Art in a Click: Is AI Art a Threat to Illustrators?
If an algorithm generates art, is it art?
Is AI-generated art a threat to artists who have spent years, if not decades, honing their artistic skills and building their career?
The recent explosion of AI-art apps has everyone talking. Social media feeds are buzzing with AI-generated images that are both fascinating and scary. AI-created art has sparked controversy and raised a number of ethical concerns about artists’ intellectual property rights and remuneration. AI models have been trained using artists’ original art. Machines have been fed a huge amount of data to allow them to learn to emulate artists’ styles and techniques. The problem is that artists aren’t actually being credited for that use and have no way of opting out of AI models’ appropriation of their styles. Similar to stock photos, the resulting AI art is copyright-free, leaving human artists feeling colossally cheated and alarmed. But those who defend AI art may argue that imitation happens every day, even without AI.
In addition to the issue of infringement on their rights, artists and creators are concerned about the future of art and how AI-generated art will impact their career opportunities. As AI tools get more sophisticated and better at mimicking art, artists worry that companies and art directors looking for quick, cheap art that is “good enough” will turn to AI rather than hiring human artists and paying for their talent. Rather than bringing art to the masses, readily available AI art may end up devaluing illustrators’ craft.
But an illustrator’s craft is much more than the sum of their technical skills. Each work is a story infused with experiences, emotions, and a way of seeing the world that is deeply human.
At Anna Goodson Illustration, our stance on original art is as unwavering in the face of these technological advancements as it has always been. “Before AI art, there was stock art that was a threat to our industry. And before that, there was clip art. We have always believed and supported ORIGINAL ART created by artists,” Anna Goodson says. “No matter how good AI gets, nothing can match art created by artists. Artists create from a place deep inside that requires feeling, sensitivity, and passion. Illustrators express themselves through art and they’re hired for their individuality and their creativity. Artists are born to draw and create; no bot will ever be able to replace that sense of purpose.”
AI art can be compared to painting by numbers—a template devoid of the humanity and creativity that drives true artistry. Some may use it the way they use tools like Pinterest as a mood board for inspiration. Just as Google Translate cannot take away the essential work of professional translators, AI art cannot replace human artists and their unique, nuanced take on the complexities of our existence. Though AI art is destined to get better, it is missing a key ingredient: passion. After all, art is a way of observing the world and critiquing it. Illustrators are often advocates for social change. It has taken decades for the industry to slowly evolve towards more inclusive and diverse representations in art. It is difficult to imagine how AI can do better than artists emboldened by their experiences, stories, and perspectives.
Still, the way we value art and artists is shifting and it’s up to the industry to continue educating society and advocating for original art. “AI may try to produce and mimic work from creators, but this is something we’ve been fighting against for years,” Anna explains. “We can’t stop what’s inevitable with AI art, but we can continue to create beautiful original artwork and encourage our clients to keep our industry alive for our generation of artists and new generations to come.”
There’s certainly one thing AI cannot do: make art with heart.