“Passengers on the Dystopia Express”, by Eric Wayne, digital painting [1/2/2023].


There are two figures being shuttled to a destination unknown, and it’s safe to say this isn’t a pleasant journey. Their faces are mutating as if from speed, pressure, or nuclear irradiation. The title reveals they are captives as civilization hurtles towards self-annihilation, and there’s no apparent escape.

The head on the left is reminiscent of Edvard Munch’s infamous “Scream” painting [1893]. That wasn’t consciously deliberate, and when it comes to art historical precedents, there is much more in common with Francis Bacon’s paintings in terms of style.

To the degree this piece literally and specifically addresses the human condition, it’s a warning that we need to change course.


Likely the most conspicuous element of this digital artwork, other than the unfortunate passenger captives, is that it appears to be a physical painting. Had I merely stated that it was an oil painting rather than a digital painting, few if anyone would have questioned it. There are conspicuous brush strokes, daubs, palette knife swatches, streaks, smears, and even clumps of paint.

This is one of my specialties, and in this instance I used 4 different programs to produce the array of textures. I discovered some of the methods by accident, and others through deliberate experimentation.

In most instances the programs were not designed to produce these specific effects, which is part of why I’m not aware of anyone else who uses anything like them to such a degree.

The original digital painting is just over 16″x22″ (42x57cm), when printed out at 300 dpi, though you can print very well at 150 dpi for a larger image.

In the bottom right is a signature flourish I like to use, which is a smattering of paint that sits on top of the canvas, and adds to the 3D illusion of foreground and background. Additionally, it is a nod to modernist abstract painting which forefronts painting as a physical object in space, rather than a window to be looked into. Even more precisely, one can consider the painted over photographs of Gerhard Richter.

“Untitled”, by Gerhard Richter [2003].

In my case, as with the Richter, the image is both a window and a flat picture plane with paint on top simultaneously.

Constructively using AI

The imagery is based on one of more than 10,000 images I created over 6 months ago using AI. You can see the original AI, and my finished digital painting below:

AI is a fun way to quickly explore uncharted visual possibilities that humans just wouldn’t come up with. AI is an alien intelligence, so to speak, but can be used almost like a camera to generate imagery the artist desires to see. There’s a very involved process of experimentation, and going down rabbit holes in order to produce imagery of interest. In this case, however, that is only the beginning stage. I don’t feel the image is my own unless I significantly change it, and here I extensively altered the figures, the composition, completely repainted it, and added in all the painterly details. By the end I wrangled the AI into one of my own styles that I developed years before the AI bots were developed [see example below, done completely from my imagination]. People who know my work would recognize this as one of my pieces, with or without the advent of AI. And while the original has an H.R. Giger vibe, I am a much bigger fan of Francis Bacon, and that is evident in my results.

EUOF, by Eric Wayne, digital painting [2015]

The reality is that digital super intelligence is the most formidable competition out there, and one of the best hopes of beating it, or even just competing with it at all, is to find ways to build upon it. Here I try to use it to expand my own visual imagination, but not to make my work for me. Most of my art comes from the process of making it, and my most common approach is to just start drawing or painting with no preconceived idea. While part of me has a “Just say ‘no’ attitude to AI”, I also think most artists will find it very stimulating to explore. For me, when I use it, it’s a matter of the right balance.

Francis Bacon

This morning I dreamt that I met Francis Bacon. I told him I was influenced by his work, and I shared this piece with him. In the dream, however, it was an oil pastel on paper. Bacon held it in his hands and kept swiping over the surface with his finger tips, intrigued at how I managed to incorporate some of his brand of painterly effects. And that’s as close as I’ll ever come to meeting the great artist, who died in 1992.

Bacon was for many years my favorite artist, though more recently Vincent Van Gogh has taken the lead. The two artists share a very strong characteristic, though I think this somehow gets missed by most art critics and historians. Both are extreme sensualists when it comes to paint itself, its textures, and vicissitudes. Unlike the Abstract Expressionists, who also love paint, these two are representational artists who combine extravagant displays of vigorously applied paint with their own subjects, creating a seamless fusion of material and imagery. Both veered dramatically from realism into their own stylistic interpretations.

