Aug 16 2011

Tools For Art Are Getting Smarter. So Come Out And Play

""){ ?> By Valkyrie Ice

Share’s the end of era where someone like me can claim to be an artist and expect that to actually mean “I can do something you can’t nyah nyah!”


I’m an excited succubus today. I just found the most wonderful new toy.

And no, it’s not that. It’s this.

Yes, I know, it’s an artist’s mannequin. On crack. But I also happen to be a pin-up artist in addition to just being a pin-up. And I write fan fiction. I saw this and I started to drool. And it’s not just because I like playing with dolls. Mostly.

I have another wonderful piece of software designed for the artist as well, a nice program called MangaStudio. Now, in Manga Studio, there’s a means to use and pose a virtual mannequin. Now imagine how easily you can pose a figure and then draw on it with a digitizer pen. Combine that with a high quality human modeling software like Poser. Heck, throw in a Kinect to add the ability to simply stand in the pose you want modeled. Think about the ease you could have drawing your own daily web comic. Think about writers being able to draw their own comics.

Because, you see, that’s what I’m doing. As soon as I can get one of these little dolls, I will, because it will make my job as a pinup artist so much easier. It will let me actually create a webcomic of my fanfiction in a time frame of hours not months. It might even enable me to make animated movies with such programs as AnimeStudio.

So yes, the artist in me is giddy as a Japanese schoolgirl at a tentacle convention. My personal reason for excitement is no cause for excitement on your part, right? But there is a reason you should be excited… a very big one. Because you see, I might be what is considered an “artist” now, simply because I have the ability to draw and color with simple hand eye coordination. This should excite you because it’s the end of era where someone like me can claim to be an artist and expect that to actually mean “I can do something you can’t nyah nyah!”

Why? To be precise, because of the availability of high level interfaces to low level productivity software. All those programs I’ve been naming? All of them are attempts to create high level interfaces. What this means is they make extremely complex tasks massively simpler. You see, as an artist, I have to be aware of thousands of “rules of thumb” and use them more or less subconsciously. Rules about anatomy; about skeletons; about muscles; form, volumes, symmetry, light, and so many others. I’ve learned how to be an artist through years of practice and a drive to make the visions in my head visible. I found a way to make my imagination seen. But even with all that, I can see ways that this little wired doll could make such translation so much easier. I can see how “simple” it makes drawing a character; how easily it could allow me to make my poses so much more dynamic and expressive. And then I think about the fact that this is true for not just artists, but for everyone. This is a sea change.

Because this is just one example of a high level, intuitive, immediately-accessible-to-anyone with-or-without-training tool for creating an extremely sophisticated end product. This won’t just be an artist’s toy. It’s going to become a tool used to make video game animations, create new SL poses and animations, design avatars, and enable just about anyone to make them. 3d character designers just stopped needing a degree to be possible. Corel and Adobe did much the same thing when it came to 2d art. We are gradually creating a world in which knowledge is encoded into our tools. A world where you can pick up a guitar and it will teach you to play it. We’ve long been able to pass on knowledge through training and long practice, but that limited its availability to those few who possessed both desire and “talent.” By encoding the knowledge into our tools, we enable everyone to access those centuries of accumulated knowledge acquisition. We make it possible for everyone to have “talent”

And it’s not going to stop at artwork, my friends. Imagine in a few years when you can have software tools that would enable you to draw or “paint” in the “style” of Da Vinci or Picasso or Warhol. Imagine when I can draw my Ranma fic in true Rumiko “style” or even when we start seeing those new movies starring long dead actors made by Ole Joe Shmoe on a non-existent budget… and they start winning Oscars.

It’s also going to enable anyone to design a product — even such complex engineering projects as a new car or airplane — that will be completely market ready in hours, with software encoded engineering knowledge making adjustments to the designers’ concepts to ensure they are functional devices. We might even soon see a day where “self improvement” algorithms in the software optimize a design automatically to maximize any number of adjustable factors.

High level design tools for low level productivity. It’s one of the most enabling of all technological developments.  The more knowledge we encode into our tools, the farther those tools can take us, and the easier it will be for all of us to be equals.

And for me, it’s my chance to play with dolls again and commit art doing so.

  • By Ian Sheh, August 17, 2011 @ 5:57 pm

    “We make it possible for everyone to have “talent”

    -for one, ‘talent’ is a relative concept; not everyone can have ‘talent’, or else no one has ‘talent’. Get it?

    -talent is in part based on uniqueness in genealogy, only partly ‘learnable’. Michael Jackson had very unique genealogical ‘kinesthetic intelligence’, his ‘talent’ has proven ‘unteachable’, though millions have tried endlessly to learn it.

    I’ve been a creative person and been involved in artistic endeavors my whole life so I feel very strongly about this particular topic. I’d like to see these tools become more accessible. The idea that everybody would be talented in the future makes no sense to me.

  • By Valkyrie Ice, August 18, 2011 @ 9:10 pm

    And I’ve been a very creative person for my entire life.

    Do you recall the movie “The Incredibles?” Syndrome made a statement very much like yours. “And when everyone is super, No-one will be.” The problem is that mentality basically is one based on elitism. “This makes me special and better than you!” and as such, while it’s part and parcel of our current reality, it’s hardly going to matter in a future in which high level interfaces exist for everything.

    What if Michael Jackson’s “Talent” had been downloaded into a chip that could then be given to anyone with a “Skill chip socket” and give them the same “talent?” Would you still think it acts as a method to separate the “Haves” from the “Have Not’s”. Would your ego be bruised if your skills could be as well? If your “uniqueness” could be shared with everyone?

    There’s already a glove out there that can trigger the hand to enable a completely unskilled person to play a guitar. In a few years, I fully expect versions on the market that allow people to play like Axel or Eddie. As we learn more and more about the brain and genetics, I have no illusions that we will remain unable to quantify “talent” and create methods to give it to everyone. That you can’t see the logic behind my saying “everyone will have talent” merely tells me that you are unaware of the efforts being undertaken to make this a reality, or that you are defining your sense of self worth on your “unique creativity” and cannot allow yourself to accept the possibility. I used to do that too, before I realized that such “status markers” were inevitably doomed.

    I’ve been an artist for forty years, I write, I draw, I sing. Not one of those abilities makes me “Better” than anyone else. And I feel just as strongly about the topic as you do.

  • By Evan, August 19, 2011 @ 5:41 pm

    Haven’t you heard? Post-modernism is dead. People who use garbage like this (which has been around for a *really* long time btw, Johnny-Come-Lately) no longer get to declare themselves artists. The new Authenticity requires ability, inspiration, skill. Hacks need not apply.

  • By Pet Shop Boy, August 24, 2011 @ 10:28 pm

    Valkyrie Ice,

    You are confusing talent with ability. Talent is relative. If everyone could dance as well as Michael Jackson we would no longer call him “talented”. We call him talented because he can dance better than everyone else; there is nothing elitist about this fact.

    Evan, what do you mean “post-modern”? That’s a different kind of “relative” I’m afraid.

    Ice baby, your technology will make people able to do things – but the people who are better at doing those things will be the ones we call “talented”. Your article would be vastly improved by you recognizing this and saying everyone will have “skill”.

  • By Valkyrie Ice, August 27, 2011 @ 6:16 am

    The problem I have with that distinction is that “talent” merely means someone with a high level of “skill”.

  • By Bitrat, September 28, 2011 @ 12:55 pm

    Really neat! Wonder if anyone has produced a similar device that would attach to the human body, allowing real time modeling of avatars, as well as animation…..a VR tool???

Other Links to this Post