Posted on: September 18, 2022 Posted by: Glacier Staff Comments: 0

Photo by Malak Alomari, Created by starryai AI art generator

We often think the inevitable robot reign will manifest in uncanny ways, through means most fit for the silver screen. But what if robots are already behind the scenes, taking the reins of the arts and technology industry? 

While the new phenomenon of AI-generated art can be fun for anyone looking to plug in borderline-disturbing buzzword concoctions, artificial intelligence tools are creating a lot of noise in the arts and technology world. And for good reason. 

Malak Alomari

Freelance Contributor

You may have heard the buzz around programs such as Artbreeder, Midjourney and DALL-E 2, named after the revolutionary surrealist artist Salvador Dali. AI art generators offer text-to-image creations using artificial intelligence. If you type a phrase or a string of words into the search bar of one of these programs, the software will present a visual synthesis of the results found in its AI reference catalogue. This concept has taken the arts and technology world by storm and inspired an outburst of more programs, such as NightCafe (named after Van Gogh’s painting “The Night Cafe”), starryai, BigSleep, and DeepAI.

Art as a whole has been falsely believed to be safe from automation, but a major potential consequence of using text-to-image software for professional art is lost job security–especially for concept artists and product artists. With software powerful enough to generate visuals with a line of text, there’s little need for a team to brainstorm and produce conceptual visuals.

Photo by CNN
Jason M. Allen’s piece Théâtre D’opéra Spatial won first in the digital arts category at a Colorado state fair although it was created entirely by a machine, AI-art generator Midjourney.

In September 2022, Jason M. Allen won first place in the Colorado State Fair Fine Arts Competition’s digital arts/digitally-manipulated photography category using the program Midjourney, according to CNN. Allen’s win launched a heated discussion on whether his award was deserved. Drawing programs like Procreate and Photoshop drew a similar impassioned response when they first came out, despite the high regard they enjoy now. However, unlike these programs, AI art generators deserve to be met with disdain: Drawing programs do not create art for the artist, but provide efficient tools that traditional modes of creation cannot. 

Some argue AI generators make the ideation process more efficient. Rather than spending precious hours brainstorming, artists can simply type a general concept into the generator and use the results as a foundation on which to build their art.

However, two essential questions must be addressed: Will these programs ever be powerful enough to generate quality art without the need for human revision? If so, what will happen then?

The answer to the first question is, most likely. The software is updated regularly and prolifically generates work, each piece better in quality than the last. If the creative world were to rely on these programs to produce professional work from start to finish, we could face a future in which product designers, concept artists, animators, and the like are wiped out, replaced with AI without careful consideration. 

Photo generated by Malak Alomari
A visual representation of “death of a concept artist,” spit out by starryai. The words in quotes are put into a text box and the program does the rest, generating the image above.

We must look at this dilemma through a philosophical lens. Without human artists taking the lead in the art world, the definition of art will warp itself to death. The official definition of art, according to the Oxford English Dictionary, is the expression or application of human creative skill and imagination, typically in a visual form such as painting or sculpture, producing works to be appreciated primarily for their beauty or emotional power. Art is so appealing because it’s made by humans, for humans. To protect the sanctity of art, we need to be proactive.

These programs pull from a database of man-made creations whether that be paintings, drawings or photographs. AI-generated art will always be of a lesser art form, as it can never be more than a synthesis of original man-made art. It can only be a mere copy of human genius, using the light of our minds to cast shadows resembling art made with human touch. All art is an accumulation of sorts, but the human mind synthesizes with more nuance and intelligence than any machine can in this day and age. 

As for the state of job security for artists, it seems the current software isn’t strong enough to create original art on its own. Concept artists are safe for now, as they’re still needed to revise these synthesized visuals for quality and copyright reasons.

If we limit these generators to only a portion of the creation process, they can assume the same role as drawing programs like Procreate and Adobe Creative Cloud. Harmony between human artists and AI art generators is attainable if the generators stay within the realm of being a mere tool wielded by the artist.