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Announcing the release of Sweet Gulf, the ultimate coffee table photography book!

AI Digital Paintings

AI Digital Paintings... A new unique “hybrid form” of art.

I remember reading a story once that presented the debate about whether photographers were considered artists. On one side of the debate was that photographers who were still using film weren't really creating anything, they were only capturing what was already present. They had “a great eye” (to see beauty) and had the benefit of perfect timing using technology (glass, mirrors and film).   On the other side of the argument was building the business case that they were indeed creating something with their interpretation of the perspective, the emphasis of framing scene and of course, the post processing development work to enhance the photos – similar to what Ansel Adams did so well in the darkroom and what a musician does with an equalizer to blend and emphasize a combination of sounds.

I thought... OK, if it’s still art when a musician does it, why isn’t it when a photographer does it?   And what about digital photography where there is not so much the direct transfer of images exposed to a film medium but the remarkable assembly of bits and bites (zero’s and one’s), to create the image electronically.   

Finally, there is the negative stigma that was initially applied to Adobe “photoshop,” where a person wasn’t a true photographer because they were in fact manipulating photos using computer software. In fact, now, the manipulation is so real and lifelike that there is virtually no way to tell if an original photograph has been edited/altered at all.   

Then I had the privilege of meeting Tony Reyman, known in Puerto Jimenez, Costa Rica as “The Osa Artist.” Well, at least that’s the nickname that I gave him.    Tony’s diverse skill set as an artist in multiple mediums is absolutely remarkable. He has the gift/talent to see something visually and recreate with his hands what he sees in the medium of sketches, paintings, wood carvings, metal, plaster and airbrush paintings. You challenge him with any specific medium, Tony can create an amazing replica.   

After Tony hand carved some beautiful doors for us at our home in Costa Rica, I retained him to create 15 paintings that were incorporated into my photography book, Sweet Gulf. The paintings included 7 game fish and various wildlife that were commonly seen within Golfo Dulce and living on The Osa Peninsula.   Specifically, what I challenged Tony to do was to recreate “exact replica paintings” from my best photographs. Here are just a few examples.   

Then, our family suffered a loss when on October 8th 2022, our beloved border collie Eddie passed away at age 15 1/2. He had a great run and he truly became my best friend. During his entire life, he was always positive, ready to play with his frisbee, a stick, ball, anything.    We had an artist create a painting of Eddie for our daughter Sarah. She did a great job and we were very happy with her work. 

Then, I asked the question...What if?  Since I have no artistic ability at all but apparently a good eye for photography, was it possible to use artificial intelligence (aka AI) to create a digital painting of the photograph using a combination of software programs.   I experimented with a combination of programs and have refined my process to 5 steps using 4 different computer photography programs and here is what I created. 

High quality close-up portrait of Eddie.

AI Digital Painting of Eddie.

Whereas the appreciation of “art” is always very personal and “in the eye of the beholder,” I found that when evaluating all three of these images, I liked the AI Digital painting of Eddie best. I realize that it’s personal preference BUT, the results were so incredible, I had to start experimenting with other photos.    It now takes me 15 minutes to create an amazing AI digital painting from a high-quality photo.    Next, I began experimenting with the same photos that I had Tony Reyman recreate as paintings.


Close up photo of Blue Marlim.

Tony Reyman painting of Blue Marlin.

AI Digital Painting of Blue Marlin.    

Photo of Toucan feeding on a Papaya tree.

AI Digital Painting of Toucan feeding on a Papaya tree.

I realized that as a successful photographer (Digital Artist), everyone has to define and master their unique style that makes their work different than everyone else. For over 30 years, my professional work with Success Profiles involved "The Visual Display of Quantitative Information," or converting raw data into graphic displays of actionable knowledge that created enhanced synthesis and meaning with the data. Since both my photography and computer software skills are somewhat limited (compared to professionals), and I possess ZERO artistic ability with my hands, I have found that my unique style is a combination of close-up portrait photos that are AI digitally enhanced to resemble a painting using a combination of software programs.

Getting more efficient... From 3 weeks of work to paint, reduced to about 15 minutes.    Using both my Nikon equipment or the iPhone 14 on the portrait setting, I was able to capture unique portrait photos that allow me to “black out the background” and isolate the subject with a shallow depth of field and focal point on the subject’s eye. Here are several examples of my unique 5 step process. The reflection of light on the fine film of water covering the fish as well as the texture of fish’s gill plates are truly amazing. Every feature appears amplified.

 Close up AI Digital Paintings of various fish. 

AI Digital Painting of Fire Billed Aracari.

AI Digital Painting of Toucan.

 Going backward and forward at the same time and creating a new form of art.       

Since I had a very large inventory of photographs to choose from and experiment with, I began testing this process on a variety of high-quality photographs. I even included several in my publication of Sweet Gulf at the last minute. (8 of them).    Please explore all the photos in the AI Digital painting folders as the inventory grows on a monthly basis. Also, I would appreciate your feedback about the paintings themselves.   Enjoy and share.   Tom Olivo   PS: On a final note, I’m happy to share my AI Digital Painting process with anyone but I will only do so with people who take the time to call me.  😊

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