Over the three weeks following that message, I met Valerie for the first time, and then said goodbye for the last time. The incredible artist Valerie Thomson passed away in her own home yesterday.
She was a fount of knowledge, sharing her passion for plastic-free art and environmentally-gentle packing materials, paints, substrates (and even tape!) with anyone who was curious. And she painted like the muse was in her own two hands. Her entire home was her studio - no space was left for anything other than art and the creating of it. She collected art from around the world (including many of mine) and sold her paintings around the globe.
During the last visit, I asked her what she wanted the world to know. She said, without hesitation, "there is always room for more kindness." And then she proceeded to give away her entire studio of art supplies and her entire collection of art. To me and to others who responded to her messages. This amazing woman, who had been reclusive and hermit-like for the last decade, found herself in tears over the people who said "YES!" and rushed over to meet her and help in any way possible. And there I was, on the end of her bed, crying with her. Over bagels with scrambled eggs, just the way she liked them.
My studio is packed from floor to ceiling now. Canvases, boards, oil paints, oil sticks, papers, pigments, brushes and wedges. Including several of her unfinished paintings, of which she said "finish them. Or paint over them. You'll know what to do." It's a daunting thought.
From her diagnosis to her final day was just a few short weeks. Once again, the brevity and fragility of life overwhelms me.
About the art: beginning with an A.I. prompt asking the bot to create a "killer robot samurai dancer in the style of Degas" and the bot's response image below, I created a notan and a notanized grid, sketched the composition onto some Arches oil paper (a new favorite) with colored pencil. Thin washes of oil paint to rough in the shapes and the background, then increasing thicknesses applied with brushes, rubber wedges and paper towels. Veering away from the inspiration image to create my own version of this strange little one. Oh, the wondrous dance of it all...
You will not let her see the strange guest at your table... and yet here it is, the strange guest, the wild god which is A.I.
Last week we took a look at what A.I. can do with a painting. When you're stuck, seeking different ways to view your work, it is a mighty valuable critic. This week, let's wander into generating inspiration images from photographs.
Using a photo taken by a creative mischief-maker (my husband), the bot was asked to interpret it as a painting. It first wandered down the path of illustration and moebius. This is a good prompt to allow a bit of chaos and dystopian scenes. After many prompts and meanderings, it ultimately landed on the second image below. It was photorealistic, but that works when you're just looking for a jumping off point. Goodbye Unsplash and license-free reference photos. Hello wild and wonderful photo wanderings.
The bot can do some things with landscape photos as well. We will take a gander at that in a future post.
My favorite technique (moving the wet paint with a rubber wedge) created some fabulous texture and highlights in the abstracted hair. A little splatter of red on the left side of the antlers was the final touch. Oh oh OH!
Thanks to all who commented on A.I. last week! Wonder Mike and Lilly are thrilled to announce the winner in the reader giveaway. Gail P., your name was selected at random by the pooches! Email your shipping address to firstname.lastname@example.org to collect your piece of original art. Hooray!
It is time to face the wild god's dragon, and that dragon is A.I art.
Dear reader, if you are feeling a huge emotional revolt against the surge of A.I art and what it means for creatives (and how damn good some of it is), you are not alone. And as with all things I set my jaw against, I know that I absolutely must go there. So I got to wondering, is there an upside to this thing?
Like any new technology, it was wildly frustrating in the beginning. But then (but then) little glimmers of oh and ah and hmmmmmmm. And two months later (the amount of time it has taken me to be mildly proficient) it has become a cyber version of the wild god - inspiring, pushing, challenging, stuck-in-my-thoughts-all-the-time and making me leap off cliffs.
It is an unapologetic critique group. I load my own paintings and photographs and sketches and scribbles and demand its feedback - what would the bot do? I give it a composition and it demands I look at it with fresh eyes - as if I had centuries of art experience and exposure.
Here is the story of one painting.
I was inspired by a fashion photo of a woman who seemed part cyborg, part future samurai (below) and images of samurai with arrows as I browsed the google machine. And also my own whimsy. So I combined the concepts in a painting (second image, below) and it just fell flat for me. Something was missing.
Using Midjourney, I put my own painting in the prompt and asked it for a whimsical female samurai with arrows based on the image I provided, and then specified it to be in my own style (since I have images on the internet, I presume the bot pulls from my catalogue just as it does for other, more famous, artists). The bot spit out an image that was a big improvement - deeper colors, better composition and more abstracted versions of "arrows". Whoa! It was like having my own group of savvy critics point and advise and critique.
I am standing in my studio at the intersection of art robots and inner dragons. And somehow, it seems the wild god knows exactly what it is doing when it coughs up foxes. Oh and OH!
What are your thoughts about using A.I. as an art tool? Or about A.I. art in general? Leave a comment below, or send an email to email@example.com. Wonder Mike and Lilly think someone needs a little original art in their hands, and will choose one commenter at random to receive something sweet. xo
In the studio this week, I continued an exploration of Hirons’ poem and trying to capture some big emotion. I didn’t know until I knew, but the wild god was at the door.
A random post I read. A text or two. And then, the knowing.
The knowing and then the heaviness. The weight of loss: of one of the great painters, art instructors and encouragers, Dianne Nance. She was the one who pointed me in the direction of the peculiar - she said "go there." She opened my eyes to artists I’d never heard of or imagined, and infused me with the courage to dare try anything. She shrugged her shoulders when I presented her with something bland and said “so what?” Her eyes sparked with surprise when I brought in something boundary-nudging (or pummeling). Oooooooh yaaaaaasssss.
She was too young and vibrant to be gone already. Life feels exceptionally fragile and brief.
This piece is for her - the daring, the baring, the boldly sharing.
A new month and a new direction to explore in the studio - some strong emotion, some tenderness, some deep vulnerability. Inspired by Sometimes a Wild God by Tom Hirons and allowing the muse to tug at my heart and hands. This month we'll explore the poem side-by-side with the art and see what awaits us.
I don't know about you, dear reader - wild creative being that you are - but sometimes a wild god appears at the studio door. He grabs me by the shoulders and demands things: heart-cracking, wound examining, stirring the pot and letting its aroma saturate the room. And so the art those days in uncensored, unfiltered and without apology or explanation. The inside of me reaching out to the inside of you, because a wild god insisted.
About the art: beginning with an old painting covered in gesso and carving into the gesso with a chopstick while it is wet, creating deep texture in the underpainting. A quick sketch in colored pencil and then diving in with thin layers of oil paint. Keeping the face soft and gentle but allowing the remainder of the painting to become rough and guttural in its emotion as thicker layers of paint are added.. Carving back through the wet paint with rubber wedge, chopsticks and brush ends to expose colors underneath and create even more texture. The "dress" is made with quickly sketched flowers, saturated with paint thinner to allow the blurs and drips. When I stepped back from this one, she grabbed my heart. Oh.