There’s Still No Make Art Button: The Myth of AI Art
By now I know most of you have seen the crazy AI art swamping the internet. I remember the brouhaha when artbreeder came out a few years ago. Of course, being the digital art person I am, I tried out the program. I even paid for the plan where all my art was kept out of the “pool”. I will admit, I had great fun taking photographs I *created* or otherwise had 100% commercial use rights into the area to mix together. I even threw in some old photos of some of my real life artwork. I got some trippy things back from the program. And I will admit, I do use some of those things I made as both backgrounds and inspiration (in personal, not client works). However, the service wasn’t really worth me continuing paying for. The file sizes were very small and the art all looked the same. It still wasn’t 100% clear to me HOW the AI made anything without “stealing” from other art out there, but I was promised if I had the private plan I wasn’t getting my work mixed with other’s work and it was all kosher. MMM. OK. Sure.
Fast forward to this summer where all I heard about was Midjourney . All my artist friends and some of my non-artist friends were jumping on board to check out the free program. At first, I couldn’t be bothered to try out the “beta”. However, a few weeks ago almost anyone with a Discord server could get the bot and try it out. Based on the public gallery, I was intrigued. I got even more excited as others showed their “character art” and their “new book covers”. I did a little research first, and I was led to believe this AI wasn’t fed “other people’s work” and I could have a “commercial copyright”. Uhm, yeah, OK. So, you didn’t “feed” your AI existing art? I mean did it go to art school and learn or something? You straight up have a whole page of “styles” that you got from famous works of art…but OK.
I did end up purchasing a 1 month plan and I went to work playing with the generator. I got nothing near as impressive as what others were able to get. (See my Midjourney Gallery here) I wasted a lot of time waiting for this “magic art button” to do these incredible things. Long story short, I wasn’t real impressed with the humans it gave me. Trees? Those were cool.
I decided to do a little experiment of my own where I created a picture using my 3D rendering and Photoshop skills. When I go to create something, I generally think of things in terms compatible with these AI generators. I wanted to create a mermaid underwater. And here was my final result:
I then tried to do something similar with the my Midjourney bot after I purchased this “commercial rights” plan. And here was one of the many odd results I received:
I mean, sure that’s interesting as fuck, but that is NOT a mermaid. Also, the picture isn’t a very large nor sharp quality.
Fast forward to today and I’ve seen at least seven different people on my social media selling these “art” creations. Some sell them fresh out of the generator while others sell them after some “Photoshop tweaks”. And to top it all off, there is yet ANOTHER generator out there doing even crazier things.
So, here’s where I’m going with all of this. I’m angry. I’m mad people are selling these AI created things for large sums of money when for years I was told my 3D renders weren’t art…even though to use the programs I use you have to learn technical AND artistic skills. I’m mad that people aren’t being honest about how they are creating their art when for years I was always upfront about ALL the things I used to make a work of art. Like people legit looked down on me the minute I said anything about 3D renders…the same disdain I get when people find out I am an independently published author.
Yet, now you are going to tell me every tom, dick, and harry is an artist? That you don’t need to hire artists anymore period? That YOU are now an artist because YOU “made” this? Oh and you deserve $500 dollars a print because you “figured out the prompt”. Like come on. Even if you use the same prompt in your own bot, you get different outcomes every time. You can’t just copy someone’s prompt and get the same thing every time, so you didn’t really figure out anything. Plus, you didn’t make anything. The program has all the freedom in the world. You are no more an artist by using these programs than someone ordering a sub or a taco in one of those places where you tell the person who is doing the work what you want. It’s not really any different than when you tell an artist what you want and they translate your words into art. Do you also claim you made your commissioned work too? Because just typing in some words in some AI generator that apparently steals stuff off the internet does not make you an artist. There is still no “make art” button people.
There are also issues with copyright even though the makers of these programs claim there are 0 issues with copyright. Like others, I’ve also gotten several pieces of work from the Midjourney that had some kind of “signature” looking thing on the bottom. I did a reverse Google image search, but of course got no hits, but that doesn’t mean it’s OK. (Check out this article: https://kotaku.com/ai-art-dall-e-midjourney-stable-diffusion-copyright-1849388060)
The end conclusion is these AI things are nothing more than novelty toys. I can see these programs and the pictures they spit out being really great “prompts” to give both artists and writers alike a jumping off point. I can see this being helpful for non-artist folks to say, this is kind of the idea I had when they are trying to convey what they want to their HUMAN artist. But I caution you to realize these programs do not make you an artist. Don’t devalue the skills an artist has. We may all use vastly different tools/mediums to get to where we are going, but almost all of us have put in YEARS of studying art basics. We may not all follow the basics, but that’s the beauty of creation…you learn the rules to break them. Hell, I’ve spent thousands in courses myself to get my art where it is today…and I’m still studying. Oh and let’s not forget the art minor I have from college where I learned from professors about art. You can’t just wake up, type a string of words into a computer, and then expect to be heralded as an artist. Because if that is all you do to make your “art”, then I’m sorry you’ve missed the point of being an artist.
And no, I won’t be using the Midjourney pictures for anything other than fun. I even cancelled my plan and deleted the bot.