An AI-Generated Painting Wins Art Contest, Annoys Artists

An AI-Generated Painting Wins Art Contest, Annoys Artists
Photo by Birmingham Museums Trust / Unsplash

Mr. Jason M. Allen entered his AI-generated artwork into Colorado State Fair’s art competition and won first place in the Digital Arts/Digitally Manipulated Photography category. The situation is generating fiery debate about AI and art on Twitter.

His piece of art “Théâtre d’Opéra Spatial” is generated with an AI called Midjourney . As stated on their website Midjourney is an independent research lab exploring new mediums of thought and expanding the imaginative powers of the human species.

Midjourney is basically a research lab that produces an artificial intelligence program that creates images from textual descriptions.

He created 100s of images using it and after weeks of improvement process through minor alteration or revision, he chose the top three. He then upscaled them using GigaPixel AI, printed them on canvas, and submitted them to the competition in early August.

But when Allen posted about the win on Midjourney Discord server and prompted lively discussions on Twitter, Reddit, and the Midjourney Discord server.

(Image credit: Jason Allen)
TL;DR — Someone entered an art competition with an AI-generated piece and won the first prize. Yeah that’s pretty fucking shitty — Genel Jumalon on Twitter

An artist Genel Jumalon said in a tweet about Allen’s win.

We’re watching the death of artistry unfold right before our eyes — if creative jobs aren’t safe from machines, then even high-skilled jobs are in danger of becoming obsolete What will we have then? — OmniMorpho on Twitter

Some replied to the tweet that thinks human artistry is going to be doomed thanks to AI and that all artists are destined to be replaced by machines.

The discussion was about the nature of art and what it means to be an artist.

According to Allen, his input was important when generating the award-winning painting. He had been exploring special prompts in the process of generating his piece.

The competition submission guidelines don’t directly mention A.I.-generated art, but they define digital arts as “artistic practice that uses digital technology as part of the creative or presentation process.

Allen’s piece is a clear example of how AI or machine learning has advanced. Trained on millions of internet images. But don't forget without the real human artworks on the internet, these AI tools would not have been possible.

Modern AI tools like DALLE-E 2 and Midjourney are one of the hottest topics in AI as their capabilities are getting more and more impressive since they started yet these tools are still in the research phase.

Similarly, the invention of the camera in the late 1800s prompted similar ramifications since the camera was able to do the job hundreds of times faster without any brush and pencil and more importantly painting skills- but human painters are still around today because of the authenticity and uniqueness of their handmade art.

Photography became a different medium despite the fact it produces a similar result and it requires completely different skills for the photographers to master this newly invented tool.

My take is that AI-Generated art should be considered as a different medium or category of creating art because it’s a new tool and it needs new technical skills to master. I still believe our human-created art will still be around because of the handmade value that created the masterpiece. In fact, it would have been even more windblown if someone created a masterpiece without any of these automation tools because it’s 100 percent his or her brain and body.