Your Art Soul
Updated: Apr 13
Attempt number 2 (or is it 3?) in my tough love series seeking to save the artistic souls of those misled by A.I. image-making.
I’ve heard you say in defense of what you’re doing that “art-making is for everyone.” This is correct—only you don’t know what art-making is.
You think it is some kind of sport, with winners and losers. Something some people can do and others can’t. That’s because you intuitively, unwittingly, and erroneously believe that art-making is you making someone else’s art. You think it's making art like what you see out there already.
This is illogical. Your art by definition must be something no one (including you) has ever seen, or could imagine (because imagining it in advance would be seeing it). Your art needs to be DISCOVERED. That is the sublime joy of it (and also the source of extreme mental anguish).
It’s so simple if you would only see it and believe it: you already have everything you need to express yourself artistically (without the help of A.I.). But you can’t face the fact that what comes out of you right now without A.I. IS you expressing yourself creatively. It is a perfect snapshot of your creativity right now. Using A.I. to make a picture masks that, and provides blessed relief from what all artists have struggled with for centuries: the fact that what we actually create never seems to reach what we aspire to create.
This is not an elitist club of gifted masters: it’s a lunatic asylum. We support each other not because we see ourselves as superior, but because we unfortunately often see ourselves the way society sees us: as misfits, losers, freeloaders, dreamers who refuse to grow up and take life seriously. This is why many of the most apparently gifted and talented creators end up destroying themselves one way or another.
Many of you belong in this club, this club that you insist has excluded you. It’s YOU who won’t accept the invitation and walk through the door. All that’s required is that you face yourself naked in the mirror. You get up on that stage by yourself and tell your joke to the audience without knowing if they are going to laugh hysterically or boo you off the stage; whether they will love you or hate you. You have to accept that what comes out of you creatively is what comes out of you creatively.
The answer may not be something “you” like, just as you may not like your body image or some other physical or mental characteristics you possess. But it's you nonetheless. And you would not have that negative reaction, that denial, in the case of your child, beloved friend, or your pet. You would love them the way they are. Well that’s what YOUR art is like. Get your insecure ego out of the way and find out what that is.
Now, don’t get me wrong: I’m not saying that your SKILLS right now are all the skills you will ever have, or that developing additional skills will not help you better realize your artistic voice. But if you are smart and confident enough in YOUR VISION, if you love, accept and have faith in YOUR art, you will only strive to develop those skills needed to do YOUR art. And they will come relatively easily, and the process will be joyful. If it’s painful you’re doing it wrong. “No pain, no gain” is for sports, not art.
Of course, I have made this mistake as much as anyone, this mistake of killing myself trying to be some other artist(s)--that’s how I know what I am talking about! And there is value in mistakes like this--they show you what is the wrong way. Because try as you might, the only REAL art you can make is YOUR OWN art.
To do that, to accept what is your own art while also developing your skills, you need to figure out how to swim WITH your own inner current--but not just DRIFT with it. You need to use all your strength to swim hard, but in the right direction. Using generative A.I. image making is doing neither of those things: it's going in the direction of other people’s art, and it's making no effort.
It’s true that artists look at other people’s art a lot, and use it to inform their own work. Take my word for it: this is an extremely dangerous tightrope that artists have had to figure out how to walk over the centuries. It is categorically different from the process of you using an A.I. image generator--the main difference being that with A.I image making there is nothing present in the visual mix EXCEPT other people’s art. Some artists who don’t use A.I. also fall into this trap, and never really find their own art.
The way artists use other people’s art is to help answer THEIR OWN BURNING QUESTIONS. To help their own art make itself. It may feel to you like that’s what you’re doing when using A.I., but that’s because you don’t know anything else. Once again I will point out, if the A.I. is doing what human artists do, then what do you imagine yourself to be in that relationship? If someone does manage to make an A.I. that works exactly like a human artist, the one entity that will be superfluous is YOU. We might have a world of human artists and A.I. artists, but you would be neither.
Now, if all you want to do is make money by generating pictures, none of this should matter to you. And you may succeed at that. However, you probably won’t succeed, at least not for very long, because if you can make money using A.I. to replace artists, then literally ANYONE can. In fact, no human would be needed for this at all. So you will become irrelevant the instant you “succeed.” And no one will remember you or your art, and you’ll be right back where you started—bitter, resentful, hollow, feeling you have been denied something you are entitled to. I hope some of you at least can avoid that.
So if you want to explore your art, learn new skills, deal with crushing defeat and disappointment, get over your self-loathing, unleash your potential while accepting and embracing the capacities and limitations that make you unique-- whatever your art needs--this community is here for you. I freely share my time and knowledge with anyone who asks for help. It’s taken me a lot of time, work and struggle to get here and all I want to do now is lighten the burden of the next generations of artmakers, while ensuring they retain their humanity in the process.