Is AI-generated "art" actually ART?

Once again, for me at least, there’s a conflation of initiator(artist) and medium (elephants , paint and paper).

For about twenty years or so, I’ve been aware of this pair who IMHO ‘exploit’ animals as an art and money generating medium - there’s a false, but commercially appealing notion of some sort of ‘authenticity’ if the mark/s on the paper are made by a wild animal

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Incidentally, apropos painting, adult elephants, like rhinos are virtually blind, but have a phenomenal sense of smell.

On a dawn bushwalk in a Swazi game reserve (with an armed ranger) I came within about 30m of a familly of rhino in open space, but only the calf could see us and didn’t emit any danger signals. Memoraable experience to be in the animals’ space

I believe with Hockney, he was actually inspired into new avenues of depiction by the newly creative iPad medium.

I am not sure about the elephants and only hope they enjoy waving the brush and paint about. Endearing results but not so sure it qualifies in the grand discussion as art.

David Hockney was originally an etcher and he continued working as a printmaker during his postgrad at the RCA (my alma mater too!) . So, though best known as a painter, since the mid 1950s he has continually explored more technical means of image making - etching, lithography, dyed paper pulp casting, usually working with master printmakers who are experts in their medium.

About thirty years ago there was a series on UK TV that included Hockney making his first computer generated images via a technician who knew how to use a Quantel Paintbox which at the time was the latest thing in computer generated image making, because you didn’t need programming skills to generate an image. Around the same time (1989) I did an in-service course in ‘Advanced Computer Paint Systems’ at Mx Poly, which had one of the UK’s four Quantels. As I remember a Quantel cost around £45K but within a couple of years its keyboard and graphics tablet based communication had largely been superceded bythe mouse on Mac based Photoshop and Windows based vector graphics animation programmes like 3D Studio. Also suddenly there was sufficient memory for a much welcomed ‘Undo’ facility.

So within a couple of years the situation changed from a traditional one similar to that of an artist to a Master printmaker - Wikipedia to one where the artist could handle the entire process. Financially successful artitsts, began to use the new digital editining studios to output their work as giclées (hi-res archival quality inkjet prints). However for me giclées unless in the now seemingly defunct Quadblack process have a ‘dead’ surface compared to traditional fine art etchings, mezzotints, or even lithographs. And, to come full circle for me this is one of the current limitations of the new AI generated images -a boring, neutralising surface

There is also the current issue now of artists suing for copyright when AI uses their works without permission or acknowledgment. According to recent news, there are many legal challenges coming up from artists and image organisations;

" Three artists filed a class-action lawsuit in San Francisco against AI art tools built by Stability AI, Midjourney, and DeviantArt. Stability AI faces a second case filed by Getty in the UK.

“AI image products are not just an infringement of artists’ rights; whether they aim to or not, these products will eliminate ‘artist’ as a viable career path.”

“A statement from Getty Images isn’t quite as sour on AI, suggesting that “artificial intelligence has the potential to stimulate creative endeavors.” But Getty’s legal claim is similar. Stability AI “chose to ignore viable licensing options and long-standing legal protections in pursuit of their standalone commercial interests,” the company said.”

Have you tried a print on aluminium. I have had a couple done by SAAL in Germany, and the surface had a distinct texture from the printing process that’s quite unlike any conventional photo print and gives the surface a life of its own. The mono print is especially good, with a real sense of depth, though I’ve had more comments about the colour image where it’s sat in my office.

Thanks, but it is very different, the prints I posted on the link below were printed on aluminium, and it’s great for large prints, but the surface doesn’t give anything back, unlike Quadblack pigmentYour photos - the view from your house - Hobbies/Arts/Crafts / Photography - Survive France

