AI Generated Art: Is This the Death of Art or the Beginning of a New Wave?


Jason Allen won the digital-art competition at the Colorado State Fair last year for his piece “Théâtre D’opéra Spatial” that he created using the AI software Midjourney. Recently, the US Copyright Office refused to grant him a copyright for his piece, writing, “We have decided that we cannot register this copyright claim because the deposit does not contain any human authorship.” He plans to appeal.

Tyga Maldonado, Guest Writer

Throughout 2022, images generated by artificial intelligence have become more popular, with the softwares DALL-E and Midjourney at the spearhead. Using these tools, creating nearly anything is possible. At first glance, it seems like although there must be some creativity needed to use these tools, they’re not legitimate ways of making art. However, the process of using AI to create images is not as simple or as easy as it seems to the many people trying to use that point to discredit its validity. 

Earlier this year at the Colorado State Fair, Jason Allen won the “digitally manipulated photography” category after using Midjourney to create his submission. This stirred up a lot of controversy, with many people in the comments of a now-viral twitter post angrily calling him out for cheating and using the argument that AI generated art takes no effort. One user under the name OmniMorpho even went so far as to say that Allen’s win may mark a scary turning point for the future of artistic careers: “We’re watching the death of artistry unfold right before our eyes — if creative jobs aren’t safe from machines, then even high-skilled jobs are in danger of becoming obsolete.” However, Allen feels that he did nothing to break the rules of the competition, and stated that there is a human element to what he created that many people dismiss too quickly. 

AI is just another tool, like a camera or paintbrush, that an artist can use in order to create their vision. When photography was first gaining popularity, many didn’t consider it as an artform. Now, it has its place as one, a fate AI could follow. Just as with AI generated images, the debate was about whether or not the “artist” is actually creating anything, since a camera can only capture what is in the real world. Now, we realize that indeed the artist controls and chooses many factors such as lighting, composition, and so on. In a very similar way, using AI to generate art requires a concrete vision and a knowledge of how to manipulate the software. Allen, when speaking on his 1st place entry, said that he spent 80 hours on just the one series of his art, taking weeks to fine tune and curate it. Despite what one might think at first glance, AI generated art isn’t as simple as entering a few words into a website and getting 1st place at an art competition.

Another argument being used against AI image generators is that they need to be fed real images and art in order to create new ones, which means that they plagiarize real humans’ work. This is a tricky point to argue, since without being exposed to other art or images, real painters wouldn’t be able to paint very much either. Most artists paint or draw with techniques or styles they learned from observing other peoples’ art. In time, and with a greater understanding of how AI generated art works, it will be easier to say whether or not these image generators are really plagiarizing or not.

AI art is still new, and it may be too soon to make a concrete judgment about whether or not it is “cheating” or not. However, one thing that is certain is that it can be a useful tool for artists. It may require less technical skill than painting or drawing, but a vision, time, and effort is still needed to make it. On top of that, the definition of art is not concrete. Even though people tend to be too harsh to new ideas, it is undeniable that AI at least has some use as a tool, if not a legitimate form of art.