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For people who write medieval fantasy, play medieval rpgs, and the people who read or play those worlds. For me, the medieval world is 1066 to 1509, b...

Egotists and AI

After watching a few videos of a supremely egotistical YouTuber (who shall not be named) rattle on incoherently about the use of AI for real art, a new realization has dawned upon me.

1) While the finishing style of such digital illustrations can look nicely rendered, as if by a competent oil painter, those same digital illos. look strangely similar and blah. I was impressed at first, but now it already bores me.

2) Studying to become a photo realist is not the answer to overcoming AI generated pictures. This is a good skill set to have, but it won’t make you ultimately better that AI.

3) What will make your art superior to AI is the “cool” factor. Those little bits of imperfect brilliance that sometimes happen? It’s the opposite of the Uncanny Valley effect, where things look close but not quite right. Instead, It’s where art look real on a deeper level, as if it was more real than real, and the image speaks to the viewer.

4) I realize that this is not an answer for most artists. If we could produce bits of brilliance every time we were in the zone, that would be awesome. Sadly, brilliance comes when it’s ready, and on its own schedule, not ours.

5) Here’s my point. Only people can channel genius and make truly great things. AI cannot channel anything but what has already been feed into its training set. AI has no zone or flow state. AI cannot make a deep, artistic connection or illustrate deeper, universal truths.

6) AI is a great invention, and it will make human lives better in so many fields, especially medicine and science. However, I don’t think it can ever really replace human ingenuity. Copy, represent, or rehash, maybe, but replace it, no.

Oh, those faltering skills…

Drawn from a bronze dinosaur in my collection 7 years ago. I still think he’s cute.

Which is to say I had a very active sketchbook practice going back then, and I fell away from it when I turned more to painting. I miss drawing, to be honest. I’m trying to reestablish it in my current life.

Sketchbooking is a thing in its own right. These books are full of art experiments, stuff that you wouldn’t show to other people, and occasionally flashes of art brilliance. They are a way for the artist to maintain is skills, keep his mind’s eye fresh, and work out visual thoughts in a safe environment before you show them to the world.

I’m out of practice. The other day I drew a picture of Kenneth Branagh’s version of Hercule Poirot, and it was okay, except I made his hairline too low. What I had accidentally drawn was a good likeness of Joseph Stalin. Sheesh.

Skills need regular updating and upgrades. Simple as that.

More Miscellaneous Musings

Today Benita and I watched two Agatha Christie movies, Crooked house, and Death on the Nile. Crooked House was excellent and free on Youtube. Glen Close and Jillian Anderson were in it, and it gets high marks.

Death on the Nile was the Kenneth Branagh version, and I’m sad to say it was not as good. Lots of story deviation. AC wrote a great book, and I didn’t see the need to change it around, but there you go. It ticked Benita off and she now has no interest in seeing more Branagh adaptations of Poirot.

I’m still not sure I’m going to fit in with others on World Anvil’s Discord channel. I’m not an aimless chat person, and I only really engage mentally when the conversation gets relevant to me. I’m sure there is some aspect of those message boards where I would fit in, but I haven’t found them yet.

I found out that Barry Windsor Smith was heavily influenced by Pre-Raphaelite artist Dante Gabriel Rossetti and some of the women that served as his muses. I can see the draw, because I like this art movement in general. More study is forthcoming, I think.

So, I was under the impression that when you mix complementary colors, you get gray. Apparently this is true, except with watercolors. I’ve mixed blue and orange many times for a vibrant gray, but apparently violet and yellow or green and red are not as good for this. In fact, I just got brown tones or tans. I guess this has to do with subtractive versus additive mediums. (No, I’m not ready to explain this yet.)

Let’s just say colors are weird. As yellow tones down, for example, it turns green. Yellow is the weakest color, just as red is the strongest. Red tends to flatten out, and is not as good for layering. Furthermore, you can’t effectively add white, make pink, and use that for red highlights. You can lighten red with water and that will work, but don’t add white.

So far, my favorite recipes for skin tones are burnt umber plus orange plus white. Shift those color quantities for different skin tones and shades. There are other ways to achieve skin tone, such as red + yellow + blue, but that’s a bit trickier.

