Thursday, January 19, 2023

Seven AI Variations on a Painting of Daniel Craig (and a Few Tricks I've Learned Over Time)

Like countless others (now literally tens of millions) I have been experimenting with some of the latest AI writing and art technologies. Where these things will be going is as yet unknown, but for sure a lot of people have been blown away by these new tools.

AI is being incorporated into so many different disciplines that it's mind-boggling, from energy management to medicine to banking and a multitude of other as yet unseen ways. On this page I wanted to talk about making art using AI. (If you object to calling it art, you can substitute another word like images or illustrations.) 

In order to understand the capabilities of AI art-making, I have been trying out a few of these tech tools. The images on this page (with the exception of my original painting top right and the screen shot below) were all  created with DreamAI.

The way this particular AI-powered system works is similar to a lot of others in that you begin by giving a "prompt" (words). In this program you then select an art style. There are 12 examples above, but there are three dozen more, with new ones being added periodically. 

What excites me, or entices me, is that it also has an upload feature so you can upload a photo that the AI uses as a starting point. When you do the upload, you can select the degree of influence you want your photo (or in my case, my paintings) to have on the finished product. The three options are weak, normal and strong. 

I always choose strong so that the final image reflects my personal "Digital DNA." What follows are DreamAI images using the same starting point but with different style choices and different prompts. 

A little background on the original painting that I used for this series. It was based on a scene from the film Love is the Devil: Study for a Portrait of Francis Bacon. Francis Bacon was creating some powerfully disturbing images in the middle of the last century. In 1975 or so I went to see a Bacon retrospective at the Metropolitan Museum of Art and came away shaken. Bacon was an Irish/British painter in London. The film is about his relationship with one of his models, George Dyer (Daniel Craig), a petty criminal who was also his lover. 

If I remember correctly (and it may be that I remember incorrectly) Dyer has just broken in to Francis Bacon's studio to rob him but is caught. The image on the screen is a dark room with a light source that illuminates his face from the side.

There are certain faces which I find somewhat distinctive and as a painter I keep returning to them. Dylan is one, not just because it's Dylan, but also because over the decades his features take on a variety of looks. With Daniel Craig it may be the ruggedness, the hollow cheeks, the intense eyes. Hence, I have painted his face a number of times in the past as well. 

For this first image (above) my prompt was "A Face in the Style of Picasso." The Art Style I selected may have been impressionist, though my recollection here is again imperfect. I didn't care for it all that much and tried a follow-up with the same prompt a second time, in the style of Picasso.

I can't say this is entirely better, but as you can see the AI has maintained a measure of faithfulness to my color scheme.

The next is the same starting point with the prompt being "in the style of Dali."

Frankly, I don't see that much Dali in this, but it stil maintains the haunted look of the original. So I gave it another shot, again with the Dali prompt.

I'm not sure what Dali period this was inspired by but it is certainly an intriguing look, more like a Hollywood horror conconction than a Dali painting.

I should also mention that this is not the first time I have used technology as an assistant. My starting point for at least a hundred paintings was Photoshop. I would take a photo and break the face into panels so as build a sense of three dimensionality. Since my youth I have always been fascinated by the little tricks artists use to create the appearance of depth on a two-dimensional flat surface. This was probably my biggest takeaway from an early art class I took at the Cleveland Art Institute when I was five. 

So using computer technology is not a new thing for me and experimenting in order to learn the possibilities is what keeps me emotionally invested in the process. (In the same way, Dylan has continually re-invented the manner in which he performs his songs, which no doubt helps him remain invested in his performance art.)

Now here is where I have a problem with AI. In all the paintings above, I never mentioned Daniel Craig in my prompt. Once I chose to use "Daniel Craig" in the prompt, it's obvious that the AI scoured the internet to find Daniel Craig images and generated the image on the right, even though I also had my original painting as a starting point. As you can see, my color scheme remains somewhat intact and the concept likewise, but the features incorporate a more accurate rendition of the actor than what was in the original.
For myself, I can see the possibility of taking this image and then making a painting based on it. It's dramatic. It produces a feeling, to me. In short, it has possibilities, and opens up additional possibilities.

The next one here is Daniel Craig in the style of Steampunk. Yes, that is one of the options and you can have a field day with this one alone (until you eventually get bored because how much "Aha!" can you handle?)

Once again you can see the faithful adherence to the essence of my original painting. Black background, face lit from the side producing shadows that add interest. Here's one last image for the road in the art style Floral.

FWIW, here's the URL:  
Try it yourself. You might get into it. 

EdNote: The original painting is latex and acrylic on a panel, 2' x 3'.

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