Here is an example of the human input in an AI program; basically you use language to “extend” an existing work or style. For example, you ask for a painting of the Taj Mahal in the style of Vincent Van Gogh’s “Starry Night”. Of course, this is a DERIVATIVE use of the original, not an authentic human re-imagining (like for example Dali did). It could nevertheless be interesting, and in the current favorite language, a “re-imagining” of classic works of art. I predict it will be used by museums and galleries to refresh interest in the classics, in the same way that large scale light projections of art like Van Gogh and Monet have been used by galleries and art spaces to attract new and younger audiences and keep themselves “relevant” to a modern audience. However, this kind of art relies on the cache of the ORIGINAL works; the value of art is predicated on the rare, original work, and these re-interpretations can be seen as similar perhaps to prints and posters, calendars and teatowels, screensavers and T-shirts. The most popular artworks and museum objects in the world are basically “icons”; the Mona Lisa, the Rosetta Stone. Humans have an intrinsic need to see/touch/commune with the “real thing”; this need is almost a religious hunger. This hunger for authenticity in this modern world of limitless reproduction and facsimile may, in the end, even INCREASE the value of human-created art. Food for thought.

I would agree that the real thing needs to exist first and foremost. Although, art no longer seems to demand original be one of a kind.

At the same time, in commercial production there is no accounting for taste, so endless possibilities for more tchotchkes. These appeal precisely because they evoke the original, famed and lauded as Art.

As fascinating as the developments in AI creations may be, for me, it is without craftsmanship. In wanting to be close to an original, I feel it means being able to see the hand of man.

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Agreed. Interesting but not art in itself.

Let’s see what artists do with it. Possibly, in irony.

Love all you say on Hockney. A curious and innovative fellow. I expect he really enjoyed the backlit effect if light making his artwork colours come alive.

This is right up my street! One of my main hobbies is photomanipulation and from experience I can say that it takes quite some time to master the main programs available. Virtually all my photographic output is cropped, sharpened, brightened, recoloured to achieve an image more to my liking. There are endless possibilities to alter an image from replacing the sky to removing unwanted people or cars. Then there are countless ways to distort images with filters to produce creative images. The important thing to note is that the vast majority of these alterations are possible without any intervention by artifical intelligence but skill is needed to use the popular programs and you absolutely need these skills in order to make the best use of AI.

This is the process for creating the attached image:

Background – merging of two separate Dalle-2.AI images from a text prompt, with extensive inpainting and outpainting. Perspective was added by the repetition of the street lamps and by adding the edge of the path on the left. Almost all of the colouring on the left and the merging of the two original AI images was done by hand

Figure 1 – Wombo AI (completely recoloured, resized and partly redrawn to match the other person.) Figure 2 - AI Dalle 2. Needed some redrawing/recolouring/resizing.

The image was tidied up in AI Deep Dream Generator and Filter Forge.

The AI images are never perfect. Some programs cannot reproduce human or animal faces. A simple request resulted in a woman with three legs. AI images even at best are unpredictable and quite often
do not produce a usable image. The artist’s vision and ability to mould the images into an acceptable new image are paramount.

On the other hand, “artworks” produced by artificial intelligence and zero human intervention are a completely different case and are not to my taste.


I agree, Susannah, that the word “craftsmanship” is at the beating heart of the meaning of art. Before the 17th century the word “art” referred more to skill, craft and the mastery of a medium, more recently the word has been enlarged to encompass a much larger field of meanings including creativity itself, aesthetics, an attitude, a way of seeing, “taste”, “high art” as opposed to mere crafts. I think the history of this change has to be seen against the background of the industrial revolution and the mechanisation of art. So AI can be seen as just the latest version of the mechanisation of art, which once again, strips the individual from his/her creation (Marx was spot on) in order to get the most reproducible value out of individual, creative labour.

Given all this, my first reaction to AI “art” I have to admit, was disgust, which was why I asked the question of what others thought of it. However, what disgusts, also fascinates. I’m sure some people will be inspired to wrestle with, or come up with an oppositionary movement to AI “art”. Whether working within and with it, or in a movement against it. A new “Arts and Crafts” movement? Perhaps, as Mark said, a new kind of Conceptual Art? Or will the younger generation, so adept at technology, wrest the codes and the reins from the machines and create a whole new oeuvre of human-centered AI “art”?

