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Are AI-generated drawings real art? Canadian artists say they lack ‘human touch’



When an artificial-intelligence (AI) generated picture won first place in the Colorado State Fair’s fine arts competition in September, debates quickly emerged over whether AI-generated works should be considered art.

The winner, Jason Allen, said he indicated the work was made by AI when he submitted it to the competition under the category of digital arts/digitally manipulated photography.

“Art is dead, dude. It’s over. A.I. won. Humans lost,” Allen told The New York Times in an interview.

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The painting in question was created with Midjourney, a text-to-image generator that converts a text prompt into digital art. After the user puts in the text prompt, the algorithm generates the assets based on a database of pre-existing images and artwork.

Users usually would type in a few keywords to describe what they want the image to look like. Based on them, the AI creates digital drawings. The images could be further customized by feeding in other detailed commands, according to Midjourney’s user manual.

Midjourney is not the only text-to-image generator. There are other programs such as DALL·E, Nightcafe and Starryai that produce similar results. But the controversy over it is thrusting the technology to the front of a growing debate about what it means to create art and most importantly— what is art?

Canadian artists who spoke to Global News said AI still has a long way to go before it might be able to really replace artists and designers, and said while AI-generated images are impressive, they lack “the human touch.”

That’s especially true when it comes to concept art done for companies, said Olivia Hamza, a concept artist at Montreal-based company Panache Digital Games.

“What we do (as concept artists) is actually a lot more complex than just drawing and oftentimes you don’t see it from an outside point of view because people only see the final polished version of the product,” said Hamza.

“On a daily basis we have to communicate with different departments and find a way to harmonize every section’s needs into one design, so I don’t think the AI is at that point where it can do this for companies.”


Hamza said artists and designers took many years to learn how to organize images to convey a very specific mood or message.

“All of these things take years of practice, it takes at least seven years to learn how to draw, and then you have the painting skills and design skills to add on top of that, and those are another three or four years,” said Hamza. “Learning how to make art from scratch takes at least 12 years and at that point, you haven’t mastered it.”

Hamza said she was previously tasked to look into text-to-image generators to see if they can adapt AI for concept art development for video game designs, but “wasn’t specifically impressed” even though the results are beautiful.

“It has a lot of potential for creativity and brainstorming,” she said. “What I think is more worrisome is that the AI isn’t quite as intelligent as we’d like to believe it is, so I think it just mashes up a lot of bits and pieces of pre-existing images.”

Ljubica Todorovic, an artist who also runs a framing business, said there has been fear among some artists that AI is going to take away the work from living artists.

However, Todorovic said she is not worried.

“AI can’t generate real physical paintings and there’s value in traditional art,” said Todorovic.

Todorovic added that the controversy surrounding AI-generated art is very similar to how artist reacted to cameras when they were first introduced.

“Camera Obscura is one of the first controversial things that was out in the 1600s,” said Todorovic, adding that digital devices like drawing tablets were also in the heat of the debate when they came out in 1990s.

Todorovic said there are also concerns over the ethics of creating and profiting from AI-generated art.

She said for the sake of ethics and to be professional, artists who generate images using AI — which build on and adapt pre-existing images made by other artists — need to attribute to the original source and be transparent that their drawing is generated by AI.

Hamza said there are also copyright issues that don’t allow AI to replace real artists in a professional setting.

“This is where the big part of the dilemma in my industry is that we can’t really claim these images until we know what the sources are,” said Hamza.

In Canada, creators cannot obtain copyright over a work that is entirely AI-generated since it is not a human-authored work, said Carys Craig, a professor at the Osgoode Hall Law School at York University.

“Copyright law in Canada right now protects only human-authored works as original work of expression,” said Craig.

“This means an author must exercise skills and judgment when expressing their ideas.”

Craig said the AI’s ability to process data and produce digital art is not the kind of authorial skill and judgment that fits the definition of work deserving copyright protection.

