Sketchbook #45 really took a long time. Or should I say, is taking a long time. Even though I have officially reached the last page now (and started sketchbook #46 last Sunday) I still have a couple of sketches from a recent trip to Chicago that I need to add some finishing touches to before scanning. Sketchbook #45 went from October to April, which is an unusually long time for me to fill a sketchbook, even longer to scan and even longer to post them all. It’ll be done soon, I promise. I try to work in a linear fashion. These sketches were all done in March along the same block of E Street, Davis. I’ve drawn all these things before, of course I have. I don’t think I ever draw a panorama of the particular stretch of E Street, from that angle, but now I have. I stood slightly in the street off the sidewalk, right next to the outdoor seating area of one of the small cafes along that row, and had to actually come back the next day because while sketching, a huge delivery truck parked in front of me blocking the entire view. Below, Orange Court, just across the street, another place I’ve drawn before many times. That’s where my favourite restaurant in Davis, Sophia’s Thai Kitchen, is found. I like their bar too and would go there about once a year (I don’t get out that much) to sketch it and try a ‘Lava Lamp’ cocktail. These are pretty typical Davis drawings for me. Maybe they could have been done by AI, as all the kids say now. You hear so much about AI these days, AI bots sourcing/scouring and stealing/recreating people’s art into something ‘new’, and then there is ChatGPT which has exploded everywhere suddenly, I’m hearing a lot about it in the university setting where I work, both negative and positive (I work with people very involved in machine learning). All that modern stuff these days, our new robot overlords. Differentiating between genuine writing and AI-generated text is getting harder, even though there are programs designed to catch people who use it, even those programs are getting it wrong by flagging up real writing as looking like it was AI-generated. In the past it was easy: if you were a human you would say “yes” or “I dunno”, while a robot would say “affirmative” and “does not compute”. I wonder if anyone would notice the difference between the real me writing and an AI mimicking me. I like to think there are enough things in the way I write and draw that make me recognizably human. An AI would probably include too many fire hydrants and references to football shirts. But then, these things are not the only way we present ourselves, we don’t only live in this global digital universe setting. There’s no AI that can actually show the real sketchbook, with the greasy fingermarks around the edge of the pages, or have a conversation with me where I get over-excited about paints. An AI cannot tell what I was listening to, or the smells in the street, or genuinely recreate that smudge on the paper where my brush slipped because a gust of wind blew my page at the wrong moment. Embrace the real.
That said, I like the drawn mechanical stuff. I have drawn these pipes (below) before, many many years ago, located at the back of the former Uncle Vito’s. It was a day when I needed to sketch, I went out and thought, yes this will do. You can imagine these pipes being part of the robot overlords snaking their way around the world. Who knows. Maybe we are too worried.