Is AI Art Replacing Artists?
Updated: Feb 15
Hey humans! AI-generated art has been making quite the splash in the art world in recent years, particularly toward the end of 2022 as the program DALLE-2 rose in popularity. We've kept a little quiet over here about the whole thing because we've been scratching our heads and testing the tools out for ourselves. Though, now that the initial excitement is starting to wear off - as artists we are left with some rather large questions on our laps... like, What does this mean for artists? 😱
It's understandable why people are excited about the possibilities that AI art offers, we have seen some truly amazing results for ourselves and have even included some AI generated images in other areas of our site (in the resources section).
We wanted to delve a little deeper into the idea of AI replacing human artists. Well, have no fear because we have gone ahead and abused the free trials, multiple account loopholes and rinsed our free credits on several AI image generation platforms over the past few months as part of our research. So let's get into it... Will AI image generation technology lead to a decrease in job opportunities for creatives?
How Good is AI Art?
Before we go any further, we thought it would be best to get an idea of what us human artists are up against. As of 2023, image generation software that uses artificial intelligence is in its infant stages, as it is only just been widely adopted by the general public and offered by innovative tech companies. In order for an AI programme to produce useful or "good" results, it must first make mistakes via trial and error. In recent years, particularly in 2022 - some of the more innovative software companies in this field allowed the general public to access AI tools in order for them to expand their databases rapidly. We'd just like to really emphasise that last part, as much as we possibly can: The databases have been scaled up RAPIDLY.
Due to this huge influx of users, prompts, results (for better or worse), the AI image generation tools are learning at never before seen speeds, meaning we are in new territory in terms of the output. Every minute, every day, these tools become more and more powerful.
In any case, results are still hit and miss, there are a bunch of visible issues that vary greatly. But we noticed that there were a few themes where AI image tools really struggled. Such as creating believable human faces (super creepy eyes), text within images (it seems to be blending languages?) and overall composition (a lot of subjects are cut off or placed strangely).
The thing is though, even since writing this draft we noticed some improvements on these tools creating believable human eyes and text is surely easy enough to resolve with some language filters or combined with other AI tools such as Chat GPT. Composition can also be resolved via maths, such as the Fibonacci Spiral or if briefed on Roland Barthes "Studium and Punctum" theory.
What Are AI Image Generation Tools Particularly Good At?
From our many tests, we found that AI really shines when matching art styles - when we asked it to create an etching, 3D render, watercolour painting - it did so shockingly well. This ability is also carried across to replicating famous artists styles, such as Keith Haring or Van Gogh, which has led to some controversial issues amongst living and working artists.
AI image generators are extremely powerful when it comes to replicating and mimicking styles - something that can be difficult to achieve manually by human artists.
Other areas are also impressive, such as its application of textures, colours and even proportions.
The Distinction Between Image Generation and Art
We like to get philosophical here at Uncovered Collective and come up with questions that we cannot answer ourselves... let alone write a blog on. Though, we know that you love it too! After many hours of reflection, research and head scratching - we've come up with this little number to keep you thinking (as a human). In short, we believe that:
"An image is not art by default, by simply existing." - Uncovered Collective
It's worth thinking about the meaning of the word art itself, to the collective, art is something that communicates emotional, expressive and new ideas. Whether that's through spoken word, sculpture, performance or whatever - the medium doesn't matter so much, but the idea and the intention do.
Can a chair be considered a piece of art? Did sculpture artists panic when factories started mass producing chairs? It all get's a little Duchampian doesn't it? What if an artist enters a prompt into an AI image generation tool, is it art then?
Well, the panel of judges at the Colorado State Fair 2022 seemed to think so, when they famously selected an AI generated image as first place winner at the Fine Arts competition. The intention of doing so was to encourage conversation, which it certainly did! Proving to be hugely controversial, and we are here for it. We highly recommend having a browse of the twitter comments! 😂
That throws a spanner in the works, doesn't it?
Real Use Cases: Can AI Replace Artists Jobs?
Let's step away from the philosophical stuff for a short second and instead review some actual AI images that were generated for some real life use cases. We came up with a couple of prompts that business owners might be tempted to enter into these types of tools, to create things like logos or graphics for different scenarios.
