What I've Been Up To, as of November 11, 2022 - 11:11 Special
Happy Light-Worker's Day everyone! Welcome back to another one of these "What I've Been Up To" update posts, where I tell you about all the stuff I've been doing since the previous What I've Been Up To post.
In this one, I'll be talking about a projected end date for my little sabbatical, I'll give you my optimist's take on AI generated art in detail, briefly touch on some StarBright Story stuff, and finally give you some of my future plans for the site, some changes may be coming. Let's go!
A Projected End Date for my Sabbatical
In a previous post, I told you all I was going on a bit of a sabbatical, taking a break as it were, from my usual doings and goings-on to rediscover the joys of creating. In that post, I mentioned I had no clue when I thought it would end, estimating it could be anywhere from a few months to possibly even a year or so. Today, I'd like to announce that I have indeed settled on an end date. it is:
-- January 1, 2023 --
The beginning of next year marks the end of this weird little break I've been taking since July, so in roughly a month and a half will it come to a close, and I can get back to... whatever it is I do.
What I've Done During the Sabbatical
While it hasn't gone quite as expected, I have made some good headway in the aforementioned reason for the sabbatical in the first place.
The main thing that happened was discovering why I've been so scatterbrained historically, and why making creative decisions has been so unbearably difficult for me, the details of which I outline in this post (and if you have the same problem, I detail exactly what I did to overcome it so that you can too, so check it out).
In short, I discovered I had invested soooo many little bits of my self (care, intent, willpower, attention, energy, whatever you want to call it) in soooo many different creative project ideas that I was spread thin as a wafer and thus left inert and lethargic. Even when I would definitively choose a project to run with, I found I could not muster the motivational momentum to go through with it, because I still had so much of my "self" invested in all these other projects that I would have to leave behind momentarily to see the chosen project through.
In the previous post, I used the "eggs in a basket" metaphor to illustrate my dilemma, where the eggs were the bits of care-energy used to invest in a creative project, and the baskets were the creative projects themselves, the vessels with which to carry said eggs. In short, I found I was so attached to the baskets that I lost all sight of the real point of it all, which was the delivery of the eggs.
Eventually I found a way to gather these dispersed and scattered eggs out of all the other baskets and back to where they belong - to me. Now, with these units of care-energy brought back, I've felt immensely better, both mentally and emotionally. That joy I'd been looking for this whole time has, in large part, returned.
However, even though I have my creative ammunition back, I find myself lacking a target, a goal... a clear one, anyway. This is the other accomplishment I've made during the sabbatical - retooling my goals and objectives. I'll explain more in the Plans for the Future section of this post.
More A.I. Madness
In the last update I mentioned discovering text-to-image AI Craiyon and being utterly flabbergasted with the concept. I've since discovered even more AI text-to-image generators, such as Dall-E and Stable Diffusion, all of which are just as mind blowing, if not more so.
Allow me to showcase some of the fruits of my tinkering as I address the concerns some artists have with it and give my take on the matter.
Will AI Art replace Human Art?
There are those out there that believe AI art will eventually get so good that it will replace human art altogether, putting many artists out of a job or outright making human art obsolete. As an artist myself, you may think I'm concerned with this possibility, and be baffled at my giddy enthusiasm in favor of it. I'd like to clarify my take on this subject.
As a staunch Optimist, I see AI art as a potential positive for artists. Here are the many ways how I see AI art can actually benefit artists, myself included:
See it as a tool, not as competition
Many artists seem to see AI art as competition, as if the AI is deliberately creating these images on its own volition. The fact is, they're not. They only produce images when a human prompts them to do so. This makes AI art an extension of human art, not a competitor with human art.
Until AI gains sapience and begins producing art in its own right for its own reasons, AI generated art will remain as merely a tool.
Technological advancements have always been met with suspicion and skepticism
This isn't the first time some technological innovation has raised eyebrows and turned up noses. When computer generated imagery, CGI, was a newfangled thing, there were those that didn't see it as "real" art, thinking it cheating what with it's many automated features, such as lighting and shading. In hindsight, it turns out that CGI simply became its own art form, its own medium, and has yet to encroach on any other. Painters can still paint, drawers can still draw, and people still appreciate those mediums. In fact, the presence of CGI actually increased the value of it's seeming competition in physical media, because now there was this distinction, this contrast, that did not exist prior.
