How I illustrated a book using AI
Presenting: The Adventures of Major Dog
My mom wrote a short story based on the life of our family dog, Major, shortly after he died. Rather than let it languish in a Word doc, I decided to try to use AI to bring her story to life. It’s an AI Christmas miracle!
$10 and the better part of the weekend later, I present to you:
The Dog: The Adventures of Major Dog by Nancy M. Peers
I was inspired to do this project by the guy who pissed off professional illustrators by publishing a children’s book using ChatGPT and Midjourney. I used the same tools.
First, I pasted chunks of the story from Word into ChatGPT with the prompt: “Copyedit the following text for spelling and punctuation.” This cleaned up the text while keeping it close to the original. It worked great, especially when I specified START and END (otherwise it would sometimes stop prematurely).
While ChatGPT was plugging away, I tabbed over to the Midjourney Discord server and began submitting prompts based on the scenes described in the story. For example, the story retells the time when the cows escaped my Grandpa’s farm and were pursued by the OPP (Ontario Provincial Police). So I simply inputted “police car chases a cow running down the farm road” and then upscaled the best of the four variations it outputted:
As you can see, the outputs aren’t always perfect. Are those supposed to be other cows grazing in the background? Either way, it’s epic. Most of the other results were either spot on or could be cropped to occlude an area where it glitched. In a couple cases, I included a reference photo of Major in the prompt to capture the likeness of his face. In total, I only needed to touch up one image in Photoshop out of the 29 used in the book: the content aware tool helped me remove an inexplicable artifact. AI helping AI. You love to see it.
Once I had more than enough images, I loaded an Adobe Stock InDesign template and arranged them alongside the text, made a few tweaks, and exported to PDF.
The project was a lot of fun and I’m strangely proud of it despite the indirectness of my creative contribution. But the big lesson for me is just how damn entitled those professional illustrators are.
Yes, this technology is rendering1 their career choice obsolete, at least in its current form. But for every design job AI displaces there will be tens of thousands of designs produced by AI that would have never been commissioned in the first place. If I tried doing this project using art commissioned on Fiverr, say, it would have cost me an arm and a leg while requiring weeks of back and forth communication. It simply wouldn't have happened.
So while I feel for the illustrators out there, my sympathy only goes so far. After all, their wages are fundamentally premised on a high degree scarcity for the good or service they provide. And no one has a right to make a living doing any particular job. Just ask a blacksmith.
That’s where I think our focus should be: not on the stuff AI replaces, but on the stuff AI brings within the production possibility frontier that was once out of reach, if not outright inconceivable, just a few short years ago.
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