ART-ificial Intelligence: Harnessing the Creative Power of Machine Learning

Above: Chago’s AI self-portrait, generated in Midjourney.

I learned to embrace and explore the creative possibilities of computer generated imagery. It all started with the introduction of Photoshop thirty years ago, and more recently I became interested in AI software, Midjourney, a wonderful tool that allows creatives to explore ideas more efficiently than ever. The best description of Midjourney I’ve found is “an AI-powered tool for exploring creative ideas”.

If I was talking to someone who wasn’t familiar with AI-generated art, I’d show them some examples, because that’s a good place to start. Midjourney is syntax-based; users need to break down the language and learn the key phrases and special word order, in order to take full advantage of the program. Along with using the syntax, users can upload reference images to bring their idea to life. An art director could upload a photo of Mars and use it as a reference to create new images. I think it’s a fantastic tool.

Once you understand the fundamentals of Midjourney, it’s a laborious case of trial and error, trying different things until you get what you’re looking for. I love when Midjourney artists post their work, sharing the syntax they used to develop the idea. That being said, if you were to try to replicate an idea by entering the exact same syntax into Midjourney, you would end up with entirely different results. This is because the software learns by interacting with you. Artificial intelligence like this gets more intuitive the more we use it, and so do we – we start to learn how the software thinks, which is probably the most interesting thing about it. topic. It’s a learning machine that learns from you, and you in turn learn from it.

Embrace AI-generated art

I’m a producer, with extensive experience as a production artist, primarily in retouching and leading post-production teams. I also have a background in CGI, took graduate school at NYU for a few semesters, and went to college for architecture, so I can draw a little – but I’m not going to pretend that I could ever do a CGI Project. A lot of art directors and creative directors are in the same boat, leading and directing the creative – especially on the client side – of many CGI projects, but not necessarily familiar with CGI. Programs like Midjourney allow people like us to dive into creative waters, giving us access to a set of inventive and artistic tools.

Traditionally, art directors would draw or sketch ideas by hand to communicate their vision, but even then they tend to be a rough draft that can’t match the standards of a commercial artist. If an art director was working on a creative brief and wondered, “What does a futuristic airplane hangar look like on a moonlit night on Mars?” they might be able to imagine it, but there would be no tangible sketch or visualization of the idea. Midjourney allows art directors and other budding professionals who don’t have extensive CGI experience to create visuals that help illustrate their idea. This can then be passed on to skilled production artists who will bring it to life. Many skilled artists can take a Midjourney image and manipulate it further in Photoshop or post-production, to give art directors exactly what they’re looking for. By working with the machine, we can develop our ideas together, which I think is really, really fascinating. Using Midjourney and other AI-based programs can help us communicate ideas and flesh out different options, moving the creative process forward more efficiently.
Above: the different stages of development of Chago’s AI portrait. Left to right: reference image (selfie), raw output of Midjourney (after several different rounds of machine learning), Liquify (done in Photoshop for wider overall face), Photoshop Neutral Filters (for adjusting lip proportions , eyes, nose, forehead), final color note. Chago went through 34 different rounds of syntax with Midjourney, before landing on this syntax:::photo realistic::portrait::black man::bald::wearing glasses::beard::in the style of ernie barnes–iw50.

Make the algorithm work for you

Last week, the Steelworks team was setting up a processing platform for a possible new project. We had some great ideas to send to the client, but looking for some specific references felt like a needle in a haystack. If we were looking for a black rose with gold dust on the petals, it’s hard to find exactly what we want. It’s times like these that a program like Midjourney can spark creativity. By entering similar references into the software and developing syntax as close as possible to what you are looking for, you end up with images that provide more relevant references for a treatment presentation. For this reason, in the future, I see us using Midjourney more often for these tasks, as it can facilitate creative ideation for treatments and briefs for clients.

In my opinion, we are far from relying solely on software like Midjourney to complete an entire project. The algorithm is not quite advanced yet and we cannot be too specific with it. However, in the years to come, I would like to see some kind of handshake between Midjourney and CGI software like Maya, so that creatives can transfer what was created in Midjourney into 3D space. This is the dream.

Explore creative abilities

I’m optimistic about Midjourney because as technology evolves, humans in the creative industries continue to find ways to stay relevant. I was working as a retoucher back when Photoshop first came out with the “Healing Brush”. Prior to this, all editing was done manually by manipulating and blending pixels. Suddenly the introduction of the Healing Brush meant that in one stroke, three hours of work was cut. I remember we were sitting in our post-production studio when someone showed it to us and we thought, “Oh my God, we’re going to be out of work.” Twenty years later, retouching is still relevant, as are the creatives acclaimed for their unique skills.

I don’t do a lot of retouching anymore, but I was on a photo shoot recently and had to get my hands dirty and put some mockups together for people. There were a lot of new selection tools in Photoshop that came out in the last three years and I had no idea most of them. I found that using these tools took out about an hour of work, which was great. As a result, it opened up time for me to talk to clients and be more present at work and at home. It’s less time in front of the computer at the end of the day.

While these technological advancements may seem daunting at first, I try not to view them as a threat to human creativity, but rather as a tool that grants us more time to immerse ourselves in activities that stimulate our creative thinking. . Using AI programs like Midjourney helps speed up the creative process which in turn frees up more time to do things like sit outside and enjoy our lunch in the sun, go to the beach or the park with your children – things that feed our frontal cortex and inspire us creatively. It took me a long time to get comfortable with taking my nose off the grindstone and relearning how to be creatively inspired.

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