DVK the artist grew up with a passion for art, often immersed in creative endeavors from a young age. With a father who was both a traditional oil painter and an architect, DVK had a mentor by his side throughout his formative years. This influence led his to frequent exhibitions across Denmark.
Interestingly, DVK’s two brothers also pursued art-related paths: one as a traditional painter and the other as an architect. However, DVK’s inclination always veered towards the digital realm, with a particular fondness for working on the computer. Over the years, he mastered various software programs, ranging from the Adobe suite to 3D modeling and video editing tools.
This affinity for the digital medium steered DVK towards a career as a graphic designer. And while the profession provided a creative outlet, DVK always yearned to produce art that was truly personal, reflecting his own visions and intentions. With AI, that dream is now possible.
Brady Walker: You go by DVK the artist. What other DVK are you differentiating yourself from?
DVK the artist: What other DVK? I don’t think there are many others. DVK the artist is just an artist’s name, similar to “Chance the Rapper.” It’s just an artist name.
BW: I thought you were being a little cheeky, but I was also curious. When did you enter the NFT space? Whether that be your first mint or just getting on Twitter as an NFT artist?
DVK: I started on Twitter as an artist in March last year. I entered the NFT space a bit before that. But I’ve been an artist my whole life. I grew up surrounded by art. Maybe you’ve seen it on my webpage where I’ve written some stories about myself. My dad is a traditional oil painter and an architect. One of my brothers is an architect, while the other is into traditional art.
I’ve always been drawn to the digital world. My dad got his first computer, something like Windows 3.1, when I was about three years old. Initially, I just played around with the programs. Later, with systems like Windows 95 and 98, I began using early versions of Photoshop, gravitating towards graphic design. I also have a background in graphic design.
Over the years, I’ve been self-teaching various software because formal education doesn’t cover all the programs I was curious about. I’ve been working with 3D and exploring online marketing tools. Naturally, I delved into AI when I discovered it, learning to develop and input the necessary information. This has been an evolving journey for me.
Rebelling Against Societal Scripts
BW: I’ve read that you dedicate considerable thought to what you want to convey and the underlying purpose of a given piece. Given that you repeat this process often— I assume you make art almost every day— have you noticed a trend in the themes and narratives you convey?
DVK: Absolutely. I’m deeply committed to addressing overlooked issues, advocating for the underdog, and highlighting societal problems that many either don’t recognize or don’t know how to address. For instance, web3 resonates with me because it challenges societal norms. Throughout the world, there’s this scripted path: grow up, get educated, work, start a family, and so on. Many people feel society has set these expectations in stone, but that’s not true. You can chart your own path, and some do so based on their unique identities or orientations.
Personally, I’ve always struggled with conforming to these societal norms. From kindergarten to various jobs, I felt restricted, even though I had no issues socially. If I was engrossed in an art project at home, it consumed my thoughts, and I just wanted to return to it, detaching from societal expectations.
Regarding education, I found most subjects easy, almost too easy. In basic tasks like writing exercises, I’d finish quickly and often felt unchallenged. Some teachers recognized this and allowed me to pursue my interests after completing the set tasks. I’d immerse myself in books about art, even recreating the artworks at home. Not all teachers were understanding. My art teacher, for instance, would have us draw rudimentary figures. I wanted to delve deeper, emulate masterpieces, and when we had clay projects, I crafted intricate designs while others kept it simple. She often disapproved of my divergent approach. That’s a brief insight into my journey.
BW: I remember the AI art show in Lisbon where you posted a process thread. Some believe AI art is the “easy way,” and with some artists, I’d agree. But your process seems very involved. Can you explain your recent workflow?
DVK: Certainly. First, I begin with the core idea: What do I want to create? What will it represent? How will it feel aesthetically? I love working with light and shadows, and I aim for a balance in colors, not making it too vibrant. I incorporate desaturated elements to achieve this balance. A recent post I shared, titled Revolution, exemplifies this approach with its well-saturated pillars and sunset lighting casting shadows.