Copyright law only protects human-authored works so that authors and artists are encouraged to create cultural products, and to be rewarded by the copyright system, said Craig.

“When we’re talking about whether this should be protected by copyright, we’re not talking about whether it’s good or bad art,” said Craig. “Copyright is about giving individual control, exclusive control over the work so nobody else can make the productions or they can copy it.”

She said although she thinks AI-generated drawings are “wonderful to look at”, the rationale for protecting AI-generated works with copyright law “just isn’t there.”

“To my mind, art is something more than the machine-generated image. It’s an exercise of human creativity and human expression,” she said. “I think it’s very important to recall that what the machine is doing is very different from what human artists and operators are doing.”

For Shana Patry, AI-generated images can come in useful for her creation as reference images — images that artists sometimes use to get an understanding of what objects should look like in real life.

Patry, who is a full-time artist in Saguenay, QC, told Global News that she believes AI-generated images can be “a massive time saver” for artists and useful for brainstorming ideas and exploring different compositions.

“Artificial Intelligence can create reference images extremely quickly for painters and artists,” said Patry. “These images will have a consistent light source, color harmonies and an awareness of things like reflections and bounced light.”

Patry has used AI-generated images for one of her traditional oil painting works, in which she said the paint, canvas and the texture are something an AI couldn’t mimic.

She said she believes that there will be always room for artists as the “artwork exists first in the mind of the artist as a concept or an idea before being put onto the canvas.”

“AI helps define that vision into something clearer and tangible,” said Patry. “The artist’s mind is still required to create AI images. Generators can’t do anything without being told what to do, so it’s all about the idea and the artist behind it.”

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'LOVE' Digital Art Collection On Sale – ATP Tour



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‘LOVE’ Digital Art Collection On Sale  ATP Tour

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Football and art come together in the first NFT exhibition of its kind – Canada NewsWire



–  The King Abdulaziz Center for World Culture’s From Strike to Stroke exhibit features 64 FIFA World Cup match results in a unique man-machine collaboration

DHAHRAN, Saudi Arabia, Dec. 6, 2022 /CNW/ — The King Abdulaziz Center for World Culture (Ithra) celebrates the art of the beautiful game in a unique exhibition at the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar. From Strike to Stroke features 64 NFTs by 32 artists from the competing nations, while Artificial Intelligence (AI) fuses the pieces from the contending two countries in each of the 64 matches into a unique piece based on the match outcome. The result will be a singular collection of one-of-a-kind NFTs created through a collaboration of man and machine. Strike to Stroke runs at the Msheireb Galleria Doha, Qatar until December 23.

Ithra, a cultural bridge between Saudi Arabia and the rest of the world, channels the world’s passion for football into its infatuation with the arts as the world comes together for the World Cup. The exhibition melds the man-made with the machine-made, and combines art, sport and technology in an innovative fashion.

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It features the work of 32 emerging and established artists, each tasked with creating a piece representing their country and using their respective team’s jersey colors. After each match, the AI-powered algorithm combines the artists’ creations with match statistics to generate unique pieces that represent each game. The collection will be a unique set of pieces presented as NFTs – non-fungible tokens. These cryptographic assets are based on blockchain technology, and created in a process similar to cryptocurrencies.

From Strike to Stroke includes artists who have never created NFTs and NFT artists who had not worked within traditional fine art.

“The passion shared by football fans for the love of the beautiful game can be tangential to the passion shared by art aesthetes,” said Dr. Shurooq Amin in her curator’s brief to the exhibition. “By connecting 32 artists from both the traditional and digital arenas, Ithra not only bridges the gap between Web2 to Web3, and between football and art, but furthermore between human and machine, as the artists collaborate with AI generation technology to create unique NFTs that combine art, football and technology.”


Images and exhibition catalogue can be found here.

