Apr 06, 2023

Canvas to Code: How a Black Painter Took The AI Art World By Storm

By Marcus Thompson

What do you get when you cross a traditional painter, creative technology, and the black female cultural experience?

Black Girl Magic, of course.

Chelsea Jones is exactly that.

A painter and visual artist working in UX Design, she was looking for a means of expressing herself outside of work.

Now, an active member of the AI Art Creative Community, she’s plunged herself into the curious world of Midjourney — and 1000s of iterations later, her success in the space has only just begun.

Her feature in Top 100 Artists You Should Know, and Tender’s Artist of Iconic Generative Works sprung her into netizen notoriety. Since then, she’s auctioned pieces of her work for upwards of $2000 on SuperRare —one of the leading NFT collector platforms.

Art And Ethics In The Modern Day

With the advent of AI Art models such as midjourney, and stable diffusion (among others) many artists are finding themselves in a precarious position. The accessibility of art has drawn a stark line in the sand, effectively creating 2 cohorts of people:

  • 1.) Those who see AI art as a major threat to human creativity

  • 2.) Those who embrace AI as a fresh approach to the creative process

Regardless of which camp you fall under, there is no right and wrong — only subjective perspectives drawn from our own personal experiences.

Pablo Picasso once famously said: “Good artists copy, great artists steal.”

Which begs the question, what is creativity really? Some say that AI is doing nothing more than what great artists, Picasso included, have always done — borrow inspiration from a myriad of sources, to combine the best of what they know, to make something new and beautiful.

I got into a conversation with Chelsea to discuss her personal approach and opinions on the subject, to find out what it is that made her dive so confidently into a space so ripe with fear and criticism.

Let’s start with your name, age, and how you title yourself?

CJ: Hi, my name is Chelsea Jones, im 33 years old and Im an AI collaborative artist.

When did you begin to take enough interest in art to begin to create some of your early traditional works?

CJ: I started my traditional art journey about 6 years ago. I sought a creative outlet outside of work where I could create without any constraints or limitations, and painting seemed like the easiest place to start.

Initially, I painted solely for my own pleasure, but I eventually began taking on portrait commissions for friends and family. And with that, I began to see my confidence grow with each piece.

I loved painting for its process. It was a way to escape the daily stresses of life and be transported into the story I was telling through the artwork.

Who are some of your inspirations?

CJ: I find inspiration everywhere: in my life experiences, the connections I make, and the moments I have with family and friends. I try to pull inspiration from within because I feel like thats what makes my art truly authentic to me as an artist.

Many people feel very torn by generative art, what is it that drew you into it?

CJ: Im a creative technologist, I would be worried if i wasn’t intrigued by new technology.

I find new experiences fascinating and AI sparks the feeling of play for me! We are basically at the cusp of the future and thats really exciting to me. Are you kidding me? Im always wondering what else can AI do?

How do you address any potential criticism of using AI-generated art in your work?

If you don’t like my art, that’s okay. You don’t have to.

What’s important is what I think of my work. It makes me happy, so that’s all that matters. The way you feel is none of my business.

I actually had a coworker come to me and ask this same question. He was new into AI and shared his results in excitement with his network, but had a few comments that were negative. I told him, good, your work captivated them so much that it stopped them in their tracks, and they just had to say something. Thats engagement! That means youre killing it, keep going! Forget what anyone else thinks, its all about how you feel and what makes you happy at the end of the day.

How has your audience responded to the inclusion of AI-generated art in your work?

CJ: At first, I received some hate and tried to have civil discussions to understand where the fear was coming from. However, I found this to be a waste of time and began blocking any form of negativity. Now, my audience is super supportive and loving, which inspires me to keep creating every day.

I love the AI art community! There is a lot of talent in this space. I enjoy connecting with other artists, collaborating on fun drops, and supporting their work.

How has the use of AI impacted your creative process and the time it takes to complete a piece?

