I have been pretty silent regarding AI for the last 6 months. I first started checking out AI a few years ago and really began learning as much about AI as I could 6 months ago. Many of us visual artists are challenged with AI because of the copyright implications. That is a major concern, especially with certain tools and how they were trained. I am not going to minimize that or talk too much about that in this article other than to acknowledge the fact that it is an issue. I want to look at AI as a whole not just text-to-image tools. In the coming weeks, I will look at various types of AI and how we, as artists might use the tools to help us in our business in a way that honors a high level of integrity. When I help creative business owners with a business plan, one tool that is very important to help see the big picture is called a S.W.O.T. analysis. It stands for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats. By looking at each of these areas in detail one gets a good overall picture of the business landscape. Following is an abridged S.W.O.T. analysis of AI.
Artificial intelligence does some things really well. It helps to begin to solve one of the biggest challenges that artists face at some time or another. The blank canvas or page. Getting stuck, creative block, and wondering what to photograph, paint or write. Various tools are really good at coming up with content ideas, video ideas, article ideas, course ideas. One acquaintance sums it up nicely when he says AI deftly handles the middle 80% of a creative idea. What it means is that you put in the beginning 10% of what you are looking for, AI puts out big ideas and does the heavy lifting in the middle and then you finish things up by putting your voice in the project in the tweaking of the last bit. That is how I see it for text content anyway. Images I think a bit different in that the work of AI may only be 40% but it is still the heavy lifting.
Lack of human creativity and ethical concerns are the biggest challenges or weaknesses currently with AI. There is something stale and impersonal with AI because it is not human, it is a machine and therefore can't think or feel like we can. The ethical concerns are huge especially as to how some of the text-to-image tools were trained. Images were scraped and used in the data pool without knowledge or permission from the creatives who made them originally. Not cool. Time will tell how this will come out. There are several lawsuits in progress currently.
While there are several big opportunities specific to artists using AI in their businesses, I think the biggest are, time efficiency and marketing insights. AI can analyze art market data, trends, and historical sales data to provide artists with valuable insights on pricing, demand, and customer preferences. If you are using digital tools for editing you have already been using AI. AI can automate repetitive tasks such as image editing, color correction, or background removal, freeing up more time for digital artists to focus on their core artistic activities.
One of the biggest threats that AI brings is the increase in competition. The level of competition will go through the roof. Not just specifically for the end result of a creative piece of artwork but for overall business. When creatives can produce an article, blog post, video scripts and courses at will with incredible speed, competition will be more stringent. Competition for attention, for list building, audience building and for sales, all will be much more difficult so we will have to get better at marketing.
That is a short synopsis about AI. As you can see there is much more to AI than just the ability to type in a prompt and the software spitting out a beautiful image. Much like digital painting, there is much more to it than just hitting a button. I really enjoy steampunk and the image below represents one way AI can really save time. As a photographer of over 40 years I could certainly create this image in the studio, maybe with green screen and a digital background or maybe sourcing and making props like we did before PS and other image editing software was so good. It would be a solid 10 hours for me depending on what props I made and if I could source objects to create my digital background. The good news is that this image took less than 15 minutes of playing with prompts to get it the way I wanted it. The bad news is that ANYONE can do this without having to go through all of what I learned in the last forty years as a visual artist.
In the coming weeks I will share some of the ways I would like to use AI in my business. I will start with the image to text side of things as that is the most controversial. I will demonstrate one way that we can make an AI image our own. The image I will go through is the steam punk image on this page. This is the beginning file and only the START of what we will do. If one presented this as complete, it is just like putting an effect on a digital file in my opinion. It is nothing special and really does not have much of my voice (except to the extent of study and learning prompts to get what I am looking for.) We will use this image as a base to digitally paint, then print, then paint with oil and cold wax. Stay tuned.