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On Making Art

This is post no. 72 for Kev Quirk's #100DaysToOffload challenge. The point is to write many things, not to write good ones. Please adjust quality expectations accordingly :)

Art, with a capital "A", is a neat pipeline. There are Artists, who, after years and years of training and practice, get a job at a Company (movie / game studio, or a long-term contract with a record label, etc.), where they produce Content which then the Company turns into a Product; this is then sold to Consumers who enjoy it appropriately.

It is important to note that you can't just become an Artist willy-nilly. If you don't have an actual Job Description saying so, you need to at least be at an appropriately named school full time. But even out of the people who can be described as such, there are only a few Good Artists. They, obviously, get Famous. (We don't need to care about anyone else.)

It is also important not to mix up the roles here. Most importantly, Consumers aren't Artists. They are allowed to criticize Works of Art, but to actually produce any would be a repulsive act of arrogance, trying to rise up to the level without putting in the years of hard work, implicitly suggesting that Artists shall not be Paid as much Money as they are. It's... not as bad as piracy, but... almost.

... what?

As you might guessed from the general theme of the articles of this blog, I'm not an Artist. I'm a Computer Programmer. As such, as per the above paragraph, I have absolutely no right whatsoever to, for example, make a thing like this:

a slightly abstract drawing-like thing with leafy snake things

This, by the way, was made by drawing a leaf in Krita and using it as a brush, with sizes being changed by pressure applied to a drawing tablet. I do think it looks unreasonably good, despite the little effort and the even more meager drawing skills.

I don't actually think there are many people who think exactly like that first paragraph (apart from, maybe, the most evil Hollywood executives). It's fairly fun though to describe this viewpoint, at least to have some contrast to what I'm proposing next.

Art vs. code

Let's first turn this entire thing around. Swap out "Art" for "Code", "Artists" for "Programmers", and... I presume there are actual people who do think that only people who have actual Computer Science degrees should write programs & everyone else should just... wait for them to fix things?

Well... as an Actually Qualified Computer Programmer, I do think I have right to the opinion of... this is stupid.

To begin with, you end up writing nice code not because you have a university degree but because you have written a lot of terrible code and now you know how what to avoid. And thus...

"but!!! see? people who are not Programmers will write terrible code if allowed to do so!"

This, actually, is probably true. (Even though it's a lot easier to deal with code written by beginners, that is just really ugly and needs to be cleaned up, than with code written by Architecture Astronauts, which is impressive and complex and you don't even know what it's even doing.)

But overall... the point is: Programmers will, on average, be better at writing code than people who know how to code just a bit. On the other hand, you might not be too good at coding, but you know a lot better what you actually want, as compared to anyone else who you could hire. And sometimes, this is worth it!

Spreadsheets were, for example, an enormous invention at the time: you didn't have to learn C or COBOL or whatever to put together a simple business model and evaluate various scenarios, so execs could actually do it! They're also excellent ad-hoc databases. If you had to hire a Programmer every time you wanted to create one, ... you'd most likely just not do that.

Likewise, Visual Basic (... mostly up to 6.0) was a neat tool: you could click together a GUI and write some code to keep track of inventory or make some quick calculations. Of course, it wasn't as powerful as C++, but it didn't really need to be. (... then .NET and Programmers took over, and made it 3 times more complicated. Yay.)

It's not like the end result will be a marvel of software engineering; it's yours though.

... so, art?

The same thing applies there, too.

Obviously, a random programmer playing around with Blender or Krita will not be as good as someone whose actual career is about learning about & creating illustrations full-time.

In fact, it's probably not even just the qualifications. I sometimes find myself reading stuff on how to configure web servers, or weird operating systems, just for funsies, not putting in but recovering willpower from it; if someone does drawing / music / writing like this... I have no chance of catching up even with some effort put in.

But you don't have to care.

If you want to draw a thing, go draw a thing. It might be bad, but it might still come closer to what you want than the one having been drawn after you explaining it to someone else. It's definitely better than no drawing at all.

It's only a winner-take-it-all game if you're competing for e.g. composing the soundtrack of one of the 20 movies everyone will watch during the year. If you play something on the piano and you think it's nice and 2 more people think it's cool, it's already worth it. If no one thinks it's cool but you enjoy doing it: still good.

... comments welcome, either in email or on the (eventual) Mastodon post on Fosstodon.