Skip to contentMenu
MembershipOpen SearchPosted inComics
My Comics Collaboration With DALL-E
I wondered: Could the AI image generator and I develop a shared, unique “voice” in our creative output?
Amaris Feland Ketcham January 22, 2023
The first prompt I typed into DALL-E 2 was “Cubist painting of a tuxedo cat playing piano.” The AI tinkered and buffered for a minute and then delivered four absolutely adorable images of cats playing piano. The surprise, whimsy, and color impressed me — after all, many of us have seen some of the more disturbing results of AI-generated images.
I’ve been teaching and writing and dabbling with comics for a couple of years now, so it seemed natural to experiment with DALL-E 2 to make a text-image collaboration. Could DALL-E 2 and I develop a shared, unique “voice” in our creative output?
Typically, I make comics in one of two ways: I draw and write something quickly in a diary or I spend months scripting, writing and rewriting, drawing and erasing, scanning and editing a half dozen pages. Making comics is a laborious process, especially for single-creator comics. In this “auteur” model of making comics, the person who writes the comic also illustrates it. Stemming from underground comix (transgressive comics that did not meet the approval of the Comics Code Authority) and alternative comics (alternative to, say, mainstream Marvel and DC comics), these hand-drawn comics reflect the unique, developed style of their creator. From the beautiful brushwork of Craig Thompson to John Porcellino’s clean lines and distilled images, a comic creator’s panels become as recognizable as a writer’s voice or an artist’s style.
Cartoonist Lynda Barry famously champions the beauty of the hand-drawn line and the individuality of its expression. Even if you are “bad at drawing,” you make an image unique to you; Barry would say your drawing is more “alive” than the drawing of a professional draftsman. There is, she contends, something personal and real about an inexact representational drawing. Even the physical appearance of the text becomes another method of communication, a kind of image, because handwriting carries with it an innate expression of personality and individuality, offering another layer of tone and meaning.
Some of DALL-E 2’s drawings have some of this “living” quality. After I uploaded one of my own sketches of a mischievous cat in a witch’s hat, DALL-E 2 made four variations that, to me, looked like they could be “inhabited” characters. But it’s hard to consistently replicate these qualities with a new prompt (to be fair, this is also a challenge for me).
A full collaboration between two AIs to “generate” a comic is possible now that OpenAI has launched ChatGPT and InstructGPT, which generates writing when prompted. But comics rely on a poetic precision of line — there’s not much space for expository text, and I like to avoid having the words duplicate the work the images are doing.
Describing the image I wanted the AI to deliver took a different kind of finesse and revision that I was accustomed to. The prompt box reminded me that longer, more specific descriptions will give better results. Therefore the writing work is doubled, scripting the comic and describing desired possible illustrations. “Chalk pastel drawing of a night sky with a lot of stars” proved a disappointment but generated a new idea: “Chalk pastel drawing of a Kentucky horse farm at night with a lot of stars in the sky.” Was I training the AI? Was the AI training me? Or did we engage in an iterative process as collaborators? I ended the experiment, wondering what it might take to make a full collaboration in which the images complemented the writing and felt expressive, “alive,” rather than soulless.
Whitney Museum Director Adam Weinberg to Step Down
His tenure was marked by a multitude of controversies, including protests over former trustee Warren Kanders and a grueling labor struggle.
How Can Museums Truly Shake Off Their Colonial Legacy?
Representation alone will not end inequity in art museums.
ArtYard Showcases Art Without Intent in As Is
This exhibition invites viewers to question their notions of beauty, artistry, and materiality. On view in Frenchtown, New Jersey.
What to See in New York This March
Your list of must-see, fun, insightful, and very New York art events this month, including Hew Locke, Saif Azzuz, Miyoko Ito, Shona McAndrew, and more.
Hakim Bishara, Valentina Di Liscia and Daniel Larkin
Dread Scott’s Visual Ballad to Nina Simone
The artist talks to Hyperallergic ahead of his New York exhibition Dread Scott Goddam.
National Public Housing Museum Names Tiff Beatty Associate Director, Welcomes Three New Leaders
The four bring expertise to support the Chicago museum’s mission to promote and propel the right of all people to a place where they can live and prosper.
Grounded in Clay and Moved by Spirit
An exhibition at the Museum of Indian Arts and Culture, curated by over 60 individual members of 21 tribal communities, paves the way for equitable collaborative possibilities.
God Save Us From These Wax Figures of Kate and Prince William
This settles the matter: We don’t need wax museums.
The Bruce Museum Announces Grand Reopening After $67M Expansion
The new building in Greenwich, CT, triples the space for art and science exhibitions and includes community spaces like an auditorium, café, and education wing.
NYC’s Iconic Flatiron Building Is … Headed to Auction?
The sale is a last-resort move to resolve a bitter dispute between the building’s owners.
Mini Roman-Era Sphinx Discovered Near Egyptian Temple
The small statue was recovered from the ruins of a tomb east of the Dendera Temple.
Stanford Arts Hosts a Virtual Conversation With Cecilia Alemani and Darren Walker
Part of the university’s “Artists on the Future” series featuring renowned artists and cultural thought leaders, this online event is free and open to the public.
“Extremely Rare” Courbet Found in Basement Goes on View
The 1864 landscape was found in a basement at the University of Pennsylvania Dental School.
Why Is No One Talking About the Artist-Daughters?
We need more support for the women who have to balance an art practice with caregiving for their ailing parents.
Hall W. RockefellerTagged:Artificial IntelligenceComicsDrawingWriting
Amaris Feland Ketcham
Amaris Feland Ketcham is an honorary Kentucky Colonel who spends her time with open space, white space, CMYK, emanata, long trails, f-stops, line breaks, and several Adobe programs running simultaneously…. More by Amaris Feland Ketcham
Hyperallergic is a forum for serious, playful, and radical thinking about art in the world today. Founded in 2009, Hyperallergic is headquartered in Brooklyn, New York.