When a Traditional Artist meets AI for the First Time: An Experiment

Beth Jochim, Director and Co-Founder at Cueva Gallery. Twitter: @_bblurred

“The Purple Fairy”, painting on porcelain and recycled wood frame. Courtesy of Mas.

What happens when an artist produces an artwork using Artificial Intelligence (AI)? Who is the artist, the human or the machine? Is AI able to boost creativity, or is it creative in is own right? Is it the beginning of a new era for the arts or just a bubble?

The use of technology as a tool and a medium is posing many questions, the answers are often blurry. However, 2019 has registered a lot of interesting experimentation and a lively discussion is still going on.

Committed to bringing a new experience for both the artists and the public, Cueva Gallery has decided to understand more about the effects that technology can have on artists not skilled in computing. Over the summer, Cueva contacted Mas, an Italian self-taught painter that works with different mediums including glass, wood and porcelain, and proposed to her an experiment.

“A Woman”, painted with traditional technique on porcelain. Courtesy of Mas.

We presented to Mas the Residual Collection created by AI and available in our gallery.

It’s time to go” by diavlex, available on Cueva Gallery.
“I see you” by diavlex, available on Cueva Gallery.

We asked Mas to paint inspired by the AI pieces. The results have been borderline between collaboration and confrontation.

For over a month, Mas has looked at images produced by an AI trained on real pictures of endangered species, such as turtles, elephants, pandas, hippos, owls and jaguars.

Form and matter” by diavlex, available on Cueva Gallery.

At the beginning, the interaction with the technology has been confrontational. Clearly, Mas was looking at images of animals painted by a machine that learnt to paint using brushstrokes (i.e, Neural Painting [1]). Those pieces capture the main features of the animals, but do not necessarily correspond to a full animal painting. The output of the AI is a residual image of an animal that the human artist can glimpse.

Mas was disoriented, she was not finding what she was expecting to see: clear images of wildlife to start to work with. “I do not see animals, I see colors and shapes. I see an abstract that could be everything.” She commented few times, asking also: “Is this really art, the thing you do with Artificial Intelligence? How can this be compared to a paint that I do by hand and that can take me days and days to finish? I am not sure if I can do this, I do not know how to do this.

The starting point of this experiment has not been easy. The goal for the artist and for us, as facilitators to approach the technology, was to find a way to use the output of the machine in a creative way with respect to her style and mindset.

However, after several discussions and interactions Mas decided to embrace the challenge. She had an epiphany, she understood her approach needed to be modified, and started to look at the images produced by the AI with a fresh new perspective. Nothing more to copy, but something to get inspired by.

Turtle painted on ceramic and inspired by AI. Courtesy of Mas.

This pushed her to use AI as an inspirational tool, and started to draw traditional images of animals with a twist in composition and palette.

Looking at her previous works, it appears evident she is not an artist anchored exclusively to realistic painting, but she likes to experiment.

One of the big impacts that this collaboration with technology has brought to her practice, however, is an even more free use of the color.

“The stimulation of the imagination due to the fact that the residual images are blurred could serve very well as abstract paintings. I did not expect at the beginning to be able to find a way to look at images produced by AI and incorporate them in my practice. But in the end I did it in my own way.” — Mas.

“The Triptych”: Owl, Turtle and Jaguar painted on ceramic with traditional technique, and inspired by AI. Courtesy of Mas and Cueva Gallery.

The story of Mas shows that the introduction of technology to artists not experienced in Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning does not have to be hard. It can be done at different levels and stages and it is always fruit of human intention. The machine does not have consciousness, but it creates together with a human.

The possibilities that AI releases appear infinite and stimulate a new creative process where the artist can re-think and re-design the approach to produce art.

“Cueva seeks to make the great advances in AI and Computer Vision more accessible to traditional artists and collectors, who are not necessarily tech savvy, and to disrupt the AI Art world by doing so.” — Dr. Ernesto Diaz-Aviles, CEO of Libre AI and Creative Geek at Cueva Gallery.

Through a constructive dialogue among artists, technology and collectors, Cueva will lead everyone into the labyrinth of one of the most exciting tools and mediums of our times.

If you are an artist interested in getting acquainted with Artificial Intelligence to bring in your work, or if you have just only a question or curiosity, leave us your comments here or in Twitter @cuevagallery.∎

About the author: Beth Jochim is the Creative AI Lead at Libre AI, and Director and Co-Founder at Cueva Gallery. She works at the intersection of technology and arts. She is actively involved in different activities that aim to democratize the field of Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning, bringing the benefits of AI/ML to a larger audience. Connect whit Beth in LinkedIn or Twitter.

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