What’s your background and how did you get into AI art?
My name is Steve but my friends know me as Griz. Over the past year, I have assumed the identity of Vnderworld. I was born in Michigan, grew up near Santa Cruz, California and now live in Portland, Oregon. My creative journey began at a young age. In the mid 90’s I grew up on a Macintosh computer. My earliest memories are of creating digital art with a computer program called KID PIX. I spent most of my time in school drawing and doodling. By the time I reached highschool, my doodles evolved into many different forms of artistic expression.
Much of my artistic life has been influenced by counter culture. Death metal, street art, graffiti and skate culture. I grew up in the golden age of self expression. I created YouTube longboarding videos throughout high school and college. I experimented with painting and tagging and wheat-pasting in college. And then for a decade after college, I stopped creating much and focused on my career. I was successful but completely unfulfilled with what I was doing and the lack of creativity in my life. I filled the void relentlessly with all the wrong things.
During the pandemic, I started to paint more and I bought a rug tufting gun at the same time and started making rugs. This taste of creative expression led me to quit my career in 2022 with no real plan but the desire to make art. Vnderworld released it’s first collection of 999 LVRKERS in July 2022. That same week, I was introduced to Midjourney. I spent a month exploring the tool and switched over to DreamStudio. I was blown away with Stable Diffusion and have not looked back since. I’ve created a terabyte worth of images over the past year with AI. Early on in the digital art space, I was still blinded by the pursuit of PFPs and that hype cycle. I began focusing on 1/1 art at the start of 2023 and failed here and there until things started to click with Deforum AI animation videos I was creating. After 6 months of participating in open-calls I finally began to find my creative voice that has led me to where I am today.
Do you have a specific project you’re currently working on? What is it?
In my mind, there are dozens of projects happening all at once both physical and digital art. My top priority is to get 3 pieces created for Historic Crypto’s Strange History. I am also in the process of going through and upscaling and inpainting art I created over the past 6 months. Everytime I look through old art, I feel like I find a new collection and new ideas I want to pursue. I currently have 3-4 different collections in distinct styles with distinct subject matter that I would like to share with the world. My recent explorations with upscaling in Stable Diffusion have completely changed my outlook on what to do next.
My biggest passion project was conceived this past week and I am going to pour a lot of energy for the rest of the year into it. I plan on keeping this on the down low while I build, but essentially I want to weave a cohesive narrative through the Vnderworld collections and am in the process of story and world building. I am also working on keeping the dream alive with other individuals close to me, including Vnderworld’s Audio Alchemist and my lifelong friend Null-Hax. We have a vision for Vnderworld that goes beyond what I am doing with my art. Moving forward, I want to expand on the idea that Vnderworld is a place, not a single person. More to come.
What drives you to create?
Everything. Life. Passion for expression. And an undying need to feel felt and heard, even if just by one person. My art isn’t for everyone. I treat it as a personal journal and a raw stream of consciousness of my inner-thoughts and fears. I create not because I want to but because I need to. I create out of necessity because when I don’t create I feel empty and I fill that void with every vice I can leverage. And over the last 30 years of filling that void, art is the only thing that makes me feel free. I create because I have always created and I will create until the day I die.
What does your workflow look like?
I have been using Stable Diffusion extensively over the past 11 months. Not to say I haven’t experimented with other tools, but 99% of my art is created with Stable Diffusion locally on my computer through Automatic1111. Within this webui, I start my creative exploration with simple txt2img outputs. I prefer to prompt my images in low sampling steps, meaning it takes less time to develop a large batch of images. From there I take my favorite image compositions and rework the image in the img2img extension in Automatic1111. I’ve spent a lot of time recently, mastering Inpainting and upscaling techniques within this extension. I also create a lot of AI animation art with the Deforum and Modelscope extensions.
My prompts typically start with limited intention from a visual standpoint. I try capturing raw feelings or emotions and use my imagination for that day to work the scene from there based on ideas and thoughts I have. I let creativity take control of the steering wheel and leave my intentions with my work open to the chaotic interpretations AI makes of my internal dialogue. 50% of art I create turns up being a hellscape in one way or another. I mean my name is Vnderworld after all. I am continuously chasing darker realms searching for the light in a chaotic symphony of fear confronted with the embrace of inner-reflection and personal growth.
What is your favorite prompt when creating art?
Over the past 6 months, I’ve developed a variety of phrases that I often add to a prompt including:
An angry (fearful) witch demon cries in the corner of the room in hatred and disgust
How do you imagine AI (art) will be impacting society in the near future?
We are hardly skimming the surface on the overall impact of AI and its capabilities. We are poised for a Golden Age. At the same time; From education to media consumption, to the influence it will have on politics, deepfakes, warfare, propaganda, and its overall control over every facet of our lives, I see AI completely changing how our world will look. There is a side of me who sees positivity in progression of creative expression and other barriers of entry to various tasks of creation outside of art. But the majority of me remains highly skeptical and concerned about what our AI-run world will look like in the next decade. A dystopian cyberpunk future seems at our fingertips of becoming an ever-present reality.
Who is your favourite artist?
This is a hard question mainly because I draw inspiration from so many artists throughout history. Every period of my life has inspirational artists as well. From Shel Silverstein and Dr. Suess while I was growing up, to street artists like Blu, to a deep infatuation with Dali and even owning original Dali sketches and lithographs. But over the past 15 years, I have been obsessed with Zdislaw Beksinski. His dark surrealism, nightmarish dream-scapes and massive body of relatively unknown work keeps me inspired on a regular basis. I am constantly trying to find more Beksinski pieces to analyze and enjoy.
I also draw a lot of inspiration from some of the painting masters like Jan Van Eyck and Caravaggio. There’s a never ending list of artists, but at my core the names mentioned above capture my imagination the most. Other notable artists; Kim Jung Gi, Jean Giraud (Moebius), and Heironymus Bosch.
Anything else you would like to share?
This is just the beginning of my journey. I am grateful and thankful for the support I’ve received from this community and the human connections that go along with that. Yeah, art sales are cool and all, but I am here to meet people and to inspire and be inspired. The rest will follow. My DMs are ALWAYS open. I don’t bite, say hey and let’s make some art and push this era of AI forward together.