Fan Art Friday–Sept. 30, 2022
This week, we’re taking a look at those oh-so-hard-to-draw Hummingbirds. But these require a little bit of explanation.
The Creatures of Advent 9
Notwithstanding the superpunk nature of Advent 9‘s storyline, the narrative is home to a number of peculiar creatures that look almost like they stepped out of a fantasy or hard science fiction novel.
These are the Hummingbirds, Advent 9’s bizarre cadre of loyal chimeras. They serve him, he hates them, and no one else can see them.
Drawing them is simple: you start with a ferret, give it a natural hummingbird’s wings, put a fish tail on the end of it, then add a row of iguana spines along the crest of its head, and finish off with a couple of segmented antennae sprouting from above the eyebrows.
I gave this same description to multiple human artists, and everything turned out okay.
It takes a bit of imagination to get them to look like real animals, but multiple artists have been able to pull it off.
You’d think that an advanced AI could do the same. After all, it did a fabulous job creating various concepts for Advent 9. Surely, his animal assistants would be similarly easy for a computer to comprehend.
Well…I have some news about that.
The Computer’s Struggle
My very first attempt to express, in words, the Hummingbirds to the Midjourney art software, was a simple line of text: “winged ferret”.
This is what it gave me.
Gruesome, ain’t it?
Of course, I was still learning how to handle Midjourney at this stage. A talented prompt writer should be able to achieve whatever design he requires, right?
And perhaps the adjective “winged” was too vague. Machine’s want specifics. So I asked for an “Angel Ferret”.
Not exactly what I had in mind. So I decided to try something simpler. I asked Midjourney to simply draw me “ferret”.
It produced the following designs.
But naturally, Midjourney also offers experimental features that supposedly work better than their standard model (and are rumored to use a stable diffusion algorithm).
Intrigued, I tried “winged ferrets” again, this time with the special flags that upgrade the image.
Emboldened, I tried many different prompts, hoping to finally to supply words Midjourney could understand, such as “ferret dragon”.
And “adorable ferret with wings”.
“Winged ferret” again.
The Next Batch
I did have a little bit of luck when I asked the AI to draw in the styles of various artists. Apparently, that gave it the focus it needed to stop drawing monstrosities.
So I asked it to draw a winged ferret in the style of Akira Toriyama.
And I found that including both “winged” and “angel” worked better, like when I asked the AI to create a “Winged Ferret Angel painted by Raphael”.
I asked for another one by Akira Toriyama.
Of course, adding “angel” biases the AI toward drawing humans. I tried again with Jack Kirby.
This one did draw a winged ferret…as an animal sidekick to a superhero. And it cuts off the image so we can’t see the whole ferret.
I tried Boticelli.
And Vincent Van Gogh.
And even the ones that look good as winged ferrets don’t have the fist tail, the iguana spines, or the antennae. When I try to input those parameters, I end up with eldritch horrors.
When I did end up with anything similar to my original intent, it was always a happy accident.
AI art seems, at the moment, to be biased toward depicting humans.
I suppose it’s only natural. The AI was created by humans, and humans naturally gravitate toward subjects involving themselves.
Still, it feels like we can do better. And we probably will.
See, that’s the thing about AI art: it learns from human artists. So, once human-generated images of Advent 9’s hummingbirds start penetrating the internet, all I’ll have to do is ask Midjourney to draw “Advent 9 Hummingbirds”, and the computer will be able to comply.
Creating never before seen images is a challenge for Midjourney. But creating fanart of existing properties is a cinch.
For this reason, it’s important that I get some human fan artists. And who knows where they’ll come from.
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