If you’ve read this far then you are a nerd. Rejoice in that, and hold it close to your heart. Peace.

Miscellaneous Mumblings

If people post pics with no information on who the artist is, and there is no signature, I’m probably just going to assume the worst. I am not going to take time to do a reverse image search.

Today was a nice day. We watched Star Dust, the pitch perfect Neil Gaiman movie with an all-star cast. So well done, and I picked up details I hadn’t noticed the first 20 times I watched it.

No art or writing today. I need to recharge my engines, to be honest. Probably tomorrow I’ll get back on it.

At the suggestion of some friends I’ve been trying out Discord again. I’m giving it a fair chance, and interacting there. Someone once told me that you get out of what you put in social media, so we shall see. I can be standoffish, but this time I’m committing with a good, wholehearted attitude.

Our cat Annie has been with us for six years now, and she continues to be a blessing. She’s very dainty and feminine, and she never makes problems. Benita and I have hearts full of love for her.

After two years off, I’ve been playing the guitar again. I’ve lost a lot of my muscle memory, but that’s okay. This time I’m going to learn it right, getting the basics down (again) before I charge into the advanced stuff. My musical tastes have changed over the years. These days I’m digging chordal melody, Gypsy jazz, Wes Montgomery, Jeff Beck, as well as my usual faves. You know, Neil Young, ZZTop, the Eagles, Jackson Brown, Leonard Skynard, Peter Frampton, John Fogarty, Eric Clapton, 70’s era Rolling Stones, Jack White, Ozzy Osborne, Alice Cooper, Johnny Cash, Americana, Folk, Rock, blah blah blah.

About two weeks ago I went cold turkey on Excitotoxins, the sweeter used in Diet Pepsi and other diet drinks. I was miserable for two days, and then my brain came back to life. Since then, I’ve felt like my old self, with all my mental capacities restored and no brain fog. I think it’s safe to say I’m not going back. Being clear headed is just too fine.

Hope everyone had a good post-Thanksgiving. Hope Indigenous Peoples’ day today was equally good.

Thanksgive, TV Review

Thanksgiving is coming to a close, and I have had a lovely day. Benita and I worked on cleaning our downstairs and wore ourselves out. Then we watched a bunch of History in the Making (wonderful show). Our cat has even decided she likes me over the last few days, when previously I thought I had become invisible to her.

I’ve got all the pages formatted for my coffee table art book, and resized the art. It’s going to be 8.5 x 11 and just shy of 200 pages. I’ll be spamming the universe when it’s ready to go on sale. I’ve still got five paintings to finish, so it’ll be a few weeks. I’ll make it available in Kindle, soft back, and hard back editions.

I never wrote a review of GenV, the offshoot show of the Boys on Prime. It tried really hard at being edgy, with excessive gore, some full frontal, drug use, drinking, a bit of sexual deviance, and some other ugly paraphenalia common to what I think of the “bastard superhero” genre.

By Bastard Superhero, I’m referring to the nasty, curmudgeon-like superheroes as written by Warren Ellis and Garth Ennis. These characters tend toward the blunt, violent, unyielding type of hero, or perhaps anti-hero. Almost any of the characters in the Boys fit this bill, as well as those in comics like Planetary or the Authority.

Yet, in the end, despite all the drug culture and porn-like gloss, the characters were really relatable, maybe even downright likable. The show had one major fault in that the kids were smart and struggling with ethics, while the adults were sold-out, morally bankrupt, and blithely unaware (like Ferris Bueller, or Home Alone). As usual, the Vaught Corporation, a fictional stand-in for our world’s corporate out-of-control greed, was the ultimate villain.

Figure Drawing

I went to figure drawing studio today, and it was a good experience. Our model was a young man that knew his way around the podium. There were a lot of artists there, so the room got overly full, and that meant getting a good seat was tough, but I’m glad to see the figurative community in Indianapolis is alive and well.

I’ve done figure drawing off and on for decades. I enjoy being in the company of like-minded creatives all focused on a task, and the energy of the room is both serene and inspiring.

