It’s been a few months since AI image generators like DALL·E 2 and Midjourney became widely available. The images they generate are stunning and the tools themselves are easy to use. Much as the smartphone ushered in a new standard for digital photography, AI image generators will usher in a new visual standard that permeates all creative industries.

The death of art?

Certain forms of art will recede and other forms will become more dominant. Prior to the Wacom tablet, for example, cel animation was the standard in the animation industry. Now you’ll be unable to find work in that industry if you cannot animate digitally.

New forms of art will arise and with them, new roles: when graphic design and animation became digital, motion design became possible, and with that, you could craft yourself into the role of motion designer. When graphics cards and software packages became powerful enough, anyone with a robust computer could become a 3D animator.

Art will live on, albeit in new forms. Like all the technologies before it, AI art will bring with it new art forms and new roles to play.

This is, of course, no consolation for digital artists who have spent years perfecting their craft only to see computers instantly generate multiple high quality pieces.

But this is the world we’re in.

Should you use AI in your work?

A lot of folks are very unhappy with AI art, particularly artists who have found success by developing and widely disseminating a distinctive style. These artists tend to be specialists—they are predominantly illustrators whose livelihood depends on clients (and/or fans) recognizing and paying for their particular style. There is a strong push by these artists to deny these AI generative tools and to regulate what content these algorithms are trained on.

On the other hand, generalist artists have tended to be more open to embracing these tools. These are artists who are already using a mish-mash of tools to reach their final goal, whether that be concept design or illustration. (Martin Nebelong comes to mind.)

Bottom line is, you should be using these new AI tools in your client work. If it helps you ideate faster as an illustrator, use it. If it helps you generate better, faster textures in your 3D work, use it. Creative industries move quickly, and technologies both force and help you keep pace. The future of commercial art belong to the generalists.

Remember, the kind of work we do today wasn’t possible ten or twenty years ago. You and I landed at a specific juncture of technology and we adopted particular roles (digital artist or motion designer for example); it would be foolish to think that that river has ever stopped flowing.

The future of art

AI art and AI tools will be heavily used in the commercial industries. It will come to dominate the production pipelines for films, TV and games. Many roles tied to pipelines that exist today, will disappear. New roles will emerge; perhaps more art and creative direction oriented roles that co-ordinate, cohere and integrate AI-generated content.

It’s also a great time to become a freelance artist. Freelancing is the ultimate way to play multiple roles as an artist, and these new tools mean that an exponential amount can be achieved by a single artist. A freelancer is free of overheads and studio pipelines, meaning you are free to adopt new tools as fast as they’re introduced. I have a mentorship on this. 

The conversation around AI ethics will rage on—as it should. In the meantime, keep an eye on what’s happening around you and be prepared to take advantage of new roles that emerge and that you are well-positioned for. 

The future of art belongs to artists who don’t dwell in any particular style.

“The different styles I have been using in my art must not be seen as an evolution, or as steps towards an unknown ideal of painting. Everything I have ever made was made for the present and with the hope that it would always remain in the present.” —Picasso

Beini is an artist based in New York. Her clients include WSJ, Netflix, Carnegie New York and International Center of Photography, among others. Each month she takes on a handful of mentorship students who are looking to be successful freelancers working in the creative industry.

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