But is it art really?

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First off, just so my position is clear, I don’t believe that AI creates art, it creates images.

It’s the difference between having a ready meal with Gordon Ramsey’s name slapped on it and actually having Gordon Ramsey cook for you. The former is probably a reasonable approximation but may well give you wind (a possible as yet undiscovered side effect of AI).

I’ve earned a living as an artist for decades. I also work in emerging technologies and I have a foot in both camps. And so I’ve tried a few different AI image generators.

The results are some pretty cool images, albeit with some fantastically unexpected weird results (if an AI is so smart what’s the issue with counting how many fingers are on a hand?). 

The thing is none of the images pumped out were created by me. I initiated them but I had little real control over the output. I was not being an artist and neither was the AI.

AI is briefed via prompts and then fulfils that brief by appropriating the art of others and reassembling to create new image.

And before anyone starts jumping up and down and says ‘but artists copy all the time’. Yes we do but we are also learning and developing our own voice. Just as every artist before us did. And that learning is then mixed with the chaos of our unique personality to create something that is imperfect but is truly to greater or lesser degrees a reflection of ourselves.

AI is a tool that will be incorporated into the artist workflow but it is a tool and generating images that are solely the culmination of a program following prompts (with maybe some touch up and erasing of extra fingers), does not make you an artist. 

I’ve never known at the start of creating something new exactly what the end result will be. The flying by the seat of my pants unpredictability is where the magic is.

AI as it develops, will probably approximate some of the randomness of creation but it won’t bring any emotion or commitment to the work. It will just do it. Admittedly, unlike me it won’t torture itself over every perceived flaw in the work but I’m on a lifetime journey here, always trying to be a better artist.

There is also a morally dubious aspect. Remixing and sampling has legal implications in the music world but it seems it’s a free for all in the world of AI images right now.

With some justification there is a fear that this is going to take bread from mouths. And there is a lot of anger at the undeniable theft of artists’ work as the source material.

I hope that we see something similar to the music industry where there is a legal obligation to attribute and recompense artists whose work has been used as part of the creation process. How this is done, I don’t know but I’m guessing there is a digital trail (or there can be) to show what is being scraped by the AI to create a commercial image.

So here’s my hope and what I choose to believe, potentially with the rise of AI images, the artist will become more appreciated for the individuality, creativity, skill and craft that’s being employed.

I’m leaning into the value of my hard earned traditional skills, going back to pen on paper a lot more and creating art with a story to tell because it’s created by a fleshy human with foibles (of which there are many).

AI is going to take work and I feel for those just starting to build a career in art. These must feel like dark times and it will inevitably be tougher to break in. 

All I can say is be true to yourself, remember why you do this and be the best artist you can be to give you the best chance for happiness and success.