I work with my own prompts and combine them with prompts from ChatGPT. I run these through a bunch tools; there are over 20 Stable Diffusion versions alone. Typically, I use at least five, like SD Excel, Stable Diffusion versions 1.5, 2.1, and Leonardo AI’s RPG. Testing different prompts and model combinations, I aim to get the desired outcome.
However, sometimes the outcome might lack quality. I then process the images through MidJourney, tweaking the prompt according to the required adjustments, like bolder brushstrokes or enhanced sharpness in shadows.
After finalizing the image, I upscale it using a method I’ve developed. I utilize several AI upscalers, many of which are public. While many use Gigapixel AI, it doesn’t upscale with true AI; it merely enlarges the pixel. The upscalers I use reinterpret the entire artwork, analyzing and enhancing it through AI. This process is time-consuming; a 10x upscale can take anywhere from 14 hours to two days.
Then, I use Photoshop to layer these upscaled images, extracting and merging the best qualities from each layer. Part of the upscaling also adds a desired texture, making it resemble a traditional painting. This technique is unique to my process, developed after more than a year of experimentation.
BW: Given your extensive background in Photoshop, 3D software, and other digital and analog methods of creation, why have you chosen to work with AI?
DVK: I appreciate the AI process. For instance, when painting digitally, you might spend hours on less captivating sections like grass or other mundane areas. With AI, you can achieve initial results so much faster, and the outcome can be comparable to a hand-painted piece. But the journey to that result is distinct. It’s not necessarily about saving time; many digital artists, including myself, spend considerable hours drawing on devices like the iPad. I do often transfer AI work to my iPad to add finer details, as I did during the AI Art Hackathon.
What fascinates me is having hundreds of outputs and refining one that aligns with my vision. While I could opt for repetitive methods, the excitement lies in constant experimentation and evolution. I might not always want to painstakingly create intricate cloud details or thousands of blades of grass by hand. But I enjoy sifting through AI-generated pieces, deciding on upscaling techniques, and consistently improving my approach. For me, it’s about continual development and enjoyment of the craft.
Behind A Day in the Life of an Artist
BW: How did A Day in the Life of an Artist come together?
DVK: It’s akin to a self-portrait, although it doesn’t necessarily represent me. There have been countless times I’ve lost track of time, engrossed in discovering a new process or tool. I dive deep into these explorations, refining the process or perfecting a piece. Some artworks take days with AI, upscaling, and then additional painting on top. For example, with the piece Sauron, I spent over 40 hours painting on it post-upscaling with AI. That piece ended up being a massive 190 megabytes.
BW: Sauron is a powerful piece. Watching the Sun Come Up and A Day in the Life both have an Edward Hopper-esque vibe. Were they intended as companion pieces?
DVK: Yes, they are showcased together in the exhibition in Carmel. The intent is to display the printed alongside the digital animated version to highlight the capabilities of digital art. As for the Hopper influence, I do admire his style, but I combined that with my own flair to get more detail, texture, and a broader color palette.
BW: How do you balance art-making, your career, and your personal life? What does a day in the life of DVK the artist look like?
DVK: To be honest, I struggle with that balance. My passion for art often consumes me. I’m always driven and eager to dive hands-on into my work. I’m heavily involved in curating and organizing; I’ve been part of numerous exhibitions.
My typical day starts at the computer. I have four computers running constantly, upscaling and creating new pieces. In between, I manage my emails, Twitter, and hundreds of direct messages.
Right now, I’m engaged with an exhibition in Copenhagen. MakersPlace is a key participant, and there’s a lot of setup involved. The concept revolves around starting with four distinct mediums. Digital artists then reinterpret these, reminiscent of the AI Art Hackathon. Afterward, four traditional painters will craft their interpretations. The goal is to introduce traditional artists to the blockchain, which I find intriguing.
DVK’s Dialogue with AI
BW: I’m curious about your prompting practice. How do you develop a communication method with the AI engines? And once you’ve established this unique language, how do you remember and store it?
