OCTOBER 4 — One of the modern sicknesses is instant gratification. Too many people want everything now ― same day delivery, automated tasks and complain about anything being even a minute late.
The artificial intelligence (AI) trend seems to be just one example of that. One very vocal AI champion sent out a long post that was shared on X saying that AI now made art “accessible” to everyone.
It got a lot of deserved pushback ― people telling stories about growing up poor and having to help support their families as children, while still finding ways to pick up a pencil and make some sort of art.
One of my favourite stories is about a homeless man who had nowhere to rest his head and yet somehow found the time to make art by collecting newspapers and creating his own pieces, that he sold on the streets.
Yes, art is for everyone. Yet I cannot consider AI-generated schlock art as there is neither skill nor intention put into it.
Oh, they might argue there is some sort of talent needed to choose the right prompts to create a near-approximation of what they want.
That's the thing though. An AI programme will guess at what you desire but what you see in your mind's eye isn't going to come out on paper because only you can see what you thought up or dreamed.
Lately I've been working on fixing up an old doll that I bought mostly because she came with a fantastic wardrobe, which was a bargain considering I paid just RM50 for what, brand new, would have cost hundreds of ringgit.
She was obviously a well-loved doll. Her face was discoloured on her cheeks, likely where a child had pressed its mouth to and her head was bald in places.
It would honestly have cost me just RM50 to buy a new doll but it felt like a fun thing to try to give her a new head of hair, so I spent maybe RM10 on a few batches of wig hair.
The enterprise has not been successful so far. Rerooting (the term for replanting hair in a doll's skull) was not an option as the doll was old and its scalp fragile.
Making a doll wig mostly involves two steps: creating a wig cap to fit the doll's skull and then glueing hair to said wig scalp.
I botched the wig cap not once but a few times, trying various methods and materials from an old dress lining to Scotch tape before finally appropriating an old sock.
The first wig attempt was a disaster as the wig hair was easily tangled and full of knots, while my second attempt had what looked like a palm tree in the middle of her scalp that just would not flatten despite the combined efforts of shrink wrap and a hair dryer.
I was this close to just throwing the hair and the doll in the trash but then I looked for more YouTube videos until I found one that went into a lot more detail and even explained how to avoid the pitfalls I had stumbled into, hands full of glue.
What I needed were the right materials (stretchy fabric was a must, not optional) and a lot of patience.
It seemed I needed to wait between glue applications to properly harden my caps instead of trying to glue hair on so soon.
The video even demonstrated how to properly affix the hair so it looked natural instead of like a doll version of a pontianak.
What I was missing was the right teacher as well as a lot more patience in the process.
That is what art involves. There's trial and error, there's seeking knowledge and guidance and learning from people who came before, while not expecting to succeed immediately.
Now my doll is just chilling in my study as its wig cap sits on its head, after the third glue application.
It's still not as hard as I'd like it to be so I think another application and overnight wait is in order but at least, after the many attempts I think I know what I'm doing.
While the process is a bit of work and very messy, at the end of the day it's still a lot more satisfying than just heading to the mall and finding another doll.
Taking my time, knowing there's no rush and that the wig will get to where I want with a little time and a little chill on my part, is reassuring.
That kind of satisfaction isn't something AI can give you. I know what I want and precisely how to get it, AI is at best guesswork and estimation, with nothing to show for it.
At the very least, my hideous botched wig would make a fun Halloween prop or a fun way to prank people so none of that effort was wasted.
What is a waste is that people aren't willing to give themselves the time and grace to learn a skill, and to be fine with not being accomplished immediately. Art is in its making and not just the final result.
As it goes, the ringgit has now fallen to RM4.7 to the US dollar so it will mean I'll just have to resort to fixing up old dolls as new ones get even more prohibitively expensive.
While I don't know how my next wig will turn out, at the very least even if it doesn't go the way I hope, I'll take it as a lesson and try again, or perhaps see if a different technique would prove worth attempting.
That's the adventure that lies in creating that I wish AI bros would do ― pick up a pen, pencil or crayon instead of trying to convince us that ugly AI-generated works are “just the same”. Here's to resourcefulness, creativity and enjoying the best thing about art — the human factor.
* This is the personal opinion of the columnist.