Success Story of AI artist Nuclear Samurai. AI Surrealism Journal.
Photographic Foundations: How Camera Lenses Shape AI Art
Barcelona, Spain, 2023 — Advancing further in our captivating collaboration with AI Art Weekly, we explore the AI Surrealism Collection and Movement. As partners, we’re crafting a series of in-depth dialogues, celebrating the artistic brilliance within the Exquisite Workers collective.
We excitedly introduce a deep dive into the creative universe of Nuclear Samurai, offering a fresh perspective on the melding of art and technology.
1. What’s your background and how did you get into AI art?
When I grew up we didn’t have much but my family always encouraged me to be creative, we always had pencils and we always had paper. I found that drawing was a great way to express myself and also to calm and center myself. I was unable to go to university straight on from high school, I studied with a mentor and learned to paint murals and volunteered teaching troubled youths how to paint. Sadly this did not pay the bills and reality was knocking at my door. After a few months of trying to balance this and a job the work took precedence in my life.
I continued practicing art as a hobby throughout my adult life. Eventually discovering photography in my mid twenties. I picked up a camera and thought… this will be easy. It really wasn’t, it was actually quite hard, but there was something appealing in the challenge.
I taught myself as much as I could learn until eventually I went back as a mature age student to study. I applied myself to learn as much as I possibly could. I found there was a bit of a turning point creatively when attending the Obscura photo festival in Malaysia (not related to Obscura in web3). Here I did masterclasses with renowned photographers and met peers from across the Asia Pacific Region. There was something else here though, I learned about the power of narrative in an image was so much more important than the aesthetic of an image. I learned a sophisticated way of communicating visually that was beyond the literal surface level interpretation. I took these understandings with me and applied them to all of my art.
I then went on to work in a career as a photographer for the last seven years, and now lead a small team of photographers in a busy photography studio.
I discovered AI art initially in 2015 in the days of DeepDream and DeepMind. Compared to Today, the results were simplistic and not quite there yet for what I imagined AI art could be. I let it go for a few years until 2022 when I started to see AI art being shared around from the Midjourney beta. I was intrigued and really inspired to join in. I requested to join and was approved pretty quickly.
From here it was like an addiction, I spent a lot of time testing prompts and trying out new things and the feeling of artistic discovery and collaboration was so rewarding creatively. It’s now been a year of creating AI art and I’ve approached many different aesthetics, and developed processes to get the best results.
2. What drives you to create?
I think it might be due to my neurodivergence that I am so driven to create. There is something calming about focusing on creative work. It’s not as straightforward as ordinary tasks, there is room on the journey to get lost and find alternate ways around and enjoy yourself while doing it. Sometimes I will just hyperfocus into work and it’s like everything else in the world disappears. I can have a tendency to be quite anxious, but it’s not as bad when I’m making art.
3. What does your workflow look like?
I have two main paths I go down when creating. Two separate workflows. One is concept first, leading down a result driven path. The other is a discovery process.
For a concept first process, the workflow goes like this: I will find inspiration in something. If it’s an idea, a concept, a story, a song or even just an image I see in my mind’s eye. I will then set about creating either a mind map or a moodboard, depending on how I feel. I will then break up the idea into its semiotic parts, to what I think will be required to communicate the idea or replicate the feeling that I am going for. With semiotics I look at metaphor, analogy, synechdoche. I look for signs, symbols and indexes and I look at things like colour theory and colour relationships.
Once I know kind of what I want from those parts I will start by crafting the prompts. I will usually build the prompt to be a super simplified version of these elements I’ve identified that I want in the image. I will then tweak the prompt as I go, pushing the outputs to find the result I’m looking for. Sometimes I’ll be surprised and pursue the new ideas that arise from this process. Sometimes I will be at this stage for a while pushing the prompt, adding and subtracting elements until I get something close to my vision.
From here I will curate down the selection and then cull and compare. The selection process can be hard because sometimes it will be choosing between 10 great outputs, and eventually you’ll go back twenty steps to something that might be less visually “perfect” to what you originally envisioned and instead it is just something that sparks the feeling more. I always try to trust my instinct when running through this process.
The alternate creative path is the discovery process. This will be while I am testing and trialling new techniques and new technology. Sometimes it might be a new model in Stable Diffusion, it might be a new service that does AI in a different way. There are so many different tools coming out every week I would recommend stepping out of your comfort zone and trying them. Even if it is just trying different prompts in Midjourney, there is always room for growth and trying new things with AI. Through this discovery process it’s about being open to what might happen and being prepared to chase the rabbit down the rabbit hole.
4. What is your favourite prompt when creating art?
I actually love to draw from the photography well, even when I’m not creating photography images, I like to use lens prompts and composition prompts and one that comes with me no matter what style I’m doing is this
close up with a wide angle lens this as a great composition effect in that it will give you a detailed view of the subject and view them close in the frame but usually will give some reasonable space around the subject for context as well. This works in illustrative styles as well as photorealism.
5. How do you imagine AI (art) will be impacting society in the near future?
I see AI art as complicating society a little bit in the near future, suddenly the tools to create are in the hands of the masses like never before. People can create art they never would have dreamed of without the assistance of AI.
What will happen with all of this art? Probably the same thing that happens with all of the brilliant and talented artists already in the world. Most art gets shared within small spheres of influence until it is lost to time and memory.
