Midjourney’s Style-Tuning: Collage & Remixing Using Generative AI

Nettrice Gaskins
3 min readNov 13, 2023
My url for the Midjourney Style Tuner

To remix means to use a machine or computer to change or improve the different parts of an existing composition to make a new one. Remixing is one of three techno-vernacular creative modes that include reappropriation and improvisation. Collage is considered to be one of the ultimate remix practices in art, as seen in works from Picasso to Romare Bearden. Early photographers spliced images together in order to mess with temporality and dissolve the boundaries between the natural and supernatural — themes that Surrealists (and others) would explore.

Nettrice Gaskins. “The Ledge,” 1992. Created using Photoshop.

Throughout the 20th century, collage has been used as a tool for disruption and subversion — a way of ripping up the rulebook and creating something new from the fragments. The act of splicing together images and fragments of text represented the Surrealist belief that meaning was generated by the subconscious. In the early 1990s, I was exploring a collage aesthetic on canvas and using computer software such as Photoshop (see above). I was particularly interested in the allegorical aspects of collage. The Oxford English Dictionary defines allegory as a “story, picture, or other piece of art that uses symbols to convey a hidden or ulterior meaning.”

Nettrice Gaskins. “Red Shoes,” 1991. Oil paint on canvas board.

The inner world was the subject of a series of oil paintings I created in the early 1990s, including “Red Shoes” (see above). The inner world is an esoteric, metaphysical, or spiritual internal world within a person that is defined and made by the person’s inner nature, thoughts, emotions, imagination, memories, beliefs, values, desires and more. The original “sketches” for the paintings were color study collages. Not long after this I was compositing and layering image fragments using Photoshop.

‘My work is all about mutations and hybrids and crossing one thing with another,’ “Lynn Hershman Leeson) says, adding, ‘You’re merging things, and discovering things. Collage is really key to my work.’ — Dave Weinstein

I’ve been uploading some of my early works as image prompts in Midjourney to see if I could create new ones withthe same aesthetics. This was months before a new feature was introduced in Midjourney called the “style tuner” that gives users more control over the “personality” and style of generated images (see top image). Users can now train their own styles by comparing styles and picking their favorites. I revisited my experiment with “Red Shoes” using Midjourney’s style tuner, with these results:

“Red Shoes” experiment #1 using Midjourney’s style tuner.
“Red Shoes” experiment #2 using Midjourney’s style tuner.

Collage has changed hugely over the centuries, and in our present era of PhotoShop and internet memes, the words “cut and paste” are more likely to call to mind a computer keyboard than glue and scissors. But perhaps, this original exhibition suggests, it is a “way of thinking” that we have always shared. — The Economist

The flatness of the Midjourney output based on “Red Shoes” hints at collage. Thus, collage (remixing) is no longer limited to paper, printing, or digital image reproduction. Various “repetitive” versions are generated to various new situations or permutations, merging concepts such as allegorical or dadaism with elements of drawing and painting. Prompt mastering allows GenAI artists to participate in the construction of new discourse. It is a reflection of a rapid technological revival in the process of deep (machine) learning that uses artificial neural networks to mimic the learning process of the human brain.

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Nettrice Gaskins

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