Search the wiki
Becoming a Better Artist #1005: Engage your Brain
Happy 2023. We made it 😉
Going into 2023, it seems new tech is all the rage: AI Art, AI chit-chat and NeRF tools are alive and kicking. Now before we continue, I should make it clear that the words you are about to read were written by… a human, specifically by me, Jahirul Amin.
However, I did use a supercomputer to come up with this topic. I then used a supercomputer to think about the structure of this post. Following on from this, I used a supercomputer to jot down some scribbles in a notebook. The supercomputer then converted the scribbles into letters on a laptop. Letters became words, words turned into sentences, sentences made paragraphs and viola, this is the final result, warts and all.
Now, you may be thinking:
“I want a supercomputer! Where can I get one? Is it within my budget?”
And luckily for you, the answer is: Yes, you can have a supercomputer. In fact, you already have a supercomputer. If you did not know, in-cased in your cranium is your supercomputer: your brain.
I mentioned “warts and all” above. Why? Because I don’t actually use a spellcheck/grammar tool as I type. I do this so I force my brain to figure out how to spell and connect words together. I feel that it keeps my brain fresh to have a crack at things without the support of “helper” tools. Later on, and before publishing, I’ll run it through a tool to check how I did. Again, the idea being to force my brain into working.
For this article, I scored 82% according to Word when using the ‘Spelling and Grammar’ tool. However, upon working through the notes, I did not agree with many of them (some I did). Why did I not agree with them? Because, they were trying to re-work how I wanted to convey my message. They were trying to standardise or normalise my words.
Your supercomputer is divided into three parts: the cerebrum, the brainstem and the cerebellum. We won’t dive into the differences and the responsibilities of each part of the brain but on the whole, let’s just say that it is an absolute marvel, and it is said that the human brain is able to handle a billion billion calculations per second. These calculations include managing your memory, motor skills, thought, vision, temperature, and overall, keeping you up and running.
For me, the magical factor about the brain is that it allows you to THINK and PROBLEM SOLVE. It allows you to LEARN, to absorb and store vast amounts of data, and then use that information in new and CREATIVE ways.
When you take a step back and think about that, you realise just how lucky we are as human beings. We have been provided with such a gift that when used and combined with our lived experience, we can write poems and books to stir up every emotion. We can create images (still and moving) to take us back in time or transport us to a vision of the future. We can use sound to pull on the heartstrings or make us fear what is to come. We can use numbers and formulas to reveal more about the universe; a universe that we are all a part of. All this and more.
Using our supercomputer, we can make CHANGE.
Going into to 2023, we have more technology at our fingertips then we have ever had before. More tools are readily available and what took an individual years to learn and apply can now be done by those with little experience and with a few button presses. But the question is:
Do they know what they are doing and why? Do they understand what is happening under the hood?
I have no quarrels against new tech. New tech will always be on the horizon and implemented into software and hardware. This is a good thing. For I could not do without my toaster. Yes, I could pop a slice of bread under the grill, however, a toaster is simply more convenient and it will ‘ping’, so I can focus my attention on other things.
However (and apologies for sticking with toast here), the fact of the matter is that if I had no toaster, I would still be able to toast my bread. I can problem solve and using my supercomputer, I can come up with another solution.
So, my issue with new tech is not new tech. My issue with new tech is people thinking they do not have to learn because “a tool can do the job for them”. I do have concerns for those that look for “quick fixes” and “easy solutions”.
Looking for Shortcuts
And this concern is not just for artist, it goes beyond that. As a human race, we seem to be being pulled into a direction where we are “fed” junk (both nutritionally and educationally) and given simple tools to give us quick and instant gratification. We are turning into a group of copycats and style-stealers, rather than coming up with new ideas and solutions. We are being pushed to become lazier and then “subscribe” to tools and features to get through each day (both professionally and personally).
Instead of eating well, we eat food that no other specie would go near, and then we slob down in front of the TV and take “pills” to correct our problems. All this rather than eating well, exercising and going out and appreciating fresh air. No issues with the odd dodgy meal and a bit of TV. Variety is the spice of life of course but when the dodgy stuff becomes the norm, then what good is that?
