AI-generated artwork wins US competition, angers art community

Is AI replacing artists or simply complementing their work?
Loukia Papadopoulos
AI-generated art.jpg
AI-generated art.

Devrimb/iStock 

Artists participating in the Colorado State Fair’s annual art competition were furious after the president of the Colorado-based tabletop gaming company Incarnate Games, Jason Allen, won the first prize in the Digital Art Category, according to a report published by CNBCTV18.com on Saturday.

An AI-generated image printed on a canvas

Allen won in the Digital Arts / Digitally Manipulated Photography category with a work called “Théâtre D'opéra Spatial” which is an AI-generated image printed on a canvas.

The painting depicts a scene that resembles a space opera. In the image, several figures in a Baroque Hall stare through a circular viewport into what looks like a sun-drenched landscape.

Other submitting artists were upset that Allen was declared the winner even though he himself didn’t paint the piece. He instead used an AI program called Midjourney to generate the artwork based on a text prompt.

Allen did, however, note that he touched up the final image in Photoshop and upscaled it with Gigapixel. To make this clear, Allen labeled his submission as “Jason Allen via Midjourney.”

The digital painting consists of an artist creating artwork on a computer through a painting software or through intelligent AI software using text commands. Many feel that works created using AI tools like Midjourney and Dall-E also fall into the category of digital art, at least until they get their own separate category.

But are such tools hastening the death of human creative tools?

In April of 2021, an artwork called "painter" was engineered by the Paris-based collective Obvious. The artists achieved this by feeding their Generative Adversarial Networks (or GAN) a data set of 15,000 portraits painted between the 14th and 20th centuries. Their algorithm analyzed the human-made images and proceeded to create its own art based on what it had learned from the thousands of portraits.

AI-generated artwork wins US competition, angers art community
An artwork created by AI.

Friend or foe?

This piece of art brought up a lot of questions. Is AI a threat to painters everywhere? Is AI the future of art? Will all traditional painting methods become obsolete?

The answer is likely no. People paint for many reasons, such as to relax or express themselves, and AI cannot take that away from them. In fact, the technology may even be able to help them in their artistic goals.

Is AI-generated art, however, truly art? The answer could be yes or no. AI-artists create their final creative piece by following a strict set of rules, or defined variables. While some can write their own code, the manner in which they do so has been pre-defined by their human coders.

But it should be noted that machine-learning and neural networks can learn from their past mistakes and experiences. In this sense, they are pretty analogous to human beings.

This may lead to the conclusion that AI cannot create art without human input and command.

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