Artists who use artificial intelligence as a creative partner

Artist James Morgan, is photographed during an interview at the Nirvana Soul bar in San Jose, Calif. on Wednesday, June 14, 2023. (Rashel Naranjo/Mosaic)

Editor’s note: This story is part of the annual Mosaic Journalism Workshop for Bay Area high school students, a two-week crash course in journalism. Program students report and photograph stories under the guidance of professional journalists.

James Morgan started his creative AI journey as a joke. It is now a significant part of his creative process, making him part of an ever-growing group of creatives who are now using AI in their art in new and imaginative ways.

Morgan, an artist and professor of digital media at San Jose State University, has spent the past few years experimenting with artificial intelligence in art. He entered it for the first time, he said, when he joked about wanting to do a work. A friend was creating music-making software, so Morgan was able to use it to generate melodies in the style of the great Giacomo Puccini. He wrote texts to be translated into Italian and eventually created Arido Taurajo, an operatic short film set on a video game.

Morgan’s journey with AI continued as she spent a year during the pandemic taking photographs in Michigan. She fed nearly every photo into a computer model just to see how the program might replicate his work, and scrutinized what she generated.

I started to fall in love with her aesthetic, she said. I think they are beautiful. And I also really liked the way that, as an artist, I can control the images that go out by controlling the images that go in.

The program functionally has Morgan’s eye as an artist, generating a potentially infinite number of images that he could conceivably have taken. Since all images posted have been used with her permission, it is very different from other models trained on the work of artists who have never given their permission. So what does this mean for Morgan’s model? In her view, the program can almost be treated as an artistic collaborator or partner in a larger project.

Julian Zamora, digital artist and art educator, shares this vision of AI as a partner. Zamora’s work, which uses their pronouns, is heavily influenced by their Chicano culture and often plays with the concept and perception of gender.

Currently, they are working on a new series of halftone screened prints which will generally be abstract images with bold colors representing traditional Mexican folk art. Halftoning, a technique in which dots of different sizes are used to convey different shades and images, will allow prints to resemble fabrics.

Zamora says their art ends up resembling planets or celestial objects. It should evoke a sense of connection, while the art is open to interpretation.

While experimenting with the AI, Zamora will refine the suggestions until they’re happy with the result, then digitally repaint the image to align with what they wanted.

Zamora also used AI to create reference photos and explore the different directions they could take with their art. They’ve also explained more delicate forms of AI, with uses people might not even think of. The Procreate drawing app, for example, will follow the flow of a drawn line and then use AI to predict how the artist likely intended it to look, leading to a cleaner-looking image. Zamora is also excited about the potential of AI to make art more accessible by enabling those who may lack the training or skill to express their creativity.

Riley Mendoza, a recent college graduate from San Jose State, used AI models to create a volume of love poems.

To do this, he pulled lines written by a program that writes books in the style of HP Lovecraft, the famous American horror author of the 20th century. She then fed them into WaveAI’s LyricStudio, a program that generates song lyrics by locating beats and nudging them in a specific artistic direction.

Mendoza has curated and compiled her favorite poems into a book, Love Will Keep Us Alive, with images also generated by artificial intelligence. It is now available for purchase online at

By speeding up creative processes, AI can lead to more inspiration, Mendoza said, adding that she was sometimes surprised by what the models would come up with.

It’s pretty cool to get results that you wouldn’t have thought of on your own, he said.

Julia Dang is a student at Los Gatos High School in Los Gatos.

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