E-David was once a humble welding robot. Now, he’s a master painter. Set e-David in front of any photo, and he’ll examine it, deconstruct the methodology behind it, and choose between five brushes and countless strokes to re-create the painting. You’d think his parents would be proud of such accomplishments, but researcher Oliver Deussen insists that e-David is not creative, and probably not even an artist.
“The machine does only have a very limited idea about what it is doing, no intention,” Deuseen explains. “This way it will never make deep art in the sense of how one would judge a human painter and his art works. Our simulation is only about the craftsmanship that is involved in the painting process, not about the underlying deep concepts of artists.”
So why build the robot if not to be the next great artist? E-David’s algorithms can teach us more about how human painters work. Because while e-David might not have the capacity for compassion, he’s quite good at learning. And as he paints, e-David is constantly analyzing his technique against his mental picture, allowing his own code to be fine-tuned through the experiences of working with somewhat unpredictable hairs splattering paint.
As for e-David’s creators, even though their robot is “in theory quite accurate” at reproducing the work of art’s greatest masters, they do feel the pull toward their own personal expression–an algorithmic interpretation that makes e-David’s work distinct from a fancy Xerox.
“Like in traditional painting, we want some degree of abstraction,” Deuseen writes. “If you look at our Rembrandt, doesn’t it have a nice ‘ethereal’ look? I love this piece…”