Designer, storyteller and artist Ryan Taylor creates captivating ‘vintage photographs from the future’ that feature rotund and sumptuously fluffy supersized felines. I caught up with Ryan about the creative process that leads to this ethereal world where cloud-like kitties outnumber the human population, and everyone wears the most splendid winter coats.
Waiting for the train to tomorrow.
C&W: I recently discovered your work via Instagram (@the_brigadoon_dispatch) Your bio says your vision of the future is described to a microchip. What do you mean by that? Can you tell us more about how you create your digital art?
RT: It’s a metaphor. I use artificial intelligence software to generate images using prompts, which are written descriptions, precisely written with a mix of artfulness and technical commands. It’s essentially a précis writing exercise – the input needs to be evocative yet concise to conjure the right results. It’s a mix of high-level control and whimsical luck for what you may get. Some prompts are more controlled than others, producing images that I expect, but a lot of the time, I get completely new things that I hadn’t imagined, which spark further creativity and exploration.
Steam would fill the air as the locomotives left the station, leaving the travellers & their companions shrouded in mystery.
C&W: What inspired you to start The Brigadoon Dispatch? How do you transport yourself there?
RT: I started using the AI software for work purposes (I own a furniture/lighting company called Object / Interface), to generate additional imagery that I could combine with our actual product photos using tools like photoshop for marketing purposes… but while playing around with the technology I quickly saw its potential and got hooked. It’s yet another creative outlet for me, and I was actually drawn to it for the writing aspect.
You must make the transfer at station 13F. The others will be waiting.
C&W: Do you ever show your images alongside a transcript of the prompts that created them? Or is that something you prefer to keep secret?
RT: Some people on instagram post their prompts with their images, but I prefer not too. Not that it's top secret, it's all available if people know where to look, but I find it kind of takes the magic out of looking at the images. Also, I feel that the process of prompting is the art and personalization of the style. It’s essentially process art.
C&W: Would you get the exact same result from an unchanged series of prompts from one attempt to the next, or is the image randomly made each time? How in control can you be?
RT: It typically generates variations of the same images or slightly different versions. Occasionally a totally different one will get thrown into the mix and then the output will begin to change more. It seems to learn from itself, changing the priority it takes from the phrases in the prompt but I’m not sure how fluid it really is.
Their school group has attended every showing of the musical CATS for the past 233 years.
C&W: Where do the ideas for your images come from?
I usually have a general theme or scenario in mind that I want to create, and then it becomes a collaborative effort with the AI by making small changes to the prompt to control the output and massage it into place. Having said that, there are settings and control prompts that you can use to give priority, however, I really like the randomness of it, but like any creative process there have been many times I’ve given up out frustration. At this point I do an analysis of the prompt description and come up with alternative words or phrases, which in itself is interesting because it sometimes forces you to think in other ways than your usual thought process and lexicon. Some images come easily and some take several hours.
C&W: In your imagining of them, are the scenes set in the near or distant future? Are they somewhere on this planet or in some other galaxy? Does it have a name?
Yes, it’s called Brigadoon! A place not here nor there. It’s an alternate dimension, only accessible at certain times and for a limited time. In actual fact, Brigadoon is an old legend from Scottish folklore.
C&W: Ah yes, I know it! The mythical village in the Scottish Highlands which can only be visited for one day every hundred years. In the legend, it’s an idyllic land that’s remote from reality and unaffected by time. So that’s pretty perfect!
You must only visit the poppy forest for short periods of time, otherwise you may get lost in them forever.
C&W: What was the very first image you created of this world?
RT: I think it was a minimalist architectural interior. Nothing special, but it was a magical experience to see what this tool was capable of. It reminded me very much of the first time I developed a photograph in a darkroom (at art school in 1998, before digital cameras), the photo paper sits in a chemical bath and the image magically appears before your eyes. It was mind-blowing then and still is now.
C&W: Which is your favourite image? Can you tell us a bit more about it?
RT: Tough question, I don’t have a favourite, but generally whatever I’m posting at a specific moment is my favourite. Like all things Instagram, It’s very much in the moment. It’s not always the image, but sometimes the story I write makes me appreciate the image more. There are so many it can be overwhelming.
C&W: The tableaus you create have a powerful sense of place, both in an urban and natural setting. Why do you think that is?
RT: It’s all fantasy, but it’s anchored in whatever is going on in the real world around me. Whether it’s something I read in the news, a conversation, a book, movie etc… it comes from something real that I’ve experienced or thought about. I want the images to look real, like it’s something that actually happened, but just subtle and strange enough that it is obviously fantasy.
The Panthera Quartette were rising stars in the suburbs of the empire. Their rare analog album covers would one day become collectibles.
C&W: Cats feature heavily in your work, do you have cats of your own? What is it that draws you to felines as a source of inspiration?
RT: The internet loves cats! As mentioned earlier, AI can generate surprising results that give you further imagination to make things you may not otherwise have thought to do. I was trying to generate something else without success, but determined that using cats in the prompt may produce the results I was after, which it did – so down the rabbit hole I went! However, I did grow up with several cats… dogs, rabbits and budgies for that matter and most recently, I had two Italian Greyhounds. I actually started using the AI software the week our last IG died, so that probably had some affect.
It was never very clear who had rescued who.
C&W: The cats are wild-cat size and yet look domesticated. Please tell us more about these curvaceous kitties. Do they talk? What do they eat? What is their status in this imagined futuristic society?
RT: I think I’ve only posted one kitty that may have had the potential to talk… They are companions, tricksters and demons.
C&W: The costumes in your work are incredible (especially the fur coats) - how are these imagined and brought into existence?
This breed of gentle giants is highly sought after for its fur. The fur it sheds is used in many industries including fashion. The money made selling the sheddings is very profitable, even after the cost of its immense diet.
RT: The fur coats are a cross of fashion and fantastical beasts. I’m simply trying to imagine the fluffiest world possible! No animals were harmed in the making.
The matriarch of the Talus Mountain Lodge with the resident Moraine Cats awaiting your arrival in the courtyard.
C&W: Do you accept commissions? If so, what is the process for this?
Actually, I’m just wrapping up my first commission for a new company that is launching a line of dog collars and leashes. I’ve also just launched an online shop for art prints on Etsy: The Brigadoon Dispatch
C&W: Thanks so much for telling me more about your work and process, I would love to go on holiday to Brigadoon - perhaps in a dream sometime! The power of AI for creative exploration is exciting. So - how long until technology takes over the world and we humans become obsolete?
RT: Haha! A while yet I think. I tried to use an AI tool to answer this interview, but the questions were too personal to handle. So don’t worry, humans still have a use, and these words are all mine!
C&W: Well, I'm relieved! I'm a big fan of your visual work but I also enjoy the accompanying captions. I think my cat and I would be members of the elusive Catnip Cartel if we lived in Brigadoon!
Vivian Wex & Mr. Muggle are at the top of Interpol’s red list. They had brazenly escaped custody with the help of Muggle’s loyal gang of heavily armed henchmen and were on the run. They are wanted for their role as heads of the powerful & extremely ruthless Catnip Cartel.