AI art; that is, drawings that are made by writing some “prompts” of what you want into an AI program and letting her just spawn a drawing in seconds; are one of the newest hot topics that create a shitstorm about every week. It’s a topic i wasn’t particularly invested on; and still probably aren’t; as i consider it something inevitable no matter how much we speak of it. But i’ve found myself having to talk about it often by the mere fact that every time i speak of it, it seems almost every person on earth completely misunderstand my arguments to the point of non sequitur. This is something that happens to me a lot; i’m not very interested or invested on a topic, but i get increasingly annoyed by people throwing incredibly bad arguments that then they defend solely using fallacies while they misunderstand; probably intentionally in many cases; what i say, and i end up talking more about it than i would ever do in an attempt to make my position clear.

This is such an attempt.

And i know for a fact that it will serve to nothing, both because (understandably) not many people will read this, and because even if they do they’ll respond again with something that has absolutely no relationship with what i said, no matter how concise i said it. So this is more an exercise for me, to get it out my chest, link it to whoever is strawmaning me like a madman and ignore them.

  A version of one of my drawings that an AI made

So first we probably have to take some things outta the way. For starters, i would like people to understand that; as it happens with almost everything in life; things aren’t a black and white absolute of two completely opposed positions that agree with every single point of their side and disagree with everything on the other side. Things have nuance. And like everything, you can like some things about AI, dislike others, agree in some things with the pro-AI position and in others with the anti-AI position; which is my case. I’m kind of tired of saying my one point to dislike AI art (because it really all boils down to one point) and get instantly lumped into a strawman of someone who supports every single anti-AI position.

Other point we have to understand is the topic of AI is a topic of opposed interests, and both sides seem to be ignoring the positives or negatives for the other side. AI is a technology that negatively impacts artists while positively impacts possible clients who now can have their stuff for free. It makes sense that the average non artist would support AI, because it’s yet another thing that they had to pay for a lot in the past and now they will have for free or much cheaper. And it makes sense that artists would be opposed to it as is affect us negatively in different ways. As an artist, i’m obviously on the artists side, but i do recognize this is purely due to my personal interest: I want to keep working as an artist. Some people on the pro-AI side seem to be trying to use deflecting arguments to not admit they simply want free art, or they find delight on artists being fucked in the ass (more on that later).

Another thing to take outta the way is the fact that just because you dislike something or have arguments for one of the sides, it doesn’t mean that you want to do something about it. People can simply have that thing called Opinions that don’t need to go beyond what crosses your mind. I know there are *some* artists trying to hard-regulate or outright forbid AI art, but that is not my position. It’s a new technology that has its uses and we aren’t gonna stop technological advancement because it negatively affects some people. This has happened before with many jobs that went through automation and fucked up the workers to the benefit of buyers. But you also have to understand that just because this isn’t something we can; or should; stop, or just because it has happened before, it doesn’t mean artists have to like it. I also don’t think we should outlaw Microtransactions and i’m pretty sure most of us don’t like them either. Again, kinda tired that every time i make some argument for how AI is negatively affecting us i have a horde of people accusing me of being a horrible person who wants to stop progress, even in tweets in which i’ve literally stated that AI art shouldn’t be forbidden. But reading before responding is too mainstream.

With those overall things outta the way, i think it’s best if we separate every AI discussion, because as i said, there’s a lot of nuance and things i agree and not agree with, and my point of contention is basically just one that i’ll probably go into at the end:

-Is AI art “art”?:

One of the most argued topics on the net is if AI art can be considered art or not. You see a lot of arguments in favor or against, and i could go on to call out some of the bad ones but i’m not going to go into that because this is actually not a topic that bothers me at all, because i think it’s not a topic that can be solved. To decide if AI art is art, first we would have to define what is art. And the debate about what is art, exactly, has been going on for literally millennia with no end in sight. We just cannot find a definition of art that we can more or less agree on. And if we cannot find that definition, how do we decide if AI fits into it or not?

This is a point of discussion that is completely personal. People will think that AI is or is not art based entirely on their personal definition of art, which will be completely different from the person they’re arguing with. Personally i updated my definition of art several times through university until i reached the conclusion that it’s pointless to try to define it. I do have my personal opinions on things that i do not consider art, or things i do consider art that others don’t, (you had to see me try to defend videogames as art at university; oh boy, the hate i got) but i deal with it on a case by case basis, rather than trying to search for an overall fit-all description.

