Skip to main content

Is AI Art 'Art'? The Say NO to AI Art Movement, and Why Human Artists Will Adapt

AI Art No T-Shirt by TET - Available in my RedBubble Store. Click Image.
AI Art No T-Shirt by TET
Also available on other items.

Right now there is a big debate over not just whether AI art is 'art' but whether AI's are actually ripping off the work of actual human artists, without their consent, to create their images - particularly images 'in the style of' specific artists.

From my own observations this debate started to get more traction when artist's signatures began appearing in the output of AI Art image generators.

Is It Art?

Cool Froyd the Cat Sketch by TET.
Cool Froyd the Cat Sketch by TET.
My style is very much influenced by
classic Disney and WB character styles.

To get some clarity on how real human artists work (of which I am one)... we, that is all of us... take influences from the art that has come before. i.e. whatever artists we like, have studied, seen etc. we are influenced by. It shows up in our work, intentionally or not.

If you really study my own cartoony art style you'll see I'm heavily influenced by early Disney and Warner Bros cartoons more than Marvel or DC comics despite the fact I'm a tragic nerd for Superhero Comic Book movies.

Neither studio style was something I intentionally set out to emulate. It was only much later in life, reflecting on my work, that I saw the similarities. I really liked the 'roundness' of the way both studios would draw their characters. Superhero comics on the other hand are often quite angular drawing designs.

AI Art Image Generators do pretty much the same thing, just in a lot more of a direct approach. They don't collage together existing artworks but instead learn the common features of an art style and apply them to a new image.

The reason why you might see a specific artists signature show up is fairly obvious. If an artist always signs their work, as part of their work, in an obvious way, the AI is going to think the signature is part of the art style based on the images it has learned from. The AI doesn't know a signature from a brush stroke (which is possibly why their ability to include text in images has been poor but improving over time).

One could make the case and say if an AI reproduces a signature who's to say it doesn't reproduce other parts of artworks verbatim too? What is it Pablo Picasso said:

Good artists copy. Great artists steal.

You can test this out by entering the specific name of any famous, public domain artwork and its artist into an AI art generator. You'll see it doesn't just spit out an exact copy of the image but a very close approximation, depending on how much data it has learned. See my comparison with Vermeer's Girl with a Pearl Earing below.

Original Girl with a Pearl Earing Oil Painting by Johannes Vermeer compared to output by for the same artwork.
Original Girl with a Pearl Earing Oil Painting by Johannes Vermeer (left) compared to output by (AI) for the same artwork using the prompt "Girl with a Pearl Earring, oil painting by Johannes Vermeer".

You can see the proportions in the AI Vermeer image are pretty spot on but the color is much more high contrast. Interestingly I tried adding 'in the style of Vermeer' to the end of my prompt and it didn't tone down the contrast at all.

However when your prompt is so specific to an actual artwork it makes sense that the AI would focus entirely on images of just that artwork and come up with something that could be a badly colored but traced copy of the original. The coloring is likely to be the result, in part, of different photos of the same image that don't share the same exposure for the colors.

All of this is AI art nonsense is reminiscent of the debate over whether photography is art, and then whether digital photography is real photography and/or art? Who is going to want to commission a painted portrait when they can just snap a photo? Yet we still have art prizes for painting portraits. We still have professional photographers despite anyone who owns a phone having a high quality camera to hand.

AI Art can coexist with real, human generated art. Sure, AI art is going to have some impact on the bottom line of professional, commercial artists in the same way photography did decades ago. There's going to be an adjustment period.

I didn't see a lot of real human artists complain when the Print On Demand market started competing with their wall space. Despite the fact you can literally make your own print of a famous master's artwork from the public domain and have it shipped to your house in seconds for less than the price of an original work of art direct from a current, living artist.

The argument over whether AI Art is 'art' is resoundingly 'yes it is'. The only question is subjectively whether you think it's good, bad, meh, or worth every penny some art collector might pay for it. (I mean if minimalists can call what they do 'art'... right?).

The fact that it takes a computer almost no time at all to create AI art is irrelevant. I guarantee you I can draw a picture of a cat (I'm known for painting cartoon cats) in under a minute that looks better than anything someone who can't draw cats could do in the same amount of time. 

By this logic an AI that can make a breathtaking artwork of a cat in almost no time at all makes that work invaluable. (Noting that professional artists don't usually charge money for time because it penalizes those who can do amazing work in less time than it takes a less experienced artist to do mediocre work over many hours).    