Instead of thinking, reading, writing, drawing, counting and most importantly, doing, we are encouraged to consume. Go shop for stuff you don’t actually need, go sit in front of the telly and binge watch shows for hours on end. Get hooked on films that use the same story structure over and over again (but with different characters). Again, no quarrels with a bit of this and a bit of that, but when all you do is consume the same thing over and over, doesn’t it get a little boring? What goodness is that feeding you? How is that pushing your supercomputer?
Feeding your Brain
But going back to the brain. Just like your gut and just like your muscles, if you do not “feed” your brain, and feed it good stuff (of which you’ll need to decide what is good and bad), you end up losing the ability to use it. You lose the ability to creatively think, and then do. Yes, it is true that it takes time to learn. It takes time to give the brain the info it needs for you to become smarter, more talented, more creative. But you take care of that supercomputer of yours and it will take care of you. Not just on a creative level but on an emotional level too.
The other great thing about the brain is that it can be used to question things. If we forever accepted things as they were presented, then we’d probably still think that the Earth is flat, or that the sun revolved around the Earth. So, when you are presented with words, images, videos, etc. you can use your brain to question the narrative, the anatomy, and so on. What I am finding is that more and more people are just accepting what they are presented with. They don’t question things. And the less they use their brain, the more they push responsibility and blame onto other things.
“It was not me; I was told this by so and so. Actually, it was the software, the hardware! It was everything but me!”
Understanding the Fundamentals
It seems strange to remind people that they have a brain. However, with all the new tools on the horizon (or already in our hands), we seem to have forgotten the importance of understanding the fundamentals: anatomy, perspective, story, colour, shape, form, light, matter, writing, reading, maths, science, (I could go on for a while here). Many have seemed to get into a habit of just making stuff. Then they make more stuff and even more stuff and then mix it with some other stuff that they saw and shove in a little more of this other random stuff. And boom, here is your next character! A space rabbit mixed with a samurai, combined with a lemon, with a mutant zombie finger!
I’m sure some thought has gone into the design but from what I’m seeing, there is a core lack of understanding in the fundamentals. There is a lack in learning, in questioning, and in an ability to explan why decisions were made. And learning is meant to be fun. Learning should not be a chore. It might be difficult to connect the dots at the time whilst learning, but the more dots you pop down, the more connections you’ll be able to make. The more you learn, the more you’ll be able to answer questions, the more knowledge you will have. And the good thing about having knowledge is as Francis Bacon said:
“Knowledge is power.”
Learning for a Better You
The act of learning should be exciting, it should give you a rush. Sometimes it will be hard, it will be a struggle. But don’t you find it exciting to spend hours sketching, or putting words down to tell a story, or pushing points around in 3D, then taking a step back to see what you’ve created?
This learning, this research, will only help feed into the narrative of the world and characters you are designing. For example, should this character have short hair? If so, why? To answer this question, you could explore their background. What job do they have, what is their financial situation, where do they live, etc. All of these answers and more will help shape the design of your character.
And maybe you are not working on characters but trying to visualise how to capture light. Like Monet and Renoir before you. Maybe you are looking at using new tech to explore how light bounces and how we see the world. In order to do so, you’ll first need to learn about light. How long does it take for light to reach Earth from the sun? Then ask yourself, are we in fact only ever seeing the past? Light takes time to travel from the object we are looking at, into our eye and then to generate an image that we see. So, in that time (however fractional it may be), change has happened. So, are we always seeing into the past? Hmm!
See what happens when you start to think!
Remember to ask yourself:
“What is the intention here? What message am I looking to send out into the world? How do I want this piece of art to reflect on me and my thinking?”
2023 I’m sure will be a rollercoaster of a year. I’m looking forward to it. I hope you are too. But as you plan and prepare to tackle the year, don’t forget to “feed” your supercomputer. Use any tool you like (as long as you have not stolen it from others) to create your art BUT do use your brain from time to time. It will thank you for it.
And remember to stay connected with your fellow human, your fellow animal, and even your fellow tree. Connection brings us together. Connection creates a better world. Be nice, be kind and have a great 2023.
Support CAVE Academy
Here at CAVE Academy the beauty of giving and sharing is very close to our hearts. With that spirit, we gladly provide Masterclasses, Dailies, the Wiki, and many high-quality assets free of charge. To enable the team to create and release more free content, you can support us here: Support CAVE Academy