So for some artists this will be a dealbreaker that will make them hate AI as a concept. And that’s fine. As i said this is a very personal topic. I can see how it could grind someone’s ears to see people call those drawings “art” if you’re fundamentally opposed to the principle. I can also see how someone could have no issue with it if their definition of art is so wide it would include everything in the world. I mean Post-modernism exists. Much as i hate it.

-Is AI art “theft”?:

This is most likely THE topic for most artists, with a ton of discussions over how the AI functions and creates the drawings by looking at other artists drawings, and arguing over the exact procedures it uses to accomplish that. Does it get inspiration? copy? trace? copy-paste? And ironically, i’m also not very bothered by it, and my reasoning is more or less the same as the previous topic. What constitutes “theft” has been a topic of debate though the ages, with a lot of variance in what artists consider bad or valid. What differentiates “homage” from “plagiarism”, “inspiration” from “copy”? For many artists, looking at real life photos for references to draw is a completely normal thing. Yet artists are continuously being sued for using photos as references under the accusation of “plagiarism”. Taking inspiration is a completely normal thing to do; until you find out some artists are constantly scrutinized by people who try to track every inspiration they could’ve had and present it as bad. Many comic artists imitate their idols, and for some it’s fine, and for some they “copy too much”. I know artists who vilify the idea of looking at another artist’s drawing for inspiration, but then they literally trace from photos because “it’s a photo not a drawing”, because for them that somehow makes that much of a difference. I know people who see tracing as the worst offense ever, but then they themselves do overpaint (basically tracing but only for the colors). Many comic artists use 3d models or background assets for the backgrounds, and some artists outright use internet photos for backgrounds with just some filter. I’ve done myself homages many times to different fictional works and i’m always afraid that no matter how clear i make it’s intentional, i’ll be accused of plagiarism for it.

You’ve probably found yourself positioning your opinion on one side or the other as you read that last paragraph. And if we have such a huge variance on what constitutes theft among ourselves, how we decide if the AI does it? People try to go over it by trying to define how the internal specifics work, but it’s not a topic that can be resolved that way because even if we were all under the same knowledge of its inner workings, we would still disagree on the point at which it crosses the “theft” line.

So again i have my personal case-by-case basis to define what’s theft or whatnot, but i find that if it’s a topic we cannot define in an objective way, i’m not gonna bother with it. If i get asked by an art site if i want to allow my drawings for the AI to study i’ll click No and leave it at that.

-Are AI prompters “artists”?:

On this one i have an opinion, but i don’t think it’s going to be controversial, as it’s the same as almost everyone i’ve seen on any side of the discussion. Independently of if we consider AI art to be art or not, AI “artists” are not artists, because they’re not doing anything artistic themselves; it’s the AI that does it all. You can use AI all you want but calling yourself an artist for writing some prompts would be like calling yourself a potter because you push the Start button in the factory machine that builds the pots. Again not much of a hot take here since even people in favor of AI agree that those calling themselves artists are kinda cringe.

-Should AI art be allowed to be sold?:

Another point of contention is how now non-artists use AI to create tons of drawings like a factory line and sell them at stores or conventions at a much faster rate than humans, and some in the anti-AI side want that forbidden or at least regulated.

I don’t think AI art should be forbidden to be sold, but “shouldn’t be forbidden” is kind of my default position for almost everything. In regards to regulating, there are some things that i would probably do. I think AI art should clearly present itself as made by AI. If someone wants to buy it it’s their right, but they should know what they’re buying. I would consider anyone who sells AI art presenting it as regular art to be a scammer. I would also consider that art spaces should be mainly for artists. I’m not saying that a convention should forbid AI booths, but if there are real artists trying to get a booth, the con should give them priority, and only allow the AI if there’s enough room for everyone. I’ve had my art controlled at cons to make sure i was selling mostly Original characters and comics rather than fanarts, with the excuse of promoting self publishing artists; Which is fine, but if i am subjected to that scrutiny as an artist i don’t see why AI shouldn’t be subjected to the same scrutiny and give preference to artists. The same could be said of Art sites. Many art sites have been swamped by AI drawings covering the main page and trending bars, hiding the real artists. Sites should probably establish some policy that the art should be tagged as AI and then have an algorithm that gives preference to real artists, or have different sections for AI.

This may seen “discriminatory” to AI but think about it this way: Imagine you have a website for handicrafts and then people start to suddenly post images of products from IKEA and other large manufacturers, by the thousands, completely swamping the site and hiding the real handicrafts. I don’t think much people would complain if the site enforced rules to make the handicrafts more visible. The site is ABOUT handicrafts, after all. So we probably have to work out what do we do exactly on this topic, but something should be done.