But That's Not Really the Issue. Copyright Is.

Copyright Logo.
The Copyright Logo.

In the previous section I talked about artist's signatures appearing in AI art and demonstrated that AI can spit out a copy of specific artworks if it has learned enough data about them. This direct approach to reinterpreting an artist's style through AI is stepping on artist copying rights and intellectual property.

That is, many of these A.I's are being provided with data from specific artists without the artists themselves knowing that their work is being used. Right at this moment anyone (corporations or you and I) with a bit of knowledge can install and train an AI on our own computers to produce artwork in the style of our favorite artist without asking the artist if this is okay or giving the artist any kind of financial compensation.

The problem being that once an AI has been trained with an image it can't be 'untrained'. Much like once you see an image you can't 'un-see' it. Which is more a problem in commercial AI image generators like DALL-E that are made available to almost anyone. 

Things are not helped by the fact that you can literally ask for images in the style of specific artists. The closer the output is to that artist's style the higher the indication that the AI has been trained with that artist's artwork.

I can certainly sympathize with the copyright issue. Perhaps the people who train AIs need to be accountable to their source data? Maybe there needs to be some kind of licensing system in place. e.g. if a prompt specifically requests an artist's style the AI lets the user know that they'll need to make a royalty/license payment of some kind first before any images in that style can be used in commercial projects?

I don't know the answers here but there is a great video below by YouTuber and Artist, Sam Does Arts that describes these issues in more depth.

I'm obviously not anti AI art, and neither is Sam (as he says), but I find it hard to join this cause, as a professional artist. All the branding suggests there should be a total ban on AI Art but what's really being asked for is regulation and proper compensation to working artists.

Human Artists Will Adapt

The thing about humans is that we're excellent at adapting to anything new and different.

As AI art gets better I can see a day where human artists will train an AI on their own specific style for the purpose of producing new artworks in seconds. 

Where do you stand on this idea if you are the artist who not only crafts the text prompt for the A.I but you're also the originator of the style the AI uses in its output of new images? How original is this art? Is it art? Are you more the author of the idea or is the AI?

At the end of the day AIs are just another type of artist in the sea of artists. They're not going away. They will capture a percentage of the market. There will be detractors and people who are incredulous that a machine could come up with art that good.

Human artists will adapt. Whether that's embracing the idea that an actual human created work is more valuable and desirable than AI or incorporating AI into their workflow to reveal new possibilities for creativity will depend on how you view this new technology.

The very fact that more and more artists are going fully digital means that physical, true one of a kind artworks are going to become a commodity even more than they are now. Why do you think NFT's took off for a moment there? 

I feel there's still plenty of opportunity for artists resisting AI art to use its very existence to their advantage. At least as much opportunity as for those artists who wish to embrace AI art into their workflow.



Buy Gifts and Apparel featuring art by TET.

Popular posts from this blog

How to Transfer Any Line Art to Your Griptape - Easy Skateboard Griptape Art Tutorial

Dog Star Griptape Art by TET Griptape art is once again gaining popularity amongst modern skateboarders. For those of us who have tried to create our own griptape art, using paint pens, you'll know reproducing your design onto the grip, without making any mistakes is incredibly challenging. Mostly because you just have to go for it and draw the design freehand, with paint pens, directly onto the griptape. You can make the odd mistake here or there but if you get the proportions of the design completely wrong, it can be very difficult to fix. Often you just have to live with the mistake. To address the problem I've come up with an easy way anyone can transfer a line art design to their griptape, removing almost all the anxiety of getting the proportions wrong. In fact, you could do this with any line art design, even if you have no drawing skill at all. Watch the video below to see my technique in action and/or skip past the video where I highlight the basic steps to get your de

Skateboard Trick Tips: Two Ways to Ollie North (Ollie One foot)

You have to be quick to see my Ollie Norths! Ollie One Foots, otherwise known as the Ollie North, is one of those skateboard tricks you learn and then tend not to do very much as more interesting trick challenges grab your attention. However it does look really cool if you learn how to kick your front foot well past the nose of your skateboard. Still shot from Braille Skateboarding's Ollie North tutorial. I was inspired to make my video below, showing two different techniques to achieve a successful Ollie One Foot, when I not only saw that Braille Skateboarding's Tutorial used a different method to the one I had learned but also, when I looked at various other video tutorials, I discovered yet another technique, with no one using the method I had originally learned. Braille's method is to simply Ollie and drag your front foot past the front of your board. The second method I came across in several video tutorials is to Ollie, drag your front foot and tap your

I'm Joining the Illuminati Brotherhood By Personal Invitation of Hiltom Rothschild... Wait, What?