Another reason to stay involved is because imaginative artists like me draw from mental images, and we have to make sure that our personal arsenal of images don’t get distorted over time, or we get into our bags of personal drawing tricks, bad habits, or easy answers to tough questions. You might call that “style,” but I call it a problem to be addressed.

Kim Jung Gi was likely the prince of sketching in his day. His memory for details was almost god-level, and he could prolifically draw amazing vistas of anything he could imagine. He did this going straight to marker or pen, not penciling first of laying out any roadmaps or marks to guide him. If he made mistakes or got a detail wrong, he never mentioned it, so we all assumed it was pure genius. He could draw complex machinery from memory, and his people were spot on.

As someone who is not a prodigy, just fairly competent, I was in a good position to admire the world-class genius of Kim Jung Gi. He passed away a few years ago at the too young age of 45 (I think), and the art world was diminished by his absense.

I’ve meandered a bit, sorry. I love figure drawing.

Simulated Realism and Art

I’ve been thinking about imaginative artists (like me) and AI art, and what we have to do if we want outdo simulated realism. By this, I mean the highly rendered, semi-real, semi-oil painted look AI can whip up.

I say simulated reality, because photo real is a thing artists have dabbled in for generations. That’s not what’s at issue. As artists, we want to make art that is profound, or pops off the page, or communicates great meaning or emotion. That’s not photo realism, necessarily. A good photographer can capture those things, so it’s not about medium.

I’m spitballing here, getting my head together. I don’t want to be rendered obsolete by technology. Maybe it’s inevitable, maybe not, but I don’t want to be second best to a machine. The human touch has to count for something.

So, besides being able to draw and compose well, what I see that I need to focus on is:

1) Depth of field, or aerial perspective, or loss of line in the distance

2) The color and qualities of different light and its effects on local color

3) Reflected light, core shadows and core lights, and the desaturation of shadow.

That’s a big wish list, I know. I’ve played around with all three of these in different work, but mastered none.

It’s a strange time. Photography dealt a blow to our forbearers, then 3D art in the recent past, now generative AI. There should be a path for the traditional artist to compete in.


It’s interesting to me. I always knew I wanted to get into painting, and I flirted with it a few times in the last couple of decades, but could never maintain any sort of momentum.

When I was a kid I got some oil painting lessons. I was probably around age 13 to 16. It’s funny to think that at that point I might have aimed for a career in the fine arts. Who knows what could have happened.

Around 2018 an 19 I became very interested in watercolors. I had messed around with it in my sketchbooks, but not to great effect. I drew stuff, because that was my thing, and painting seemed at best a support skill. I was too busy drawing and inking stuff for assorted clients to give it too much thought.

But, as I said, around 2018 I kind of got obsessed with painting. I remain so. I tried taking a watercolor class at the Art Center, and it was not a good fit. I took an acrylic class there too, and that went well, but watercolor remained my fave.

I was no prodigy. I did not begin with great talent and promise. I was not even particularly good at it. In a way, that made it more fun, because if it was easy I might have gotten bored. At best, I’ve made it to a journeyman level, but that’s probably stretching the truth a bit.

I still struggle with watercolor. I feel like I run the risk of screwing up with every painting, and I push my boundaries on each one. Every single picture feels like it’s going to fly off the rails at some point, and end in the rubbish bin.

This is why I try to finish every piece. Unless it goes truly pear shaped, I finish it, because what I hated about a painting can sometimes end up as what I love about it.

I’m not big on letting the watercolor dictate to me what I can do. I have a vision for each picture, and if the medium bucks me then I double down and try to achieve what I intended.

I won’t call myself self-taught. I watched a lot of Youtube videos, and have read many books and articles on the medium.

I hope you enjoy what I do.

Gen Con 2023

Benita and I just got back from our one-day visit to Gen Con, and we had a great time. For a Sunday, it was unbelievably busy, and the crowds were thick. As we noted at the time, this was not an ideal place for introverts like us, but we stuck it out. The line for the will-call to get our badges took a solid hour.

I would have liked to have seen a booth for our friends at Brittannia Games Designs, but that wasn’t in the cards for them. Considering the outstanding quality of their products, primarily Chivalry and Sorcery, I’m sure they would have sold out.