Ditto for me re: Hockney. He is actually quite brave and creative imo in his new direction and uses of technology. He is also old enough, and famous enough, to do what he likes now, and it will be richly rewarded. His infamous childlike ipad-made Piccadilly tube sign was part of Sadiq Khans “Lets do London” 7 million dollar campaign. (Not to critisize the art, but just imagine how many NIH hospital beds that could have payed for).

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Probably. Thing is, we humans like to look for meaning in things.

I suspect that any old tomfoolery piece of ‘art’ created entirely by AI can be reinterpreted, given meaning or depth simply by the viewer’s imagination. There are no limits to the latter.

We can show 10 people the same artwork and more than 10 aspects or messages will they attribute to it. The artwork itself may no longer be the important thing. What we make of it may be.

Rather makes the artist redundant if the message can be fabricated without him/her but he ho


Now you’re talking. Artistic license!


I’d argue that the Giverney umbrella is principally a cultural token used for public display unlike domestically displayed souvenis. I also think that it’s more likely to evoke Monet’s garden rather than the water lily paintings done therein?

Love your image Ken, great example of using the tech! Thanks for explaining how you use various photomanipulation, and how AI itself does not produce usable images. I also find the AI generated images strange, slick and cliché. Still in the “uncanny valley”.

One of the main things about AI, SO FAR, is that we humans have to code it, direct it, ask it questions, give it images/music/material to work with.

I wonder, though, is that because AI is still learning, is it still at the 3-year-old child level of “a square house with a triangle roof and two windows and a door” stage? Will its slick surfaces, seemingly gleaned from teen video-games, marvel and anime cartoons and fashion photography, eventually develop into different aesthetics/styles that are actually creative?

What happens when it starts asking US questions, when it becomes sentient, the supposed Singularity? What will its motives be, besides its own existence? Will it have an abstract, mathematical and logical approach to everything (eg keeping itself running, expanding, perhaps finding resources necessary, self-repair etc), or will it have an equally mathematical and machine abstract notion of BEAUTY, of rightness, or a frightening efficiency which will find us humans unworthy of attention at all?


Apologies for my previous reply - fading memory - it was sixteen or so years ago. The Weng Fen photos were mounted not printed on aluminium. Maybe I should explore further!

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I’m not sure that public display is a factor but cultural token, possibly, given that Tokyo loves their Monet lily paintings. (NMWA gift shop!)

I have such an umbrella, and whether others recognise it as anything to do with Monet matters to me not one jot. What I love is that a basically gloomy rain day is rendered serenely green in my little space beneath its beautiful wings. I smile every time it unfurls

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I would love this umbrella

But then again, I would almost certainly lose it

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Had a brief play with Stable Diffusion while waiting for a breakfast egg to boil (as you do…)

Given Hockney’s been popular on SF recently, I entered, ‘Hockney Catholic Madonna’ (‘Catholic’ obviously an essential filter!)

SD then generated a set of four images that I’m still thinking and deconstructing for the following reasons:

Hockney Madonna 1 is very different to the other three.

This is the closest to what I expected, but it’s also far worse than I could have imagined! Don’t know where those animé eyes came from, as they seem to have nothing to do with any of my filters.

The most Hockneyesque aspect is the palette, but I was puzzled by the face which isn’t that typical of his portraits. However the answer lies in the first image and therefore most common example to come up on a Google image search which was a portrait of Barry Humphries used on the publicity for Hockney’s portrait expo at the Bilbao Gug.

For me, the most interesting aspects are in the AI reworking of the tiled floors of C15th paintings that mark the discovery of single point perspective. It reminds me of how 2D renderings of complex 3D wireframe models sometimes implode and create objects that are geometrically impossible.

The other three images are very different, and for me far more interesting, particularly the bizare central one (love the enigmatic golden figure on the right), The RH image may be the first depiction of a Cross on Madonna’s robe - wonder where that came from? Note also the inability to successfuly use perspective - in the LH image, the RH tree is in front of the Madonna.

Lastly all the religious source material is from the Late Gothic / early Renaissance perhaps because that painting was less spatially complex and thus closer to the comparative flatness of much of Hockneys oeuvre.

The mistakes and ineffective spatial interpretations of these renderings make them interesting because one wouldn’t normally encounter images as strange as these.