Duane Keiser on AI and Painting

This is about Duane Keiser and his recent writing about AI and Painting – and provides the first real insight I’ve read into the issues and problems with reproducing art using AI.

Two recent innovations in the realm of art are NFTs and AI – except that neither are art: Put simplistically:

  • NFTs are digital tokens (akin to currency NOT art!) – see my blog post last year about What is art? (legally speaking)
  • AI stands for Artificial Intelligence which is a machine learning way of creating “more of the same” using machine algorithms. (An algorithm is a procedure used for solving a problem or performing a computation).

The art market seems to think AI and NFTs are the way forward for lots of people to make lots of money.

Duane Keiser on AI

Duane Keiser has been writing recently on his blog about the advent of AI and whether it is a serious rival to painting ‘for real’. 

It’s the result of doing some serious research.

Over the last few months, I’ve been researching and experimenting with AI to better understand it (I gained early access to the more well-known AIs). In my next few articles, I’ll be writing about what I’ve learned about AI as it relates to art and painting, and where it might be going.

I HIGHLY RECOMMEND a read of his blog posts if you want to grasp what AI and art is and what problems it encounters. It’s a well structured series which introduces the notions of AI and where it comes from and then presents a series of experiments he has conducted in AI.

I’ve extracted short quotes from each to demonstrate what they are about as I know the whole concept of AI will be very new to most of you.

To read his blog posts just right click the titles and open in a new tab.

As I read some of the reactions to AI, I’m reminded of what the French painter Paul Delaroche said in the 1800s upon seeing one of the first photographs: “From today, painting is dead.”

It feels like AI developers have gone from pen and ink, to the Gutenberg Press, to the internet in a matter of weeks. The advancements are hard to keep up with, much less fully understand. In terms of tech revolutions, I’ve never seen anything like it. Not even close.

Before I get to my experiences with image-based AI, I thought it would be helpful to start with an introduction to text-based AI, specifically ChatGPT.

  • The Woman in the White Dress – in which Duane reveals his experiments with AI and the images and results he (and AI) generated. I was absolutely riveted by this read and recommended it on FB straight away – and found that others were also very interested in what he had to say

The AI is not just a craftsman who dutifully follows orders. It is a collaborator in the true sense of the word— it makes conceptual contributions to your project (whether you like them or not.) The output always comes with surprises. In other words, the AI cannot be corralled into recreating the exact image you have in your head. This, as you may have already discovered, can feel like herding cats.

Then it got really interesting….

  • AI vs Cezanne – this one will definitely interest painters and indeed anybody who attempt to copy the style of a famous (or any) painter. I found it absolutely intriguing.

The purpose of the following exercise is to see whether AI can notice, or be instructed to notice, Cezanne’s unique and deceptively simple stylistic rhythms and convincingly reproduce them in a new composition. I chose Cezanne because his work is less concerned with surface effects and more concerned with structure and form, and I wanted a challenge that didn’t allow AI to distract with intricate details and hypnotic textures.

  • The Avocado Turing Test – the question addressed is can AI actually reproduce mark-making with a finesse which persuades…. There were very many failures before it began to get close…..

As promised, here is my attempt at getting Midjourney to emulate my painting. I chose my avocado/spoon painting (seen above) because I thought it would be interesting to test if it could achieve the visual alchemy between the paint and avocado– that is, whether it could make the creaminess of the yellow/green paint “become” creamy avocado.

The following is an essay I wrote around 2010 about painting and computers. I stumbled across it recently as I was looking through my notes in preparation for my next blog post. It reminded me that tech developments back then, which now seem comically quaint in relation to AI, were raising many of the same questions and concerns artists have today.

Which brings us up to date – and no doubt there will be more in the future. You need to follow Duane on facebook or subscribe to his blog ‘on painting’

I hope Duane continues with these posts. 

I’m also left wondering whether he’s also going to be producing a book about his research! I think he should – and that he’ll write it himself if he does rather than relying on ChatGPT!


About Duane Keiser

Duane is my “weathervane” for the next big thing! I think he’s very astute about what matters in the art world.

He was responsible for initiating and leading the “painting a day” movement around about the time I started this blog – as in I’ve known about Duane for as long as I’ve been writing this blog which first published in 2006 – and I own one of his paintings! 

His “A Painting a Day” blog has been written about in numerous publications, including USA Today, The New York Times, and The Huffington Post. Using a makeshift easel made from a cigar box, he makes a postcard-sized painting each day and posts them to his blog where collectors can bid on them via eBay. The project is ongoing.

His very small paintings used to go for insane amounts on his account on eBay – where he has sold over 2,000 paintings and has 100% positive feedback! These days, he posts links to new paintings via his Facebook Page

I sell this work via eBay, which has proven itself to be an efficient, secure, and transparent auction system for my collectors. Bidding starts at $100 and prices have ranged from $100 to $4000. 

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