Because I expressed interest in Candle Obscura and Dagger Heart, the folks at Darrington Press gave us all sorts of freebies. Publishing those game is still a ways off, but I’m looking forward to them.

At GooeyCube, I picked up a campaign setting The Wy’rded World and map pack to go with it. While the maps look too saturated for my tastes, like they had been made with Inkarnate, the campaign guidebook looks super fascinating and full of inspiration.

I picked up Kobold Presses Tales of the Valiant Alpha Release. I love KP’s products that I’ve gotten in the past, so I’m eager to dig into their new game.

I would have liked to have gone to World Anvil’s meetup nearby, but we couldn’t do that and attend Gen Con itself at the same time. Maybe in the future I’ll meet them.

Finally, I got a model 18th century sloop ship, a vessel that could easily be represented as a medieval cog when I put it together.

I had my eye out for a medieval cannon replica, and there were a few, but they were too small. I wan’t something bigger. There were some rows we didn’t get to, and there probably was a ship model to match my wants there somewhere, but patience will win out.

While I’ve heard that this might by Gen Con’s last year in Indianapolis, I hope they come back. It was a lot of fun.

Fun Art

Time’s Arrow, yada yada

My mom passed away last Thursday. It was a blessing in a way, because she had been in serious pain for years, and her body was simply shot. I talked with her every day, as as her short-term memory deteriorated sometimes two or three time per day. Now, I keep thinking she’s going to call, and I realize all over again that she will not be calling me again. Sigh. Mom was really intelligent, knew how to ask lots of probing questions from every angle, and I honestly believe she would have been great as a police interrogator.

I forgot to renew last week, and the site went down for a few days. I was lucky that the URL was still available, because there have been a few erstwhile Johnny Saturns over the years, most of them professional or semi-professional wrestlers. Sorry guys!

I recently purchased Topaz Photo AI, as well as their upscale, de-noiser, and sharpener. If you haven’t checked these out, they have the ability to drastically upscale pictures, and restore details that you didn’t know where there. I would have never believed it if I hadn’t seen it for myself.

There is a lot of stuff going on, but I’ve got a thunderstorm coming so it’s time end this for now.


The Aftermath

I don’t know what burnout feels like for most people, but I know how it manifested in me.

I quit drawing for about two years. I quit digital art altogether. I was still doing covers for books here and there, but whenever I approached the computer I was filled with gut-churning dread, and my mind roiled with mental static. I’m not exaggerating, nor am I trying to make it all sound more dramatic than it was. It was an absolute struggle for me to do computer graphics, a struggle I often lost. It didn’t get better over the nine years since then, either.

This was not lost time for me. I didn’t understand what had happened, but eventually I rediscovered my love of drawing, pen-and-ink art, and watercolor. Now that I was doing art for me and my own projects, I became a born again traditional artist. I don’t think I’ve ever reached or surpassed my digital art abilities with traditional mediums, but I get closer all the time.

When did I turn the corner? I’m not sure, but it was pretty recent. I new there was a problem, but I couldn’t figure out what it was. ADHD? PTSD? Nope and nope. It wasn’t until I stumbled into some articles about burn out that I put it all together. As I studied, I realized that I fit the profile of a burn out, that there was no longer any question of it.

I decided I was going to break this cycle. I would have been all right without digital art–indeed, now I had traditional art. But, my digital abhorrence extended into website authoring and self-promotion. After the underwhelming sales of my first two novels, I new I had to dig back into promotion and websites. I mean, if no one was reading my books, why write them? Why not simply entertain myself with my own stories? Why write them down and try to take them to the world?

Now in 2023, I’ve begun digital art again. Most of it is for fantasy mapping and heraldry. Digital really fits this more mundane tasks. I don’t intend to go back to comics, because that’s a bit of a dead end scene, but never say never. Maybe a great idea will hit me, who knows. Probably not, though.

So, that’s it. I have no revolutionary ideas for healing burnout. I can say that once I identified the problem, I felt much better and slowly began to recover. I guess if any lesson is to be gleaned from this experience, then it is to avoid getting burned out in the first place. Take days off, spend time with family, read and travel to expose yourself to new ideas and places. The conundrum is this–if you want a career in the arts, you really can’t take time for yourself and your mental well being.