If you spend time online, you probably come across some sort of AI-generated art. This could be any form of digital art created or enhanced with AI tools. Nowadays, the concept of AI art is both popular and controversial, everyone from creators on the internet to top firms is getting on board with it.
There is an ongoing debate about the legitimacy and ethical implications of AI art, therefore, it is worth exploring it. In the guide below, we will have a look at what AI art is, how it was introduced to the world, and how it works.
AI Art Defined
AI art, in its simplest definition, is any art, whether visual, audio, or otherwise, that is created by AI machines as opposed to humans. Artificial intelligence is the technology that allows computers to process information and independently solve problems, essentially learning the way that humans do.
Over the last few years, the capabilities of AI have been widely explored and included in the art world. Now, it is not unusual to see creative digital portraits, videos, audio, etc. floating on the internet and entirely AI-generated. This is not to say that a human is not involved in AI art at all. Usually, it is a human who prompts the AI to create art in the first place and usually decides what the concept of the art piece will be. However, the effort of creating the piece from scratch or based on references is made by the AI.
AI Art Explained
You might be wondering how AI is able to create art in the first place. This all boils down to how AI works as a whole. AI programs typically need to be ‘fed’ existing material that they can learn from. In the case of art, AI sorts through thousands, if not millions, of references and begins to learn patterns. It learns what objects are supposed to look like, how different art styles work, and so on. By having this knowledge, an AI is able to create artwork, usually based on prompts.
For instance, by analyzing thousands of paintings, an AI program knows what a Renaissance-style painting would look like and can recreate one on command. A common way that AI is made is by a user feeding instructions into the tool.
Or let’s take the images of comedian Steve Harvey running from various urban legend monsters in the woods. What most likely happened is that a human instructed an AI to create such images, and using this prompt, the AI would scour the web and find out what Steve Harvey looks like and what the common urban legend monsters look like. If it was told an art style, it would analyze what the image would look like and then create it. And unlike a human who would need to spend hours (if not days or weeks) digitally or manually painting the images, AI art generators have tools to do this in minutes or even seconds.
There are several AI programs on the market like DeepDream, DALL-E, and Artbreeder that specialize in meeting the demand for AI art.
History of AI Art
While it’s really blown up in recent years, AI art has been around since the 1960s. An early iteration was a program called the Aaron system which was developed by Harold Cohen, a British artist. This program was able to create art independently and this got both it and its creator a lot of attention.
In July 2015, Google LLC released DeepDream, an AI tool that uses a neural network to find and enhance patterns in images. Years later, it released a text-to-image tool that would let users create AI art simply by tying prompts.
Other tools have since hit the market, and many of these employ GAN models to analyze previous art and create new art pieces. Another notable development during this time was the release of Ganbreeder, an AI tool that allows for the creation of new images using existing ones. This has been a milestone as it means that the millions of images that already exist in the world could become references for AI art development.
But while AI art tools have been in the consumer market for years, things really took off around the early 2020s. This was mostly because AI tools like ChatGPT became more prominent in the public eye. Now, everyone is becoming aware of what AI is capable of doing. People began leveraging these tools to write marriage vows, make songs and, of course, create art.
Generating AI Art
So, you’ve decided to take the step and begin creating AI art. It would be best to follow these steps:
- Choose an AI art generator. As you’ll see from this article, there are several on the market and some will be better for you than others. It would be best to compare reviews online to help you make a choice. Once you’ve chosen a site, set up an account.
- Input your prompt. One thing to keep in mind is that your text prompts have to be as detailed as possible. Because you are dealing with a machine and not a human, you will have to be very descriptive and not expect the tool to fill in the gaps. As a rule, make sure your prompt includes the type of art, the subject, details about the subject, the art style, and the angle if you can. So, instead of a prompt asking for “a picture of a beautiful house”, you should say, “Render an illustration of a mid-20th century-style American house with two stories and a wide lawn in a minimalist style”. The latter is more likely to get you the results that you want. Feel free to play around with different prompts until you get the results that you want and familiarise yourself with the tool.
- Download your art. At this point, the AI tool should deliver your artwork for you to download and share as you like.
Types of AI Art Programs
Most of the AI art programs that exist on the market are based on a handful of models:
- Generative adversarial network (GAN). GAN uses a combination of neural networks and deep learning to create artwork based on user prompts. When a user enters a prompt, a tool based on GAN will predict what the art should look like and then create based on this. Examples of these include ARTGAN and MidJourney.
- Recurrent neural network (RNN). RNN generates sequences based on previous data fed into it. Examples of this include NightCafe, alignDRAW, and Apple’s Siri tool.
- Neural style transfer (NTS). This can be used to transfer the art style of one image to a whole new one. Tools such as Fotor and Neural Style Transfer employ this model to produce art.
- Convolutional neural network. Tools such as DeepDream use this model to identify objects within existing images and transfer them to new ones.
AI Art vs. Human Art
With the popularity of AI art, there has also been a debate about whether it is ethical. For as long as humans have existed, all of our art has been made by us. Some now think that the emergence of AI art could threaten the livelihood of human artists. It’s also been argued that AI art isn’t really art and shouldn’t be taken seriously.
Differences between AI Art and Human Art. AI art and human art both have their own unique characteristics that differentiate them. AI art is generated using algorithms, mathematical equations, and machine learning, while human art is created by means of intuition, personal experiences, and emotional expression.
As the public has become more aware of AI art, we seem to be getting better at spotting it. People online have pointed out certain telltale signs that an image was AI-generated and once the novelty of this sort of art dies out, it is debatable whether or not any interest in it will remain.
Controversy of AI Art
Since AI art began making waves inside and outside the art world, there have been several scandals. First, there is a debate among artists about whether art that wasn’t made by a human can even be considered art at all. The way some see it, AI art is a copout for those too lazy or not talented enough to compete on their own merits.
And considering the fact that a piece of AI art recently won an art contest, this debate is not going away anytime soon. Looking at AI art, there appear to be a number of pros and cons.
The first advantage of AI-generated art is that it saves artists’ time by instantly bringing their ideas to life. Besides, artists can save money on physical and digital supplies by using AI art. Furthermore, AI allows those without the resources, skills, or training to participate in art.
Meanwhile, the use of AI art means that human artists are missing out on potential commissions and income. AI art could undercut the effort and talent of human artists, as well as enable plagiarism by recreating human artists’ work without their consent. Above all, many artists and art lovers have pointed out inconsistencies in AI art.
AI Art Examples
Over the last few years, we’ve gotten a wealth of examples of AI art. There are classic paintings redone in a different art style, internet users having AI generate portraits of them, re-imagining real-life people in bizarre scenarios, AI-generated songs of famous artists, biblically accurate angels, movie trailers, and much more.
A prime example of AI art is the “Keep Running” artwork produced by James She during the COVID-19 lockdown period. The painting shows horses in a variety of energetic and powerful poses. A GAN model was used to create a series of horse paintings that capture the same sense of strength and energy.
Another example is “The Next Rembrandt” – an AI-generated 3D painting created by a team of researchers from Delft University of Technology, Microsoft, and the Museum Het Rembrandthuis.
AI art is on track to be one of the most influential and controversial art movements in the 21st century. While some see it as an example of human genius, others think it is a threat. Nonetheless, the AT technologies are here to stay. As time goes on, we’ll probably see even more examples of AI art’s capabilities as various tools are widely used.