-Are artists gonna be replaced?:

No, artists aren’t gonna be replaced, no matter how cool the results from AI are, there are a bazillion things artists do better and the AI can’t do, and there will always be personal creations captivating people’s minds, but this point is useless to argue because THERE’S NO ONE SAYING THIS. The only people i’ve seen making this argument have been Pro-AI people strawmaning artists as if we are saying this. We aren’t. If you see a Pro-AI saying this you can know they’re lying because they have nothing of value to say. Our argument is a different one about reduction of income.

-AI causes a reduction in income:

This is THE point for me. This is the thing why i don’t like AI, and also the thing i get most strawmaned about all the time. AI art is a negative for artists because its existence allows people and companies to get many of the things they want for free, so they don’t have to hire artists, and as such, our income suffers.

This isn’t even a theory, it’s a 100% confirmed fact. I say this because every time i mention it, i have a horde of people saying that AI has never, ever, nor will ever, ever cause any reduction of income and we are talking shit. But that statement is instantly proven wrong because even in those same threads i also have people telling me that now that AI exists they don’t have to hire artists anymore for their stuff. And it’s not only individual clients. Some book editorials have already announced they’re gonna stop hiring artists and use AI. Tabletop rpg companies have also started doing that. In Japan, they’re already selling Illustration books made entirely by AI, and there are several videogames made with AI art as well. All of those are products that would’ve needed to hire an artist, meaning there are already, AS OF NOW, tons of artists who have not being hired for those jobs, and as such have lost income. Lost of income is a proven reality no matter how you look at it, there’s no discussion to be had about if it does. It just does.

Edit: I’m gonna add a video here, because i wrote this some months ago and since then there has been so much stuff the AI has affected artists income there’s no way someone could with a straight face pretend it hasn’t.

Now again this is a matter of conflicting interests. For non-artists AI is great, because they can get their drawing of Yor Forger in bikini without paying anyone, or do a videogame when they only know coding, or write a book without hiring anyone for the cover, or companies just getting rid of artist expenses. But for artists it’s very bad, as we will lose income. Many who were on a paycheck-to-paycheck basis, so to speak, will probably now not earn enough to keep working on this and will have to work on something else. People who did commissions as a side gig because their job didn’t pay enough will now have troubles. Fuck it even if you’re not in such a harsh situation, less money is still less money. If i earn 300$ less per month it hurts even if can still go on. So yeah, as i said previously; this is new technology that we shouldn’t try to stop, and the overall public will benefit from it, and there’s probably nothing we can do to stop this from going the route of other automated jobs; but that doesn’t mean as an artist i have to like it and shut up. I would pretty much prefer to keep earning money and work on this, as it’s what i like. I hammer this point because, as obvious as it is, it seems a lot of people do not understand it. Like they cannot conceive someone would prefer to work in something they like rather than having some soul crushing job and then doing a couple drawings for fun.

And that takes me to the absolutely horrid, dumb ass ridiculous arguments that people tell me when i say this, beginning precisely with the people saying stupid shit like “you’re not entitled to a job”.

No shit Sherlock. Who in the ever living fuck told you otherwise? Did you see an artist mentioning that they would like to work as an artist and for some fucking reason you instantly went to “this is a commie who thinks the government must give them a job”? Could you stop throwing the widest of widest of blankets over people? What in anything i’ve said until now even begins to hint at me being entitled to a job? Come on, tell me, what part of “this tech is gonna cause us to lose income and i kinda don’t like that” is saying that? Can you explain it without fallacies or would you sound too stupid?

Sorry for the funny “spaniard using english words in ways that don’t make sense” language but these are precisely the kind of piss poor arguments that i mentioned at the beginning that make me end up frustrated at the discussions. It’s outright retarded. I think the AI debacle has revealed a lot of what i refer to “i hate my job so i have to make sure everyone hates theirs too”. I have seen a ton of people with a “fuck artists” attitude that doesn’t seem to come from anything logical, and they always give those kind of arguments like “you’re not entitled to a job”, “just work on a different thing and draw for fun”, “oh didn’t you say you like drawing? then why you want to charge money for it? hypocrite!”, “Just learn AI yourself and do your commissions writing prompts, it will be quicker!”. The only conclusion i can get from there is that these people have soul crushing jobs they hate, and so they hate people who have worked hard to be able to live of what they love. They hate that you can enjoy your job when they have to suffer through it. So they are delighted that artists are now in danger, and they make sure to express it, showing joy that now many artists will be out of a job and poking us with some stupid variant of “if you can’t earn money now it means you’re one of the bad ones!”, as if automation has never hurt people who know how to do their jobs. Or maybe they’re projecting how much they suck at their own jobs.

