“Adobe Illustrator was crucial for Times Square because of the sheer size. Everything being resolution independent, everything was planned in Illustrator. It’s a 25-foot file. If I had done it completely in Photoshop, it would have been a 130-foot file—which Photoshop can’t handle.”
Bert Monroy has had a long career in the graphic arts. His first printed piece appeared in 1963, and by the early 1980s he and a business partner had their own ad agency. It was his partner who had the idea to computerize. “I told him fine, get your computer, but don’t expect me to be entering data,” said Bert.
Soon enough, though, Bert was experimenting with early graphic arts programs like MacPaint. “I got hooked,” he remembered, and he even created one of the first graphic arts packages, “Human Forms,” a clip-art collection of more than 1,000 human forms in different positions.
When Illustrator 1.1 debuted in 1987, Bert got hooked once again. Illustrator was “clean and sharp,” and without the “pixelated look of MacPaint.”
“I just went crazy with Illustrator. I started using it for all kind of things. Everything I could, I would do in Illustrator. That became my major tool.”
Bert kept up with every new version of Illustrator, and his own evolution as a digital artist kept pace. One of his favorite tricks became playing with the resolution-independent capabilities of the program: “I could create as much detail as I wanted and then shrink it down as much as I wanted, yet preserve the detail and integrity. I once made a drawing of a Mac Plus into a tiny dot. It added 20 minutes to the processing time on a Linotronic 300—but to be able to do that!”
At Photoshop World 2006, Bert unveiled what was, at the time, his largest and most ambitious work: Damen, a digital painting of a Chicago train stop created in Illustrator and Photoshop. A massive work, it measured 40 inches by 120 inches and 1.7 gigabytes. It took nearly 2,000 hours over the course of 11 months for Bert to create it, and Illustrator was integral to his process.
“These little arches are a perfect example of the blend tool. To get that perspective, I would create a single arch, put it closer to the viewer, then I would duplicate it and shrink it and put it in position at the end. The blend tool was crucial.”
Just a few years later, Bert would outdo himself yet again with his painting Times Square. But through it all, Illustrator was the foundation of many of his paintings. “I don’t touch traditional media anymore,” he said. “With Illustrator and Photoshop, I can get more detail, I can change my mind, I can change colors. It’s enhanced my workflow. My imagination just flows—it’s not hindered by tools.” With traditional media, Bert “would lose the feeling for an image after changing colors and cleaning tools.” Running out of tools would never be a problem in Illustrator.