How special am I to have finally come of age (53 years young) and am now eligible to participate in building the world alongside other members of the Illuminati Brotherhood... Yes I've received the call by way of an email, which I'm sure is real because I had to translate it from the Dutch language and it was personally written by Hiltom Rothschild, one of the non-existent members of the Rothschild family (or perhaps deep undercover because Google has never heard of them?). A Transcript of the email below: To: etourist From: Illuminati Brotherhood  Subject: Illuminati Broederschap (Illuminati Brotherhood) I am Hiltom Rothschild, a member of the Rothschild family, one of the 13 families of the Illuminati brotherhood. I'm here to let you know that you've come of age and are eligible to participate in building the 🌎 world. It is a calling and a privilege to honor him with pride and gratitude as not everyone will ever be chosen by the LIGHT, many are called but few are ch

Are Ion Thrusters the Future of Flying Cars? Spoiler - Probably Not But... Hover Boards... Maybe?

Undefined Technologies Ion Propulsion Drone prototype 3D concept image. You may have heard of Ion engines or, more likely, Ion thrusters. NASA uses them on their spacecraft to help maintain a craft's position or to propel them through space.  Upon hearing that you might think they're big, powerful engines, but actually they are not. They work well in the vacuum of space but, once any kind of atmosphere and gravity is involved they'd be hard pressed to launch you off the ground if you strapped four of them to your lawn chair and yelled "up, up, and away!" I am no expert on Ion thrusters - they're basically magic that science has an explanation for. If you want to know the details, The Space Techie website has a layman's explanation .  Build Your Own Ion Thruster Earth based Ion Thrusters work a bit different to their  space based cousins by Ionizing the same air that we breathe to create thrust (an effect known as Ionic-wind ).  While they sound highly soph

Book Review: Around Australia at 80ks by Meredith Schofield

A s someone who has written a travel diary about driving across three states of Australia , and owning a frog van that became very much a character in touring my own state of South Australia at sometimes well below 80ks, I have some affinity for Meredith Schofield's book, Around Australia at 80k's . I'll definitely tip my hat to Meredith and her husband Sean for going way further in a bright yellow, unairconditioned, mid 70's kombi van, than they were ever designed for.  Also kudos to them for traveling with their dog Bandit. My partner and I have also taken our dogs on our holiday adventures and, even though South Australia is likely the most dog friendly state in Australia, it's still a challenge planning a trip where you can all stay together. Particularly, your dog will keep you out of most national parks. Meredith's book is a road trip adventure across five Australian states, NSW, SA, WA, NT, and Victoria (technically four states and one territory I guess)

Porn Site Blackmail Scam - That Time a Scammer Contacted Me and What I Did

Have you received an email with a subject line or content that contains an actual password you use either currently or at some point in time (likely it's one you've been using for a few years)? The email claims that the sender has footage from your webcam of you visiting a porn site for some 'fun' and threatens to release that footage to all your contacts unless you pay a specified amount to a supplied Bitcoin account. It also mentions your password was obtained by installing malware on a porn streaming site that basically gave the sender access to your keystrokes, desktop, and webcam. I've received such an email twice now. I've posted the second below. The first email requested a deposit of US$7000 to said Bitcoin account. This time that number has gone down to $1000 (Rude! are they saying I can't afford $7000? Spoiler, I can't but, rude!). The actual email I received. Password changed just in case I'm still using it on some site I'

Movie Review: American Fiction (2023) *No Spoilers*

T helonious 'Monk' Ellison (Jeffrey Wright) is a relatively successful novelist, who just wants to write quality fiction, without feeding into the diversity market that wants to hear stereotypical, authentic stories from black authors.  Outraged that this type of black fiction sells incredibly well he writes his own stereotypical black fiction novel as a joke and sends it to a publisher under a pen name. He is shocked to discover that they love it with the book propelling him into a spotlight that he never imagined. That's the premise for American Fiction , a fairly low key, satirical commentary on the 'diversity industry' looking to broaden the types of voices being heard but channeling those voices into what the market thinks is authentic and real... i.e what sells. Jeffrey Wright is perfectly cast as an author who's maybe wound up a little too tight in his own idea of how things should be. While it is definitely satire it's not exactly a comedy, though i