Is AI Art Bad? | The Source Weekly - Bend, Oregon

Is AI Art Bad?

A designer's opinion on the pluses and minuses of AI art generators

click to enlarge Is AI Art Bad?
AI art generator
Our initial prompt, "Norman Rockwell style art of robots and children in school learning" (left) generated some less than perfect children. The prompt, "Photorealistic oil painting hand drawn smooth details"(right) was used to generate a more satisfied look. The prompt means everything. Knowing how to use descriptive words related to art greatly helps in fine-tuning the prompt.

I'll admit my reluctance to dabble into the world of AI art, as many artists believe it will soon replace many creative careers and will lead to a world of less creative work. It's interesting to note that beautiful and breathtaking illustrations, photographs and paintings are able to become something automated with just a few simple words typed into a prompt box. AI art generators are designed to scan millions of images from the open web, learning algorithms to recognize patterns and relationships in those images so it may generate new ones in the same style. Funny how uploading an artist's work online actually trains and benefits their robotic competitors.

Since this feature is focused on AI and our future, it seemed the right opportunity to take a test drive on the road of AI-generated art. This week's cover (along with a few other articles' images) were completely designed using a combination of AI art generators. It's pretty simple to use. As long as you have access to the internet and some time, you, too, can bring your imaginations to life using AI.

Here's how to go about it:

  1. Open your AI art generator of choice. There are many to choose from, such as DALL-E2, Midjourney, NightCafe, OpenArt, Dreams by Wombo, Starryai and for Adobe subscribers, Adobe Firefly (a beta photoshop with AI generating technologies).
  2. Type in your prompt. Here's where you need to be specific. The more detailed words you feed the algorithm, the closer more accurate result you'll get.
  3. Click "generate" or similar verbiage.
  4. Download your AI-generated image so you can impress your friends, print it out to hang on your fridge, or turn it into an NFT.
  5. Optional: Use an image editing software to clean it up or make changes.

Here's where we run into the pluses and minuses of AI art generators.

How artists can benefit from AI art:

  • Using the material generated as a reference or inspiration. AI art is a great way to create mood boards or adjust pre-existing work.
  • AI art helps those who have not been able to create previously.
  • AI art can greatly speed up the process of creating concepts. (Which is also a negative for those who work as concept artists.)

Why AI art is bad for artists:

AI art downplays the painful and laborious effort it takes for artists to find their own artistic style, along with the time it takes to craft their pieces. It also impacts an artist's market value as artists are fighting against a literal machine. Since it draws majorly from uncredited images, it does not have consent or give compensation to any artist it steals a style from. Policing can also get out of hand when people try to pass off AI creations as original work, capitalizing on other people's hard work.

click to enlarge Is AI Art Bad?
AI art generator
Slideshow of various AI-generated faces using the above oil painting prompt. (AI really needs to slow down and zone in on its own artistic style.)

A commonly asked question, "Is AI art able to replace artists?" has a simple answer: No.

AI relies on material fed by real artists. Composite AI material could snowball and feed on other AI content, but it can only go so far. True art is about the creative process more than the final piece. While there is an initial thrill of seeing an image appear, there is no creative satisfaction. In response to AI, we may even see more appreciation for traditional media. We also may very likely see a new era of artists known as "prompters," those who fine-tune the actual words used in a prompt. In my opinion, we are seeing the beginnings of an "AI-post-modern-art" era. AI isn't good or bad. However, it may put art into a hollow place where the audience loses feelings toward it.

At the end of the day, AI art is simply a tool, not a threat. Those who choose to replace a human with an AI generator are those to blame or worry about, not the AI itself.

—Jennifer Galler is the Source Weekly's art director and production manager.

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