People who have said to me, “Michael, you REALLY need to check out AI. You could use it for painting ideas!”
Here’s the thing: if you’ve known me and my art for a while (or even not for a while) then you’ve gotten the sense that the paintings from from my impressions of the world. I’m constantly taking it in, assimilating it, using it as part of my own personal journey and process, etc. And by ‘the world’ I mean all of it – from the big picture politics to the fine facets of my own interpersonal relationships, from those awesome James Webb Telescope pictures to the flowers outside in the garden and the birds that flit from branch to branch.
When someone asks me – hey where did the idea for this painting or that painting come from? and I tell them a story of personal introspection, there’s a sense of commonality because the asker – the viewer – often shares those feeling or sensations. They see the unfolding of the whole process and want to go on that journey as well. I think the archetypal experience triggers a kind of conversation that is beyond words. That process, over many years, has imbued an authenticity to the experience of the painting and suggests something of the possibilities of this human experience and expression.
If I said to you: ‘well I plugged some variables into a computer and then painted the one I liked best’ then there’s a different sense of it. I’ve removed part of myself and my experience from the process. I let the computer define for me what the human experience looks like based on all of the other human experiences that have been fed into it. If we are missing part of that experience, it’s not MY blinders, it’s the computer’s. If I seem to have cribbed it from one person but not another, it’s – again – not my fault. It’s the computer and its own limitations.
But if I miss it in my own explorations, then they are MY limitations. And therein lies real growth.
I’ve used the same style 5.5×8 strathmore sketchbook for 30 years – and that’s the process. An idea jotted down here. A flower unfolding there. A dash of lightning. A whole unified vision. To be honest, this mind of mine has one track (Painting – it all goes back to painting.) but it’s a track that I got on a very early age. It was like a thread of a marvelous tapestry that I found that continually unravelled and wove back together again and it constantly leads my work towards new vistas and inventions, to new understandings of myself and my relationship to the world.
If someone feels they can feed my work into a database and then output new ideas based on that – DURR DURR Look at me I’m the artist now – then they really don’t get what it’s about.
And I get that there’s people who believe AI is the future and those AI outputs are so cutting edge and revolutionary and I’m just some old luddite stuck in the muck. But I frankly do not care. The magic of an original work of art – with the time and energy – the deep unsettling self doubts or existential dreads and loneliness and heartache and the glorious joyful moments when it feels like my brush is the breeze and I am just a cloud and we are all just unfolding together in this dance – that connection and vulnerability and the work that comes from it – that’s what my real output is. That’s the real story. It’s not just a picture, but a story of the processing of this human experience.
I’m not going to say that no computer can ever replicate that but even that idea – “replicate” – is weird. Right now, the computer will tell you a computer story based on the human stories. Maybe one day we will have computers simply telling us computer stories, robots telling robot stories, and so on. But that future is still a ways off and, if we do get there, we may not at all recognize the output.
But a human story: a human story is based on me in the 3rd grade. And that time I was 23. That moment when I really got it. And that moment it all fell apart. it is how I felt when I read the news this morning and how I felt when the crisp morning air filled my lungs while I held a hot cup of tea in my hand.
I am at an age where I really don’t have to care if a computer can or will replicate any of that. Yes, old man of 46 that I am, I will happily keep painting til I die because that’s the story I’m writing. A story of sketchbooks and considerations of the angle of light on the corner of a building. A story of a human with open hearted fantasies, middle of the road mediocrities, messy addictions, and idealist visions.
Now, back to working on Book 3.