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Growing up, there were certain miracles that only Santa Claus would perform. Every November, I thoughtfully wrote out my Christmas list and sent it with my dad to work where he said they had a special mailbox that delivered letters to the North Pole. On Christmas morning, I found gifts that were truly amazing. They were so remarkable because no matter how much money my 8-year-old self saved, there was no way I could buy what Santa had given me. His power was so much greater than mine, and Christmas was magical because I saw the impossible become real. 

I’ve often wondered why Christmas seemed to lose most of its magic once I grew up. Last year, I realized that the reason why I don’t count down the days until December 25th or lie awake every night thinking about my Christmas list is that I am now just as powerful as Santa Claus. Everything that I wanted as a kid is within reach—all it takes is one hundred dollars and free two-day shipping. Christmas was magical because I was given gifts that I could only dream of. Now, I hardly have to wait at all to get something I want. Waiting was hard, but it made the payoff so much more special.

My creativity and my most memorable Christmases both seemed to crescendo when I was around 11 years old. At that point, creating things was really important to me, so I drew pictures of dragons, built toy castles, and wrote stories. I wanted to be an animator and go to Harvard. I didn’t know about design or illustration or VFX or filmmaking, and that didn’t matter. I made things because I wanted to.

When I was in sixth grade, my family went on a vacation to visit my uncle and aunt who were living in New York City. My uncle David worked as a color key artist at Blue Sky Studios, and since I had my sights set on working in animation, I was very excited to get an inside look at what it took to make a movie.

Seeing the work of professional artists was one part inspiring and two parts discouraging. How could I ever be as good as them? I knew that it was going to take a lot of work to be that skilled, and frankly, I was afraid of that. After our visit to Blue Sky, most of my drawings ended up on my math homework and history notes. I stopped drawing in my free time, partly because I thought that the amount of work it would take to get better was too insurmountable.

Sometimes, people stop creating because someone else tells them that their work is bad. Other times, people just lose interest in the arts. But I think that a much more common reason why people stop creating is because making things is hard. When you realize that the road to producing art at a high level isn’t always a fun one and that creativity can often smell more like work than play, it’s easy to say “well, I’m just not a creative person.”

How many people do you know who took piano lessons in their childhood and stopped after a few years? They probably didn't stop because their teacher said they had no hope of becoming a good musician. And it probably wasn't because they learned everything there was to learn. Most of the time, people stop taking piano lessons because they don't practice enough, don't see enough improvement, and realize that learning to play music at a high level is really difficult. Virtually no one looks back at their piano-playing experience and says "Boy, I sure am glad that I quit when I did!"

Making things will always be hard—it's supposed to be. Just like my childlike anticipation for Christmas made December 25th more magical, fighting through hard creative problems leads to more fulfilling creations. It takes grit to power through challenging prompts, master technical skills, and improve your craft. As a working artist today, I'm grateful for the long days and nights that I've spent trying to hone my abilities. The process of creation has meant more to me than the end product I've created.

As a society, our respect for the process has been slowly abandoned. Information is as accessible as the speed of thought; an endless stream of entertainment is two clicks away; ready-made meal kit delivery services ensure that you never have to do your own cooking. As daily life has evolved to be faster and more efficient, so has art. Advancements in digital art have steadily progressed through the 2010s and hit a major inflection point with the recent rise of art completely generated by artificial intelligence. Do you want an elephant riding a motorcycle? You can have that in a matter of seconds. Do you want it in the style of Monet? Caravaggio? Matisse? Easy ask. Now, with a few words and the click of a button, you can create an art piece in record time.

But that's the problem: you aren't actually creating anything. Yes, you thought up a prompt and fed it to the AI, but that's it. That were no creative processes, no hours of iteration, no efforts to improve your craft. In 2022, an A.I.-generated art piece won first prize in a digital art competition at the Colorado state fair. Jason M. Allen, who entered the piece, was bullish on the validity of his prize and said, "This isn’t going to stop. Art is dead, dude. It’s over. A.I. won. Humans lost.”

1. What is Art?
Artificial intelligence can far outpace humans in image-making, but I don't think that art itself is dead. Fundamentally, art is more than the final product. The reason why the work of Van Gogh is loved by so many people is not because his work simply has a visual appeal. Inherently, we respect the hard work that it takes to mix colors, work a brush, and stylize a scene. Art is not just oil on canvas or pixels on a screen. Real art has an element of the human soul imbued within its bounds. You can't see the blisters or sleepless nights, but you can feel them.

You can find respect for the process in sports as well as art. Some of the most satisfying games to watch are come-from-behind, against-all-odds victories. Think of the New England Patriots’ 2017 Super Bowl comeback against the Atlanta Falcons. The Patriots were down 28-3 in the third quarter and didn’t score a touchdown until the end of the third quarter. Even then, there was no hope of a comeback because a deficit that large had never been overcome in the final quarter of a Super Bowl. Tom Brady rallied his team and they scored 18 points in the fourth, sent the game to overtime, and won Super Bowl 51 with a score of 34-28. That game isn’t remarkable if it was played on Madden 17 on Xbox One.

The 2022 NCAA Men’s March Madness Tournament saw one of the most historic underdog runs in the league’s history by Saint Peter’s. Saint Peter’s beat 2-seed Kentucky in the first round, 7-seed Murray State in the second, and 3-seed in the Sweet 16 until finally getting bested by the University of North Carolina in the Elite Eight. This school out of Jersey City, New Jersey had less than 3,000 students and an annual budget of $1.6 million for their men's basketball team. In the first round of the tournament, they beat traditional college basketball powerhouse Kentucky, who had a student body of just under 30,000 and an $18.3 million budget for their team. During a postgame interview after Saint Peter’s beat Purdue, coach Shaheen Halloway was asked what he said to his team after their win. He said, “What they gonna say now? Anybody got something to say? We can’t do this, we can’t do that, cinderella, underdogs. Listen, I got guys that just play basketball. I got a bunch of guys that just play basketball and have fun, that’s all we do.”

