This past week, I had been going through my Facebook feed, scrolling past several posts. One recent post had decent stopping power and caught my attention as an Art Director. A friend posted a new profile pic, but there was something about it that for now I’ll call “different”. Their new pic made use of bright, vivid colors and was interestingly stylized. At first, I had been thinking, “that’s really neat, I wonder who made that for them”. I tapped and scrolled through the comments and came to find that the creator wasn’t so much a who, as much as a what. Turns out, this new profile pic was created with the use of AI via an easily downloadable and inexpensive to purchase app.
(Original photo shown left*)
The next day, another handful of friends posted the same exact thing: AI generated pics of themselves bursting with color and unconventional styles. What the day before was new, different, and eye catching, had overnight popped up like dandelions on a freshly mowed lawn as a part of a yet another social media trend. For most people this trend may seem like an amazing thing to come across - a quick way to stylize pics (or even thoughts). With a few clicks and uploads the average person, assisted by AI, can generate what someone without knowledge of the process could easily call a piece of art. And that’s where this seemingly playful trend becomes a bit iffy in my eyes as an artist.
Having had a knack for creating throughout my life (and making a living with these skills), this new concept has me feeling a bit unsettled. These AI art generators source legitimate artists’ creations and uses them for machine learning to develop a series of various unique art styles. It has evolved to the point where one could input a well-known artist’s name and write a snippet of a scene they have in their mind, and the generator can produce an image in the style of that artist. Mind you, all without any permission by that artist, which has become a rising concern for many others who use their artistic abilities as a source of personal expression and in many cases income.
(Original photo shown left)
The more I searched, the more similar programs and apps I discovered. We are clearly entering another era in AI use. An era that drifts from the traditional “techy” applications of AI and into the realms of entertainment. But where does it stop and when does it cross a line? If we celebrate the advancement of other industries through AI, a conflict arises. An almost “not in my backyard” approach to measuring the power and “ethical” use of AI. Whether other creatives want to accept it or not, I believe AI generated art is more than a trend. It’s going to stay with us for some time and it’s going to keep evolving, but we need to be conscious of how we utilize this technology.
As long as there remains a respect and acknowledgement of intellectual property for art and design by the general public, as there is for other industries, I believe there is a place for this use of AI. But we shouldn’t try to pass off AI generated art as works of our own. Put simply, the art world could look at AI as another tool in the creative toolbox. It can be useful in helping the creative process when a vision is clouded or hits a wall, but I don’t necessarily think it should be used more than for reference. When it starts jeopardizing the creative integrity, defined style, and income of artists and other categories of creatives, there needs to be regulation and self-governance at the source. We as humans are the gatekeepers. Since any AI program or app sources images humans have already created, it can only produce based on what it’s learned and not what it feels or wants to express. As creatives, for now, we still have the advantage because of our ability to think and create new and unique ideas.
-Austin Horlacher, Art Director
*Examples created in-house at SweetScience using the Lensa app