Flowers in hommage of Brice Marden

Brice Marden, the artist who made loopy line paintings in the 1960s, has died. His paintings hang in the Art Institute of Chicago and MoMA.

Study for the Muses (Eaglesmere Version) by Brice Marden, 1991–94/1997–99 from artic 2015.137

This squiggly line style is typical of his art. I’d like to make a painting in honor of Brice Marden. For this particular case, the painting would include flowers. Let’s use artificial intelligence to create the painting.

Is Brice Marden one of the artists in the AI database of Midjourney?

I asked Midjourney to make some paintings in the style of Brice Marden. But it came up with nothing like his style.

/imagine painting of a flower in the style of Brice Marden

That’s pretty, but nope. Maybe the “flower” part of the prompt is messing things up. Let’s try without the flowers part.

/imagine painting in the style of brice marden

Ok, that’s not it. It appears Brice Marden is not in Midjourney’s database.

Making a Brice Marden-inspired painting with Midjourney

Let’s have Midjourney use the Marden painting from the Art Institute of Chicago. We just grab the image URL and include it in the prompt.

/imagine https://www.artic.edu/iiif/2/ddb73328-ab15-5468-5d6f-c955491c07c9/full/843,/0/default.jpg painting flowers

Ok, that’s a bit much on the flower side. Amusing that a human is included in one of the options. Let’s make a couple of edits to this prompt by adding more parameters.

/imagine https://www.artic.edu/iiif/2/ddb73328-ab15-5468-5d6f-c955491c07c9/full/843,/0/default.jpg painting::2 flowers::1 --iw 1.5 --stylize 500 --no humans
  1. Tone down the flowers. “flowers::1” gives a low priority
  2. Increase the painting quality. “painting:2” makes the painting aspect twice as important as the flowers
  3. Focus more on the source painting “–iw1.5” is the “image weight” parameter. It can range from 1 to 2. 1 being the lowest. 2 being the highest. If we put a 2 in there, it will look almost like the painting. We want a little creativity here.
  4. Be a tad less creative. “–stylize 500” The “stylize” parameter indicates how creative Midjourney can be. 0 would result in a very literal interpretation. 1000 allows it to add stuff.
  5. Include no humans “–no humans” is the command not to include humans.

It’s starting to look more like a cake than a painting. Let’s ask Midjourney to make it more flat and include brushstrokes.

/imagine https://www.artic.edu/iiif/2/ddb73328-ab15-5468-5d6f-c955491c07c9/full/843,/0/default.jpg painting::2 flowers::1 flat:3 brushstrokes:2--iw 1.7 --stylize 1000 --no humans, people

At least it’s not looking like a cake. I want to capture more of the essence of Marden. What words would you use to describe a Marden painting? Artsy.net has a great taxonomy that they use to describe artwork. Artsy.net calls it their “genome.”

Years ago, you could visit an artist’s page on artsy.net, and see the list of genome terms used to describe that artist’s work. However, that list of terms no longer appears on the artist’s page. How can we get these genome terms for Marden?

Artsy’s genome terms aren’t completely removed from their site. They continue to list their genome terms at https://www.artsy.net/categories. Let’s click on a term like “Tangled Forms“. On that page is a list of artists: Herbert Ferber, C.J. Pyle, Lola Brooks, Steve Tobin, Joseph Walsh, Evgeny Chubarov, Patrick Alston, Brice Marden, Mehran Elminia, Heeseop Yoon, David Hominal.

Ah, now if we can only find all these genome pages that contain the name “Brice Marden.”

Looking at the “Tangled Forms” page, the URL is: https://www.artsy.net/gene/tangled-forms. That means all their webpages for genes are at the directory of https://www.artsy.net/gene. We are going to use this in a moment.

We’ll back-door trick the Artsy site into giving us most of genome terms for Brice Marden. We head to Google, and run this query: site:https://www.artsy.net/gene “Brice Marden”. This will search all of Artsy’s “gene” pages and look for a mention of Brice Marden.

The results in Google will give us a nice list of genes to describe Brice Marden.

  • Tangled forms
  • Minimalism
  • Contemporary Gestural Abstraction
  • Sparse
  • Process-Oriented
  • Gestural
  • Calligraphic
  • Primary abstraction

Now, let’s use these terms in our Midjourney prompt.

/imagine https://www.artic.edu/iiif/2/ddb73328-ab15-5468-5d6f-c955491c07c9/full/843,/0/default.jpg flowers::10 Tangled forms::2 minimalism::2 Contemporary Gestural Abstraction::2 sparse::2 Process-Oriented::2 gestural::2 calligraphic::2 primary abstraction::2 --iw 1.2 --stylize 1000 --no humans, people

Notice how each of the genes is weighted with a 2. But I give “flowers” a 10. That makes flowers five times more important than the other genes. We could go on forever and ever adjusting each of these genes, giving some more or less weight. But for now, let’s see what this prompt generates.

Oh yeah. I like the first one. Let’s upscale that.

Even though it still has a computer-generated feel, it’s at least more painterly than most of the other items it creates.

FYI, Brice Marden IS a style in the Midjourney database. How do I know this? It clearly wasn’t able to create a painting in his style from a text prompt. I had to force an image onto Midjourney for reference.

Well, I took that reference painting from the Art Institute of Chicago, and asked Midjourney to describe it. Instead of starting the prompt with “/imagine”, we use “/describe.” Then Midjourney will give four descriptions.

Here’s that source image again

Study for the Muses (Eaglesmere Version) by Brice Marden, 1991–94/1997–99 from artic 2015.137
/describe https://www.artic.edu/iiif/2/ddb73328-ab15-5468-5d6f-c955491c07c9/full/843,/0/default.jpg 

1️⃣ the painting has pink, blue, whitedyed lines on it, in the style of made of vines, interlocking shapes, pictorial fabrics, linear movements, aerial view, curvilinear, decorative lines –ar 5:3

2️⃣ a piece of a pink, green, blue and brown abstract quilt, in the style of sinuous lines, american works on paper 1880–1950, mural painting, brice marden, embroidery, soft lines, abstraction-création –ar 5:3

3️⃣ blue, pink and yellow wires on a white surface, in the style of art nouveau organic flowing lines, light pink and dark green, silk painting, american prints 1880–1950, rectangular fields, oil on canvas, rug –ar 5:3

4️⃣ painting with white abstract dots on it, in the style of sinuous lines, woven color planes, pink and green, 1918–1939 (interwar), aerial view, colorful curves, made of vines –ar 5:3

See the second description. It lists “brice marden“. Go figure. I did try some of the description text in other prompts. But they didn’t really generate anything worthwhile sharing.

This isn’t the first time I’ve played with Brice Marden paintings.

More Brice Marden generative projects

Using a reverse Google image search for the painting, I included the term “Star Wars” to see what pops up. This highly detailed AT-AT walker by Mattias Adolfsson looks a bit like Marden’s squiggly lines.

Study for the Muses (Eaglesmere Version), 1991–1994/1997–99 by Brice Marden • Imperial Walker Transportation by Mattias Adolfsson

I took 21 more iconic paintings from the Art Institute’s new collection and found a visually similar each for each, using a Star Wars theme. Check them out.

Another project that involved a Marden painting is “Autograph Aesthetics“. I went to the Art Institute of Chicago’s modern wing and matched up the aesthetics of the baseball card autographs with modern paintings. Here we match up Marden’s “Second Letter (Zen Spring)” with Dal Maxvill’s autographed 1972 Topps card.

You can view 10 more autographed baseball cards matched up with modern art paintings at my blog post Autograph Aesthetics.

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