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My thoughts on AI-generated art

Posted by rtil - April 28th, 2023

There's already so many things that have been said about AI, especially AI art. I've been mostly sitting on the sidelines watching this equally fascinating and terrifying technology evolve faster than we can keep up with. I've also been thinking about it a lot and what it means for you, me, and all of us as creators.

To start, I think it's safe to say that Pandora's Box has already been opened. I've seen some advocate for the regulation or even destruction of AI art software and tools. But it's too late. There's so many AI art tools - both open source and not - that are rapidly evolving and in the hands of millions of people.

Because of this, we must learn to live with the technology. AI art isn't going anywhere, for better or worse. So the best we can do is figure out how we can protect ourselves from it, like making sure the places where we share and enjoy eachother's art isn't polluted by a never ending flood of AI generated art. Because let's face it, we can't keep up. AI doesn't get tired, it doesn't need to take breaks, and its only limitations are dictated by the power we give it.

All emerging technologies have been used for good and evil, and this time is no different. I do genuinely believe that AI can be used as a force for good for artists. I believe that all artists should strive to understand the technology, if only so that you can take control of your own AI art model and essentially take ownership of something that should belong to you before someone else does.

That being said, I think the future of AAA game studio and entertainment industry art could be very grim. The pessimist in me sees artists - who are already treated poorly by most corporations - being relegated to doing nothing but touching up and correcting piles and piles of AI generated art. I don't know how long this would last or how bad it would get, but I don't think we're far off from this becoming a reality.

Nothing will be the same again, but we don't know how much things will change yet. Some artists fear their livelihoods will be at stake and they will lose their jobs to AI. But I think there will always be a desire for human-made art, the same as there is desire for anything hand-crafted or made independently. And if anyone was to have you replaced by an AI, you don't want to work for them anyway, because they clearly never respected you to begin with.

AI can only become more powerful. And the more powerful it becomes, the less accessible it will be to the average person. I believe that someday AI will be such a technological force that it will be prohibitively expensive or simply inaccessible to the public at large, so much so that we will go full circle and it will simply be cheaper and more practical to hire human beings for the jobs AI was doing. Perhaps I'm wrong, and AI is just a passing fad. But when I look at how rapidly AI is evolving, it really does feel like the next epoch in human technological advancement. Computers, the internet, the smartphone, and now AI. I think that's where we are.

Again I will say that I am fascinated and terrified of this emerging technology. I can't help but feel we're getting so very close to playing god and tapping in to something we maybe shouldn't have. But in the meantime, we can do nothing but go along for the ride. So stay informed, don't give up, and keep adapting. The world is moving fast, too fast - so all we can do is try keep up.





It scares me to see how technology advances, and I'm afraid that human artists will no longer have value by the time I have time to become an expert at drawing. But still it's still something too ridiculous. I think I have nothing to worry about: Nothing on earth can surpass the work of humans. The art of AI is not going to sink us.

remember that AI generated art only exists because of what humans have made. it can't really create anything new, only iterate on things that we feed it.

@rtil Yap, yet another reason to give a damn

Hi rtil, you're very cool

AI as an assistant to an artist, is fine. Like backgrounds, effects, lighting, etc. So long as also the individual is open about such and does not allow the AI to be the dominant contributor to the piece. And then you have those that have screen capped WIPs on streams and had AI finished them, to then pass as their own; those that took full finished pieces and gone over via AI to produce a "better" quality; or taken sketche commissions and had AI finish it for them, pretty much denying the artist more pay.

I'll echo a comment I saw on an FA journal: if accessibility, responsible use, and trustworthy business practices were at the forefront of this AI boom, then I think everyone would be in a different mindset.

the corporate AI arms race has assured that all responsibility and foresight has been thrown out the window in favor of being the "winner"of having the most popular and powerful AI.

Honestly I don’t care if artists use AI so long as the AI isn’t the ONLY one doing the job. Using it as a reference point and adding flavor is what I’d love to see artists do…although some just post the AI art as is. That is laziness.

if it's being used on a large scale project consistency would make it almost impossible to rely on completely - at least in its current state. i'd like to imagine most people would be able to spot games and such that rely 100% on AI to generate art, and call them out for it.

