2 min read

AI is Better at Making Art Than Us. Deal With It.

Two weeks ago, an AI-generated artwork won first place at the Colorado State Fair fine arts competition. The social fallout from the event has sparked a lot of discussions about whether AI can create true art. The last time a conversation got this heated was when an AI-generated portrait sold for $435,000 at a Christie’s auction.

Embrace The AI

My perspective is that we should embrace AI as a creative collaborator. If it is winning awards today, then imagine what it will be able to create five years from now.

There was a time when all clothing was made by seamstresses and all shoes were made by cobblers. Factories put the vast majority of the cheaper producers out of business. Then fast fashion made it acceptable to wear factory-made clothes and still be considered fashionable. Today, a small fraction of seamstresses and cobblers exist. But they provide a very niché service to a small group of people.

Art will take a similar trajectory. There will be artists that refuse any algorithmic help and will still succeed in the nichés. But the vast majority of artists working in the advertising, entertainment, and services industries will need to lean into using AI. It’s too fast not to let it help you do some heavy lifting.

Even Beeple, one of the most prolific digital artists alive, is toiling over the idea of AI getting better than him:

If you’re still confused about how AI can generate artwork or how you can use AI in your creative process, then read my previous Everydays on AI as a Creative Collaborator.

We Can’t Avoid AI’s Help

The reality of the situation is that a lot of what we create uses algorithms, whether we know it or not. Photos that were taken with a smartphone camera use machine learning to process the image. If you touch up photos digitally in Photoshop, you’re using algorithms to edit pixels, crop and scale, and auto-fill areas.

Ultimately, we must survive or die. Learn to create alongside AI. Put your name directly on AI works of art. Or get really good at a specific style that AI cannot create.

Already people are embracing this collaboration. In the example below, a user built a Photoshop plug-in that uses Stable Diffusion (an AI art generator) to paint over their rough doodles. They start with images of a wooded Japanese hilltop, then sketch out where the grass, trees, and sky should go. Stable Diffusion then fills in these gaps, and the user clears up the joins manually.

Show r/StableDiffusion: Integrating SD in Photoshop for human/AI collaboration from StableDiffusion

If you hate the idea of AI-generated artwork, then you can find solace in knowing that AI will have creative blocks at times. But only when the server it’s running on is down or, in the case of Midjourney (a leading AI Artist tool), when Discord isn’t working.