Let's look at another example. Let's go back in time... waaay back.
Many millennia ago, there was a time when stories were passed down through oral tradition, the communication of stories by word of mouth only. Back then, the only way one had to tell a long form story was to memorize it and speak it to one's audience. Then came this new technology we call writing - by taking some device, such as a stick or stylus, one could scribble these weird little lines and dots and other markings in a specific sequence onto a flat surface and then learn to "read" them. This allowed people to recall information without the need to memorize anything other than an alphabet or hieroglyphic system. How convenient!
My point is, throughout history, technological advancements always seemed strange and scary to those with a shitty attitude and a distinct lack of depth of vision. Those folks only ever saw it as a threat to their status quo, rather than an exciting new means of doing something, be it making art or what have you. AI generated art is no different. You can either see it as a threat to your old ways of doing things, or you can see it as a potential new tool to improve your own art-making process. It's up to you to have the courage to change your old ways in lieu of a new paradigm, and to have the imagination and depth of vision to see the potential in it such that you may thrive.
The new distinction between AI art and Human art creates new Value for Human art
If you're observant, you may have noticed an implicit pattern in the old vs new technological advancements. That pattern is this - a new modality or paradigm does not outright replace the old, but rather gives the old way a new distinction, and thus a new value.
Even though oral tradition is mostly replaced with written word, we still apply it via conversation. Even though handwriting books has been entirely replaced by machine-printing, it's still useful to jot down notes, to journal, etc. Even though physical printing has been largely supplanted with digital e-books and the like, physical books still serve a purpose (such as being able to use without electricity and high technology).
Technological advancements may make the previous paradigm of doing things less commonplace and more cumbersome in comparison to the new, it never outright replaces the old. In fact, its presence gives the old ways new context. An art medium or technique that was once the status quo (example: if you wanted to render images realistically then you had to learn how to paint or draw images realistically, there was no other way to do it and it was hard work) suddenly becomes better appreciated for what it is after a technological advancement makes that task easier (example: in lieu of the relative ease of photography, photo-realist painting and drawing suddenly becomes more impressive and interesting in comparison).
The genie's out of the bottle, there's no going back now, so we may as well make the best of it
AI generate art is now a thing, and it will continue to become more and more of a thing as time marches on, and there's not a damn thing we can do to stop it. It has undergone the formality of actually occurring. That's the Truth... so let's make the best of it!
A lot of people criticize the philosophy of Optimism for being naive and ignorant of "the facts". Optimism that does not have Truth (that which simply is) as its fundamental bedrock foundation is not true Optimism, in my opinion. That's Pollyannaism, or what I like to call "Fair-Weather Optimism", meaning one has high hopes for the future so long as the present moment is good. When something (seemingly) bad happens, that hopeful outlook collapses like a house of cards in an earthquake. That's not optimism, that's naivete.
My philosophy of Optimism is what I like to call Grounded Optimism, which means that you don't deny the Truth, but retain a hopeful outlook even when all hope seems lost. Grounded Optimism holds that the Past is a done deal, no amount of faith or hope will change it, but the Future remains to be seen, and we, being individuated units of Consciousness, have the power to influence the future probable in our favor if we so choose through the power of choice.
Now, why am I suddenly espousing some philosophical stance when I was previously discussing AI generated art? Because those that oppose AI art (or any scary new thing that threatens old ways of doing things) need to accept that it is what it is, it can't be undone, and bitching and complaining about it ain't gonna make it magically go away, so may as well make the best of it, right?
...Anyway, that's enough of that. This topic deserves its own blog post, maybe even a full-blown Article, so I'll leave it there for now. Consider it a taste of something to come...
In the meantime, here's a good video discussing the pros and cons of AI art in detail from the Royal Skies channel on YouTube (which is a treasure trove of excellent Blender tutorials which has helped me tremendously in learning the software, I highly recommend it if you're interested in 3D modeling).
StarBright Story Update
The last time I talked about my StarBright Story game concept in any detail was in last year's 11:11 update post. Unfortunately, I don't have too much more to show for since then, as the project hasn't been a priority, but I have developed it a lot in concept, and it's growing into a really neat thing. It may not seem like it now, but you'll just have to wait and see.