It’s the major studios’ responses to this new technology that I’m most concerned about—getting a job in the art world, especially in 2D/concept art, is already extremely difficult to break into as it is without AI art being a thing, partly because companies like Disney and Dreamworks arbitrarily decided around the turn of the century that 2D animation was “dead,” especially the frame-by-frame version that requires human in-between animators. As @rtil mentioned, there will always be a taste for more “human”-looking art somewhere, and it is extremely encouraging that in recent years that traditional frame-by-frame 2D seems to be the medium of choice for indie animations on NG and YouTube, plus the occasional “decent-budget” release like Klaus on Netflix.

But animation in general is very time-consuming, expensive (even if you use the likes of Blender—gotta pay for the computer and increased electricity bills, for example) and requires a ton of teamwork, plus it seems like the best indie artists on the web got the necessary training, discipline and marketing skills for the craft by working for “The Man” (Disney, Dreamworks, Blue Sky, Lucasfilm, etc) before “going indie.” I fear that, despite their constant talk about diversity and inclusion, the higher-ups may decide that the works produced from AI are sufficient for the average Hollywood popcorn flick and indiscriminately deny all humans, either aspiring young artists or veterans still currently in the industry, from the privilege of doing what they love full-time with a sufficiently-large team and (hopefully) enough pay and benefits to pay the bills while living in the most expensive cities in the world like LA or Vancouver.

The “reboot-mania” we keep having after animation Golden Ages like the 1990’s and (arguably, at least in Cartoon Network’s case) the early 2010’s don’t exactly assure me that current CEOs respect or even give a damn about the creativity aspect about entertainment. Like, as much as I gush about the ‘90’s animation and anime scene, I won’t deny that clueless reboots that nobody wanted also were prevalent in that otherwise-fetishized decade. The difference was that it was easy back then to ignore stuff like the live-action Flinstones movie, or Yo! Yogi! or Quackpack, in favor of just watching the then-brand-new Courage the Cowardly Dog, Rugrats, SpongeBob, Sailor Moon, Dragon Ball Z, etc etc. These days it seems it seems like NG and occasionally YouTube are my only safe havens for truly original content while these large companies that are supposedly too big to fail make us settle for creative takes on existing IP like Wednesday, Puss in Boots: The Last Wish or Del Toro’s Pinocchio. It seems like only the logical next step for all these “necessary” reboots of (checks notes) Twilight, Hunger Games, Barney the Dinosaur and Moana to be made truly soulless by being written by AI instead of at least an underpaid human writer.

Sorry for the crazy-long essay, but like most artists hoping to eventually make my Animation degree useful before it’s too late, I have a LOT to say about AI.

The era of crowdfunding and patronage has really helped shape the indie scene and give birth to projects that otherwise would have silently died or gotten gobbled up by larger studios only to get butchered. Which still happens, but not as often as it may have in another timeline.

"Diversity and inclusion" is something I don't think any corporation is approaching with any genuine consideration, but will rather put in the bare minimum for the sake of face. People should be hired for the skill and hard work they put in - any substitute is insulting to the individual. But far be it from them to figure that out. It's all cold and calculated, just like the products they put out - designed to appeal to as many people as possible, offend as few people as possible, and err on the side of caution and never take any risks.

Sure you have your Spiderverses and your Puss in Boots 2, but they're far and few between. Folks still need to go out there and vote with their wallets, and to some extent they have. Support the projects that you love and are doing something different.

Just like music is one of those things that can be enjoyed in a live setting, I think the same could be said for art. Some people stream, some take their easel into the streets. Again others share time-lapses of their work, and then there's more physical stuff like sculpting, woodworking or blacksmithing. And as much as AI can do, I don't think it'll ever be able to tap into art as an interesting process or a performance meant to entertain an audience. We humans are driven to admire the fruits of hard labor and - even though AI fills us with a sense of wonder from time to time, that novelty will wear off sooner or later.

If there is anything to be learned, it's that technology likes to give artists a good scare. Back when the camera was invented, many artist gave up on realism and some of those painters focused on creating something the camera would not be able to replicate. By doing this, they ushered in the age of impressionism. Today's artists might face a similar dilemma.

We are headed for an interesting time, that's for sure.

You don't think it would be fun to watch someone type in a bunch of keywords, then sit around for a half an hour watching something render?

Joking aside, the camera comparison is a good analogy. The creative field changed a lot with the advent of the camera, but it didn't replace anyone.

