AI Art

AI-generated artwork has come a long way in a very short space of time. It certainly exceeds what I can do as an artist, and many others – needless to say it has caused endless debate. The results now being spewed out by the likes of Midjourney are absolutely outstanding. While it is technologically amazing, it is also quite unsettling that a computer can generate in seconds something a human would slave over for days or weeks. It’s mind-blowing stuff.

Is it a valid art form? I don’t believe so – not yet, anyway. I dare say it won’t be long until we’re seeing endless book covers created on the cheap using AI art rather than actual artists and designers. We’re also going to see “prompt wars” with people claiming ownership of the text prompts they used for the image generation, since they cannot claim copyright of the image itself. Yet such is AI at present that if two people input the same prompt in the same software, the results are always going to be very different.

At the moment, the results are often a gamble. It may produce exacty what you want, or it does its own thing and the results are not what you expected. Nothing can ever replace the touch of an artist’s hand or the workings of their mind – plus if we’re talking artwork commissions, any client would want to establish a good rapport with their artist. You can’t do that with a machine.

Of course, the obvious way forward is for digital artists to take their AI-generated images into Photoshop and work over it – no different to “photo bashing”, a method widely used by concept artists of working over photographic elements. The question of whether it is truly their work is a debate for another day. Even so, fraudsters will be inevitable, passing off AI-generated imagery as their own creation, since they came up with the text prompt. We’re likely to see a rise in “AI artists” who can’t actually draw by hand for toffee. There’s another interesting debate for another day!

I do see value in AI artwork, but I see it with more potential as a creative tool for inspiration or ideas, rather than finished work. Why let a machine suck the life, artistry and enjoyment out of something you love doing and make a living from?

In some respects it reminds me a little of David Bowie’s “cut-up” lyrical technique, which in later years he used software for. He’d feed a magazine article into the software and it would spit it back out in a new order, which he would then re-arrange into a song. This is part of the conceptual and creative process, perhaps if you’re stuck for an idea, an AI-generated image could help give you the direction for a project whether is is composition or colours.

Perhaps the biggest cause for concern is the fact most, if not all AI art pulls its styles from human artists, both living and dead. Quite simply, artwork generated in the style of say, Syd Meade for example, is still plagarism and will in some cases be in breach of copyright. We’re yet to hear of legal cases concerning copyright and AI art, but it’s likely to be a long and messy can of worms when we do.

I do not regard AI art as ‘digital’ artwork. Digital is a medium – replacing paper and paint with pixels. Digital art is still created by hand, using a stylus or finger-painted and still comes from the human mind. AI art is exactly that, and its own category which I believe will be more widely recognised as such in time.

I do accept that AI art is here to stay, and it will find its place – and it’s only going to get better. However, despite its brilliance, I’m already growing tired of it – the majority pieces have a certain look to them whereby you can just tell it’s AI – even moreso on closer inspection.

Interestingly, some conventions are now banning the display of AI-generated artwork, and I totally understand why. You want to see an artist’s work at an event like that, and in many cases, also meet the artist. Meeting somebody who came up with a text prompt isn’t quite the same.

However especially concerning science fiction artwork, this is a medium of advanced technology – science fiction in action – so it has a place. However it needs to be clearly, honestly labelled as AI-generated artwork regardless of whether the image has had any post-production.

Honesty will be key to the success of AI art.

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