Prompt: Friday AI Art
Using Artificial Intelligence to create art.
Fridays have always been my favourite day of the week. At school it was the day my peers and I looked forward to: the day they served chips in the canteen. They say the weekend starts on Friday. In fact, Fridays are special. We have Good Friday, Black Friday and TGI Fridays? And now let me throw in ‘Friday Funday’. Okay, we’ve not settled on a name yet.
Every Friday, I take the time to collaborate with Bristolian Developer and good friend Cristiano Almeida. The idea is to use the time to learn, create and explore new areas of digital media. Recently we had a play with AI art generators. As such with emerging technologies, it threw up a number of questions and ideas.
We explored a number of tools but by far the most exciting and rewarding was MidJourney. All we had to do was write a prompt. You are then able to develop your image via paths and then upscale your final output. You can see a number of our pieces below and the prompts we used.
The outcomes were very impressive and imagery was generated in seconds. Which led me to wonder a number of questions.
- Will paid artists be obsolete?
- Can AI create something new?
- Is AI creative?
- What are the potential uses?
Will artists be obsolete?
Consider this technology in a decades time. It’s easy to assume most of the chinks would have been fixed and access and availability will be a lot more prolific. Therefore a user could generate anything within their imagination in seconds at a fraction of a penny. This will no doubt drive down prices, profits and put a number of people out of work.
But I still think people will still make art. People make art now for no money. Because they want to. It’s an expression. It’s something we do for fun. Everyone has a creative streak whether they tap into it or not. I like to think it’s hard wired, traced back to when our ancestors painted on the walls of caves.
Since cameras were adopted into mobile phones, photography has gradually democratised itself and thus access to become a photographer is available to more people than ever. Perhaps this will be the same with art?
There is an argument that AI will replace humans. But history has shown this not to be true. Only recently were corners of Hollywood lamenting cinema for the arrival of streaming. Much like TV did to film and film did to radio. Did video really kill the radio star? Or did they simply end up co-habiting the media landscape? I think the latter is true and perhaps we will need to learn to treat AI as a tool rather than a replacement of people.
Can AI create something new?
I’m a sceptic to computer generated originality. Whether you believe one can be original – seeing that everything is inspired by something else. The AI is simply comparing your prompt to a pool of other imagery on the web and therefore it replicates those styles.
There is no doubt it can create something new but can it really invent a new style or movement in art? I’m not so sure. Not without a crucial key. Human input. The results that I have seen are always safe in composition and style which is hardly surprising given that the AI is pooling from everything that has gone before, remixing existing art without actually adding something different.
Is AI creative?
We’re in the midst of ‘content culture’ already. Expect the sea of noise to swell as AI becomes more ubiquitous. The tidal wave of content, especially on social media will be even more cliché than it is now. Will we become overrun with more of ‘more of the same?’
It’s worth remembering that there are limitations right now with these tools. During our session using Mindjourney, we decided to stress test the system. The more random or unusual an idea, the less likely there is to be a decent output. For some reason the AI couldn’t generate an image of two people taking part in the art form of Capoeira. Nor could it invent an image of what ‘Dogs having a hummus party’ could look like.
So if these tools are creatively limited then this presents an opportunity for artists. Maybe art created by humans will be more sought after. More value will be prescribed to it because it will be fresh and new rather than dull and rehashed. This brings us back to considering AI as a tool within the creative process rather than lazily allowing it to regurgitate the work.
What should we use AI art generators for?
Obviously use cases can be broad and I’m sure more clever people out there will make use of the technology in more interesting ways than I can imagine. But here are three areas in which I think AI Art Generators will come into their own.
Instead of paying a costly subscription to a stock photography site, designers and editors will be able to generate images to better reflect their articles, presentations or publications. How the rights to these images will be managed will be an interesting one to watch.
I can see a good use for this tool in supporting amateur writers who write stories as a hobby. Perhaps they are writing a fan fiction set in Tolkien’s world. They may require a cover or illustrations to help aid their story. How amazing then would it be for these writers to input their well-constructed descriptions into a computer and get some art instantly. What if the author re-drafts and the ancient Oak on their cover is to be replaced with a grand Yew tree? Simple, just run the generator again.
Variations of a design
The real power of AI tools in the world of art and design comes from its ability to generate work in a blink of an eye. MIT Media Lab famously used AI in generating variations of their logos as part of their brand to great success. Perhaps it was also used on the recent EVRI (formerly Hermes) generative branding. Either way, it’s surely an asset for there to be this support whereby a system can spit out numerous versions of a concept to help inspire and direct the outcome of work. DALL-E 2 by OpenAI already have good examples of this capability but who knows when they’ll actually get around to giving the public access.
However you may feel about AI creating art, it’s here to stay. Having thought about it (for a short while) it’s inevitable AI will become a part of the artistic process without actually changing it all that much. It’s an additional tool that will not undermine art or artists but exist in perhaps a lower-brow form alongside tactile art created by much slower and infinitely more creative human beings.