If there is any doubt that Van Gogh was a prime influence on Bacon, that skepticism can be dispatched when we consider Bacon’s interpretations of at least one Van Gogh painting.

“Painter on the Road to Tarascon”, Vincent Van Gogh [1888].

Van Gogh’s “Painter on the Road to Tarascon” particularly attracted Bacon, perhaps because it represented Vincent outdoors and in the sun, and that was completely opposite to his own art-making, which was always indoors, and in his cluttered studio. Bacon made at least 7 or 8 variations of this painting/theme alone.

An argument can be made that Francis Bacon continued the tradition of Van Gogh into the 20th century, and with a sensibility formed in the aftermath of world wars. And in a modest sense, you could say that I’ve tried at times to continue it into the 21st century, using digital painting, and sci-fi imagery, etc. My references to Bacon are more obvious if you consider his portrait diptychs, and even how they are sometimes framed and displayed.

Two Studies for Portrait,” by Francis Bacon, diptych, oil on canvas, each 14 by 12 inches, 1976

I don’t know if the art historical background is at all necessary to process my piece, but hopefully it helps.

Here it is again, so you don’t have to scroll up.

If you are interested in a print or NFT, I will likely make those available in the future [I’ll announce it here, on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram].

~ Ends

And if you like my art or criticism, please consider chipping in so I can keep working until I drop. Through Patreon, you can give $1 (or more) per month to help keep me going (y’know, so I don’t have to put art on the back-burner while I slog away at a full-time job). See how it works here.

Or go directly to my account.


Or you can make a one time donation to help me keep on making art and blogging (and restore my faith in humanity simultaneously).


14 replies on “New Art: “Passengers on the Dystopia Express”, and a brief intro to Francis Bacon.

  1. Before reading your comments on your work, I thought, ‘What a perfect summary of what it was like to fly over the Christmas weekend!’ I don’t enjoy flying very much anyway, especially since 9/11, airport security makes you feel as if you have stolen babies and meth hidden in your luggage. But the airlines have also cut services so much, you might as well be trapped in a sealed can of Hell. I do see the influence of Bacon in your art, which I find fascinating. I know several people who don’t like Francis Bacon for a variety of reasons—too carnal, gloomy, unappealing to the eye, etc.—but I sometimes think his art embodies punk and the other social currents taking place during his career. I did not know about his studies of the Van Gogh painting and am glad you’ve featured it here. It seems strange that someone so urban, so intensely interior in his work, would be attracted to Van Gogh’s sunny, exuberant, and yet troubled art. But I also see the influence now. Thanks for bringing it up.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Ah, what airline travel has become! I’ve had a couple flights with Air Asia that surprised me in how cramped they were, and when you don’t even get a bottle of water, you know it’s bad. For me flying is always a wee bit of a luxury, probably because I didn’t fly for the first time until I was an adult. So, I find it exceedingly disappointed when the flight competes with bus or subway rides (of which I’ve had far too many of each) for bare-bones utilitarian transport.

      Agreed on the reason many don’t like Bacon. I’m far too much the connoisseur of art for art’s sake to let a little carnal gloom ruin a sumptuous painting. And it is odd that he would focus so much attention on a Van Gogh painting of the artist trudging along in the sun. Opposites attract in this case.

      Incidentally, I’m not convinced most people really understand Van Gogh. They focus on the “madman” aspect, but really what makes Van Gogh great is sheer applied intelligence and clarity of vision. His manic episodes were interruptions in his work rather than when it happened. They may have contributed to his unique vision, but much more when he assimilated them into his core sanity.

      Thanks for reading and commenting!

