The Nuances of Human Craftsmanship in the Age of AI

ai generated visual vs oil painting by artists Marianne Nems 
Left: AI generated Image  ~  Right image: Oil painting by Marianne Nems
THE TWILIGHT WHISPERERS (Medium: oil on canvas - Dimensions: 52" x 62")

In today's rapidly advancing technological age, the interplay between human craftsmanship and artificial intelligence in art presents a compelling discourse. My journey as an artist, weaving between traditional mediums and AI, offered a plethora of insights into the essence and evolution of artistic creation. AI, in its essence, mirrors an instantaneous capture of creativity. It's akin to a camera’s snapshot, capturing a fleeting moment in time. Such moments, while beautiful and striking, are frozen, unable to grow or evolve further. In stark contrast stands human artistry—a living, breathing entity. Every brushstroke, every hue chosen, and every medium used reflects the artist's journey, thoughts, emotions, and experiences. It's a testament to the fluidity of human creativity, a creation that matures and evolves in tandem with its creator.

oil painting on canvas by artist Marianne Nems

This painting, entitled: The Horse Whisperers, was the first input, and the prompt was: /describe using Midjourney AI tool

My experiments in merging AI with traditional artistry began with using my own paintings as foundational inputs. The AI's role was simple: take my prompts and generate an immediate visual representation. It was a streamlined process, eschewing the often lengthy brainstorming phase intrinsic to traditional artistry. Every generated image, while rooted in my inputs, felt like a hyper-accelerated version of my creativity. This led me to a profound realization: while AI could mirror the form and even the superficial aesthetics of art, it couldn't replicate the soul of the artist embedded within.

Oil painting on canvas by artist Marianne Nems

Our lives, marked by countless experiences—from the mundane like learning to eat and talk, to the transformative like education, relationships, and personal growth—shape us as individuals. Each experience, be it guided by prior knowledge or driven by unbridled curiosity, adds a layer to our persona. For artists, this rich tapestry of experiences translates directly into their art, giving it depth, context, and soul. This richness often stands at odds with the AI's approach, which, while efficient, lacks the depth derived from lived experiences. However, it's undeniable that AI serves as a bridge, a potent tool translating abstract imaginations into tangible visualizations. This was evident when I attempted to translate an AI-generated image onto canvas. The painting, while visually in line with my vision, lacked the essence and pulse of my other creations. It was a testament to the irrevocable value of the human touch in art. An artist's touch, shaped by their life's trials, tribulations, joys, and sorrows, infuses a piece with vitality, making it resonate on an emotional level with its audience.

As we stand on the cusp of an era marked by boundless technological potential, it's crucial for artists to understand and harness AI as a complementary tool. It offers a fresh perspective, a new dimension to explore, and a way to optimize our visions. Yet, at the heart of every masterpiece, whether assisted by AI or not, lies the artist's spirit. It's this spirit, rooted in authenticity and the continuous quest for self-improvement, that brings art to life, making it a timeless testament to human creativity.

Oil painting on canvas by artist Marianne Nems

In the vast expanse of the art world, there's an intricate dance between traditional craftsmanship and modern technological tools like AI. As an artist, my journey has been defined by both elements, each shaping my understanding and approach to creation in distinct ways. At the heart of my artistic practice lies the craft—the methodical, hands-on approach of bringing visions to life. Crafting is an embodiment of our innate human need to create, a process as ancient as humanity itself. It's through this manual labor of love that we genuinely come in touch with materials, techniques, and our unique capabilities. Crafting is more than just a physical act; it's a profound mental and emotional engagement, offering insights into our own psyche. Every decision, from selecting tools to refining techniques, is an opportunity to learn and optimize. As we navigate through imperfections and rectify mistakes, crafting offers invaluable lessons in perseverance, adaptability, and innovation. Contrastingly, the introduction of AI in art has ushered in an era of instantaneity, where creations materialize in moments, a stark difference from the long, immersive journey of traditional crafting. When I incorporated AI into my studio practice, I found that it streamlined the ideation process. With a simple prompt, I could generate numerous visualizations instantaneously—a remarkable tool that could sketch out my imagination rapidly. It was a revelation that seemed like the future of art. And with my artworks being the source for the AI, I felt a deep connection, as if I was the originator of whatever the AI produced. However, as I dove deeper, an essential realization dawned upon me. While AI could generate images based on my artwork and prompts, the final product, although visually appealing, lacked the soul, the life essence that's intrinsically tied to traditional craftsmanship. When I took an AI-generated image and transformed it into an oil on canvas painting, the result felt somewhat lifeless, devoid of the vitality that defines my artistic identity.

This experience underscored a crucial distinction between AI and human craftsmanship. It's with the craft that we truly learn to optimize and create. Crafting teaches us patience, dedication, and the value of the journey. It celebrates our unique human attributes of ingenuity, creativity, and passion. As we engage with our craft, we develop an intimate relationship with our work, embedding our life experiences, emotions, and soul into every piece. The act of crafting thus becomes a medium of self-expression and self-discovery, revealing insights about our values, passions, and perspectives.

In the face of AI's immediacy, the slow, deliberate pace of crafting stands as a testament to the richness of the human experience. Crafting reminds us of the beauty of the journey, the joy of exploration, and the profound satisfaction derived from honing a skill over time. While AI can be a valuable tool for visualization and exploration, it cannot replicate the depth, emotion, and authenticity born out of human touch. To truly understand oneself as an artist requires immersing oneself in the craft, optimizing techniques, experimenting with ideas, and constantly pushing boundaries. Our connection with our environment, our human ecosystem, and our personal experiences play a pivotal role in shaping our artistic identity. As artists, it's our obligation to visually craft our era's essence for future generations.

In this age of technological advancements, AI serves as a compelling tool that can complement our artistic endeavors, but it shouldn't replace the inherent value of human touch. The blend of traditional craftsmanship and AI can lead to a higher level of artistic expression, offering a broader palette of possibilities. It's through this synergy that we can truly elevate our art, ensuring it remains authentic, resonant, and alive. In essence, while the allure of AI in art is undeniable, it's the human touch, the craft that imbues life into our creations. As artists, we must strive for a balance, leveraging the best of both worlds to produce art that speaks, feels, and lives.


THE TWILIGHT WHISPERERS (Medium: oil on canvas - Dimensions: 52" x 62")