Images and content © 2022, 2023 by Robb Schmidt

From the "X" Files

Can Artificial Intelligence create Artwork?

Even among the people who create with A.I., the debate about whether it's actually "art" still persists...



There's a lot of talk about Artificial Intelligence these days. It's a relatively new technology that is suddenly everywhere, and everyone seems to have an opinion about it. Some are good, a lot are bad, but one thing is for certain: A.I. is here to stay, and it's going to change all of our lives forever.

AI is exactly what its name suggests. It is intelligence that is artificially generated through the means of a machine and it's software, as opposed to genuine intelligence that is generated through human brains. AI processes large amounts of data in ways our brains are unable to, and it makes it possible for machines to learn from past experiences, adjust accordingly, and perform human-like tasks much quicker, (and often better), than we can.

Some predict it will eventually be used everywhere and for everything. It's already being used in fields such as medicine, science, education, military, transportation, robotics, finance, agriculture, entertainment, manufacturing, and many other areas too numerous to mention here. We can have it write music or code, have conversations with it, play games with it, and yes, even make images with it.

Artificial Intelligence is a tool we use to do things quicker and more efficiently than we were ever able to do so in the past.



In this post I want to discuss the images that are made using A.I., and if they can actually be called artwork? Is it even possible for someone to use smart software to generate art? Like the software itself, the answer is rather complicated.

Many people say that it can't be. These images are just a picture that is randomly generated by a computer program, and how can a randomly generated image from a machine be called "art"? To make their case, many of these people point to the recent U.S. Patent Office's decision that AI generated images can't be copyrighted. But as an artist who creates with it, I disagree with this analysis. These nay-sayers are wrong, and so is the U.S. Patent Office!

That being said, it may surprise you to learn that I agree that MOST images created using artificial intelligence are NOT artwork at all. 

For many people who use A.I. to create images, it's just a fun game. They type in a prompt, (a written command), into the system and the A.I. magically poops out an image for them! Want to see an obese Batman eating a cheeseburger? Just type that as the prompt and in a few seconds there it is for you. A big fat Batman eating a cheeseburger, and probably with a few extra fingers or double rows of teeth! I see a lot of this sort of thing, and I must agree that this is not art.

No effort, and practicly no thought went into making the image. It was just a fun pastime, a game.

However, for a lot of other creators, the A.I. is an amazing tool. And if you have a bit of experience composing artwork in other ways, such as drawing or painting, and you have an 'eye for art' as the old saying goes, you can really come up with some amazing pieces, and there's certainly a lot more to it than just the A.I. pooping it out for you!



For more serious creators, there is a real art involved in making these images. A lot of time, effort, thought, and even money can go into creating a single finished image. The ways these artists go about making their final image can vary greatly, but they are all fine tuning their AI artwork creating skills over time, getting better and developing their own styles.

I see some artists rendering their images over and over again, evolving them into what they have set in their minds as to what they want the final image to look like. And when I say over and over again, I mean dozens and dozens of times!

Each time they will change the prompt slightly, or majorly, to get the AI to change something. Get rid of the hands or eXtra fingers, remove that back figure, change the lighting, add clouds, etc, etc, etc. They spend hours working on a single image until they are satisfied with it. Folks, THIS IS ARTWORK! Contolling the composition in such ways is what all artists do, regardless of the medium being used.

Yes, the image was generated using AI software, but the AI was directed specifically to create the final image we see, by a human brain that knows what it wants to create!

I have personally done this several times and let me tell you, it can be frustrating beyond description trying to get the AI to do what you want it to. There is a real art involved in just fine tuning the written word that is used to instruct the software. 

Another thing I often do now is incorporate a more hands-on eXperience into my AI artwork. Sometimes, when I can't get the AI to do what I want with words, I'll take the image and manually try to edit out/in the things I want to see. Then I'll take my edited version back to the software and feed it back into the system as a base image, tweek my prompt, and regenerate. I call this a "visual prompt". Not only am I telling the AI what to do with words, but I am also showing it what I want with pictures.

Yes, it can take hours to do, and YES, when it is finally done I consider it MY ARTWORK!

The point I'm trying to get across here is that for many AI artists the first image we receive after feeding in our prompt is usually just a starting point. A canvas to create on, even though it's not blank. Many of them are just throw-aways, we have no interest in the image and start over again. But when that right image comes along that does interest us, that's when we start working on it. It's our starting point and we evolve the image through prompts and pictures to get the AI to make what we have envisioned in our minds. There is a lot of human involvement in the process before the final image is generated.



So how do we determine what IS and what IS NOT artwork with AI generated images? Even the U.S. Patent Office's decision mentioned that after a certain amount of human manipulation is put into an AI image, at least the parts that were manipulated can be copyrighted.

Huh? Who determines what parts were manipulated? How does one prove they manipulated the parts? How does another one prove that they didn't? If it all seems over complicated to you, that's simply because it is!

A serious AI artist knows the work that they have put into a piece, and they know whether or not they have created artwork. It's the satisfaction one gets after creating something, no matter how they accomplished it. Furthermore, they can often look at the images created by others and also know if they have reached the category of 'art'.

This is especially true when looking at an AI artist's gallery. Do they consistently pump out images that are 'artistic'? Have they developed their own unique style?

A unique style is yet another proof that artwork can indeed be made with AI software, as it's something that a human fine tunes for themselves and cannot be duplicated by the software alone, (at least not yet).



Artificial Intelligence is a tool. A tool that is allowing us to do things quicker and more efficiently than ever before. In all of it's different applications it is doing this, and this includes the imaging software.

Not everyone who creates images with AI makes artwork, but not everyone who picks up a pencil, pen, or paintbrush creates art with them either. AI Images, and the people who create them, must be judged individually and on their own merits. 

Yes, AI artists can create artwork in a fraction of the time traditional artists do, but that's what artificial intelligence is all about, saving us time and effort in doing things that used to take us much longer to do. All artists now have a tool they can utilize to make images, and yes indeed, they can even create artwork with it!

Artificial Intelligence is still a new technology, at least in how it is being used to infiltrate all aspects of our lives, and it will take some time for us to get used to it, and many court cases to determine the legality of it all.

I have viewed thousands upon thousands of AI generated pieces, and I must say that some artists leave me in awe with the consistant artistic images they create. I would not be surprised if one day some of these artists are eventually catapulted to fame and fortune for their artwork, efforts, and sheer talent!

After all, it is not up to patent offices or algorithms to decide what is and is not art, that is left to the artists themselves and the people who view their artwork to determine.

And with that paragraph I shall rest my case!


July 29th, 2023