An AI art generator had some interesting takes on iconic Maine symbols.
The surf crashes on the rocks around a fisherman below Portland Head Light at Fort Williams Park in Cape Elizabeth in this 2011 file photo. Credit: Robert F. Bukaty / AP

The rise in AI art — art generated by an artificial intelligence program — has sparked major controversy among actual human artists in recent months.

Critics of AI art say it removes creativity from the process, it brings up issues of fair use of intellectual property and it has the potential to seriously devalue the work of graphic designers, photographers and illustrators.

But that doesn’t mean it’s not fun to plug phrases into an AI art generator and see what comes out. Not because it’s going to make great or even passable art, but because it’s an entertaining way to see what a robot makes of what you’ve thought up.

So, of course, we decided to ask an AI to come up with some Maine-themed art, based on prompts created by BDN staffers. We wanted to see how deep in the hive mind of the internet images of Maine really go — are moose, lobsters and lighthouses going to return halfway decent images? Or are we still old school enough that the robots don’t recognize us?

We used the AI generator DALL-E, which was developed by OpenAI and is one of the more popular generators free to use. In some cases, we added a reference to an art style or era, like the Renaissance, anime, cartoons and paintings.

Here’s some of what we came up with. We’ll start with some of the less accurate, and in some cases, odder ones.

“I prefer mayo, not butter, on my lobster roll, painting.”  Credit: Created by DALL-E AI generator.

Prompt: “I prefer mayo, not butter, on my lobster roll, painting.”

Result: Well, the AI thought that a lobster roll is composed of an entire unshelled lobster, set atop a thick pool of mayonnaise. It’s unclear whether that’s a tiny lobster on a normal-sized roll, or a normal-sized lobster on a gigantic roll. Not off to a great start, robots.

A moose eating a red hot dog in front of a map of the state of Maine. Credit: Created by DALL-E AI generator.

Prompt: “A moose eating a red hot dog in front of a map of the state of Maine.”

Result: That’s a moose, all right — although it also kind of looks like a kangaroo? The map doesn’t look like Maine, and the moose looks like it is eating raw flesh rather than a red hot dog. Pretty disturbing, quite frankly.

“A loon goes candlepin bowling, digital art.” Credit: Created by DALL-E AI generator.

Prompt: “A loon goes candlepin bowling, digital art.”

Result: The robots apparently don’t know what a loon is — this basically looks like a cross between a duck and a penguin. It also looks like it is wearing a tan-colored sweater vest. I guess a candlepin bowling ball would be that big compared to a loon, although the overall effect of this is more psychedelic than realistic.

Some of the art generated ended up being really cute, however, and really quite accurate.

“A chickadee in earmuffs on a snowmobile, anime.” Credit: Created by DALL-E AI generator.

Prompt: “A chickadee in earmuffs on a snowmobile, anime.”

Result: Just look at this adorable little guy. The snowmobile looks pretty good, the earmuffs look like headphones but I’ll allow it, and it definitely captures our sweet, fluffy little state bird. Last time I checked though, chickadees don’t have arms with which to fist pump in victory.

“Two black bears high-fiving at Acadia National Park, cartoon.” Credit: Created by DALL-E AI generator.

Prompt: “Two black bears high-fiving at Acadia National Park, cartoon.”

Result: Pretty accurate. I don’t recognize anything in particular from Acadia here, but it’s got ocean and trees, so overall, not bad.

“Maine coon cat eats blueberry pie at Moody’s Diner, anime.” Credit: Created by DALL-E AI generator.

Prompt: “Maine coon cat eats blueberry pie at Moody’s Diner, anime.”

Result: A very appropriate Maine coon cat, although it’s blue, like the pie. A generic diner background, but it works.

“A shameful moose takes a bag of Fireball bottles to the redemption center.” Credit: Created by DALL-E AI generator.

Prompt: “A shameful moose takes a bag of Fireball bottles to the redemption center.”

Result: A very specific request that I think really hit the nail on the head.

Some of the art generated was truly, truly weird. Hilarious, and weird.

“Janet Mills and Stephen King riding Babe the Blue Ox.” Credit: Created by DALL-E AI generator.

Prompt: “Janet Mills and Stephen King ride Babe the Blue Ox.”

Result: I don’t know where to begin with this. Their weird smushed AI faces? The fact that Babe has no legs and appears to be flying? That a hand is growing out of Babe’s mouth?

“Pennywise in front of a lighthouse, in the style of Andrew Wyeth’s Christina’s World.” Credit: Created by DALL-E AI generator.

Prompt: “Pennywise in front of a lighthouse, in the style of Andrew Wyeth’s Christina’s World.”

Result: A good looking lighthouse, but Pennywise looks more like a cross between Stephen King’s famous clown and Michael Myers from the Halloween movies. Only vaguely Andrew Wyeth-esque.

“A Salvador Dali painting of Paul Bunyan in downtown Bangor, Maine.” Credit: Created by DALL-E AI generator.

Prompt: “A Salvador Dali painting of Paul Bunyan in downtown Bangor, Maine.”

Result: I don’t get Salvador Dali, or Bangor, really, but this image of a giant rampaging Paul Bunyan will surely haunt my dreams.

And then there were a few that were both accurate and entertaining.

“A bottle of Allen’s Coffee Brandy as the holy grail, renaissance.” Credit: Created by DALL-E AI generator.

Prompt: “A bottle of Allen’s Coffee Brandy as the holy grail, Renaissance.”

Result: It doesn’t look like a bottle of Allen’s, but then again, maybe that’s what it would have looked like in the 16th century. It’s just so evocative. I’m sure there are many Mainers who venerate this caffeinated alcoholic elixir in an almost religious way.

“Andre the Seal in heaven, medieval art.” Credit: Created by DALL-E AI generator.

Prompt: “Andre the Seal in heaven, medieval art.”

Result: I love this for so many reasons. It’s definitely a seal, but with one of those weird human-like faces you see on lots of medieval paintings of animals. It also reminds me of the famous “Potato Jesus” meme.

And then, finally, the piece de resistance.

“A coffee pot sandwich.” Credit: Created by DALL-E AI generator.

Prompt: “A coffee pot sandwich.”

Result: Exactly what it says it is. Did we really expect the robots to know about Bangor’s famous sandwich? Some things are better left in analog, rather than digital.

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Emily Burnham

Emily Burnham is a Maine native and proud Bangorian, covering business, the arts, restaurants and the culture and history of the Bangor region.