CJ: It has sped up my process significantly. Before, it would take me weeks, sometimes months, to finish a painting. Although the amount of agonizing I did planning each brush stroke was endearing in theory, I was too afraid to make mistakes. With AI, I am able to explore all the ideas that come to mind in any medium I want without fear of failure! Now, I have more time to think about big ideas and collaborate with AI to bring them to life.

How do you ensure that the AI-generated elements in your art align with your artistic intent and message?

CJ: That’s where art direction comes in. Being able to communicate your intent and ideas to AI while also expecting spontaneity is a skill that I am constantly working on in my career. Sometimes, I get something that is totally different from what I expected, but I like it because it forces me to take a deeper look at the output. And sometimes, the less obvious output is better.

Can you speak to any challenges you’ve encountered while using AI in your art practice?

CJ: Creative burnout happens to everyone, and it’s okay to not have great ideas sometimes. AI has dramatically increased the speed at which we create, and we’re constantly judging hundreds, if not thousands, of images in one sitting. As an artist, I’ve learned that it’s important to take breaks, go outside, and connect with the world around you. Your brain needs fresh air and new inspiration to stay creative.

So, I give myself permission to not create every day. On the days that I don’t create or post, I focus on connecting with the community, supporting other artists, and building friendships.

How do you stay up-to-date with developments in AI technology as it pertains to the art world?

CJ: I receive many updates from the community, which is composed of talented individuals from different industries, primarily on LinkedIn. My timeline is filled with updates on new technologies utilizing AI, as well as ways to learn how to use them.

I am a member of the AI/CC, which stands for AI Creative Community on LinkedIn. They regularly host talks, during which I have had the pleasure of speaking. They also hold collaborative jam sessions and constantly showcase new technology. It’s a cool group of people.

How do you think AI-generated art will change the landscape of the art world in the coming years?

CJ: I believe that AI will eventually impact every aspect of our lives, including the art world. It will be widely accepted and considered a form of digital art. AI-generated art is not limited to image creation; it will also impact video, music, and film. We are only at the beginning of this exploration, and I imagine it will inspire a new generation of creatives who can create anything they put their minds to.

Can you discuss any ethical considerations that arise when using AI-generated art in your work?

CJ: Copyright is always in the back of my mind. While some platforms, like Midjourney and Stable Diffusion, give complete creative freedom to use generations as you please, I can imagine this gets tricky for big businesses. Anyone can take your image and do what they will with it, and it’s pretty much okay because no one really owns the image through copyright.

This can be challenging for freelancers or those who work on commissions. For my commissions, I create a document that transfers the title to the new owner and gives them permission to use the image as they see fit. I note that I will not sell the image because they will now own it. This provides some reassurance to my clients and gives them a sense of security knowing that there is documentation protecting their ownership of the image, even though it is not copyrighted.

How do you see the use of AI-generated art impacting the value and perception of art in society?

CJ: On one hand, AI generated art could be seen as a new medium that expands the possibilities of artistic expression. Ai has the ability to generate unique and interesting patterns, shapes, and colors that would normally be difficult for traditional artist to create. Leading to new forms of artistic expression that challenges traditional notions of what art is and what it can be.

On the other hand, there is a risk that AI generated art could be seen as less valuable or less authentic than art created by human artist. There are concerns that Ai generated art lacks emotional depth and complexity that comes from human creativity.

Ultimately, the impact of AI generated art and its perception of art in society will depend on how it is received by artists, critics and the general public. If it embraced as a innovative form of artistic expression, it could lead to new and exciting developments in the world of art.

What advice do you have for other traditional artists who are interested in incorporating AI-generated elements into their work?

CJ: If you’re an artist curious about AI, just give it a try! Allow yourself the freedom to play and discover what brings you joy.

Looking to learn more about the potential of machine learning and AI in your digital experience? Get in touch.

Follow Chelsea on Twitter @ohchelllo or Instagram @kinleycollective.co to stay up to date on her latest releases, and explore prints for sale at www.kinleycollective.co.