For more information on Ithra and its programs, visit

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SOURCE King Abdul Aziz Center for World Culture (Ithra)

For further information: Media contacts: Nour Aldajani, [email protected], +966-583268120, Nora Al Harthi, [email protected], Domia Abdi, [email protected], Hadeel Eisa, [email protected]

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Richard Serra's art installation hard to miss in Qatar desert, once you get there – The Globe and Mail



Depending on the direction you approach, you see only part of the art. As you get closer, the dark plates get bigger and bigger and you get to see all four.The Canadian Press

Art stands tall in the desert some 75 kilometres northwest of Doha.

You need a rugged vehicle and no small resolve to find it, given signage is almost non-existent. The last few kilometres take time as you cross the desert on a slightly flattened but irregular path well away from the closest blacktop. Proceed with caution.

But East-West/West-East by American sculptor Richard Serra is worth the effort.

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Completed in 2014, the installation comprises four giant steel plates – the outer two stand 16.7 metres high and the inner two 14.7 metres – and span more than a kilometre. Slightly different in height, to compensate for the difference in ground level, they line up like enormous fence posts in the barren desert flanked by gypsum plateaus at some points.

If not the middle of nowhere, it’s well on the way.

Possibly the last place on earth you’d expect to see “one of the most significant artists of his generation,” as Serra is dubbed by the Gagosian Gallery which has showcased his work in both New York and France.

“Taking art to the people,” is how Qatar Museums, the country’s arts and culture arm, explains it.

Depending on the direction you approach, you see only part of the art. As you get closer, the dark plates get bigger and bigger and you get to see all four.

“After the perceptual bombardment of Doha, with its architecture dominated by idiosyncratic shapes and kitschy facades, the sensuous experience prompted by the rigorous abstraction of the (desert) sculpture is at once bracing and sensitizing,” wrote Artforum magazine.

“Serra reminds the viewer, like 19th-century German Romantic artists such as Caspar David Friedrich, of man’s frailty in the face of nature’s omnipotence,” added Numero magazine.

For non art-critics, imagine the monolith in 2001: A Space Odyssey on steroids and times four in the desert. Stand next to one and you feel like an ant – a very hot ant under the blazing Qatari sun.

You’ll also likely be alone, albeit under review from what seemed like security in a nearby pickup truck.

The 84-year-old Serra, who worked in steel mills during college, is known for his large-scale abstract steel sculptures.

There is another in Doha itself. A sculpture called 7 – the number seven has spiritual significance in Islamic culture – was commissioned by Qatar Museums.

Built out of seven steel plates, it faces the sea at MIA Park, adjacent to the Museum of Islamic Art.

Like a billionaire stocking his mansion with objets d’art, the government of Qatar has dug deep into its oil-filled coffers to decorate the country with world-class art.

There are big-ticket art works all over.

In 2013, Qatar Museums Authority head Sheikha al-Mayassa al-Thani, the daughter of the emir of Qatar, was listed atop ArtReview magazine’s annual Power 100 list “on account of her organization’s vast purchasing power and willingness to spend at a rate estimated to be US$1-billion a year – in order to get top works of art for its Doha museums,” ArtReview said.

Le Pouce, a giant golden thumb by French artist Cesar Baldaccini, is front and centre in Doha’s Souq Waqif market. French-American artist Louise Bourgeois’ Maman, a giant spider that can also be found outside Ottawa’s National Gallery of Canada, stands inside the Qatar National Convention Center (QNCC), which doubles as the World Cup’s main press centre.

Another edition of Maman, one of seven, was sold for US$32-million by Christie’s in 2019.

“The Miraculous Journey” by English artist Damien Hirst is hard to miss outside Sidra Medicine centre just down the street from the QNCC. The 14 monumental bronze sculptures chronicle the gestation of a fetus inside a uterus, from conception to birth – ending with a statue of a 14-metre-tall anatomically correct baby boy.


Follow @NeilMDavidson on Twitter

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 5, 2022

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