It’s no secret that I’m an advocate of AI for creative work. In a recent post on Instagram for The Night Studio, I compared the fear of the rise of AI for creatives to the fear of photography when it first arrived. The tools are in some ways crude at the moment and I understand the contentions that creators have with training data, but I’m clear about my stance. I’m happy for AI to use all or any of my work for training data.
Ultimately, painting is about more than just imagery and there are other qualities such as surface properties and actual presence of the object that make painting the irreplaceable medium that it is and always will be. AI doesn’t copy your imagery anyway. It attempts to replicate style. That’s totally acceptable. We all do that anyway as artists if we are honest. Our influences are those whose style, techniques, mood and subject matter we merge with our own ideas to create something new.
AI tools like Midjourney are doing the same. They are like an exo-brain that you can bolt on to augment your process. Study your AI craft and you can create images that are unique and surprising. It takes skill and practice to do this. You can easily create ‘something’ in generative AI tools and that ‘something’ will probably look pretty good straight off, but will it look original? That takes a wee bit more work and a better understanding of how prompts work and how to feed your imagery into the process. I’m going to write more pointedly about this at The Night Studio so stay tuned if you are looking for practical advice about how to achieve these things.
At the moment I wanted to show you some work in progress that is AI assisted.
Museum cases and lighting have fascinated me since I was a wee lad. I love the atmosphere of a museum. The way they suspend the environment in a glass case out of time fascinates me. In some recent work I’ve been exploring the idea of landscapes within an enclosed space like a display case. I’ll show you briefly how I used AI to extend my own ideas and help me create something unique in this area of exploration.
So this thread of work started in my sketchbook, as it mostly does. I like to use pen and ink for my ideation drawing and my favoured pens are these 0.35mm black gel pens. This set in particular is great as it has 20 refills for the pens that will last for a long while. These gel pens just flow so well for ideation drawing. I much prefer them to pencil for roughing out ideas or anything else but everyone has their favourites. Below are the first sketches for this set of explorations:
These sketches revealed two things to me. That I wanted the landscape to have a multi-dimensional appearance to suggest different levels of reality merging with each other in the same space and that I wanted the feeling to be that of ‘behind the scenes of reality’. If you know me you’ll know that this subject fascinates also me and I’m interested in perception of reality; what it is, how it appears to us and what’s behind it.
The next step was to jump into Photoshop and using some of my reference photographs taken from industrial settings and from one of our hikes on Beinn Dearg and that circuit of four Munros I created a rough mash up that captured a colour scheme and general tone and structure. Walking this route really felt like being in another world. I frequently evangelise about the experience of walking on the mountains and the shift in reality that it produces to anyone who will listen. This route is really something else. It tested us and it was a long day.
This is all I need to get started in Midjourney. I uploaded this image to use a reference for my prompt and then tested various iterations of prompt writing until I settled on a prompt that was producing imagery that satisfied my initial thoughts on the idea.
Now I have these, it will be back to Photoshop and I’ll do various things like stitch elements together from different reference images and superimpose my original sketches back on top until I get something that is fit as a reference to paint from.
There’s a wee bit more to it than that of course, but I wanted to give you an idea about how I am using AI in my workflow currently. The prompt writing takes a bit of practice and really, in the imagery above I’m combining a few different threads of generated images with subtle differences, weighting them and merging with other uploaded photo reference. It takes many iterations but really produces something satisfying and in-line with my original intent.I’ll update on here as this work progresses and provide some solid work flow tutorial and reflections here at The Night Studio.