Meet the creator of the world’s most famous AI comic

Read here why Kristina Kashtanova is so convinced her “Zarya of the Dawn” deserves a copyright

Hey Kristina, I think we first heard about you from a young german colleague who interviewed you back in the days when you released your first AI comic. Then we heard about you in the AI/CC community on LinkedIn, saw your work on Insta as well. We find your content inspiring and at the forefront of some hot AI related topics such as copyrights. We would love to pick your brain on several stuff. Can you tell us who you are and how you ended up doing Generative AI?

Kris: I’m Kris Kashtanova (they/she). I’m an AI educator, and I work for Mini Studio AI as Head of Product – AI. I have a background in software engineering (10 years, doing back end) and teaching, journalism (reporting on human rights), and photography (7 years full-time, I photographed fitness and sports). 

I’m a traditional artist along with an AI creator. For traditional art wise, I make sculptures out of recycled materials, hand-crafted stop-motion animations, and take conceptual self-portraits. 

Every time I generate an image, I feel this co-creation with others.

I feel everything I’ve done so far led me to a career in A.I. My last job was as a full-time photographer. My career depended on traveling with my clients, and when the pandemic started,  I couldn’t travel anymore, and my photography career ended. I return to tech. I was taking courses at Harvard when Generative AI became popular, and felt it was exactly what I want to do. As I saw the community of creators was separated I felt there was something I could do to unite artists and artists who use AI in their process.

It seems you have a strong connection with AI art. Can you tell us what it means to you?

AI art, for me, is collaborating with the entire world. My photographs were used to train the current model (as I worked and was published with my photography, I checked HaveIBeenTrained and my photos were among photos of other artists whose photos were used to train the algorithm).

In this series, we meet interesting founders and creators from the AI scene and discuss with them not only their take on this new era of technology, but maybe learn a few secret tricks from them. If you’d like to share your story and tips, you can get in touch with us here.

This full copyright case seems to go not in the way we expected it, could you give us a summary of the key events, and then what are your thoughts about that? What does it mean for the future of AI and copyrights?

I submitted my application. It was so obvious to me that it was copyrightable because I spent two weeks full-time making it. I was after the surgery, so I had free time (and a lot of pain, so it took my mind away). 

I submitted by copyright in September and got my registration right away. It made the news. As journalists were reaching the Copyright Office for a comment they found out that they overlooked that it was A.I. assisted. I mentioned it on the cover but to be honest it was my first time submitting for a copyright, and the form wasn’t too obvious how I had to do it. 

It was so obvious to me that it was copyrightable because I spent two weeks full-time making it.

So the Copyright Office sent me a message asking to clarify my process. They didn’t take my copyright away (that’s what many people get wrong). By law, they need to investigate first and explain the rules. So I still have my copyright in force. They haven’t made a decision whether I can keep it or to take it away yet. The last update was that they’re working on A.I.-assisted guidance rules. I expect they’ll make a decision as they present the rules. 

For me, as I never planned to monetize my comic book, their decision is important because it’s important for the community and clarity of what is copyrightable. 

As we are all part actors and part spectators in life, Where would you like to see the future of AI going and how do you plan to support this vision?

I believe it depends on how we shape AI and the community around it. I’m just one person but one of my goals was to educate anyone willing to learn because I feel this revolution is happening with or without me in this field. As I have experience of teaching elderly people and young children, I can explain well and I feel if I teach people, it’ll mean they may keep their job. 

I’m educating myself constantly on ethics. Taking AI and ethics course right now.

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Let’s try to brainstorm some ideas, how would you envision a world where AI art and traditional art co-exist? And by extension, how can we help traditional artists on that journey?

I believe in leading by example. A lot of people in the AI space don’t know that I do traditional art, too, so I started sharing more of that and sharing my story as an artist. 

It’s difficult for people to adjust, and I choose to be compassionate and patient. It’s hard, but I know we need to unite to shape this technology for the better. 

AI is a broad term. It’s not only Generative AI. Machine learning algorithms are present in medicine, and in tools, we’ve been using for years (Google Maps, Photoshop, and so many more).

What do you think is the next big thing that gonna happen in the next couple of weeks/months, ai-tech related?

Runway ML’s Gen 1 🙂 I’m patiently waiting for the invite. Such an incredible tool for video. I expect a lot of innovation in filmmaking. 

With your experience using the tools, you probably discovered a couple of tips and tricks. Which ones would you be ok to share with our audience?

There’re a lot of tutorials and information online. I recommend learning one thing (however small) every day and as for prompts I recommend finding unique prompts that are different. There’re lots of people, including me, sharing prompts. Prompts aren’t copyrightable as of now, so you can experiment with them and learn how it works. 

Practical advice: give ChatGPT more context. 

  1. Simulate a persona (ask it to pretend to be someone) 
  2. Write your task 
  3. Specify goal 
  4. Give it context 
  5. Specify output (I often ask to make csv file, it’ll make you a code that you can put in a spreadsheet) 

If it doesn’t comply, ask EXACTLY the same question again and again. Nagging actually works often with ChatGPT.

What is the next thing you are going to try using Ai tools?

At the moment, I got interested in language models more. I’m studying how they’re trained because my knowledge was mostly in Generative AI, as it’s so impressive. I’m looking forward RunwayML Gen1.


You can find me on Twitter as @icreatelife, on Instagram as @kris.kashtanova and on my website at

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