Are these results good enough to threaten the roles of graphic designers and illustrators?
Prompt 1: "Advertisement for McDonalds in the style of Keith Haring"
Our thoughts: A good effort from DALLE-2, at a glance we can clearly get an understanding that the image is in the style of Keith Haring, though we're not confident that Keith would be very impressed with it - it does communicate some of the vibe that he did so well. Could this be used in an advert or on product packaging? Absolutely. Though, its abstract and nonsensical, which wasn't part of the brief.
We wouldn't recommend that a global fast food company uses AI image generation for advertisements, but it can certainly produce some initial ideas that can be presented to an artist as a starting point.
Score: 3 out of 10
Prompt 2: "Family of rabbits wearing victorian clothing, having dinner in an underground house, in the style of an etching"
Our thoughts: Impressive output here, this wouldn't look out of place printed in a novel or even larger in a picture book - though there are some strange elements within (such as that weird rabbit under the table? or the blurry meals on the table?), overall though, it portrays the brief well and clearly enough. There are some missed opportunities here such as the "underground" part, an artist might want to emphasise this more by drawing in more of the surrounding context, or even a glimpse above ground.
It would be understandable if an author chose to use this AI image for their book, especially if they're on a budget (because this was free!), but working with a human artist would give you a better quality result and the ability to be more specific and original.
Score: 5 out of 10
Prompt 3: "Steampunk formula one car, game concept art"
Programme: Nightcafe Studio
Our thoughts: Honestly, this is an amazing result. We couldn't believe it... whilst the engineering certainly doesn't make much sense (car manufacturers be advised), this image is entirely usable as video game concept art and this is good enough quality to print or use for a range of purposes. Though, naturally you'll want to see different angles and views of this "model", especially if you're looking to animate it and render it within a game setting. But there's plenty for developers to work from here and to take it further.
Again, we're seeing strength in drafts, concepts and ideas from AI image generation - instead of asking for a finished product, it's done a better job of giving us something to work from. Maybe we are just asking for too much? Whilst we don't want to scare any concept artists, there is clearly some competition here. Whether that's a good thing or bad, it just is.
Score: 7 out of 10
Prompt 4: "Simple logo using basic shapes, for a pizza restaurant"
Programme: Nightcafe Studio
Our thoughts: We've given a score of 2 for the colours, the warm palettes used here give us a hot cheese vibe that's sat on a tomato base and we're into it... 😋 though, there's not a lot of good things left to say about these images when you consider the brief. A logo is a really important image for a brand and it needs to be immediately clear, punchy and memorable. Whilst the 2nd result is getting there, it's pretty bad quality and any pizza restaurant with that logo better be making some damn good pie, otherwise they wouldn't be around for too long.
Again, these could potentially be used as starting points to visualise some ideas - but we mean the very start. There is a long way to go here and the tool really missed the mark on this one. Graphic designers who specialise in pizza logos, put your feet up - your jobs not going anywhere.
Score: 2 out of 10
Conclusion: Have Artists Lost Their Jobs?
We've reviewed some real "commissions" that working artists could receive in creative day jobs, such as graphic design or illustration work. Whilst our tests aren't comprehensive or exhaustive - these results are insightful as an overall snapshot of what kind of quality is available on some current AI image generation tools. Whilst we are impressed with the ability of these tools, they are by no means creating images that rival the skills and ideas of human artists.
Take a breath arty ones, we're pretty confident that us artists will survive another year in this AI war.
There's so much more to talk about! We didn't even get into "conceptual art", or how the gallery space can cast a narrative on to objects/images. Not to mention the morals, ethics and copyright issues that are presented when these AI tools are replicating real artists. It's exhausting and amazing. What a silly time to exist!
What do you reckon then?
We'd love to hear what you think! Are you an artist that's worried about the future due to the approaching and impending doom that is AI? Do you love it or even care? You're welcome to post a rant of your own on our little blog here, so feel free to get typing and send us your thoughts.
Freaking Out About AI?
This video by Tom Scott will make you feel like that's completely justified. Quite frankly, we're freaking out a bit too!
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