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What AI Art Has Revealed About Non-Artists 

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at VCU chapter.

Humanity craves art the same way that I crave Pickle-O’s from Sonic Drive-In. It’s inherent, down to the very core of us as a species. Before we had words, we still had pictures. Pictures for the sake of stories, for the sake of connections. 

Every piece of art made, whether intended for this or not, is created to unpack what it means to be human. Even the doodles I made in my math notebook in high school unpack a tiny morsel of the complicated human condition. That truth was that painters don’t like pre-calculus, but I’m also pretty sure only math teachers like pre-calculus. 

Most artists would gladly make work without any promise of a profit, because it’s ingrained into our bones to create, regardless of whether there’s a dollar bill on a string in front of us or not. 

And yet, few careers in this world are taken less seriously than artists, even though we are responsible for most of the media in this world that gives everyone distractions from the mundanity of it all. The joke is that creative careers are unstable, likely because creativity in itself is unstable. It’s like a sandcastle, you have no idea if it will last through the night. There’s no way to measure creativity, to truly define it. Art is also not an instant process, you don’t snap your fingers at some paint and get a masterpiece. Even picking what colors you put on the palette is a calculated process.

However, in a world run by money and instant gratification, it’s become easy for artificial intelligence (AI) softwares to swoop in and grab people’s attention. You don’t have to wait for people who take months or years on their work when you can have images and videos at the click of a button. The result is instant, and you can start using your image for whatever your intended purpose. It has always been about communication and connection, but in the past century it has turned into commodification. 

 It has never been more clear to me how people want to consume art with complete disregard for the artists than with AI art programs. All AI art programs were trained by work stolen from real artists, art that took time and thought and heart. AI art softwares gives you paintings instantaneously, the result without the work, and yet robbing from the hours invested by others.

Imagine the rage I feel logging onto Instagram and seeing someone use an AI software to make “art” of a book character and calling themself an artist. They typed some words into a box and clicked “generate”. The comments are worse. They don’t know it’s AI, and more horrifyingly, they don’t care. 

They don’t view the time and effort artists put into perfecting their craft as valuable, that it’s worth their time to develop those skills on their own. When machines can do it for you, why would you take the time to learn about how great art gets made? They want an easy route to be able to translate what they see in their head to images, but there is no hack for the humanity that it takes to make art. 

The thing people who don’t make art often struggle to understand, is that “talent” isn’t something preordained by the universe. It’s not winning a raffle, where you get a few pencils and a sign that says “Congrats, You Can Draw.” I wasn’t born with innate skill, even though I felt like Da Vinci himself with my 64 pack of crayons as a kid. There was no secret ingredient in the lemonade I drank as a child. I just really enjoyed the act of drawing, of having an idea and trying – and at that age, mostly failing – to transfer it to paper. I practiced, I consumed art that made me wonder if I’d ever be any good, and I found joy in the process. I worked really hard, and honed my craft over years of work. 

I don’t say any of this to scare people away from making art. Make art, make lots of it, and more importantly, be comfortable making bad art. It’s going to happen, Art is all about making mistakes, good art doesn’t exist in a vacuum. It is intrinsically personal, an extension of our minds and our experiences. A computer doesn’t have those, it will never see the world through your eyes. 

One of my first drawings is a ladybug I drew on a piece of printer paper that I strung a ribbon through to make a Christmas ornament. It’s the size of those colossal chocolate chip cookies, with way too many spots, blue eyes, a green nose, and lipstick. By any standard, it’s ugly. But no one could argue it lacks personality. AI could paint you a ladybug, paint you a million, but none of them will truly be yours. 

Campbell is a junior at VCU, majoring in communication arts. When she's not cramming projects for her studio classes she loves reading, writing, and trying Richmond coffee shops like they're checkpoints on a quest.