John Henry said to his captain,
"Well a man ain't nothin but a man,
But before I let that steam drill beat me down,
Lawd, Lawd, I'll die with that hammer in my hand."
Tim Lewis 2000
We have had several discussions on this blog about the expanding role of software in the creation of art. I have argued that programs such as Painter and Photoshop allow people to purchase a level of talent that previous generations had to struggle for years to master. Others have responded that you can't hide bad digital painting/drawing in Corel Painter or bad character animation in Maya any more than you can hide bad oil painting.
Our discussions have ranged across a wide variety of theoretical scenarios. But in the words of the great Yogi Berra,
In theory there is no difference between theory and practice. In practice there is.
I was particularly impressed with a demonstration of Z Brush. I watched the demonstrator use a scanned photograph to establish the topology of a face and then choose from seemingly endless options to customize the face into the image she wanted, selecting not just the skin tone, but how shiny or textured the skin would be, or even how conspicuous the pores would be. When it came to creating the hair, she pulled up a hair cap from a sphere, selected whether she wanted the "hair" or "fur" option, and then simply pulled the hair down to the desired length and cut and combed it the way she wanted. The computer placed her at a level that it would have taken a traditional artist many years to master.
I later looked at the demonstrator's drawings created without the benefit of a computer. They were not nearly as sophisticated or technically skilled.
The benefits of the computer were truly amazing, but I'll tell you something else that I found even more impressive. The demonstrator shyly revealed that she had just resigned from a plum position with the acclaimed computer animation and graphics studio Blur to take classes at the Los Angeles Academy of Figurative Art. The audience gasped. But she said, "I go home at night and I draw and paint, and I feel so happy!"