Here’s a little something that popped in my skull recently —no doubt inspired by my love for The Nightmare Before Christmas— which I thought about trying to produce using traditional mixed media.
For the last couple of years I’ve been buying a few traditional art supplies (nibs, inks, brushes, markers, watercolor sketchbooks, etc) that have just been collecting dust on my desk while I’ve been laboring on digital commissions. But now that the Tarot’s Major Arcana is behind me, I decided to give me a few days of rest during the holidays so I can recharge and renew for the new challenges 2023 will bring.
One of those challenges is no doubt the rapid emergence of A.I. generated art, which has caused a lot of controversy and emotional debates online, particularly among artists and illustrators who fear —and rightly so!— that their livelihood will be endangered if these programs are widely embraced by the editorial industry, mainstream media, or by potential clients who would rather get a portrait for free using A.I. than pay a human artist for a commission. Already I’ve seen many Facebook and Twitter profiles of people who are using A.I.-generated images as their personal icons.
A.I. will probably never replace human artists completely, and there are many artists whose reputation is so well cemented by now they will continue to have a career. Yet there are many more emerging artists —myself included— for whom the future looks even more uncertain and scary than ever. I’ve already gone through one career switch after job opportunities in the field of Interior Design all but dried up, now you’re telling me I need to “adapt to the changes” AGAIN?
So in the midst of this uncertainty, added to all the horrible things looming in the horizon which need not be listed, here came this quirky idea of a young witch playing in the winter and making a snowman out of a Jack-o-lantern. Maybe the deeper meaning behind it is about embracing change in a playful manner, I don’t know. The only thing I can say with certainty is that I did have fun making this illustration, despite all its evident flaws brought by my inexperience and lack of practice with traditional media —since I haven’t bought any watercolor paints yet (you wouldn’t believe how EXPENSIVE they are!) I thought about trying to paint the sky using brushes and diluted India ink (what is commonly called “an ink wash”) and as you can see I had no idea what I was doing!
But this little exercise reminded me how with traditional media, with its annoying absence of an UNDO feature, you are forced to make bold decisions once mistakes inevitably arrive. When I noticed the ink of the marker I was using to paint my black cat began to bleed into its green eyes I rushed to get my trusty color pencils to try to remedy the situation. Ditto with the scarf of my witch girl and other details. Embracing mistakes as part of the process and as opportunities for creative decisions is one of the most valuable lessons any artist can ever learn.
Also the lack of resources at your disposal —did I already mention how EXPENSIVE traditional art tools are?— can bring about the trying of ‘less ideal’ alternatives that can nevertheless end up being more fresh and dynamic than if you had unlimited resources at your disposal. Think of Jaws, Close Encounters of the Third Kind or the original Star Wars trilogy, which feel more energetic than Lucas and Spielberg’s later films, because the filmmakers were forced to explore out any affordable trick they could think of to try and bring about their vision to the screen as closely as it was technically possible.
Which is why I am hoping to start flexing my rusty ‘analog’ muscles more frequently in the future —another valuable new tool I recently bought: 2.5+ magnifying eyeglasses! Because ye ole peepers ain’t as sharp as they used to 👴— while I also keep polishing my ‘digital kung-fu’ which is nowhere near as proficient as I would like it to be.
In the meantime, Merry Creepmas to you out there!