In an effort to keep his winning photo a secret until he publishes a larger related work later this year, (ai) Allen hasn’t yet specified what the text prompt was behind his winning shot.
Jason M. Allen was almost too nervous to enter his first art competition. Now, his award-winning image is sparking controversy about whether art can be generated by a computer, and what, exactly, it means to be an artist.
In August, Allen, a game designer who lives in Pueblo West, Colorado, won first place in the Colorado State Fair Fine Arts Competition’s “digital arts/digitally-manipulated photography” emerging artist category using Midjourney, an artificial intelligence program that produces detailed pictures when fed written prompts. He received $300 for this photo, titled “Space Opera Theater.”
The Emerging Artist Competition
“I’m captivated by this imagery. I love it. And I think everyone should see it,” 39-year-old Allen said in an interview on Friday.
Allen’s winning image looks like a bright, surreal cross between a Renaissance and steampunk painting. It’s one of three such images he entered in the competition. In total, 11 people entered 18 pieces of art in the same category in the emerging artist division.
Digital Art – The Official Definition
Digital art, according to the official definition, combines digital technology with creative or presentation processes to produce works of art. Allen said that Midjourney was utilised to create his photograph.
There are several such AI image generators — including Imagen from Google Research and DALL-E 2 from OpenAI — that are becoming increasingly popular. Anyone may utilise Midjourney through Discord, while DALL-E 2 is available for invitees, and Imagen is not available to the general public.
There have been a lot of discussions about whether these tools, how they’re used to produce images, and sometimes even the gatekeeping for access to some of the most powerful ones, can truly make art.
Shortly after winning, Allen posted on Midjourney Discord server about his win and photos of his three entries; this became popular on Twitter a couple of days later, accompanied by a story by Vice Motherboard about Allen’s AI-created art, according to the one in charge of the incident.
Digital Artwork – “The Banana Taped to the Wall”
“The decision is disappointing, but not surprising,” another user said.
“The ‘banana taped to the wall’ of the digital world is what ‘AI artwork’ literally refers to,” one person said. “It’s how ‘pressed a few buttons to make a digital art piece’.”
Despite the fact that Allen didn’t create his winning piece using a paintbrush, there was certainly plenty of work involved, he said.
“You’re not just smashing words together and winning competitions,” he said.
Midjourney – An Oil Painting of an Anxious Strawberry
Midjourney can generate several images from a phrase like ‘an oil painting of an angry strawberry’ in seconds, but Allen’s process was not that simple.
To get the final three images he entered into the competition, he said, took more than 80 hours.
He said that he played around with the phrasing of Midjourney until it generated images of women in frilly dresses and space helmets — he wanted to mix Victorian-style garments with space themes, he said.
Over time, with many slight changes to his written prompt (such as adjusting lighting and colour harmony) he created 900 iterations of his final three shots.
He cleaned up the final shots in Photoshop, such as by giving one of the female figures in his winning image a head with wavy, dark hair afterMidjourney had rendered her headless.
Next, he ran the pictures through a software program called Gigapixel AI that enhanced resolution and printed them on canvas. Allen is glad the debate over whether AI can be used to create art is captivating so much attention.
AI Technology and the Art of Midjourney
Instead of condemning technology or the people who created it, we should acknowledge its strength and use it for the better of all, said Allen.
While Allen’s work included a mention of Midjourney, Cal Duran, an artist and art teacher who was one of the judges, said that he didn’t realise that it was produced by artificial intelligence when judging it. Nevertheless, he maintains that he chose to award it first place in the category, calling it a “beautiful piece.”
According to him, there’s a lot involved in this piece and AI technology might give more opportunities to people who may not be artists in the conventional way.
Until he publishes a larger related work that he hopes to finish later this year, Allen will not reveal what the text prompt was behind his winning image.