Published April 28, 2023
What’s your background and how did you get into AI art?
Art has been a significant part of my life since an early age, owing to my mother’s background in painting and curation. As my father worked in the development cooperation sector, I was fortunate enough to grow up in Germany, Kenya, Senegal, and Bangladesch, being exposed to a range of highly distinct art styles, concepts, and understandings.
As an adolescent, I became heavily captivated by street art, with the legendary Blek le Rat and King Robbo serving as my idols. Their creativity, audacity, and social critique inspired me to more candidly express my thoughts and opinions through the medium of graffiti, poetry, and hip hop. Those were the days when a good night meant that you had spray paint on your fingertips the next morning.
My aspiration was to become an author and journalist, and I even managed to publish my first articles in nationwide newspapers at the age of 16. However, a visit to Afghanistan in 2002, just a few months after the fall of the Taliban, altered my life’s course dramatically. After visiting my father, who was working there at the time, I determined that writing about the world’s events was insufficient. I wanted to be more involved. Upon my return to Germany, I enrolled in medical studies and studied art history in parallel, thanks to Germany’s nearly free university education. Although I did not obtain a complete art history degree, I was fortunate enough to receive a quite thorough education.
After graduation and training, I worked for years in the humanitarian and transitional aid sector in the Afghan-Pakistan border region and then later in Iraq. During this time I rediscovered my passion for writing and started to learn about photography to capture and document what I was encountering. I believe this is when I began searching for a more visual outlet to express my sentiments, mainly for the sake of maintaining my sanity.
However, it was not until mid-2021 that I became acquainted with NFTs before stumbling upon AI art tools in early 2022. I began with vqgan+clip before progressing to DALL-E and eventually Midjourney and Stable Diffusion.
Working with AI felt like receiving an additional pair of vocal cords that enabled me to visualize my ideas and concepts precisely the way I desired.
Do you have a specific project you’re currently working on? What is it?
I am currently working on two projects. One is a small collection titled “Art Underground“, which is a diverse 1/1 collection that spans my own artistic journey. I am placing iconic artworks representing milestones in art history in a street art setting using the post-photography style. “Art Underground“ represents the merging of diverse influences and techniques to create something new that is both familiar and unfamiliar. It also represents the power of art to transcend traditional boundaries and to break down barriers between seemingly disparate genres.
Secondly, I am also engaged in a more unconventional undertaking, the “Neurodigital Odyssey”, which takes a more radical approach. This series endeavors to offer an immersive experience to the viewer, to allow one to explore an artist’s mind and the pandemonium it houses within its dreamlike space.
The “Neurodigital Odyssey” delves into a range of scenes that encapsulate a mind teetering on the brink of collapse, where disorder has become commonplace and is harnessed as a tool for novel modes of creative expression. It is also the first series for which I am including AI generated sound atmospheres to create a more captivating audio-visual experience.
What does the color yellow mean to you?
I like to include the color yellow in many of my works, because I like it’s ambiguity. It can have a variety of meanings and interpretations, depending on cultural, personal, and contextual factors. It can represent joy and happiness, but can also be a sign of warning and caution. In some cultures, yellow is associated with cowardice or fear, whereas in others with wealth and prosperity. The meaning of the color yellow can vary widely making it very interesting to play with.
What drives you to create?
Being a dedicated pediatrician with an emphasis on neonatal and intensive care as well as my previous work in the humanitarian and development sector, I find myself regularly gazing deep into the abyss of human suffering, which can be emotionally challenging to say the least.
As a result, I have sought refuge in the realm of art, where I am able to translate these experiences and emotions into something tangible that - in a way - can continue to exist outside of me. This, for me, is both a passion and an escape, a means of expressing myself to the wider world.
What does your workflow look like?
I usually choose a conceptual approach for my work. I start by simply thinking about the theme and how it could best be visualized. Revisiting my diary is an essential component of this procedure, for it allows me to collect my thoughts and contemplate upon the subject matter. I do and write in it almost on a daily basis. I then decide on a topic, scene, style and color palette and perhaps the acoustic atmosphere for my audiovisual pieces. The rest is prompting across different tools, partial blending and quite excessive post-editing in PhotoShop.
Do you still keep a diary?
I do and write in it almost on a daily basis. I can highly recommend it to everyone. It helps a great deal in structuring thought (btw. this works best when done by hand, but I don’t want to bore you with the neurophysiology behind this). It’s also a great way to remember the little moments of enlightenment we so easily forget when throwing ourselves into that machine that makes you forget everything and which we call ‘every day life‘.
Editorial note: I can highly recommend getting into the habit of writing morning pages popularized by Julia Cameran’s The Artist’s Way.
What is your favourite prompt when creating art?
I can’t really say if I have a favorite prompt. What I do have are repeating themes. One would be “just because you should be going insane doesn’t mean you will go insane“. I also like including perspectives such as
overhead view. If things are not working out the way I want to, I sometimes also include
--chaos 50 to generate something with more variation.
How do you imagine AI (art) will be impacting society in the near future?
I consider AI art the greatest democratization of access to artistic expression since our ancestors were pressing their hands against some wall of a cave. It has unlocked a whole new world of artistic expression, one that is accessible to anyone with a creative impulse and a willingness to explore.
This aligns nicely with the core principles of web3 and its paradigm in which technology and creativity converge to empower people to realize their own artistic vision.
Who is your favourite artist?
The first name that comes to mind would be BLAC.ai who has been a tremendously helpful force in this space. I would also like to include DeltaSauce and not only because he picked up the first piece I ever minted. I greatly enjoy art across a range of genres, so others certainly would include Michael Hafftka who has really defined for me what art can be in the context of web3. Furthermore the incredibly talented Ren AI, Indi Björnsson and DOPEMIND who introduced me to audio-visual art. For the post-photography genre it would be Pop Punk as the creator of the iconic County Fair collection, Andy Schwetz, Oliver Dahl and my long term web3 friend Historic Crypto. This list is terribly incomplete of course.
As for non-blockchain art, I would start with my aforementioned street art idols Blek le Rat and King Robbo, but also Max Beckmann and Caspar David Friedrich. Max Beckmann’s work is both bold and haunting. I am particularly drawn to his self-portraits, which capture the intense emotional turmoil of his life. His ability to convey complex emotions through his paintings is absolutely remarkable. As for Caspar David Friedrich, the deep sense of melancholy and introspection resonates with me. His landscapes are often desolate and empty, yet I feel that they possess a quiet beauty and evoke a sense of profound contemplation.
Anything else you would like to share?
Art is in the eye of the beholder, not the definer. You don’t need anyone’s approval to exercise your freedom of artistic expression. Be bold. Dare to break traditional concepts. You are the artist.
Also, I can only recommend to reach out to your fellow artists. In my estimation, our AI art niche is amongst the most genuinely kind and helpful corners of this entire space.