"Cool, which AI did you use for this?", "his work is definitely AI", "this is AI art and I find it disheartening"... Here is a sample of the comments I am getting more and more about my art.
And this is not fine.
In a world where now legions of AIartists are invading platforms like Social Medias, DeviantArt or ArtStation, I see the opinion of the crowd starting to put digital art and AIArt in the same bag. As a digital artist who creates my artwork like a real painting, I find this situation very unfair. I'm using a tablet, layers, digital paints and digital brushes. I put hours of hard work into it. I don't just type in a prompt and hit enter to get my images.
That's why I started hashtagging my art on social media with #HumanArt, then #HumanMade as a clear indicator that my art was 'handmade' and not using Stable Diffusion, Dall-E, Midjourney or whatever AITools are out there now. I wanted to disambiguate that to stop getting the kind of comments I quoted at the beginning of this intro. But which hashtag is the best for that?
I had no idea, so I started a poll on my Mastodon timeline:
With 954 people voting (thank you), #HumanMade got 55% of the vote compared to 30% for #HumanArt.
But what changed my mind was the diversity and richness of opinions I received in the comments. A lot of them were unlisted, not public or in PM so you can't read them. But they have definitely changed my mind on the subject. That's why I decided to write this blog post and talk about it a bit.
Critiques about #HumanMade and #HumanArt
Firstly, #HumanArt felt like a contradiction to the famous #FurryArt tag for the furry community. Good point, and I don't want that.
Then #HumanMade was criticised because the AI was also human-made, so it lost its point. But most people could clearly understand what #HumanMade would mean under an artwork. So it didn't steal its 55% of the vote.
I also had a lot of #HandCrafted, #HandMade, #Art and other suggestions for variations.
The popular #NoAI
I also got a lot of suggestions for #NoAI hashtags. I got a lot of funnier, and mostly more salty, variations. It was a lot of fun, but I don't want to rule out all artificial intelligence. Some of them might be based on ethical datasets in the future and be good tools. I'll explain that later in this post.
In any case, I have always tried to be in a mindset of 'for something' rather than 'against something'.
Ai artist should be the one who tag their post
This was also a very popular feedback in the comments. Unfortunately, AIArtists rarely tag their work as seen on Social Medias, DeviantArt or ArtStation. And I understand them, because they have too many advantages not to.
First, they can fake an artist identity with little effort. Then they can give their art something more legitimate in their eyes and, by extension, in the eyes of their audience. Finally, they can probably avoid a lot of hateful comments and reports from anti-Ai artists on the platform.
So I don't expect them to ever do it. I hate this because it is unfair.
But lately I started to enjoy this behaviour in a new way, because this faking could be what wastes all the data sets and training models: the AI eats itself.
Don't Hashtag at all
The last suggestion I often received was not to hashtag at all.
This was because writing #HumanArt, #HumanMade or #NoAI would immediately mark the post and the art as premium content for training future datasets. As I wrote in the previous chapter, getting human-made datasets is the future challenge for AI. I don't want to make it easier for them.
I can still write my ethics about "not using an AI image generator based on unethical datasets" in the info section of my social media profile, or just link to an article like the one I'm writing now.
Conclusion and thoughts about AI
So I have made my decision: I will no longer hashtag my art with #HumanArt, #HumanMade or #NoAI.
I will continue to publish my digital art online, as I've been doing since the early 2000s. I will continue to publish all under a permissive Creative Commons licence and with the source files, because that's how I like my art: free and libre.
Unfortunately, I'll never be able to prevent unethical AI companies from siphoning off my art collections. The damage has already been done: hundreds, if not thousands, of my illustrations and comics have been used to train all their AI. It's not hard to find evidence of this (e.g. on haveibeentrained.com or on the browser for the Laion5B commons training dataset).
I don't agree to that.
What are my options? Not much... I can't remove my art one by one from their database. My art has been copied to many wallpaper sites, galleries, forums, other projects. I don't have the resources to do that. I also can't exclude my future art from all the next scans. Also, protection methods like Glaze seem like a really pale solution to the problem, I'm not convinced by it. Same goes for heavily watermarking my art...
Don't get me wrong: I have nothing against AI technology itself. It's everywhere these days. In phones to enhance photos, on 3D software GPU denoisers, on translation tools, behind search engines, etc... The technique of neural networks, machine learning on datasets, is proving to be very efficient for certain tasks.
Even FLOSS projects like GMIC are developing their own neural network library. Of course, they'll be based on ethical datasets. As usual, my problem is not with the technology. It's with the governance and ethics of the one using such a technology.
For my part, I'll continue not to use generative AI in my work (Stable Diffusion, Dall-E, Midjourney and co). I have experimented with it on social media in the past, sometimes seriously, sometimes impressed, but mostly sarcastically.
I just don't like the AI process...
When I create a new piece of art, I don't express the idea to myself with words.
When I create a new piece of art, I don't text the idea to my brain.
It's a more complex mix of emotions, shapes, colours and textures. It's like capturing a rare scene from a dream that temporarily visits my brain. It doesn't require a translation layer of words. When I do this, I share an intimate part of my inner dream world. It goes beyond words to reach certain emotions, nostalgia and feelings.
With AI, AIArtists simply type in keywords for a subject. They season it with keywords, target the imitation of an artist or a style. And then they let randomness produce a result for them. Then they discover a result with - of course - embedded pictorial emotions, shapes, colours and textures. But are the emotions their own or just a by-product of their process? Either way, they can own those emotions.
AIArtists are just diggers for cool auto-generated artworks, the new digital Readymade of our time. This technology seeks productivity for less effort and less cost. I think it is very appropriate for our times. It provides many writers with cheap illustrations for their book covers, editors for their articles, musicians for their album covers and AI artists with portfolios...
I understand we can't go back, this audience is now addicted to this empowerment. They can finally get illustrations quickly and cheaply. They'll treat any artists who fight against this as Luddites...
But I'm going to go on here and say that I personally dislike this art, because it tells me nothing about its creators. What they are thinking, what their aesthetic taste is, what they had in them to draw that line or that brushstroke, what light shines into them, how they cover up their mistakes, their delicious inaccuracies with make-up... I want to see all this and follow the life of people, piece by piece.
I hope you will continue to follow and support my art, comics, articles and tutorials for the same reasons.
Header ilustration: "This is not fine", sources and hi-resolution here − CC-BY 4.0