An artist's viewpoint of AI Imagery

Artist Joel Fletcher working on a painting.

Hello, I'm Joel Fletcher, a Los Angeles based artist with 35 years of experience in the Entertainment Industry, specializing in stop-motion and computer animation, model making, sculpture, and photography. The types of projects I have contributed to include feature films, TV shows, commercials, video games, theme park rides, and virtual reality. I am currently retired from the business and focus on my true passion - canvas painting, which is my fine art. Additionally, I strive to understand, philosophically, the nature of the creative process. These are my thoughts on the generative AI phenomenon at this time in early 2024.

We live in interesting times. The rise of Artificial Intelligence is escalating rapidly, impacting the written word, music, science, and art. Machine learning now emulates human thinking and creativity, the very thing that makes us unique as a species. The entire concept of AI is very controversial and raises many questions. In particular, AI's ability to create a picture based on words is astonishing. Is it art or anti-art? Good or evil? Perhaps it is all of that and more. One thing is for certain; AI is here to stay, and our challenge is to adapt to this new dynamic.

While many people fear AI-generated imagery and consider it a threat or an abomination, personally, I am fascinated by it. The method basically involves collaboration between a human and a robot. It's crucial to clarify that people who feed text prompts to AI are not artists by doing so. If anything, the human side of the equation is more like an Art Director, while the AI is the artist. However, AI is an algorithm, not a living, feeling, imaginative human; thus, AI imagery is certainly not art as we know it. Or is it?

AI has been trained on almost every picture available on the internet, learning how to mimic the appearance of various subjects. In many ways, this training parallels the way human artists draw upon their visual experiences and inspirations but without the painstaking hours of practice required to master artistic skills. AI has learned from millions more pictures than any human could possibly see in a lifetime. Indeed, AI is almost like the Collective Unconscious, as it draws upon the totality of human creativity. This training method is highly disputed, as many feel this is theft of intellectual and copyrighted property. I know that my personal artwork, which is on my websites, has been used to train AI. But I am at peace with that. Any particular artist's work is so minuscule and diluted in comparison to the billions of pictures AI has trained on that it is not a concern in the grand scheme of things. The scraping of content for AI training is uncharted territory, so it is difficult to say if this controversy will ever be settled to everyone's satisfaction.

There is definitely a dark side to AI imagery, but this is caused by unscrupulous humans, not the AI algorithm. Most of us are aware of Deepfake pictures made for evil purposes. There was an old saying, "The camera never lies." Not anymore. Fortunately, some AI image generators, like DALL·E 3, include built-in safeguards against misuse. Conversely, there are AI systems available where anything goes, which is very concerning.

One of the biggest impacts of AI is potential job loss. Illustrators and commercial artists have every reason to be concerned that their livelihood is in jeopardy. And yet, this new technology can be used as a collaborator and aid in an artist's working method if they are open to the idea. It is a mixed bag for sure. I think that AI is less of a threat to fine artists who create with traditional media because AI pictures are just pixels. AI will not replace physical fine art anytime soon, and perhaps hand-made art made with traditional materials will become even more precious as a result.

Another serious concern is the psychological effect that Generative AI might have on creative people. For instance I often put in hundreds of hours on my major paintings, but AI can crank out a decent looking picture in seconds. Both outcomes are not truly comparable, but it IS discouraging.

Despite all the negatives, I am enjoying making pictures with AI, finding it to be a new pathway for creativity. It is fun and magical. The images on this website were generated by DALL·E 3, with Microsoft Designer. They reflect my interests, concepts, and aesthetic taste, covering a spectrum from profound to downright silly. I will continue to share more images on the site as time allows.

Check out my real-world, human-made creations on my other websites: The Art of Joel Fletcher and Joel Fletcher Imaginative Paintings.

© 2024 Joel Fletcher