Isn't there a middle between large companies shamelessly plagiarizing our art and living under a rock?

Not all art is intended to be sold. Not all of it can sell. Sometimes because selling anything is not always easy. Of the very little art that does sell only a small percentage sells for enough money to sustain the artists full time income and an even smaller percentage sells for huge amounts of money. Whatever kind of art you make - you will more likely than not come across the question of whether to sell it or not. And soon - art made by humans will actively compete with AI made art.

I don't understand how we value art as a society. My tiny paintings don’t sell too often but at the same time there are paintings that sell for so much more money - like millions of $. Not complaining - just noting that I don’t totally understand this perception of value and how it differs from person to person. This makes the entry of AI made art into the market all the more confusing and bewildering to me. 

A little off topic rant

That said - there’s something about the people who see an artist making money from art - especially the kind of art perceived as being made somewhat easily. Some immediately think…..”Anyone can do that!”

They don’t see all the failed attempts before the one successful method the artist found and therefore stuck with it. They don’t see how the understanding of those somewhat invisible components of strong art…such as composition, lightness, colour…changed for this artist as they spent hours, days and years perfecting or learning the skills. I say strong art and not good art. The goodness of art is subjective yet most of us tend to follow a few principles or rules to better our craft. A balance between composition, lightness and colour.

This is not to say that making art is magical and reserved for few. I don't mean this. Most skills take time and practice to develop. 

To the few who say…anyone can do that!! I say…please do. Do it. And I don't even mean this sarcastically. The world will be richer in empathy and compassion if, *you*, the person who thought something could be easily made did actually try to make it. There is so much to learn in the process. And if you do try it…my hope is that you end up as either 1 or 2 below. 👇🏽

Here's a few things that could happen when someone sees art and thinks they could recreate it easily -

1. They actually try replicating an easy painting and on their way fall in love with the process of making art. They forge their own path and come up with their own style. They become artists themselves.

2. Others try replicating the painting and fail. They gain some insight into why and how hard it was to actually make a painting from scratch no matter how easy it looked when the professional did it. They become more humble. They become curious about artists and engage with them. When they find art they love and it’s a financially viable choice they buy the art. They value it.

3. A few others talk shit about anyone being able to make that painting because it looked so easy. They say their kid could do it and move on. And then they talk shit about another thing a different artist has made. All along not really caring very much about how artists *actually* create things. For some of these people they may never hang art on their walls or if they do it will rarely be art that speaks to their soul. They will simply not see the benefit of spending on art.

4. Yet a few others will also try replicating the painting. They will give up because they can’t develop the skills fast enough. They like the process but they are much too impatient. They need the end result by any means necessary except actually buying art from an artist that specializes in making the kind of art they are so desperately needing. They will not stick with developing the skills to recreate it and instead they will start looking at EASY hacks to get around the hard and necessary process to make art.

Enter: AI made art

You enter a prompt and let the machine figure it all out. Granted, this is quite a simplistic way of looking at AI prompts. I know they often need fine tuning. But can you even fathom how much more skill and time is necessary for actually making the thing??? A lot more. Whether you refine that prompt 900 times…or whatever that number be, the process of making art, the handling of materials, the learning of the medium, and the joy garnered from it all and the heart and soul built into it over time is altogether different. It always will be. Yet, few understand this part. It's not all about the end result. Not always. It's also about the process. 

My hope for future is that as a society we end up in category 1 or 2 as a majority. Not everyone wants or cares for art as much and that is ok. I don't care much for sports. What can you do? But, the day us humans stop seeing the connection between human made art and the humans behind it, its scary to think of what that connection must have been replaced with.

You as a human cannot connect with a machine the way you connect with a human. Atleast - I - a possible simpleton - cannot comprehend this connection.

Art by local Madison WI artist Sneha Mahajan

Let's explore some arguments justifying art made with AI

1. "AI also learns like us humans by looking at other art and it will get better and better just like us. You look at other art to learn too…right? So how is that different than AI learning from other art."

When a human learns from another - let's say 1 human looks at 10 or a 100 paintings and then learns to make something out of that. 1 human learns. 1 human develops skill. If they are a dumbass they will decide to copy stuff as is. But, even then, it still takes effort to copy art really well. And, it’s still 1 human. But, scale that up with AI.

AI is not 1 AI individual if that was even a thing. It’s massive. If it’s trained on those 10 paintings then the whole of that AI model knows deep unfathomable details about those 10 paintings now. The effort to replicate what was learned is simply limited by someone asking for it in the right way and how much electricity is consumed to process that data and spit out an image. That’s potentially unlimited data thefts. I don’t think we understand how massive that scale is yet. It’s 1 vs infinite.

2. "Well why are you against more art as an artist. It will only be a more colorful world! You should be onboard with that."

And honestly, I struggle with the thought of living in a colourful world through the eyes of AI. As an artist I love seeing colour on a day to day basis. Show me a colourful wall full of art and you’ll find me stuck to it. I'm sure this is the effect on most people who enjoy the arts. But I shrivel to think of a day where I can’t tell where that beauty came from. I don’t know how to explain why it matters yet. But, to me it matters who made it. My only words for explaining this feeling right now are that it feels icky to think of a machine unethically using works of a million artists to create something that was ultimately valuable and paid for and none of those hard working back breaking almost starving artists got any money for that unauthorized use of their work. Who made money? Large corporations that now charge you $10 bucks a month or whatever to be able to create that arty image out of thin air within mere seconds. The artist does not get any money. That’s what’s icky about that kinda artificial beauty. 

Image generation models today have been trained on art by artists without our consent. Who okayed it? Not the artists. Those paintings are now forever embedded in that AI model with no way to train that data out of it. It's equivalent to being repeatedly taken advantage of and having no say in it except to go live under a rock. 

In conclusion

Must there not be a middle? A middle between living under a rock and letting large corporations loot our hard earned art in broad daylight while unknowing folk happily indulge in the clusterfuck that is AI made art right now. 



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