

My hotel, finally, was a nice, a bit goofy place. The only real problem is that they apparently renovated the room Lukáš and me had the day before I arrived. We were the first to sleep in these beds or to touch the remote control for the television set — but the room still smelled strongly of fresh paint. Result: instant headache. But the breakfast was good! My usual hotel in Brussels turned out to be closer to the venue, actually.

In any case, me and Lukáš, we are really grateful to KDE e.V. who sponsored our attendance to this conference. There were many more KDE users than last year (a few KDE 3.5 holdouts, still), but still, the majority of presentation was demoed with the latest Ubuntu. Next year, we will have to make a concerted effort to get a better presence of all the cool graphics projects based on KDE: krita, digikam, gwenview, plasma, kdeenlive, okular — this is the premier place to showcase ourselves! Plus, LGM is so fun, so friendly, so cooperative — had I said already that the Gimp guys went out of their way to invite us to their yearly community meeting? Also, there are people who know a lot about svg, pdf, css — this is the place to connect with the source of the standards we try to implement.