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AI Art

"Artificial intelligence" has become increasingly ubiquitous in the modern world, and its influence on the art world is no exception. AI art programs such as MidJourney have emerged as powerful tools for artists and designers, allowing them to create unique and fascinating works of art with the help of cutting-edge technology. In this article, we will explore how AI art programs like MidJourney work, as well as some of the objections raised by artists to the use of AI in the creative process.



How AI Art Programs Work


AI art programs like MidJourney are ostensibly designed to assist artists in the creative process, offering a new approach to art-making that blends traditional techniques with machine learning algorithms. These programs rely on complex neural networks that have been trained on vast amounts of data, allowing them to generate new visual content based on the patterns and features of existing images.


To use MidJourney, an artist begins by either typing a text prompt or uploading an image to the program. In the first case, the program generates an image based on the text prompt, using millions of online images it has profiled. It can use these to define the subject of the prompt, like "cowboy", or the atmospheric conditions of the setting, such as "sunset," or the art style or even the artist to imitate, like "Van Gogh" or "Picasso" or "Salvador Dali."



(On left: The command used to make this was "cowboy rides a horse across a stream in front of western mountains in the evening under a stary sky. style of Vincent Van Gogh." On the right, an image of Texas Jack was supplied, with the command: "Texas Jack Omohundro. Cowboy comic book art by Steve Ditko.")


In the second case, where the user inputs an image, the AI applies a series of algorithms to generate a new image based on the content of the original. The artist can then tweak and refine the generated image until they are satisfied with the final result. This process can be repeated many times, with each iteration resulting in a new and unique version of the original image.


One of the key benefits of AI art programs like MidJourney is that they allow artists to explore new possibilities and push the boundaries of traditional art-making techniques. By harnessing the power of machine learning, artists can generate complex, abstract, and highly detailed images that would be difficult or impossible to create by hand.


Artists' Objections


Despite the many benefits of AI art programs like MidJourney, some artists have raised objections to the use of machine learning algorithms in the creative process. One of the main objections is that AI art programs may undermine the role of the artist in the creative process, reducing their input to a series of predetermined choices within the program's algorithms.


Another objection is that the programs have scanned and incorporated art styles and art by artists that never agreed for their art to be used in this manner. Some western artists, like Charles Russell, Frederick Remington, or Mark Maggiori have distinct styles that they have spent a lifetime refining. Remington and Russell are dead, and certainly never consented to have their art incorporated into machine-learning algorithms. Maggiori is one of the most popular and successful modern western artists, but if an AI can generate a "reasonable facsimile" of his paintings, he would be rightly concerned if he believed freely generated art that appeared to be from his brush constituted a threat to his livelihood.


Prompt above: One cowboy on a horse in a slow flat river, sunrise with huge cumulonimbus clouds, Wind River Range of Wyoming, western, in the style of Mark Maggiori.

Below: Painting by Mark Maggiori.


This is the only image on this page not created by MidJourney. Painter: Mark Maggiori.

A third concern is that the use of AI art programs may result in a loss of originality and creativity, as artists become reliant on machine learning algorithms to generate new ideas and inspiration. Some critics argue that AI art programs represent a form of "paint-by-numbers" art, in which the artist's role is reduced to selecting and refining pre-existing options generated by the program.

There are also concerns that AI art programs may perpetuate biases and inequalities present in the data used to train the algorithms. For example, if the algorithm has been trained on a dataset that includes predominantly white, male artists, it may generate images that reflect those biases and perpetuate a narrow definition of what constitutes "art."




(Similar scenes in the styles of N.C. Wyeth [top], Albert Bierstadt [middle], and Charles Russell [bottom].)


Final Thoughts


Despite these objections, it seems clear that AI art programs like MidJourney offer exciting new possibilities for artists and designers looking to explore the intersection of art and technology. Proponents say that by embracing these new tools and techniques, artists can create stunning and innovative works of art that push the boundaries of traditional art-making practices. In fact, there have been several instances lately where AI-generated art has been submitted and, in fact, won art contests. This is a challenge to the age-old question, "what is art?"


As with any new technology, it is important to be mindful of the potential drawbacks and limitations of AI art programs and to approach them with a critical eye. By doing so, we can ensure that AI art programs are used in ways that support and enhance the role of artists in the creative process, rather than replacing or diminishing their contributions.








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