The Saint Peter’s run isn’t just about basketball, it’s about beating the odds, surprising the doubters, and rising to the challenge. A.I. can’t do that. No one cares if you bowl a perfect game in Wii Sports or get a hole-in-one in Mario Golf because any imitation of sports will never measure up to the real thing. In sports, we value the achievements of people over the movement of pixels.

There's an element of vicarious living that draws people to entertainment. We watch sports because its fun, but also because we wish we could be as strong and fast as star athletes. We visit art museums because seeing an authentic Cezanne can be breathtakingly beautiful, but also because we wish we could create something as remarkable. There's nothing aspirational about viewing a piece of A.I. generated art–no grand creator, no underdog story, no tragic ending. I believe that the world will always value the triumph of the human spirit, especially when it comes to art and entertainment.

As long as people fight to create, improve, and innovate, art is not dead. The artist's process will always give their work an element that a machine won't be able to replicate.

2. Why is Art?

I believe that we come from a great Creator and that our world is evidence of His handiwork. With that grand spiritual heritage, we are wired to be creative beings with creativity as part of our spiritual purpose. This purpose extends beyond the arts and touches every facet of life. Will you create peace or conflict? Beauty or smut? Happiness or misery? Friendships or rivalries? Our time on earth will largely be defined by what we create and how we learn to do it.

My high school band director would often say that marching band is a microcosm of life, usually following that up with a life lesson from that afternoon's rehearsal that broadly applied to other situations. I have found that creativity of all kinds can be an instructive teacher if you're willing to look deeper than pencil lines on a paper or paint on a canvas. When experimenting with visual hierarchy in a composition, you're really learning about priorities and how different parts of a whole fit together. Spending long hours developing your skills as an artist can teach you that the way to solve any worthwhile problem is through, not around. As you layer your creative works with meaning, you can begin to recognize the subtext of your own life and draw connections between your current reality and your anticipated future.

I believe that doing the hard work of creativity is a matter of spiritual survival. If you completely abandon manual creative processes, you will rob yourself of valuable lessons about yourself and your existence. Your purpose is to learn creation and become more than who you currently are. Taking shortcuts to achieve interesting visuals can undermines your unique voice and erode your communicative abilities. In a world full of quick dopamine hits, neglecting the hard work of creativity can damage your spiritual development.

Artificial intelligence can be a helpful tool in art creation, especially when faced with a tight deadline. However, if algorithms and machine learning are relied on more than personal experiences and individual ideas, then you have sold your spiritual birthright for a mess of convenient pottage.

3. How is Art?

Creative tools advance almost on a weekly basis and it is nearly impossible to stay completely current on every new software, plug-in, script, and web app. But deep creative work isn’t found in the next version of your favorite software, it’s found through introspection, research, and personal voice. Ryan Summers, creative director at Spillt in Denver, Colorado, wrote about his experience learning the importance of sticking to fundamental creative principles:

“This took me a REALLY LONG TIME to learn but no matter how fast I got at my tools, no matter how many shortcuts I memorized, and no matter how much I invested in faster hardware – I still FELT like everything took me forever to get STARTED. What I eventually learned after 10+ years was that my ability to conceptualize in my head before I ever sat down at my computer was severely limited by my DESIGN FUNDAMENTALS – I knew HOW to make stuff but I had no idea WHAT I should be making.
Every project started as a series of blind jabs in the dark, waiting for that "magic" to just show up. Then one day I was sitting next to a senior designer. We both had to make styleframes for the next day for a pitch. I was frantic. I was whipping up stuff with complicated plugins. I was diving into C4D. He just sat there calmly with his tea, scribbling in a sketchbook and then looking through stock photos for an hour or two. After lunch I passed by and he had 4 really nice looking frames. All unique ideas. I didn't even have one good image worked out – just a ton of messy layers. By the end of the day, he had 4 concepts, each with 3-4 boards AND AN ANIMATION TEST?!?

I almost broke down. I had to ask him what his secret was. He said he only knew one piece of software really well, and when he learned it, he never had to relearn it. WHAT SOFTWARE? I almost couldn't contain my excitement. "DESIGN, man. Just design. Learn it once and you know it forever. It's like living in the Matrix."

Ever since then, my world has been different. I truly believe having control of the fundamentals of design will make you more confident, faster, and more imaginative no matter what your role in motion design.”


Christmas is about more than just presents, but presents are a big part of the holiday. Art is about more than just visuals, but visuals do matter when determining the value of a piece. In a market where art is viewed digitally and attention spans are limited, what a finished product looks like is often the only thing people pause to consider. Because we place so much emphasis on visuals, the rate at which art can be generated by A.I. is truly breathtaking. How can a human possibly keep pace with artificial intelligence? Truthfully, we can’t—at least not when it comes to merely creating images.

However, I believe that art is more than just image-making and that creativity is more than just producing something for social media. Creative studios often parrot the line “we are storytellers at heart.” Some variation of the phrase has been so overused that it has lost a lot of its meaning. And while art can communicate a story, the creator behind the work isn’t just a teller of stories, he’s a learner of stories—his own story.

Engaging in the creative process reveals things about you that you didn't know were there. Through doing the hard work of creativity, you learn about how you work through micro problems and how you approach life's big challenges. Outsourcing creative work to an A.I. robs you of experiences that can lead to self-discovery and self-mastery.

Artificial intelligence isn't going anywhere and it will continue to penetrate artistic industries. A.I. can be a useful tool to aid in the creative process, but that's all that it should be: an aid.

Your purpose is to learn how to create.
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