“This is why I’m so interested in the idea of cryptoart and recording art to the blockchain, at least there can be an enduring record of art even for smaller artists.”
6. Who is your favourite artist?
My favourite artists are varied, I have broad tastes, from Salvador Dali to Hans Rudolf Giger to Edward Hopper, to Francis Bacon. I believe there is magic in traditional art and art history that is powerful, this is art that has endured the great filter of time and curation and has ended up a part of history.
I also have a profound love for photography. Alec Soth, Gregory Crewdson, Todd Hido, Reneke Dijkstra, Nan Goldin, Trent Parke and Narelle Autio, I have a love for the subtle surreal and the elevated realities conveyed within still images. There’s so much beauty in photography, you could spend a lifetime studying it and not even scratching the surface.
7. Do you have a specific project you’re currently working on? What is it?
I have a few projects I’m working on. I have a post photographic collection that I am going to announce soon with a bit of a fun topic. This will be my follow up to the “Helium” collection on Foundation, I have just been slowly working away at curating and cultivating the images for this.
I also have a more illustrative collection coming called “Pepe Century”, which imagines one hundred years of magazine covers with Pepe the Frog as their subject.
And a third project that has been in the works for a while, a Foundation drop called “Memory Palace” that envisions latent spaces within the mind that encorporate surrealistic aesthetics.
8. Great achievements so far in this space?
I won second place in Claire Silver´s AI art contest #4 with my short film “Consciousness”.
I originally thought I had some idea of what I would enter in the contest until it was announced what the parameters were and I realised that my initial idea would not be enough. It was fourteen days from announcement to submission, so I set about learning new skills, new tools and put in hours of work every day. The result was a short film that contained a lot of my feelings about AI and the coming changes I predict. The feelings were complicated, not all good and not all bad. I feel like people really resonated with the result and I feel that it was a great success. I used so many AI tools as well, from Deforum, a1111, Stable Diffusion, Midjourney, Digital ID, EBsynth, Runway ML 1, ChatGPT, it was all in there.
Another success of mine is that I decided towards the end of last year that I would do an everyday art share on X (Twitter) to Cozomo de´ Medici, the grand patron of the digital arts. I thought this would be a good opportunity to have something to do that would consistently push me to create everyday, and hopefully get me noticed by him in some way. Well my plan backfired because he responded on day one. It was daunting, but also encouraging. I remembered commenting back to that first GM by saying something like now I have to do this everyday, and he said “I’ll be waiting”.
I remember it like it was yesterday. It was such an exciting but nevertheless daunting thing to set this up with such great expectations. By day 100 I had been developing a particular baroque glitch aesthetic that was a combination of AI and glitch aesthetics. I decided to release a small collection called “Glitchcraft”.
Each piece was animated, with two Jewels in the collection of these longer form pieces that contained multiple screens with a narrative that played out in parts across the segmentation in these screens. The collection sold out, which was fantastic, but best of all was that Cozomo de´ Medici bid on and won “Panopticon”, one of the bigger pieces of the collection. This also entered me into the Medici Emerging 23 collection. A large point of pride for me this year.
9. Would you tell us about the AI Surrealism exhibition you are a part of?
The Exquisite Workers AI Surrealism show is huge, one hundred AI artists showing work at the Superchief Gallery NFT, some of the biggest names in the scene all in one place. We have had open editions and one of ones running alongside one another. I feel there is a great sense of camaraderie between us artists and this creative energy from sharing the event with each other.
“Precious” was born from an idea I had while revisiting a memory of my daughter when she was just born. I was lamenting the fact that the details were beginning to get lost. This was a memory I was thinking about fairly often, but the feeling was just as strong every time I thought about it. From there I had the idea for “Precious”: a woman holding a smooth porcelain baby, and surrounded by smooth sculptures. That idea of erosion by friction, by revisiting these memories so often they are being polished smooth.
The other 1/1 piece is “Memory Aspect 1”. The “Memory Aspect” collection it is a part of, was inspired by looking into the meaning of latent space. It’s a term we use a lot as AI artists and it refers to a theoretical mathematical space that AI uses to create an object based on its algorithm. The human mind can also produce a latent space in the form of a memory palace. It is a physical representation of a space that exists only in the imagination, and is used for the storage and recall of memories. So it’s also a latent space. I imagined what it would be like if the functions of memory were physical beings who lived within the latent space of our memory palace. I further pushed into this idea to come up with a collection of eleven memory aspects.
10. What does it mean to be an AI Surrealist for you in the times we live in?
AI art is surreal in its very nature of what it is and what happens to create the images from a text prompt or an image init, there is this beautiful process where the result is the culmination of the model the AI has been trained on.
“So even the most mundane “photograph” style images can be very surreal, because you’re not looking at a real moment that ever happened.”
In these times to be on the forefront of this new medium as it becomes a style in and of its own, it feels like we are writing history in the art that we are producing.
11. Anything else to add?
There are so many multitudes of worlds to explore with AI, but the best of all is that we can use the art we create to talk to one another and form bonds and connections and form communities around our art.
Thanks so much to AI Art Weekly and Dreaming Tulpa for making this interview possible. Thanks Nuclear Samurai for chatting with us. And thanks to you for reading. If you find this article useful, please consider sharing with your favorite AI friends and fellow AI communities. They will love it!
Meet the artist: Nuclear Samurai
Organizer: AI Art Weekly
Organizer: Exquisite Workers
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