Is the best thing you can draw with a pen or brush something like a 3-year-old’s kindergarten homework?
Enter the era of text-to-image art generators. With a few key words, ta-da! An artificial intelligence (AI) generated image is created.
The ease of it all unsettles 2D designer Lily Liu a bit. She works for a game studio, where her daily routine involves designing user interface and creating artwork for games on mobile devices. Recently, his boss asked him to study artificial intelligence art generators.
A week later, she came to the sad conclusion that her current job might one day become obsolete, largely subsumed by a computer program.
“I have to admit that such AI art generators are very, very capable,” Liu said. “They make certain parts of the drawing work so much easier that I don’t think any business can resist them. They save time and labor. With them it is possible for an artist to make the work of three or four.”
Liu tried all the popular AI art generators available, including Midjourney, Stable Diffusion, and Dall-E 2. She tried different styles of artwork, such as impressionist, realistic, and Japanese animation.
Courtesy of Lily Liu
“In my experience, these art generators are good for creating background images that focus on general atmosphere as well as light and shadow effects, such as wild landscapes and views of the city,” Liu said. “Sometimes such images don’t even need to be edited. I guess they could be widely applied in areas like graphic design and new illustrations.”
But machinists are not perfect. They are still not “smart” enough to generate a certain out-of-the-box Japanese anime object, logo or style figure.
“As the generated images only have one layer, it’s difficult to make changes to it,” Liu said. “They’re not useful when it comes to high-quality requirements, such as drawing animation characters.”
Yet artificial intelligence is progressing faster than expected.
“I believe that one day, AI art generators will overcome all drawbacks and, like it or not, artists will have to come to terms with that fact,” she said.
Machine-created art caught the eye in 2018, when the painting ‘Portrait of Edmond de Belamy’, created by a French team, sold at auction for US$432,000 in the UK. The image was generated using data from 15,000 portraits created from the 14th to 20th centuries.
Last month in the United States, Jason Allen won a digital-assisted art prize at the Colorado State Fair fine art competition with his project “Space Opera Theater”. But it turned out that the work was more than just “assisted” by technology. It was created by him. After the prize was awarded, it was discovered that Allen had produced the artwork using the AI Midjourney art generator.
Artists and others reacted with outrage, calling his work “cheating”.
It’s an outcry heard across the world by those who believe machine art is nothing short of high-tech plagiarism. Developers feed millions of existing works of art into a machine so that it can “learn” the relationship between text and images. Original artists are generally not paid for the use of their works.
Earlier this month, South Korean illustrator Kim Jung-Gi, known for his large, highly detailed illustrations and skill in drawing from memory, died of a heart attack in France.
Just a day after the news broke, a Twitter user with the screen name “5You” claimed that he “trained” an artificial intelligence model with Kim’s work and shared it online. line as a “tribute” to Kim.
“I’m quite pleased with the results, considering the complexity of his style,” he wrote. “I would prefer, yes, that you give me some credit if you use it because making such a file is hard work and I give it to you.”
He quickly faced an angry backlash from netizens, who decried his efforts as an inappropriate way to pay tribute to Kim.
“Artificial intelligence generated art is not your work and falls in the public domain,” wrote one netizen with the screen name “Kindrick.” “Not only do people not have to credit you and shouldn’t credit you for this work that you did not create, but using artificial intelligence to reproduce Kim Jung-Gi’s work is an insult to his work.”
Where do you draw the line?
This week, when a South Korean artist was live-streaming a painting online, a viewer captured the unfinished work and fed it to an AI art generator, then posted the resulting image on Twitter before the artist cannot finish his work.
The incident sparked a new wave of convictions.
So, are these artist-machines art thieves?
The jury is still out on that question.
Lawyer Wang Renxian, on his official WeChat account, said that if an AI-generated image closely resembles an existing work of art, it could be defined as copyright infringement.
Although no existing cases on such artistic disputes are available for reference, cases involving texts written by AI have been settled in court.
In 2019, tech giant Tencent filed a lawsuit against Shanghai Yingxun Technology Co, accusing the company of nabbing an original article created by Tencent.
The article was written by “Dreamwriter”, an artificial intelligence writing program developed by Tencent and posted on an official Tencent website. Yingxun then pasted the same article on his own website.
Nanshan District People’s Court in Shenzhen ruled that Tencent’s original article was classified as “literary production” and therefore protected by copyright.
“From this case, we can see that the work done by artificial intelligence is apparently still protected by law,” Wang wrote. “It should be noted that AI art generators are ultimately a means of production, so they are still regulated by applicable laws. We suggest caution in using AI-generated images .”