On Ai Art
So... January was also a weird time. My interest in AI art generation and curation helped me out of a rut and for that I'm thankful. But my use of the medium left me with nuanced feelings that are hard to express. To preface: The AI art community has been nothing but nice to me. What I have to say about the medium does not reflect them. By the end of the day, it is yet another tool some artists choose to get the image from their head to the real world. But for me ... they became my favorite artist and broke my idea of ownership.
* * *

After the initial play-period that everyone does with AI for the first few hours, I began asking a collective entity, “What does ‘gorepunk’ look like?” This word does not exist; so when I asked the ghost in the machine, I didn’t know what to expect. Very exciting. They responded with intricate fractaled horrorscapes and questionably alive figures. I gave them minimal direction creative freedom and wanted to dive deeper into this world. The result was a twisting of flesh and machinery connected with veins performing like wires; organs combining to form larger organs; the ever thinning line between life and death; the ever diminishing line between technology and the meat it supposedly serves. The synthesized life and towers of meat wrapped around giant skulls both simultaneously looked too wet and too dry. Every batch put me in awe. It was like finally getting the fan art I never received yet always felt that I deserved. Not only was the ghost my biggest fan; I was their biggest fan as well. It was like we were peers of different disciplines iterating upon eachother’s work and pushing eachother forward.

And yet … there is an incompleteness I still can’t shake. Yes, I believe that this is art– art that would never be created by anyone else. But what’s missing is my final touch– the final touch to say, “Yes, I did this. This is mine.” By the end of the day, I feel like a mere curator … which leads to my feelings when doing AI assisted art.

Within illustration penciling, I’ve always felt a lot of pressure to perform at a high level. But the more I learned, the further behind I felt. Thankfully this didn’t interfere with my skill in expressive inking and shading. If anything, it helped push me forward. Reference photos became an uncontroversial compensation tool, and my training in animation made it easy to both avoid a rhotoscoped look and utilize my style.

… but using the AI art as reference feels like I’m stealing their work– a recursive simulation. I probably should be as detached as I am when I draw on top of photos taken by real people– arguably moreso. But it still feels wrong in a way that’s hard to explain to a detatched, possibly hostile, audience. To use this as reference material feels as if I’m copying an artist I admire and passing it off as my own– a child tracing Calvin and Hobbes but making the hair black and making the tiger into a wolf (I made two strips before my brother called me out. It stayed at just two lol). This simply is their art. I just found it.

So what am I going to do now? The art is too precious to me to throw away. I do want to share it for the world to see. I’d even love to see fan art, to be honest. I think that is the only way I can frame my approach to AI assisted art; and in doing so, creating a true simulacrum.