Friday, January 13, 2023

Happy Rabbit in the Moonlight, Digital Illustration and AI


Happy Rabbit in the Moonlight

It's the Year of the Rabbit and to celebrate I decided to explore combining my graphic art skills with AI (artificial intelligence). This felt like a very big decision because this new set of tools is so controversial for artists. Of course, it's not at all new for digital artists to scour the internet looking for bits and pieces of material they can use in their work. Legally, by the way, for those who have a conscience. And it's not at all new for people to be inspired by an artist's work and try to do their own in the same style. What's new and, I think awful, is that people can now give a set of text prompts to a computer and add "in the style of [the name of someone living or dead]" and the AI will create something very recognizably in that style in seconds (although it can take a fair bit of time to figure out how to get what you want). 

But what this software is doing not the same as literally copying anything that has already been created (as far I can tell—I've been testing it). And it's not technically illegal to copy someone's style. But, even though it's not likely that any copyright issues are being violated from a legal point of view, it is creating a horrible situation for those artists whose work is being mimicked. Why hire an artist and pay them what their work is worth when a person can pay so much less for a computer to create something similar?

I'm very much against this so I've held off for weeks before doing my own experimentation. I have made the decision to never specify a living artist and have only experimented with the style of Van Gogh or Picasso out of curiosity. But step by step, my resolve to never use this technology has shifted for me. As a fine artist who is also a graphic artist I can't help but be excited by it. Back in the day—before computer software existed to create art with at all—I worked with vintage and copyright-free clip art to create some of my work. I had stacks of Dover clip art books and still do. They were a fantastic tool for use as is, for collage work, and as reference material for drawing or painting something new. For me, AI is very similar to this but better because I can imagine something that does not exist and the software will do its best to interpret what I tell it to do. Sometimes terribly! Sometimes amazingly well. And sometimes amazingly wrong and yet fantastic in how it takes the human/machine collaboration in new creative directions. 

Plus I've been exploring using the AI offerings to create my own work in ways that are quite different than what the machine provides. I combine more than one AI together, add or subtract bits and pieces, combine it with my own photography and graphic art skills. It feels like it's opened up a creative door and I'm interested to see what happens. 

Above is one of my earliest experimentations with this software. This is almost entirely AI except for the colors, an added Photoshop filter, and a few things I needed to fix. (There are almost always strange things that need to be fixed.) The idea was a rabbit enjoying life in the moonlight in a bed of Chamomile flowers and other plants, with trees in the background. Happy Rabbit in the Moonlight, now on Fine Art America.