I am not one of those craftspeople or artists with extraordinary gifts for drafting, drawing, or painting. Yes, there are some early sketchbooks full of pen and ink, some watercolors and acrylics, but the day I got my first Apple computer was fabulous. There was a quantitative change in certain areas of my carving. Computer-generated typography saved me hours, if not days, on projects involved in lettering; I still did all the hand carving. The serifs that needed doing just this way and not that way were done by hand. Emphasis for shading and display in the sun was still manual, and specific manipulations for three-dimensional complex curves still were not feasible for a computer to handle. But gone were the tedious hours of manually drawing things out.
Many sign people mastered the art of manual layout early, but I found it challenging. And it was the main reason I didn’t pursue more sign work early on. I could carve, but absent the drafting skills, it wasn’t economical to spend all that time on a simple job. The computer changed all that.
Now, it’s true that many have surrendered creativity to mechanical production. The computer is at its best when it is assisting us in creation. It knows rules, but we know how to break them, create new ones, and carefully weigh the ingredients needed for a balanced work.
You may say that AI can do all that now. But where’s the joy in creation if the computer does it all? I enjoy using all my tools appropriately for creation. They remain tools in my hands, be they a bandsaw, file, gouge, computer, or brush. If you surrender control of the devices, you might as well leave them to work while you go out to have a drink.
Please recall that scene in Fantasia where the sorcerer’s apprentice awakens to find the brooms and buckets run amok. Beyond being a reminder that we don’t do an excellent job of forecasting the consequences of our plans, it also teaches us that tools should remain just that.
The computer is one of my favorite tools, but that’s precisely what it is and will always remain- a tool.