      Liked by 2 people

  2. Your digital painting technique is truly remarkable. If someone from Adobe et al offered you a licensing agreement to include it in their software would you consider it? (No need to answer; just curious.) And that dream! Wow. Can you remember what he looked like, holding your work? I like “Passengers on the Dystopia Express” a lot. It draws me into its world, make me wonder soooo many things. Those faces! Can’t look away from them. 👏👏👏👏👏

    Liked by 3 people

    1. It’s probably only a matter of time before some company comes up with a program that can do impasto painting like I can. I’m not sure if AI can handle the layers of texture and image, including optical illusions. For now, I’m the only person I’m aware of that makes digital art this painterly.

      Bacon looked a bit like a younger version of himself in the dream. Not young, just younger than his last years. More in his prime. He did give my work his stamp of approval, but being a dream character of my ow subconscious, I can’t exactly put that in my bio. Mostly he was brushing the tips of his fingers over the surface of the painting in a sort of windshield wiper arc. He was really curious about the technique and the build up of paint.

      The faces were an interesting challenge. They are a kind of organic abstraction, which I credit Bacon for inventing. He through out a large proportion of his paintings, and it’s only the very best ones that truly represent him. But take the top few dozen and he’s really a remarkable artist that I think will stand the test of time for centuries.

      My litmus test of an art critic is what they think of Francis Bacon, and the most famous living art critics, including Jerry Salz, have condemned him in favor of the likes of Warhol and Duchamp. I see that as a travesty of our era.

      Liked by 3 people

      1. It’s sad that those critics do that. I haven’t seen much of Bacon’s work (and then mostly faces, all online) but they seem VERY emotional to me, as if emotion is part of the composition? That’s probably a foolish thing to say, but it’s how they feel to me when I see them: they’re emotion, in paint. Maybe some people don’t like that direct impact? Aren’t comfortable “seeing” emotion? Maybe they don’t see it at all and are simply responding to the construction, which is necessarily more personally triggering than the typical “This is a face.” portrait can be? No idea. But I think they’re missing something and it makes me sad that they are.

        Liked by 2 people

      2. Hi Robin. That’s quite interesting that you picked up on that. Bacon was trying to capture the essence of the person without illustrating them. His subjects were his lovers or very close friends from the pub he frequented daily. There is emotion there, but not a happy one. That might put people off. Bacon was a philosopher in paint, and he addressed the human condition. However, he had a fairly bleak, existentialist outlook. You could say he was trying to address the nature of being, but whomever the subject, while he tried to get at their essence, inevitably in the aggregate he manifested his own. His portraits are ecstatic and a bit miserable at the same time, at least that’s how I generally see them.

        As painterly as they are, and as abstracted, if you know what the people looked like, he managed to convey their likeness without literally illustrating their features. He worked from photos, not live models. So he was fascinated with appearance, be getting beyond it.

        Liked by 2 people

  3. Woah- the detail! Dude. Respect. *nods solemnly*.

    Interesting info on Van Gogh’s influence on Bacon. I wasn’t aware of that, so thank you for the history lesson!

    Loved the dream, too. Nice of Mr Bacon to visit you in the realm of dreams! I’ve had a few weird Famous People dreams- my favourite being the one in which Mike Patton gifted me a magic necklace at a country craft fair. I bloody love dreams. I actually own a delightfully strange little book titled “I dream of Madonna” ( found it in an op-shop aka charity shop aka thrift store). It’s filled exclusively with women’s accounts of dreams they’ve had about Madonna. Predictably, some of them are a bit kinky. Can’t say I feel any way about her myself, but it was just such an oddly specific book ( aesthetically pleasing, too, with illustrations and a gorgeous hard cover) that I HAD to own it.

    Anyway, sorry; I rambled. But I genuinely admire your attention to detail. Must take a fuckload of patience. I have not seen digital work elsewhere that’s so painterly. Kudos to you. You inspire me to get off the internet and start creating something.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Glad you like this one. It got 4 likes on Twitter, even after I made it my pinned tweet. In other words, not a lot of people get it. Admittedly my work isn’t conducive to instant gratification/assimilation in a split second glance, practically in motion, while scrolling through a feed on a smart phone.

