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"Creativity and AI can coexist": Artists and designers highlight the benefits of AI image generators while cautioning against abuse


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    “Being an artist, it has really helped me ideate and has given me new ideas,” says Joy Chiang, a Melbourne-based artist who began her journey into art while pregnant with her daughter four years ago. “I know people often assume that text-to-image is very literal, in the sense that when you describe something and then see something, but it is only now that you can input your favourite poem or express a feeling you have derived from an image you have seen. You can even input lyrics from songs you like, just to explore different ideas that you might not have had visually.”

    “I think ultimately it comes down to the intent of how you are using these tools. Regardless of AI or no AI, there will always be people with bad intentions who might copy your artwork, whether it’s a photo of your art or a print of your art, and they might copy it literally. With AI, it’s all about how you use it,” she continued.

    The rise of AI image generation tools like Adobe’s Firefly and OpenAI’s DALL-E has become a topic of discussion within the creative community. Many are concerned that AI, which is capable of creating stunning, photo-realistic images using just a prompt, could present challenges for designers and creative professionals.

    “When I was in my 20s, I started using all sorts of visual aids… They helped me jump into creative fields without really knowing much,” says Perth-based musician Regan Mathews, whose stage name is Ta-Ku, and calls himself a self-taught artist. He has been using various software tools not only to create music but also to up his photography game.

    Adobe Max 2023 Christopher Yee (left), Joy Chiang (center) and Regan Mathews (left) at the Adobe MAX conference in Los Angeles. (Image credit: Anuj Bhatia/Indian Express)

    “If you are socially awkward, which I can sometimes be, and you find it hard to talk to people, having a list of icebreakers that could be a joke or an anecdote is like having Gen AI for creativity… it gets the ball rolling,” Mathews told indianexpress.com in an interview.

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    For Mathews, image-generating AI tools help “level up” skills for someone who has never attended college and lacks a formal degree. “Gen AI lets you jump straight in and try things you could have never done before,” he said. “Culturally, in Asian-Australian families, like the one I come from, many don’t formally study art. I see generative AI as a way of access if you don’t have the mediums or means to study design.” Christopher Yee, another Asian Australian artist and lecturer in digital art, chimes in that he champions digital art and digital expression as a form of representation, accessibility, and storytelling.

    Over the last few months, generative artificial intelligence image tools such as Adobe Firefly, Midjourney, DALL-E, and Stable Diffusion have been transitioning from research labs into the hands of both everyday users and the creative community. In fact, these AI tools are now being incorporated into some of the most popular programmes for creators such as Photoshop and Illustrator.

    Algorithmically generated images have seen significant improvements in accuracy and quality, with some even declaring the potential demise of human creativity.

    Adobe MAX 2023 Grammy-nominated songwriter and musician Oak Felder. (Image credit: Anuj Bhatia/Indian Express)

    Some artists also see AI as an evolution of the creative process, in the same way stock photography did. “Just like an illustrator, I definitely use Gen AI as a reference point,” said Yee. His advice to budding creative professionals is to start investigating how AI can be used in their workflow.

    “Every artist goes through a journey to find their style, and I think it’s the same with generative AI. Because it’s a new tool, many of the images you get may look very similar at first, but the more you work with it, the more nuances you discover, and the more it becomes your artwork,” Chiang explained, while also acknowledging that the audience always appreciates the unique perspective that artists bring to their art, and there’s no doubt about it.

    Mathews says while everyone keeps saying it takes just a simple prompt to create an AI-generated image, you still need an idea and a great story even for that. “We are not creating images using Gen AI for the sake of it,” he says. “It’s like telling a story, having a concept, and really having a strong voice, and then using AI to amplify it. That’s where the power lies.”

    But while AI is getting better and becoming more capable — Adobe’s new Firefly Image Model 2 is designed to offer higher resolution images and render people more accurately — artists and graphic designers aren’t fully embracing the idea of creating entirely new art forms using AI. “I think, as much as people are incorporating it into their workflow, there’s still a niche for artists who solely create using Gen AI, and I believe that’s still going to be a growing trend,” says Chiang.

    Adobe 2023 Adobe says its Gen AI image-generating tool -Firefly- is a ‘co-pilot’ to graphic design rather than a replacement for humans. (Image credit: Anuj Bhatia/Indian Express)

    AI image creation tools may be generating a lot of attention, both on the internet and at major conferences like Adobe MAX, which concluded last week in Los Angeles. However, there are still legal risks associated with AI-generated images, including issues related to intellectual property infringement, that are yet to be fully resolved. The question of who owns the artwork generated by generative AI platforms, you or the platform holder, and whether you can copyright what an AI model creates, remains a matter of debate.

    “Like any art, it can be misused and not done responsibly, that’s the downside to Gen AI,” said Mathews.

    As generative artificial intelligence advances, it’s no surprise that many people question how these image-generating tools oversimplify art using technology.

    “It really depends on the artists’ objectives and whether they are willing to incorporate Gen AI into their workflows because it’s not for everyone,” added Mathews.”I’m highly collaborative and I love using tools that result in much richer outcomes. That’s why I like Gen AI because a lot of the time, I experience writer’s block, even with music, and I get to a point where I become so inundated with thoughts and unsure of how to move forward. For me, it’s a great way to get all my ideas out there as a starting point,” he explained.

    The common consensus is that illustrators and visual artists can use these AI tools to generate ideas, gather inspiration, and experiment with prototypes, but using Gen AI isn’t necessary. Mathews added: “I think creativity and AI can definitely coexist. I see it as an accessory and a powerful one.”

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