The most significant thing I've done since then that I can show for is redesign the main character, Starla. To your left is the original design, which I still like, but I think she looks too old and too tall for what I'm going for. She's supposed to be 7 or 8, whereas this design makes her look more like she's 9 or 10, possibly 11.
One concept I had for this as a broader series was to split the canon into four different tiers, each one representing the phases of childhood (early childhood, middle childhood, late childhood, and early adolescence) and the conflicts children encounter therein, and what role the Imagination plays in resolving those conflicts... or something like that.
To your right is the new design, which definitely looks more the age I originally intended. If you'll notice, I shaded her like and old comic strip character (with little hints of hatching here and there), which I think makes for a good bases of the aesthetic I'm looking for. In fact, I'm almost certain that, while coming up with this design originally, I was unconsciously influenced by all the newspaper comic strips I use to line my work station desk at my current day job as a ceramicist (to catch the debris as I clean greenware). There's one in particular whose artwork I like called Prickly City, which I'm currently using as one (of many) bases for the look of the game.
So far, StarBright Story is shaping up to be a serious contender for consideration in working on a video game project. No doubt it'll simply be a tech demo at first, but that'd be a start!
Plans for the Future
And finally, we get to what I intend for the future. I mentioned earlier I would talk about the other accomplishment I made during my sabbatical in this section, so here we go.
The other thing I accomplished so far during my sabbatical was a retooling of my creative project priorities in light of my regathered creative energy. Now that I don't have all my other umpteen-dozen creative project ideas clambering for attention like a legion of screaming hungry babies crying for their mother who doesn't have enough tiddies to feed them all at once (my what an unsettling metaphor), I can sit calmly and coolly and choose what I want to do in peace.
One thing I've been thinking about is retooling this website a bit. I know it's only been a little less than a year and a half or so that I revamped the site entirely - what was once merely a gallery for my work became something a little more... or did it?
As it stands at the moment, The Bradshacalypse serves two very different but only tangentially related purposes:
1) To be a repository for my creative output (art and whatnot), and
2) To serve as a resource for other artists, storytellers, and creatives in general, such that they may learn to think about their art in a new, more beneficial way.
It has come to my attention now that this dual purpose seems a touch schizoid. How does the one relate to the other? The idea was that I provide this new modality of thinking about Art and Creativity, and show through example of my own artwork how this way of thinking benefits me and, by extension, you.
However, even that still feels a bit inorganic, a bit clumsy, or something. One doesn't naturally emerge from the other, which I feel like it should. One of these has to be primary, and the other secondary. Either I brand myself primarily as a teacher of an esoteric philosophy of art and creativity and use my own art as example, or brand myself primarily as a weird and silly esoteric cartoon artist and derive my teachings from that. I can't be both equally.
So, I think I've settled on a solution, at least for now. You know the adage "show, don't tell", I'm sure. If I were to primarily teach this stuff without having first lived it, who would listen to me, right? So here's what I'm doing, for the time being, anyway:
I'm focusing on the production of creative works, the Gallery aspect of the site first and foremost.
I need to amass an up to date body of creative works before I have any real reason to teach anything. A lot of the old stuff I have here on the site at the moment are outdated in the sense that they reflect any kind of current philosophy of mine, the likes of which I want to espouse here.
And that's not to say I won't drop a musing here and there, I'll still do that, that's just my nature to muse on things, but that effort will be secondary to the making of art.
And currently, I want to focus on much smaller works - short-form comic stories, animated shorts, written word short stories, single music tracks, that kind of thing. The largest creative project I have planned to work on currently is the previously mentioned Kiki Banana print comic, but even that will probably feel more like a series of smaller works, due to its episodic nature (whereby each entry is a self-contained story). Still not sure how I want to do the webcomic, though. If I went through with it at all, it would have to be updated sporadically, and really only serve as a free sample to get people interested. Still undecided on that, but regardless, the print comic is definitely on the way.
And thus concludes this year's 11-11 Light-Worker's Day special. Hope you gleaned something good out of it, and I'll see you in the next... whatever it is I do.
Peace be and take Care!