Shannon Shaw, Acrylic, 30 x 40
I’m a big fan of Shannon and the Clams, I love this band for the attitude in Shannon’s voice.
I hit a wall early on with this painting. The colors wouldn’t match up. “She looks like a Simpson’s character” Cody told me. We critique each others work often, because we have our own expertise (he digital and me traditional) one’s point of view tends to push the other’s farther. Growing up, my father always repeated a lesson on teamwork: A defensive lineman should always train with a wide receiver. The lineman gets faster trying to keep up with the receiver and the receiver get stronger trying to hold his own against the lineman. This time, Cody took a picture of my work in progress, threw it into photoshop and in seconds adjusted the colors and tones to make the image pop. From this collaboration I was inspired to redo the whole thing with an eye towards the orange sides of the color spectrum and that gives the piece a more voluptuous quality. The challenge came in blending multiple colors together.
In weight training, lifting heavier and heavier weight gets exponentially more difficult- no matter the technique, the 5 extra pounds between 125 and 130 are not the same as the 5 additional pounds between 235 and 240. At that point, adding more weight becomes a matter of determination, a slow building up over time. Similarly in painting, getting tones and colors to blend seamlessly becomes an increasingly demanding task. Achieving this means hours and hours of work from subtler and subtler changes. My goal with this piece was to “max out” so to speak, to take that blending as far as I reasonably could. However, unlike weight lifting, a piece is not finished in a rep or a set. For me, the piece is done when I have nothing left to learn form it.
Through this continual sharpening a lesson from Dave Rapoza hit me: a successful illustration doesn’t always represent a detail one to one but rather implies that detail. An artist doesn’t need to paint every strand of hair on a woman’s head to successfully communicate the quality of her hair, let alone the attitude in which she wears it. With enough time, an artist can render anything by adding layer after layer until it looks “real” but to imply an edge or detail makes the painting unique and says something about the hand behind it, that is the artist’s interpretation and sensibility. The process of this requires the artist to go out on a limb, it may be a gutsy move, an accident or even an old mistake that somehow found its place over the life of the painting.
As of this writing, A.I. imagery is on the rise and I think it’s no mistake that hallmark of these images are unambiguous, crisp details and a preference for realism, a cold sterility. In the engineer’s quest to mechanize everything one has to wonder what an A.I. implies or can imply at all. When I was studying to become a web developer in the mid 2010’s I was pursuing an ideal: to create new and artistic experiences with code. Some argue convincingly that coding and programming is a creative act, but, speaking with experience in both fields, I find that the engineer misses the point. Programming must function within a very strict set of rules to work at all. There are many ways to solve a problem but the environment must be perfect and mistakes are not tolerated. Painting on the other hand requires no canvas, brush or even paint! Every child has scratched out a drawing with a stick to wet sand or mud. The blood and sweat from one’s body and a surface is all one needs to express themselves (maybe blood and sweat are better suited for the artist or the particular expression) and furthermore, and this is the point, the painting will not stop working if everything doesn’t go according to plan, on the contrary, it will continue and change, what was a mistake at one point may be the best thing that ever happened the next, and a great idea may be not so great down the line, it is organic, like the living of life. The rise of A.I. imagery is not the end of the digital artist or the celebration of the engineer artist but rather a challenge to us living with technology- what is our appetite for art? How do we value art? What makes work human or machine? With realistic images available and invented on command form artists and non artists alike we are presented a choice- I argue for the rough edges.