AI wins art contest, artists are furious

(CNN Business) Jason M. Allen was so nervous he almost entered his first art competition. Now, his award-winning images are sparking controversy over whether art can be created by computers and what exactly it means to be an artist.

In August, Allen, a game designer from Pueblo West, Colorado, won first place in the “Digital Art/Digital Manipulated Photography” category of the Emerging Artists category at the Colorado Fair Fine Art Competition. His winning image, titled “Théâtre D’opéra Spatial” (French for “Space Opera Theater”), uses his Midjourney, an artificial intelligence system that can generate detailed images when you enter written prompts. It was created by His win came with a $300 cash prize.

“I’m fascinated by this image. I love it, and I think everyone should see this,” Allen, 39, told CNN Business in an interview Friday.

In August, Jason M. Allen’s work “Théâtre D’opéra Spatial,” created using the AI ​​image generator Midjourney, won the Colorado State Fair Fine Arts’ Emerging Artists category, “Digital Art/Digital.” It won first place in the “Manipulated Photo” category. competition.

Allen’s winning work looks like a bright, surreal piece of art, a combination of Renaissance painting and steampunk painting. This is one of his three images he entered into the contest. In the emerging artist category, a total of 11 people entered 18 works in the same category.

The definition of the category in which Allen competed states that digital art refers to works that use “digital technology as part of the creative or presentation process.” Allen said Midjourney was used to help her create an image of herself when entering the contest.

Midjourney is one of a growing number of such AI image generators, others include Google Research’s Imagen and OpenAI’s DALL-E 2. Midjourney is available to anyone via Discord, but DALL-E 2 requires an invitation, and Imagen is not open to users outside of Google.

The newness of these tools, how they are used to generate images, and, in some cases, the gatekeeping for access to the most powerful tools, leaves us wondering whether these tools can really create art. Or is there a debate about whether it can support human art production?

This became a clear focus for Allen shortly after the win. Allen excitedly posted about her win on her Midjourney Discord server on August 25th, along with photos of her three entries.that It became a hot topic on Twitter Days later, as Vice’s Motherboard reported earlier this week, many artists are outraged by Allen’s victory for using AI to create images.

“This sucks for the exact same reason we don’t want robots in the Olympics,” one Twitter user wrote.

“This is the literal definition of ‘create a piece of digital art by pressing a few buttons,'” tweeted another. “AI artwork is the ‘banana taped to the wall’ of today’s digital world.”

But while Allen didn’t use a paintbrush to create the winning piece, he said it took a lot of work.

“It’s not just about combining words to win the competition,” he says.

You can feed phrases like “Angry strawberry oil painting” Although he arrived at Midjourney and received several images from the AI ​​system within seconds, Allen’s process was not so simple. It took her more than 80 hours to obtain the last three images she entered in the contest.

First, he said, “Midjourney” played around with phrases that inspired images of women in frilly dresses and space helmets. He was trying to mash up Victorian costumes with a space theme, he said. Over time, making many slight adjustments to the written prompts (such as adjusting the lighting and color harmony), he created 900 iterations of what led to his final three images. He cleaned up these three of his images in his Photoshop. For example, we gave her one of the female figures in the winning image a head of wavy black hair. During the journey, she lost her head. I then ran the image through another software program called Gigapixel AI, which can improve resolution, and had the image printed on canvas at a local print shop.

Allen is pleased that the debate over whether AI can be used to create art is gaining traction.

“Instead of hating technology and the people behind it, we need to recognize that it is a powerful tool and use it for good, so we can stop being grumpy about technology.” Instead, we can all move forward,” Allen said.

One of the contest’s judges, artist and art teacher Cal Duran, said Allen’s work included references to Midjourney, but at the time of judging, he had no idea that it was generated by AI. He said he didn’t know. Still, he called it a “beautiful piece of work” and said he stood by his decision to award it first place in its category.

“I think there’s a lot involved in this work. I think AI technology may give more opportunities to people who don’t think of themselves as artists in traditional ways.” he said.

Allen has not yet said what the text prompt behind the winning image was. He plans to keep it a secret until he publishes a larger related work, which he hopes to complete later this year.

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