      Yes, dreams. I always mean to pay more attention to them. It’s a true communion with the subconscious. If you stop and think about it, our own subconscious envelopes our semi-conscious mind in a world of its own creation, spontaneously, and well enough that we are fooled by it while in that state. That is an absolutely incredible feat of the imagination that the waking mind can’t compete with.

      Another little something to consider is that while, yes, whatever happened in a dream didn’t really happen in consensual reality, and there’s no evidence of it, it DID happen experientially, and did take place in time. In that sense, one really did experience flying over the intersection in the dream state. I can remember some of my dreams certainly better than anything else that happened on the same day, or week, or month. There’s far more valuable to them than we tend to think.

      The book about Madonna dreams seems interesting, but as you said in its specificity and the production values. I tend to have zero interest in celebrities unless their music or acting or whatever impresses me on its own. For example, I have so little interest in the Kardashians that I couldn’t pick Kim out of a lineup.

      Anyway, thanks for the comment on this piece. The Twitter NFT community wouldn’t give me the time of day, even though they are supposed to be about digital art. Not mine. Not at all.

      On to your next comment.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. That’s a shame. It’s what pisses me off about social media; quantity over quality is the order of the day, and people do tend to just mindlessly scroll through without paying attention- until some juicy gossip or bit of drama comes up. If you post anything of substance on these platforms people don’t know what to do with it. I think that’s why I prefer the blogosphere. Sure, it’s still a form of social media, but one in which we can find- and post- content with some actual substance.

        Yes, this is what fascinates me about dreams; the fact that our brains and bodies register the experience no differently than they do in waking life. I’ve also always had very strange and unexplainable dreams- precognitive ones, for instance- since i was a kid. It’s probably what got me interested in all things esoteric and “woo woo” ( I do try to temper that with logic, of course, but there’s no question in my mind that “reality” is a much fuzzier concept than many are willing to entertain. It’s why I’m interested in psychedelics, too, and am currently trying to learn as much as i can about the neuroscience behind “hallucinations”. Dr Andrew Gallimore has some interesting info about that- he has a free introductory course on “Psychedelics and the brain” online which I really enjoyed and highly recommend!). But yes. Dreams are endlessly interesting and wondrous things.

        Yeah, I definitely wouldn’t have given a shit about the book if it was just about her or her life. It was just such a strange concept for a book, and was cheap AF ( a few dollars!) and quite beautifully bound, so I knew it needed to be in my bookshelf of Weird 🙂 . Oh, I definitely share your sentiments re: Kardashians. Ugh. I’m genuinely baffled as to how anyone could become interested in their lives- let alone what they do ( and I have no idea what they’re actually famous for. Just..being famous? Or rich? I don’t get it. remember when you had to at least have some sort of talent in order to become famous? Sigh.)

        No worries. Sorry to hear about the lack of support on those other platforms. I suppose you have to take it as some kind of compliment that your work isn’t insipid enough for acceptance there!

        Liked by 2 people

      2. It’s true. Look at how the most shitbrained music ( which often isn’t even music anymore- but just the same soulless, seemingly auto-generated crapola set to some semi naked people dancing around just to ensure it actually gets someone’s attention) dominates the mainstream charts. (Not to sound like some hipster ” I’m so underground” twat here, of course! But y’know what i mean).

        Liked by 2 people

      3. There is something magical about the music of roughly 1967-1973 for me. It’s like the musicians were really reaching to create great music, and I think if humankind doesn’t destroy itself in the next few decades, we may still be listening to a lot of that music in centuries to come. The new popular commercial pap, with the autotuned vocals, the absence of melody in favor of rhythmic hooks, and the lyrics being mostly written by the same duo will sink like any other superficial hot new fashion.

        Liked by 1 person

      4. Yeah, true. And yes, I find it pretty magical, too. I love not only the music but the fashions and aesthetics of that era. SO much great music. I’m always discovering little gems from that era. What I’d give for a time machine that would allow me to attend some of the concerts…sigh!

        Liked by 1 person

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