Can Artificial Intelligence (AI) Produce Fine Art?

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Let’s imagine. You type in a string of words, click on a submit button and Artificial Intelligence (AI) generates an image based on its interpretation of what you typed in. Is that your artwork? According to a Colorado man that won first place at an art fair for aforementioned artwork, it was. Jason Allen, had a few words for his critics after winning the prize. “I’m not going to apologize for it. I won, and I didn’t break any rules.” Perhaps, but some may think he broke a golden rule. Was it unethical for him to submit the work or was it the Colorado State Fair Fine Arts competition judges’ faux pas for not vetting the AI software generator he used? Only a look at his registration form may reveal a picture of how clear things actually were about the use of an AI generator for his art submission.

Many stated in forums, “it’s not like he worked solely with a digital drawing program.” AI can be trained to produce. For example, AI does not know who Jean-Michel Basquiat is, but with the right input data from programmers into a database, it can learn. Allen used an AI generator created by coders that pulled art from a database of copyright free images allegedly with some hours of his own custom image editing, mixing and matching according to what he wanted and typed in. The AI did all of the heavy hauling. In other words, any novice could type in the same information on the website, and end up with similar results. He used an AI generator to help kick pixels and color into shape as he purportedly spent hours manipulating images and typing in different phrases to get what he was looking for. Some would be interested in hearing the details about what was involved with his “fine-tuning” and “programming” the AI generator (as mentioned in PC Mag) so it could generate his prize-winning work. Since the AI generator he used is not open source, more than likely, he is referring to the commands that can be typed in while generating AI artwork.

When all was done, he proceeded to enter his work in the Colorado State Fair Art Fair and win first place in the digital art category. “Théâtre D’opéra Spatial” was the AI work he had printed on canvas. Fine artists could painstakingly take months to produce the same work using paints and brushes. With an AI generator, you type in the scenario you want, painter style, look, colors, art style etc., and voila! You are done within seconds or several hours depending on how satisfied you are with the AI generated results. You can keep generating until you are satisfied with the art so what percentage of the work was actually done without the AI generator?

Allen later posted on social media that he had won first place in the state fair using AI. It drew a lot of interest. Some thought it was great that people with no art skills had a tool like this to use. Many artists were not pleased. Allen told the New York Times, he owes no one an apology. “I won, and I didn’t break any rules,” he said. It was mentioned that the host of the Colorado State Art Fair saw no problem with AI being used in the digital category. Taking that position is not surprising considering the controversy associated with the final decision.

Unfortunately, the judges were not aware that he was using an AI generator, nor how they worked. Who would recognize the product name? It was recently released in Beta July, 12, 2022 so many didn’t know how it worked nor what it did. He had an unfair advantage, and used it. Allen said it was a combination of his own work using an image editing program and the art generated by the AI. He even gave the software company credit alongside his name. According to news sources, it read “Jason Allen via Midjourney,” but did the judges know what that really meant? They may have thought it was an artist’s eccentricity to add that after his name. For example, It could mean Jason Allen, in the middle of his journey.

Some might say, AI beat out real artists, but many artists obviously disagree. They believe AI has no place in the world of fine art, and it was a $300 (prize money) lesson for the state fair. Again, the judges were not aware that the art was AI generated, nor how the ai generator works. At most, it has raised awareness for future competitions. Fine artists may stop supporting the state fair art show and stick with galleries and competitions that only allow traditional art work. Surely, art collectors and reputable fine art galleries are not looking for digital art that can be mass produced, considerably lowering the value of the work. Such AI works should have their own category, just like digital art, in its own space. After all, it is AI technology.

What’s most mind boggling is that anyone can use that same artwork without his permission, if it was totally generated with AI and using copyright free images. In addition to that, Allen’s taunting statement made to the Times that “The ethics isn’t in the technology. It’s in the people. This isn’t going to stop. Art is dead, dude. It’s over.  AI won. Humans lost.” may speak volumes about his intentions and as to whether he is an artist or just a user dabbling in AI technology to taunt artists. He definitely has raised questions about his own ethics and perhaps even artist envy. Interestingly enough is that he’s drawn more attention for the AI program than his own work. He’s generated good publicity for the AI software he used. Could it be that was always the intention here? He’s asking for $750 for the canvas printed work, bringing it all to a cool $1050, if he gets it.

The upside is, AI will never replace the human feel that exists between an artist and their work. To touch and hold something a human worked on has much more meaning to a collector than a print-out from someone that wants to be a fine artist, but isn’t. Surely, an artist wouldn’t make such statements as “art is dead.” Only a person lacking a deep understanding of the artist’s life and world would not get it. In the end, the use of AI for creating art will no doubt make fine art produced in the traditional manner by human artists more valuable and respected. Even in the commercial art realm, where AI belongs, AI art cannot replace the ever changing creative mind of a human being. Software only does what it is told. It has to be trained. Anything generated from it is the same as using clip art.

Bottom line. If you are buying fine art or accepting it into a competition, ask the right questions. Know its origins and how it was created. From there, determine its value. Can AI (artificial intelligence) produce fine art? It can only generate representations of it, according to input. It is a great place to brainstorm ideas and produce commercial art when you can’t find the right clip art you need as was done with the banner on this article.


The banner art was created using the FREE AI. The text typed in to generate it was “robot with paint brushes, canvas and easel, painting a picture.” Try it out for yourself. No login required.


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