A few days ago a fellow artist sent me a message on Instagram about a post he had saw that he thought I might be curious to see. In the message was a video clip of a person creating a drawing with an electric stippling pen. I don’t know if anyone has seen these pens (watch video below if you’re curious) but basically they’re an electric charged pen with a nib that rapidly goes up and down while releasing ink onto your drawing surface much in the same way you would use a regular pen in traditional stippling. It looks like a pretty cool, convenient and time saving art tool. But after watching the video, I was reminded of an MIT article that I read about teaching machines how to make art and I couldn’t help but wonder, exactly when and where do we draw the line between convenience and technology and express of the human spirit? As I thought about it more I couldn’t help but feel that the electric stippling pen was like cheating a bit artistically. To me, it’s akin to you grandma baking buttermilk biscuits from scratch compared to popping open a can of Pillsbury. Okay, maybe that’s comparing apples to oranges, anyways Pillsbury’s Grands are good as hell but I digress. At least with the electric pen, you’re still controlling the movement of the pen, so it’s not like it’s creating a drawing all by itself and you’re also still employing your own imagination to the artwork. But maybe it’s just me that’s haunted by this nagging, creepy feeling that gadgets and machines are taking over our lives and that in the process we’re losing something. What that something is, I can’t really put my finger on it but I’m sure two or three decades from now we’ll start to see reports and research papers coming out pinpointing what it is but it will be too late to correct the course.
Art has always been a form of human expression, so if we’re striving to teach machines how to be creative and make art, something that was once solely a human endeavor, can we still say that it’s art? When you take the humanness out of the equation of creativity is it still creativity or is it just an algorithm mimicking human creativity?
Needless to say, you won’t see me drawing with an electric stippling pen partly because I’m a traditionalist in that respect but also because stippling is my form of meditation that allows my mind and soul to slow down, which in this data driven, high tech, high speed, constantly connected, modern life we’re living, slowing down is something the human spirit sorely needs . And I don’t want some gadget taking that away from me.