AI is definitely a buzzword at the moment, some days, it feels like I can’t move without hearing about it. Most of those discussions are scare-mongering and a little bit threatening for the creative industries. But what if, for once, we took a different stance? Instead of looking at what AI imaging tools could destroy, what if we looked at what they could create instead?
That’s exactly what Creative Director Rob Brooks did recently. Brooks will happily admit that he fell down the Midjourney rabbit hole recently and, just like Alice, ended up on a fantastical creative journey himself. Brooks created a series of images using both digital photography of his twin sons and woodland fantasy beasts that he created with AI. DIYP was lucky enough to chat with Rob about how he created the images and his thoughts in general on the future regarding AI and the creative industries.
Rob says that he had been reading about the controversy surrounding AI image generators. However, he was keen to see what all the fuss was about and decided to give Midjourney a go during a week off. After the first 10 free ‘imagines’ he says he could see how this could actually be a useful creative tool. In other words, he was hooked.
Rob doesn’t claim to be a professional photographer or artist. However, he has always made photographs on the side in addition to his work as a creative director. Every year, he would create epic stories with his DSLR of his family in the Oregon forests. Coupled with his fascination for character design as a teenager, Midjourney opened up creative doors that hadn’t been easily accessible before.
But it wasn’t all quite as plain sailing as simply writing in a prompt and the computer spitting out an image. “I
took photos of my family and photoshopped them together with Sasquatch and a giant elk behind them, and then just poorly composited it together,” Rob explains. “Then I uploaded it and it spat out an iteration that looked intentionally
poorly done,” he laughs, “so I was like, ‘well, that’s not gonna work!'”
So Rob had to come up with another way to create the fantastical creatures of his imagination. Instead of starting with the AI creatures, Rob flipped it around and started with his 3-year-old twins. Incredibly, Rob says that his twins are a little bit more predictable than Midjourney! So he took them out to the forest, camera in hand, and played games where they’d find fallen logs to sit on and “hunt for elk”.
“I have basically been seeing the world through their eyes, turning over rocks, discovering critters,” explains Rob. “I think for a three-year-old, seeing an elk is probably a lot like seeing [a character from] where the Wild Things Are,” he adds. Which is where he got the inspiration for the series.
After shooting the images of his family, Rob uploaded everything into Lightroom. “I then used some major elbow grease to uprez the characters and blend through raw processing and photoshop airbrush painting, and voila, I blended the two. This has been a fun exploration for sure,” says Rob.
Years of working with Adobe software and compositing images came in very handy to make the creatures look like a believable part of the photographs. Essentially, Midjourney only solved 50% of the problem. You can see the creative process in the video below:
So what about that other elephant in the room then regarding the controversy surrounding image generators? Rob has some interesting points of view. “I have a complicated relationship with the new tech advancements,” says Rob. “I don’t like the idea of relying solely on ai for a finished product and can see that some brands will eventually adopt this “faster cheaper” approach.”
Rob is firmly on the side of the creative. However, he goes on to say that he’s both old and young enough to have been around to witness the adoption of digital and Adobe software, which changed the creative landscape hugely. ” In both cases, I watched creators figure out how to adapt and use it to their advantage, or in other cases fall behind,” he comments sagely.
In fact, Rob has already used this tool recently in a creative pitch when he couldn’t find the right character in a swipe file. It took approximately 40 minutes to create the concept with Midjourney. However, Rob stresses that the intention was to only use the AI for the initial concept, which was then forwarded on to the other creative team to be realized in the traditional manner via illustrators, and photographers.
“My hope as a creative is that I can use it to give more pointed examples to clients, directors, photographers, and illustrators on what I’m looking to achieve,” he explains. He likens AI to the adoption of greenscreen in Hollywood, where for a while, it superseded all traditional methods of working. However, like always, the shine wore off, and directors such as Guillermo Del Toro kept making his monsters the old way, and his movies are all the better for it.
Ultimately Rob recommends that all of us creatives take an active interest in understanding the AI software and really taking a look at how we might view it as yet another creative tool at our disposal. “Download the software, and make time for it. Don’t get stuck in the mindset that if I contribute to this, it’s making the software smarter, and it’s going to take my job. Think: how can I make myself more valuable by using this?”
If Rob’s fantastical woodland creature series is any example, the sky is basically the limit to allow us to create exactly whatever we wish. Ultimately, technology changes, but the ideas and the stories behind it will never be obsolete.
Rob Brooks is creative director at Fort West. You can follow Rob on Instagram.
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