I'm just really sorry for people like you who make it a livelihood. Artists and animators have always been just given the short end of the stick and I don't see that changing anytime soon. I do enjoy Ai however it has helped me with assisting with code and drawing but that doesn't mean i endorse it replacing jobs in the AAA industry.

I think we'll all be ok in the long run. But i understand why people are worried.

I don't think I've ever heard or at least consciously considered technology becoming less accessible (as opposed to more accessible) as time goes on.
Do you have examples of the past or more elaborate thoughts how AI will become less accessible as it becomes more powerful?

anything that requires lots of processing power to do, like render farms. it's a scalability problem. the most powerful AI tools will be too expensive - both monetarily and hardware-wise - for the average person to really utilize.

For the corporate side, I agree with you completely, I can only see it as a net negative for industry workers.

For independent artists, I think AI should treated like tracing, where it's fine as a practice tool but shouldn't be done in a finished piece. If you're using an AI to do stuff like coloring or lineart, you're removing a bit of meaning and intention from the piece.

Those may seem like small examples but art is all about intention, interpreting what the artist wanted to do with the piece. If the answer is just "an AI did it for me", a lot of that meaning is thrown out the window.

I feel the same way about full pieces inspired by AI art. If you put in the prompt "Gorilla with a Shotgun" and then redraw one of the results, the finished product is still as face value as the AI's result. You didn't decide the composition, pose or anything, you just copied what the AI put out.

On the bright side, since AI references previously created works you can use it as a reference for how to do stuff like anatomy, composition, perspective, etc.

But much like tracing, it should be reserved for practice and not finished pieces.

I could see it being useful for generating certain poses you want a reference of that you can't find. Apparently some models are quite good at doing this, be it through text prompts or drawing a stick figure and having it take it a few steps further.

@rtil Well, if it makes you feel any better, I feel like I’m getting more of my money’s worth by supporting artists on Patreon and Newgrounds these days than with any streaming service ever.

@rtil I believe you are right but it will be a while before people calm down

@Flubberpunk There's also a huge amount of people now that call themselves artists and take commissions for just doing AI art

I'm with you in this regard, all the way

@Whirlguy @rtil At least back then, there wasn't this overwhelming, even malicious zeal to put creators out of a job and achieve clout and coin at their expense as there is today.

"AI can only become more powerful. And the more powerful it becomes, the less accessible it will be to the average person."

I think mainly for safety reasons rather than economic, yes. Recall google still has (or had) the best AI generator with Imagen and Parti but chose not to release them. Whereas random companies like Stable and Midjourney who came out of nowhere are the biggest proliferators of it. OpenAI's Dalle-2 splashed out for the front cover of Cosmopolitan and was beaten due to Stable's lack of censorship.
Because it increases with agency the higher it scales. Scaling (increase in compute, parameters, and data) makes it improve performance indefinitely and new data is easily produced.
I've been looking into this for some time. And wonder if this might be a hard limit on our civilization (perhaps why no space civilizations). As it means the average consumer would not be able to purchase decent hardware for fear they might develop harmful virtual agents.
Closed societies do not progress well.

It does seem to be the new culture war may possibly be neo-luddite VS AI rather than the current state of affairs. I'm already seeing anti AI stuff crop up within both left and right wing media. But that's just speculation. It'll soon be impossible to ignore AI anyway.

makes me wonder when the first big steps to "regulate" the technology will be put in to motion.

Imagine giving up on your dream of breaking into the art industry for marketing/graphic design instead because it's more fiancially beneficial, you had more training in it, and it was the only thing available to learn... Only for AI to jeopardize that as well. Welp X_X

so far i've seen the effect already personally. bossman can just go play with midjourney or dall-e one night for fun and think now the team doesn't need an artist to do what he did. or get a warped perception that what he came up with is really good and already thinks that's the direction they should go in.

the optimistic side of me thinks fine art for the sake of valuing human experience and connection will still be around. i want to buy paintings my friends did, not something they made in 10 minutes on the computer with text prompts (if they coded procedural art thats different). but who knows if fine artists will just trace AI art anyway.

pessimist side definitely doesn't agree with what will happen to applied artists at studios. but concept artists have already had to employ soul-sucking techniques like photo bashing. meep