An Artistic Thought Process

“If I miss it, I’ll visit.”

As I continue my journey with making art, I thought it would be fun to share some of my thinking behind my practice, and talk specifics with what I’ve been generating:

I was not blessed with the capacity to express my thoughts and emotions through drawing or painting (I don’t even have the ability to free hand a straight line), and without any tactile nature I wasn’t driven to nurture myself toward refining any artistic motor skills. I played around with those adult coloring books a few times, but I never felt like I was disseminating my soul so much as occupying time.

A year ago, I found AI art. This discovery genuinely changed my life.

Disclaimer: There’s currently a stigma surrounding the ethics of AI art, but instead of taking a firm stance on it, I’ll crib Claire Silver’s position and say that I’m simply a “caveman painting with fire.”

Because the AI generation process is so iterative, I frequently find myself devoting hours to the creation (or co-creation) cycle, and when it’s going well, it even becomes meditative. Refining images is frustrating, pleasurable, mysterious, and loads of fun. The barrier to entry is essentially non-existent, and I predict that within a few years everyone will have used AI to make at least a few images.

Due to this recognition that anyone can do it, I notice myself striving to go further with what I create, aiming to make stuff that no one else has or can. There’s a need with expression to create something wholly yours, a reflection of your specific preferences. That’s why I always generate AI images on the front-end using an input picture to work in tandem with the input words, and then on the back-end attempt to do some post-processing to make the output image feel more fully mine.

The piece above is titled “If I miss it, I’ll visit”, which is a lyric lifted from The National’s song Eucalyptus. I started with a larger initial output, but cropped it smaller after I received outside feedback that the lower half of the person’s face resembled Michael Jackson. I also opted to dye the picture to spread out where the eye goes, which also makes it more eye-catching at a glance.

The piece still felt unfinished though, and I let it sit untouched for weeks while I worked on other stuff. This happens somewhat frequently, where I’ll work on a piece for awhile only for it to never amount to anything. Luckily, one day I began researching the work of photographer Bill Brandt and came across a self-portrait of his that he drew white lines on, which caused the picture to POP.

British Photographer Bill Brandt

I realized I could try something similar with my own work. I opened my image in Preview (where I do all my editing, of course) and started messing around with the various lines the program offers, doing my best to have no restrictions on my intentions for the piece (which was easy, given that I’d been on the verge of abandoning it.) It’s funny though, how quickly you can shift from being completely flexible with how a thing should look, to being totally militant about not touching it again for concern about altering what’s been placed. I suppose that’s what drives the artistic process, and using both the gas and brakes is what makes the car go.

Eventually I decided I’d done enough to satisfy myself, and I stopped. So what does this finished picture mean to me? It’s too soon to say. I think right now I’ll just let the art stand on its own. I suspect the message of it will become clear to me the further away from it I get, when my life has changed and the memories I made while creating it solidify in time. For now, I’ll embrace the idea that art can be beautiful for its own sake; I hope it’s something you enjoy looking at as much as I do.

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