Like many of you out there in the art community, I’ve been a bit down lately about the state of things in the art world. What with Adobe Photoshop updating its Terms of Service, to allow it to harvest our artwork for its AI, or with Windows updating its Terms of Service to harvest our artwork for its AI, or DeviantArt updating its terms of service to harvest our work for its AI, or Meta updating its terms of service to harvest our artwork for its AI, ….it seems like we might just be in a war with AI.

And as this war has gone on, I have found myself having a harder and harder time wanting to post my work anywhere, or really to use the computer at all for that matter. I have been at a loss for where to go, what tools to use, how to reach people. Everything seems poisonous and predatory.

Then I remembered, “oh wait, I can just use real paint! That’s always there! …and it hasn’t ever poisoned me! (not since I got rid of those cobalts anyway…)” And so I have had some fun this past month dabbling again in real paint, and while I have been at it, I’ve been investigating this new platform, in the breathless hope that it might offer a new (and more ethical) home for us. It sort of feels like they are the Rebels, freshly landed on Hoth. Surely the Empire won’t find us here and show up with orbital bombardments and ground invasions… (For now though, these icy caves at Cara are quite inviting, and I hope you will give it a look!)

Anyway, the painting, how’d I do it?:

I painted this in a bit of a desperate fever, so I didn’t record the drawing part of this, at all. But for this painting of the Hippo, I used a Winsor and Newton watercolor travel set, limiting myself to only the earth tones, to first establish a warm underpainting in Yellow Ochre and Raw Umber before laying in some local colors in Sap Green and Synthetic Alizarin. I used Princeton Angled Shaders for the painting, which are not as smooth as something like an Escoda sable, but offer some great shape design and wonderful mark-making. After painting the color in several layers, I used some acrylic white at the end for highlights and rendering, and overall just had a great time splashing around in real paint for awhile. I had a ton of fun and am already looking forward to the next one.

For the time being, particularly since Photoshop has decided to speed run their ethical decent to the bottom, I plan to stay a watercolor warrior for a while. AI is probably here to stay, and giant companies will continue to take our work without our consent, to make fake versions of us with which to replace us in our own industry and community spaces. I think we are in a moment right now where it is worthwhile for all of us in the illustration community to consider deeply what companies we should start divesting from, and start doing it.