What’s your background and how did you get into AI art?
I got into art at an early age, with my main inspirations being my parents, intentionally. I can recall at least two instances from my early childhood that have left a lasting impact on me, two small but significant things.
My father was a music enthusiast, and in the ’90s in my Russian town, foreign music was mainly circulated through piracy. As a result, my father had hundreds of pirated cassette tapes featuring the icons of that era. What’s more, he treated each pirated recording with care, meticulously handwriting covers with nice and neat calligraphic signs. This is where my love for fonts and calligraphy originated, which I still practice today. Time later, I’ve even left my mark in my town’s local graffiti scene.
Music, in its various forms, has been a constant companion in my life since childhood, a fundamental part of who I am.
My second early memory comes from my mother. I was just a toddler when I watched her work with papier-mâché, and at that moment, a vivid interest sparked within me. I remember that moment as if it happened yesterday, even though it was over 25 years ago. In terms of artistic aspects, I owe it to her, as she is an excellent artist and has always supported me in this regard.
I consider myself a self-taught artist (although it’s not that simple), and despite the support from those around me, I have always been primarily self-reliant when it comes to pursuing my ambitions. DIY principles are in my blood. After finishing high school, I initially enrolled in a university’s graphic design program, but before the classes began, I changed my decision in favor of another university, where I was supposed to study architecture. However, I didn’t pursue a career in architecture either, as I dropped out during the first semester. Nonetheless, I actively engaged in drawing, collaging, graffiti, with occasional breaks in between.
Indeed, self-identification has been a struggle for me for a long time. I also experimented with music and photography, and even dedicated six years to e-sports.
In 2021, I stumbled upon an article about NFTs. At that time, I was actively involved in art making and studying art history, which made me naturally curious about this new digital art landscape. I dove into all the intricacies, created a Twitter account, and was immediately drawn to the aesthetics of generative art (distinct from AI). I soon discovered the related field of AI art.
My first generated image was created using NightCafe, where I first encountered VQGAN+Clip. It was a mind-blowing experience. I quickly delved deeper into the world of google colabs, where I began experimenting with aphantasia, VQGAN, and StyleGAN2. The latter captured my interest the most because it allowed me to control outputs by training my own models. My first models were trained on images I created myself, although it’s unlikely those results will ever be made public.
In short, I was so profoundly impressed by all of this that I immediately told myself, “You’re on the right path, and all those earlier coincidences were not accidental!” And thus, in a nutshell, Nikita Blank was born. Hey there.
What drives you to create?
The inner fire, innate drive, the call of the black star… The desire to create something with my core, to embody the hidden. Because, after trying many things, I can only synthesize powerful emotional uplifts through creativity. These emotional highs, flights of fantasy, the pursuit of them, self-reflection, and contemplation about art and life help me become better, realizing my true potential. And by realizing ourselves in the right key, we undeniably make this world better. This is cool. Honestly, I’ve never questioned what compels me to create. It’s natural. It’s the Law.
What does your workflow look like?
Currently, I’m utilizing various models based on Stable Diffusion with a set of custom LoRA models, and Photoshop. I identify my works, starting with the “antiprompt” series, as mixed AI collages with elements of digital painting. They’re considered mixed AI because, in addition to SD, I employ anything and everything from my library of outputs and unreleased materials dating back to 2021. This means that a single piece may incorporate results from different AI tools. For instance, in “antiprompt,” I combined outputs generated using exactly.ai (which is also based on SD), my local developments, and utilized Adobe Firefly. Furthermore, some elements are manually drawn, either in Photoshop or Procreate. Many of the outputs undergo extensive manual recoloring, and each is subject to at least basic color correction. My workflow is always quite chaotic (hence, “flow”), but the foundation of all my work is where this narrative began. Manual work is crucial to my art, because this helps me to connect with my craft more.
Inspiration is always an impulse that follows the accumulation of a certain level of energy. Energy accumulation occurs continuously and is dependent on my lifestyle. I strive to lead an active life and pay as little attention as possible to social media, watching reels, and other trashy stuff. But I love online videogames, and certain of them are my power sources indeed. My greatest sources of inspiration are sports, music, connections with loved ones, the woman I love, and AI art experience itself. In the middle of the night.
How do you imagine AI (art) will be impacting society in the near future?
An intriguing question for a writer, but I don’t consider myself one just yet. It’s evident that AI has global prospects. However, my particular interest lies in the realm of art. Here, I’d like to emphasize that AI art is still in its infancy, and its phenomenology has yet to undergo careful consideration by humans before this phenomenon establishes itself in the collective consciousness as a serious form of art. I believe it’s a logical progression, and I strive to contribute to its productive development.
Who is your favourite artist?
When talking about AI artists, those who resonate with me in spirit include Nikita Panin, Phosphor, Neural Bricolage, GraphicaPng, Ilya Shkipin, Ilya Bliznets and #1 crush. I owe a lot to Nikita, as he played a significant role in shaping my vision of badass good AI art. There’s an old work of his on objkt.com called “psychedelic blob destruction remastered,” and it was through this piece that the foundation of my current visual philosophy was laid, so to speak. I could go on with my list of favorites for a long-long time. There are lots of true magicians in this space. My great respect to hard workers.
As for traditional artists, even narrowing it down to a top 10 would be an impossible task. Therefore, it might be more interesting if I try to mention styles and movements that hold a special place in my heart:
What is your favourite prompt when creating art?
My favorite prompt is the one that doesn’t use any real artist’s name.
Do you have a specific project you’re currently working on?
Currently, I’m developing my “main” series called “solve (ai) coagula.” It’s a living series where I’m refining my style and the authorial approach to working with AI. Recently, I completed a small project on Tezos called “dizzyland,” which is a side experiment stemming from my main series. “Dizzyland” features spontaneously hand-animated landscapes, pure action, on which I invested enough time to feel physical exhaustion. I’m very pleased with the results. If there’s a sell-out, I’ll consider continuing it (which I’d like to do). In addition to the visual aspect, I keep quite a few notes about what I’m working on and what I observe in the crypto art scene. I have some plans regarding the publication of these materials, but it’s still too early to talk about them.
Would you tell us about the AI Surrealism exhibition in NYC?
You know, participating in exhibitions is always very enjoyable and beneficial, and being part of the AI Surrealism exhibition alongside so many artists I love and respect was a great honor for me and, overall, an unforgettable experience.
I want to express my deepest gratitude to Anna Dart and Roger Haus from Exquisite Workers for their tremendous curatorial work, carried out with great dedication and love. Also, I’d like to separately thank Dehiscence for her genuine support. And, of course, thanks to the legendary Superchief Gallery NFT crew for all their efforts. Together, we create the art of the modern age - what more can I say? Pure love.
What does it mean to be an AI Surrealist for you in the times we live in?
AI art is so new that, to this day, I haven’t come across any deeply insightful examination of this phenomenon in the public sphere. However, it’s worthy of reflection, and it will undoubtedly be explored in-depth in the future. We, as artists who use AI as our paint and brush, are currently part of an avant-garde movement. We are not yet globally recognized, and our skills are largely experimental and spontaneous rather than purely technical and based on any philosophical insights. Through our work, we promote the beginning of a new era in the art world. However, our art speaks its own language, which not everyone will understand, except for us. Perhaps we could use our own manifesto… Do you see where I’m going with this? Being an AI Surrealist in our time is like being in the place of, for example, Breton or Apollinaire in their time. While this comparison may be somewhat stretched, I mean the fact that we are laying the foundation for something truly new. Through our efforts, things are materializing that were difficult to imagine not long ago. That’s what being an AI Surrealist means to me. Such a dreamer!