A Claude Monet painting showing a lake, boats, people, and trees.
La Grenouillere Claude Monet 1869, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

The luminous artwork of Monet, the innovative artwork of Picasso, the dramatic tension of Rembrandt, the classical masters conveyed such intensity, such emotion, such depth with a single image. The vision, the skill, the creativity, which would normally take years to master are now at the fingertips of all.  OpenAI made history in January 2021 with the release of DALL-E, an AI system that creates artwork from word descriptions.

But, it wasn’t until similar neural networks started popping up such as Stable Diffusion, DreamUp, and NightCafe that AI art started to gain traction. However, the one that took the world by storm was MidJourney. Jason Allen, its creator, showcased its ability by taking home the blue ribbon in the digital artists category at the Colorado State Fair in the summer of 2022. By beating out the other “human” contenders  raising the first waves of controversy surrounding AI Art.

AI artwork showing people in cloaks and a circular opening letting in light.
Artwork created by Midjourney (Jason Allen) for the Colorado State Fair

Midjourney, to say the least, is a revolutionary way to explore and create artwork. By using a deep learning framework based on images and videos from the internet, it can synthesize stunning and aesthetic images from just text. The results are spectacular and can be tailored to any aesthetic, from abstract to realistic. In the growing field of AI art, Midjourney is one of the more impressive programs out there. It takes user-generated prompts, runs them through an AI generative algorithm where it pulls from its source images and applies various artistic techniques. This results in its capacity to create unique artistic styles, an ideal tool for artists who want to express themselves through their work.  

An AI painting resembling Van Gogh's Starry Night.
“London Van Gogh” Syed Masood 2023 using VQGAN + CLIP

However, Stable Diffusion is no slouch either. Stable Diffusion, like Midjourney, is great for creating aesthetic and stylized images. The alluring part of Stable Diffusion, however, is that it is open sourced. Anyone at any time can use it for whatever purpose they intend.

Yet AI art, while having its merits and ability to give anyone the ability to create breathtaking images is plagued with ethical and legal concerns. Recently, artists have filed a lawsuit against Stability AI and Midjourney, the creators of Stable Diffusion, Midjourney respectively, and the artist portfolio platform DeviantArt. The lawsuit is over the legality of using artists’ work to train AI image generators.


An AI painting showing what looks like mountain peaks and stormy skies
“Dramatic Mountain Scape” Syed Masood 2023 using VQGAN + CLIP

Furthermore, there are quite many ethical concerns and long-term societal implications that need to be addressed now that deep learning and generative adversarial networks (GANs) are becoming ubiquitous. Now that AI art has become more accessible and affordable, the implications of AI art are manifold and complex. They touch upon various aspects of art, culture, society, and ethics.

For example, AI art challenges the notion of authorship, originality, and creativity in art. Who is the author of AI art? How can we define originality and creativity when AI art can produce endless variations of a style or a theme? With such easy access to hyper realistic images and artwork, society is left vulnerable to malicious uses of these technologies. While it can be used for positive and constructive purposes, such as education, entertainment, and social good, it also has the propensity to be used for negative and harmful purposes, such as deception, manipulation, and propaganda. From the artists’ perspective, the abilities of these programs open up new opportunities for artistic expression and experimentation with new styles, techniques, and domains that otherwise they might not be able to achieve. Refining and enhancing existing works is an additional benefit for the AI artist. Furthermore, AI art can enable non-artists and amateurs to create and enjoy art, democratizing and diversifying the artistic landscape.

An AI painting of the New York City skyline as viewed from within it
“1900s New York Skyline Realism” Syed Masood 2023 using Stable Diffusion




An AI painting of a New York City street showing tall buildings, people, and vehicles on roads
“1900s New York 5D Perspective Pencil Sketch” Syed Masood 2023 using Stable Diffusion

AI art is a fascinating and emerging phenomenon that has the potential to revolutionize the art world and beyond. As AI art becomes more ubiquitous, we need to be aware of its implications and engage in critical and constructive dialogue about its future impact.

Peer Editors: Kim Taylor and Prateek Jain

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