That leads me to another bad argument that comes up on this topic. You always get non-artists, who don’t understand how the artistic process or can’t understand someone enjoying their work, telling you “just learn to use AI”.

There are two ways they mean this. The first is they mean to just use AI the way any non artist does. Just write the prompts, get a drawing and sell that. All nice and dandy… except the fucking reason i work as an artist is i like to draw…. I’m not an artist because i want to write a text and see how pretty whatever the AI spawns look. I’m also not artist because it gives a lot of money (believe me, IT DOESN’T). If i just wanted money and was forced to stop being an artist, it doesn’t translate that i would work on AI. That’s a non sequitur. It makes as much sense to change to AI than to change to a factory worker pressing Start on the machine. And i would probably earn more as a factory worker. Again this is an argument made by people who either can’t understand the concept of doing a job because you like it, or people who hate their job and want you to hate yours too. And that’s not even considering the client side, because i would think it’s obvious if someone hires an artist is because they want the artist to do the fucking drawing. If you’re just gonna use an AI they can do it themselves.

And of course if you say this, you inevitably get the mindfuck dumb ass people telling you “you said you draw because you like to draw! but you want to earn money of it?! hypocrisy! do it for free!”, which is such a stupid argument it makes you wonder how they have survived this long.

The other way the mean it is as a tool to help artists do their drawings. Which is something i WOULD agree with, as i’ve adopted every new technology for artists that has come out; digital drawing, 3d models, tone converters, photo to model, vectors, etc, etc. If i saw something the AI could help me with, i would use it, no problem. And i will do it if i can see some sensible use in the future; as i said, i don’t have the same moral issues other artists have. The problem is that AI doesn’t do anything i have seen that would be useful as an artist.

This argument is made by non artists precisely because they do not understand how a creative process works. They have seen a couple artists toying with stuff and making some curiosities and they think that means AI is a useful tool. But it isn’t. The things you’ve seen artists do are just funny experiments. I myself threw some of my drawings onto the AI to see what would it do with them. With, ah, varied results

Every example people have tried to show me as proof of an artist using AI has been something like this. Someone doing some funny experiment, telling the AI to draw something and then doing their own version on top. Or throwing one of their drawings into the AI and seeing the results. These are just curiosities, they don’t have a use in real drawing. If someone hires you, you’re not going to just tell the AI to draw some shit and do your version on top. You’ll need to do what the client wants. And since you can’t really edit the AI drawing; it doesn’t have layers, it’s a single image; you would just be drawing yourself again on another layer. Doesn’t solve much. Or in the opposite case you would let the AI do everything and you don’t draw and then what’s the purpose of you being an artist? and how do you adapt to what the client wants? and will the client be happy if you didn’t do anything or almost anything of it? It’s like some people don’t understand that not drawing isn’t the same as drawing, as fucking obvious as that statement seems. Maybe it’s another consequence of this myth that drawing digitally consists on just telling photoshop to apply a filter that draws the entire drawing by itself, so they think we aren’t really drawing anyways, so what’s the difference, ah?

So due to this, a narrative has been born equating the AI topic to moments in the past when useful technologies came out and people dismissed them, and it’s used to call artists reactionaries and all kind of things. But again, that would only be a valid argument if AI was a tech that had positive things for artists. If using AI gave you an edge over other artists and you would be the one to come on top. But that’s a false comparison, it’s not how it works. AI has very little; in case you find something; or no use for an artist improving their workflow. At best it can help you to LIE, by making people think that something the AI spawned is actually yours, and good luck later trying to do what a client wants when the AI refuses to.

It’s purely a non artist tool to save money, which again it’s cool for non artists, but i HOPE you would understand why we as artists would see it as a negative and a threat. And that’s basically my reason for disliking it. I don’t have any big claims of what’s art and theft and whatnot, and i don’t think nothing big should be done about it aside of some minor non-governmental regulation. Geez i’m not even particularly worried about myself; my clients are mostly people with ultra specific fetishes and Original characters who micromanage every single detail of the design, poses and composition. There’s no way they’re gonna be satisfied with the generic drawings an AI spawn. At worst i will lose some of the people who hire fanarts, as those are the easiest to do in AI. But again, none of that means i have to be happy about a tech that has no positives and only negatives for artists. I can dislike the damn thing, even if i ended up using it myself.

I don’t know if that’s all i had to say; i’ll probably add something more as people will begin to strawman what’s written here and i’m reminded of yet another dumb argument i have to laugh at.