Indistinct chatter since 2006
AI-generated vintage travel poster for Drogheda.
April 17, 2023

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For years, I've kept an eye out for this poster I saw one time.

It's an old travel advert, the type UK and Irish railways used to commission: hand-illustrated, stylised, a little art deco.

Early airline adverts look similar.

This one featured a landmark from my home town: the Drogheda Viaduct.

I love illustration, and try to support artists.

I asked about the viaduct poster at galleries and fairs.

I scoured the internet.

The closest I got was an Etsy shop offering re-prints of old posters.

There it was - but blocky and crooked.

I held on to a copy of the tiny GIF.

One rainy day, I decided to try out an AI-driven image generator.

They’ve given us idealised urban streetscapes and dancing cartoon wombats - why not a classic travel poster?

I signed up to Midjourney.

Within five minutes I had a lovely illustration of a medieval town.

The sort of thing - and I realise this is not a coincidence - you might see at a local gallery.

However, it didn’t have much “Drogheda-ness”.

In fact, it took four of those five minutes to steer the results away from a thinly disguised Bay Area dripping in tropical colours.

Midjourney doesn’t know much about the Drogheda Viaduct.

I figured Midjourney's "image prompt" was the way to go: show it the viaduct poster, along with photos of local landmarks.

Right away, the brush strokes and palettes matched.

After a while, my favourites came via some (Creative Commons-licensed) photos of the Mary McAleese Boyne Valley Bridge.

Now, I’ll take rail over roads any day - but I like the juxtaposition of “vintage advert” with “bridge completed in 2003”.

There’s also a grim parallel of...questionable progress.

Copy across the lettering, vectorise, and: custom 21st century vintage travel poster.

It’s mind-blowing that illustrations, photos, and text can be mashed up so easily.

It was fun, too.

Part of me wants to automate this - but I’d really rather support actual artists.

Besides, pretty soon even this work will be replaced with one simple prompt: “vintage travel advert for <insert region here>, include three local landmarks”.

#drogheda #boynevalley #boyneviaduct #marymcaleesebridge #bridge #river #midjourney #illustration #vintage #poster

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© Trevor Johnston 2022