It's Not Machine Learning, It's an Artist Sketching by Hand

MARCH 20, 2018

It's Not Machine Learning, It's an Artist Sketching by Hand

Hey there! Until April 30, 2018, you can Participate to get a free portrait of a photo of your choosing. Just sign up with your e-mail and—optionally—upload the picture you would like to get a portrait of (or you can also do this later if you happen to be the winner). Enter at

This looping series of photo2portrait pairs reminds me of the training sets you would need to feed certain machine learning algorithms (such as pix2pix) for them to learn how to generate an output image from an input image. If we were to train a neural network with photo2portrait pairs, the algorithm would try to learn how to generate a pencil portrait from a picture. (A training set for this purpose would, probably, need hundreds of photo2portrait pairs though.)

Suggestive Drawing, flowers with pix2pix.

I generated multiple training sets for pix2pix for Suggestive Drawing, my thesis project at Harvard GSD. Most of the models I trained tried to generate a texture for a hand drawing. Flowers — in special daisies, sunflowers, roses, and tulips — happened to work particularly well.

It's a hand-sketched portrait.

Even though machine intelligence is enabling new modes of generating artwork, but the portraits you see here are (still) sketched on pencil by an artist—my mom—on paper. (As a curiosity, here is a looping gif of some of her many portraits of myself.)

Nono Martínez Alonso ( portrait by Lourdes Alonso Carrión (

We are currently accepting registrations for a raffle; You can win a free portrait! Just Enter the competition and you'll be able to select a photo later (of yourself, a relative, a friend, or even your pet). You can See all of her portraits on my mom's website.

Thanks so much and good luck!

ArtMachine Learning