DVK: Initially, I had several Google Documents filled with thousands of prompts. For the first year, I saved everything to track and remember the progression and accumulate knowledge. I do this less now since I’ve become familiar with how the AI responds to my inputs.
If there’s a new AI or tool, I note down my interactions. I have several notebooks, four just from the last year, filled with information about the AI. Think of it as a control room with various knobs; the outcome changes depending on your choices. I document my actions and the results. This way, I can review my notes and determine the desired outcome, be it sharp, abstract, or any other effect.
Some processes involve adding prompts for upscaling, and others are just straightforward upscaling. It largely depends on what I’m aiming for.
BW: Considering you produce thousands of outputs for each piece, how do you organize those outputs? Do you accumulate them and then sift through them, or do you review them as you go?
DVK: It’s about efficiency. Initially, I’d save everything and analyze it later, but that’s time-consuming. Now, I go through the outputs in real time, keeping only the good ones. Many of them I’ll see once or twice and never revisit. They’re stored in the cloud, and I rarely look back unless I think of something specific. During the prompting process, I iterate until I get the result I want, discarding the initial attempts that didn’t align with my vision.
BW: That makes sense. With all the content, it must become overwhelming.
DVK: I have several drives full; the data accumulates quickly. When you upscale these images, they can be 200 megabytes each, so I try not to save too much on my computer to avoid filling up the hard drive.
BW: Beyond creating art, what advice would you offer artists aiming to expand their web3 careers?
DVK: First and foremost, be active in the community. Consistently engage on platforms like Twitter or Instagram. Respond to messages and comments without arrogance. Be open to collaborations and don’t hesitate to embark on new projects. If something goes wrong, treat it as a learning experience. Personal growth often comes from the projects and challenges you undertake.
The Definition of Art in the AI Era
BW: It’s a broad question, but does art serve a purpose? And if so, what?
DVK: Absolutely, art serves multiple purposes. AI, for instance, is reshaping our understanding of art. With the capability to rapidly produce beautiful AI art, the value will soon shift from the visual appeal to the thought and narrative behind it. Connecting with an audience emotionally is paramount. Just like certain famous musicians, like Michael Jackson, their popularity stems from their ability to resonate with listeners. The power of art lies in eliciting emotions and creating connections.
BW: With that in mind, what is art, especially concerning AI? Some may argue there’s a distinction between AI image-making and AI art. Do you believe anything labeled as art is indeed art? Are there criteria?
DVK: Everyone has their own opinions and reactions to art. Some might view simple pieces as art, even if we don’t. The intention behind creation is crucial for me. If something is produced purely for monetary gain, it diminishes its artistic value in my eyes. That’s not to say it can’t be art — it’s just less definitive. Quality matters too. I don’t just share raw AI output; I refine it. But the human thought behind a piece and its ability to resonate with others is vital. It’s less about whether it’s art and more about if it’s good art.
BW: Given tools like MidJourney that many use, is it essential for an artist to have a recognizable style? AI allows people to mimic styles, making it easier to clone someone’s aesthetic.
DVK: True, but there’s a value in uniqueness. For instance, I’m confident no one else can replicate my current work, especially the texture details. While some might claim to have upscaled their pieces as much as I have, anyone with a discerning eye can see the difference in quality and detail.
Several AI artists, including myself, have distinctive styles. While someone might try to imitate my methods, the quality will differ significantly. As more artists enter the scene, many add personal touches to differentiate their work. Raw outputs, like those from MidJourney, can be easily replicated. But by using a range of different AI tools, you can get unique results. I’ve introduced techniques that only I can employ because I developed the tools.
BW: On a philosophical note, what do you wish you had known about the creative process earlier in life?
DVK: I wish I’d delved into blockchain and crypto earlier. My interest in artistic development came later than I’d have liked. Though I’ve always been drawn to art, my current passion and immersion in it far surpass where I was before. If I could fully engross myself in art earlier, that would have been beneficial. Still, my journey’s been rich, from visiting traditional art exhibitions to frequenting galleries and museums more than most.