AI generated images

How Far is Too Far with AI?

Monday, January 23, 2023

I’ve written about how AI can be used to help creatives. But how far is too far?

Artificial intelligence (AI) is taking the art world by storm, and for good reason! Artists are discovering that AI can be a powerful tool for generating new ideas and brainstorming. But with this new technology comes new ethical considerations. So, what exactly is AI, and how can artists use it to create art? And is it ethical to use AI to create art? Let’s dive in and find out!

What is Generative AI Art?

First of all, what is AI? Simply put, AI is a computer system that can mimic human intelligence. This means that AI can learn, reason, and adapt to new situations. So, how can artists use AI to create art? Well, there are a few ways.

One way is through the use of AI-powered art generators. These programs can take a set of parameters, such as color, shape, and texture, and generate new artworks based on those parameters. This can be a great way for artists to generate new ideas and brainstorm new concepts.

Another way that artists can use AI is through the use of AI-powered art assistants. These programs can help artists with tasks such as composition, color, and lighting. This can be a great way for artists to streamline their workflow and focus on the creative side of their art.

For example, in the picture at the start of this post, I fed my face through an AI generator and asked it to create a caricature of me as a character in an animated short, along with some descriptions of what I wanted it to look like. That image at the top of this page was the result in just 15 seconds. Is it a perfect caricature? Not in the least. There are several elements of my face that it just didn’t capture that a trained caricature artist would. In fact, the first two tries, my ears were much larger. I had to specfically tell it to make my ears small.

Then I tried making another image of myself in a “fun horror stop motion” style. Both of the following images were the result. Both images took about 15 seconds to generate. It’s a fast way to iterate through various styles and looks.

In this case, I knew what I wanted, and could start to model this in 3D using modo or maya, but this got pretty close.

Is it something I’d use as-is? No. But it would allow me to iterate to get to something in my mind much faster. And this brings us to the ethics of doing this.

The Ethics of AI Art Generation

With the introduction of AI in the art world, comes new ethical considerations. For example, is it ethical to use AI to create art? Some argue that AI is taking away the human element of art and that it is not truly “art” if it is created by a machine. Others argue that AI is simply a tool, like a paintbrush or a camera, and that it is up to the artist to use it ethically.

For example, in the example above, would it be right for me to take this tool to a live event, calling myself a caricature artist? I think it would be quite the stretch to do so. While I have an art background, doing this, I think removes too much of the human element from it.

I’d have a hard time justifying doing this this at an event and being okay saying that I’m “drawing” people.

But is it technically wrong if someone did use this tool at an event? I can remember back about twenty years ago at a carcature convention when artists first started using Photoshop to create caricatures. There was a lot of pushback and many said it was cheating and not real art since it wasn’t traditional. Today, the numbers are flipped. Almost everyone uses a comptuer and those who paint on an actual canvas are few.

And what about using AI for a studio commission? Or to brainstorm for different iterations?

One More Tool

Allow me to take the contrarian view for a minute.

Personally, I believe that the use of AI in art is no different than the use of any other tool in art. It’s all about the artist’s intention and how they use the tool. And let’s be real, who doesn’t love a little help from a robot friend when it comes to brainstorming new ideas?

I’ve always believed that our first ideas are the worst ones. Those are the easy ideas that anyone would come up with. It’s the ideas that are five, ten, or even twenty iterations deep that have a more unique perspective. What if we could use this tool to help us get through those first few iterations faster?

Where Do We Go Now?

At the end of the day, AI is here. We can like it or hate it. We can feel threatened by the inexperienced person who just became an ‘artist’ and conjures up meticulously detailed and amazing images in seconds with just a few prompts.

I get it and feel that too at times! We all want recognition for the years of study and practice we put in to get where we are, right! Or we can accept that whether we like it or not, this technology is here to stay. And it’s going to get better very quickly.

Centuries ago, artists had to create their own paints from scratch. Imagine how they felt when paint was made more available as others perfected and sold pre-mixed paint. The ‘newbies’ just went and bought a tube of paint? How dare they! Not putting in the time to learn the craft of making your own paints!

A good artistic friend and I had a conversation today and he said the same conversations with AI took place back during the growth in popularity of the camera. The illustrators at the time felt threatened. And during the next several decades, illustrations slowly left the advertising world as photography replaced it. New tools create new trends. The Rockwells were replaced with photography more and more.

In the end, AI can be a powerful tool for artists to generate new ideas and brainstorm new concepts. But, with this new technology comes new ethical considerations. It’s up to each individual artist to decide how they want to use AI in their art and to use it ethically. And let’s be honest, if AI can help us come up with new and exciting ideas, sign us up!

So, I’m going to embrace AI and see where it takes us. How can we find new ways to use this tool to create new forms of art without it replacing us. Who knows, maybe one day, AI will be the next Picasso or Monet, and we’ll all be talking about the “AI Renaissance”!

Ciao! I'm Scott Sullivan, an software developer and machine learning nerd. I divide my time between the tranquil countryside of Lancaster, Pennsylvania, and northern Italy, visiting family, close to Cinque Terre and La Spezia. Professionally, I'm using my Master's in Data Analytics and my Bachelor's degree in Computer Science, to create compelling software products that user AI, run lighting, robots, and automation effects for a large Christian theatrical productions to spread the message of Christ's salvation.