Are The Machines Reading This Too?


Hello Friends,

 I hope that this email finds you well and keeping warm in the recent cold weather. The solstice is upon us again, with the promise of brighter days ahead.


What's On My Mind

At this time of year, my thoughts always turn to artistic plans for next year. A chance to curl up with a cup of tea and fill in my planner with dreams and deadlines!  Next year I am planning on having a go at something called Surface Pattern Design. It would be another potential way to earn a living from my art - by licensing my designs to various companies who produce products such as wallpaper, fabric and stationery. When my first newsletter of 2023 hits your inbox, I hope to share some of my designs with you.


What's On My Easel

October saw my desk littered with watercolour paper, black ink and gold paint. I completed 31 days of painting scenes from the film Labyrinth, in line with a different, one-word prompt for each day. It was a big challenge and immense fun - I think ink and I are better friends now (though I will always prefer acrylic!).

A few of them are pictured below, and yes - I did have to eat an extraordinary amount of delicious hazelnut chocolates to do this :)


Several of the paintings have already sold, but there are a lot of them still available to buy on my Etsy store. If you order any of these from Etsy, drop me a line with your order to say you’re one of my lovely email subscribers, and I’ll throw in a little surprise for you.

Quarterly Questions 

This month I’m addressing a rather massive question, that the art (and publishing) world are still debating - that is the question of AI Art.

What is the problem with AI Art?

Well - that’s a bit of a leading question, isn’t it? You may or may not assume there is a problem with Artificial Intelligence created art, but there’s no doubt that it is causing a lot of controversy in the art world at the moment. To put it in very basic terms, there are two main sides to the debate:

Those who object to AI art, argue that it is unethical. The popular programmes such as Lensa and Midjourney that are used to create the art have been extensively trained on thousands of images and artworks from real artists, both living and dead. The living artists have not given permission for their work to be used. They have also not been compensated for the use of their work. This has been widely regarded as art theft. Some images created by Lensa even have mangled versions of artists signatures on them. Objectors argue the AI programmes do not use the art as ‘inspiration’ but directly copy elements of the art they reference. Artist who use other art as inspiration produce their own, unique interpretation of it.

Here’s an example below - credit to Zed Edge:


Those in favour of AI art, argue that many artists are trained by copying ‘the masters’ in the art world, and that this is no different. Artists of all types take inspiration and influence from a variety of sources - none of us work in a vacuum and there is no copyright on a particular style or colour palette. There are artists who only input their own art to be used as references for the AI to create with. Some artists then further adjust the AI output themselves in programmes such as photoshop to create the art they want to - is this just another form of collaboration?

Could the use of AI art be classed as a form of training for artists? Many artists use the AI output as inspiration and then go on to traditionally paint onto canvas, just using the AI art as a reference. Many artists already post images of work they have done ‘in the style of’ - such as creating avatars for clients in the style of Disney, or Studio Gibli, or a painting ‘in homage’ to one of their favourite artists. If regular artists are able to do that, why can’t we use AI to do it? Some artists are using AI to vastly increase their output and make more money than they would have on commissions than if they had done everything manually themselves.

What do you think about AI art?

This year, the winner of the Digital Art Category at the Colorado State Fair’s fine arts competition was won by Jason Allen, and it was discovered after the award that the painting was produced using AI. Here is the winning painting, called Théâtre D’opéra Spatial

There is a real fear that when AI becomes more sophisticated, and the differences harder to distinguish, it will render a lot of artistic jobs obsolete. Why pay a designer hundreds of pounds and wait weeks for a book cover, when you can spend an afternoon typing prompts into Midjourney and tweaking the results? What does this mean for Abstract Artists? Will it become impossible to distinguish the intentional brushstrokes of a human, versus the brushstrokes created by a sophisticated learning machine with access to millions of pieces of abstract art?

While artists do learn from other artists’ work, we are also a melting pot of all our other life influences too. If you remove the references from the AI, it has nothing left to create with. The human element in art is harder to replicate - you could put two people in front of the same painting and they would see different things in it, and the work they could create in response to it would not be the same.

Electronic synthesisers did not kill piano music, and the invention of photography did not render painting obsolete. I believe that AI will become more sophisticated and the mangled hands and weird eyes that are currently dead giveaways will gradually disappear as the AI continues to learn. Will it eventually become a new category of art, just as digital art is? Will it have to be regulated in some way for that to be possible?
All I know for certain is that this technology is here to stay.


And Finally

It’s always lovely to know if anyone is actually reading all this, so if you found this quarter’s newsletter interesting, or have a question for me about my artistic practice, then please do get in touch. 

Until then, have a blessed winter festival of your choice,


21st December, 2022 

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