Humanity in the Machine: A Midjourney Experiment

Nettrice Gaskins
3 min readApr 21


Left: My original oil painting; Right: Midjourney’s version of my painting

One of the complaints I hear about the use of AI to create art is that it takes the humanity (soul) out of the creative process. To test this, I used two of my favorite Midjourney features (describe and permutations) with several of my old oil paintings. The describe feature that lets you transform images-into-words. Midjourney generates four different descriptions based on an image upload and makes it easy to generate new variations.

Using Midjourney’s /describe feature

Then, I use one of the suggested prompts and run it as a new prompt to get several variations such as these thumbnails:

Variations on a prompt

Next, I used a permutation prompt that quickly generates variations of the original prompt. By including lists of options separated with commas , within curly braces {} in the prompt, I can create multiple versions of a prompt with different combinations of those options. I also added my original artwork as part of the new prompt.

The new (output) image based on my original artwork

I tried this process again and again and got similar results. Midjourney was able to keep the original color palette and painting technique when generating new images (variations). One of my old paintings was inspired by my Josef Albers color study using Color-aid paper (collage). Color-aid is a paper system used for color theory and a variety of art, design and craft applications. I mixed oil paint to match the collage and painted a new composition or variation(?).

My original Albers-inspired oil painting
Permutations of the original text and image prompt

Another image I used in a permutations prompt was an old oil-based collage/painting of dancers that included spiritual imagery. For round one, I just used the prompt from describe to generate new images.

My original oil-based collage painting
New images based on the describe prompt

I added the original painting (image) and describe prompt in a new permutations prompt to create several AI-generated variations on the painting. Once again, Midjourney kept the original color palette, style and technique.

Permutations/variations of the original painting

I love the results of these experiments and plan to use this process in the creation of future AI-generated images. I’m also ready to argue for the humanity in the use of AI to make art.



Nettrice Gaskins

Nettrice is a digital artist, academic, cultural critic and advocate of STEAM education.

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