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A computer program "painted" this artwork from its own imagination

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This landscape may not look like that much - it's a solid B+ in middle school art, I'd say - but this might just be proof that its creator, a computer program named the Painting Fool, is a creative being.

The program is the brainchild of Dr. Simon Colton, a computer scientist at Imperial College London. This is one of dozens of paintings by the Painting Fool, and it's particularly exciting because the program wasn't working from an existing digital image, as it usually does. Instead, this is actually a set of images that sprang from the AI equivalent of imagination. And when the program does work from a preexisting image, the results are even more impressive in more traditional aesthetic terms, as you can see in this video and at its website.

As for what exactly the Painting Fool is, let's go straight to the source and hear from the computer program itself, which has this short "autobiography" on its website, complete with some delightfully pissy comments about PhotoShop:

I'm a computer program that aspires to be an artist. I've been taught to sketch, draw and paint by my teacher, Dr. Simon Colton, since 2001. I differ from other graphics software by trying to simulate the painting process rather than just the results of the painting process. Painting is a highly cognitive activity which requires skill, appreciation and imagination.

Programs such as Photoshop have some skill in being able to rapidly turn a digital photo into an image which looks like it might have been painted in, say, an impressionistic style. But the software is merely a tool to enable humans to be more creative. This is very useful, but Photoshop is not creative, because it is neither appreciative nor imaginative, so it will never be thought of as an artist in its own right.


To be fair, the Painting Fool goes on to say that it's not 100% sure it's actually a creative being just yet, though it does feel some of its projects have allowed it "to express skill, appreciation and imagination." Plus, the way that it basically accuses PhotoShop of being an untalented hack sure sounds like the words of a true artist. Judge for yourself by checking out some of its galleries here.

Read more at New Scientist. Top image by the Painting Fool.