A new trend circling the internet is paying for Artificial Intelligence-generated portraits of yourself. One of the most popular apps that generates these photos is Lensa, an app that takes your selfies and creates avatars in all different art styles. I myself know many people who took part in this trend, unaware of how apps like Lensa operate.
AI art generates its pieces through taking and combining pieces of artwork from all over the internet without giving any sort of credit to the original artists. AI art companies are essentially stealing art from actual artists and profiting from their work. This seems to be the largest critique of AI art that I have seen. But not only does AI art take elements from human artist work, but I believe that AI art just isn’t as good.
AI is not sentient. Therefore, an AI generator cannot feel the emotion of a piece of work and is unable to convey complex human emotions through art like humans can. This is evident from looking at AI generated art compared to real art.
AI art also perpetuates Western beauty standards. These AI generated images have been shown to include heavy cleavage, light skin and slim subjects. AI art’s already low quality is further diminished when done on a person of color. These AI programs are clearly not equipped to represent anyone who is not white and/or skinny. The reason for this is that people of color are underrepresented in tech. When AI is being developed by light-skinned people, it is easier for them to overlook the issues their tech has with representing many people of color.
Now, I can see the appeal toward AI art. For one, it is extremely affordable. Lensa allows you to get thousands of images for a fraction of the price it would take to get just one piece commissioned by a real artist. I also understand that not everyone can afford to commission an artist and this trend is an easy and cheap alternative to still get some cool art of your own.
Additionally, AI art is extremely convenient, as it can all be done on your phone in a matter of minutes. This eliminates the time it takes to find an artist, talk to them about your commission and wait for the artist to complete the piece. This coupled with the price is extremely alluring and can feel hard to pass up for a lot of people.
But, when possible, it is important to support real artists. Full-time artists rely on commissions for their livelihood. If everyone turned to AI art, where would that leave the artists who need to put food on the table and pay their bills?
Art is beautiful. It is a complex, compelling creative avenue to tell a story. As the saying goes, a picture is worth a thousand words. If you want a quality piece of work that will tell a story, commission a real artist. You will get amazing work that had time, effort, heart and soul poured into it while supporting the artist who made it possible with their talent.
If you participated in the AI art trend, that doesn’t make you a bad person by any means. On the surface, AI art seems like a fun trend in which you can get some half-decent art for cheap that you can show off to your followers. But I urge you to think about where that art comes from, and how it may harm the artists who made it happen.
Ravana Gumm (she/her) is a freshman studying journalism.