Is AI art the new frontier or just another way to rip artists off? Watch episode 1 of digi-Art now
The infinite monkey theorem posits that if a countless number of monkeys were assembled in front of a limitless number of typewriters, they would eventually create writing as revered and dense as the works of William Shakespeare.
The theorem feels unimaginable and creative works are so often seen as intentional — great writing and designs can’t just be shaped from nothing. But recent trends in AI seem set to transform how the creation of art is viewed in culture.
AI art has been all over the Internet, and even winning awards, and it’s leading some visual artists to worry about their roles in the future.
Text-to-image systems, like DALL-E 2, have been enabling anyone to create striking visual works with just a few words. People can now truly create something from almost nothing. But, this process isn’t as random as it seems.
Dr. Alexis Morris is the tier two research chair in the Internet of Things at OCAD University. He told digi-Art host Taelor Lewis-Joseph about a process called “classification” — the process by which a machine can turn language to a thing, and then ultimately an image.
“You show the machine an image of a cat, but it doesn’t know what a cat is,” Morris says. “You give it lots of pictures of cats and after a time, it starts to learn that cats are often a little fuzzy and have pointed ears.”
“As you give it more and more pictures, the machine figures out more and more features.”
Through being exposed to countless images, AI can begin to generate sometimes startlingly realistic images from almost nothing.
Intelligence stealing art
While AI technology is groundbreaking, not all creatives are excited by its prospects in the art world.
Mark Gagne is a multimedia artist and head of Mindmelt Studio. He’s no stranger to using technology in his art — Gagne will often mix together illustrations and photography in his pieces.
But he has grown frustrated with what he views as AI’s continued encroachment on original pieces of art.
“These AI programs are scraping artwork off the internet, including my own, and Frankensteining them into a piece of artwork,” Gagne says. “It really upset me that I was one of those artists that got scraped up by the AI apps.”
Gagne’s frustration with AI platforms has been increased by the fact that he considers his work to be very personal to him. His work often explores topics like mental health.
“People … [identified] with the imagery that I was putting out and it really opened dialogue with a lot of people,” he says. “They found that my art page was a safe space for them to express that.”
What started as personal expression has now been “regurgitated” by AI platforms, Gagne argues. “It’s kind of like when somebody breaks into your home and takes off with your television or your PlayStation or something,” he says.
“I mean, the technology’s amazing, but what’s wrong with these companies coming to the artists and saying, ‘We’d like to work with you?'”
Taking advantage of AI
While some artists are worried about AI, some are embracing it. Waxhead is an artist who began in a more analogue medium — street art.
But now, Waxhead said that AI is taking an active role in his creations. In fact, AI has helped to inform the art he creates in the physical world.
“I’m using AI in a wide variety of ways as a tool to create seamless textures for 3D models, to create reference material for my murals, to create references for paintings,” he says. “It just allowed me to be creative and to learn and renew a love for learning.”
Waxhead’s experiments with AI have allowed him to manipulate some of his favourite styles of art. He says that AI allows styles of art to be reiterated.
“I’m starting to build models that are referencing my art, so I’m using hundreds and hundreds of photographs of years and years and years of my work to make something that’s my style, that’s Waxhead, but also created by AI,” he says.
While he acknowledges the problems other artists have had with their art being scooped up by AI platforms, he also thinks that this cycle is reflective of art more broadly.
“I think humans have always used other artwork as references and we’re all taking our inspirations from somewhere,” he says.
“Things are changing extremely fast … I’m excited about the future, using AI, using text prompts. What concerns me is who controls these models.”
“I think more open-source AI models that are controlled by the public, in terms of art and creativity, are gonna have vastly more amazing applications in general.”
Arts in the Garden brings a visual feast to the North Shore
Ask any creative what qualifies as art and they will tell you that art is multifaceted, spanning everything from music and performance to paintings, sculpture, sketch and – to some especially green-thumbed creatives – a meticulously curated garden.
This weekend gardens across the North Shore celebrated all things aesthetically pleasing for Arts in the Garden, a community event that fuses all facets of artistic creation by putting together visual artists, musicians and live performers in the same space.
The annual event, presented by North Van Arts, comprised 13 blooming gardens that traversed themes from ‘engaging’ – a garden with thought-provoking artwork and an active garden with bubbling ponds – to ‘connected’ – another filled with interconnected, meandering trails and musicians who sang on the on the healing power of trees.
“This natural environment lends itself so well to art. Galleries are very restrictive, you’re in a very sterile environment, but this inspires creativity, more authentic conversation,” said Garrett Andrew Chong, a photographer whose images had poked out from flourishing flower beds in a garden on West Vancouver’s Marine Drive.
For the artists participating, the event gave them the opportunity to get out of the stuffy confines of gallery and workspace, and allowed their wares to be viewed and appreciated by a wider audience.
“This is a really, really nice opportunity, this is a very different demographic to where I live, a much different crowd, and it means I can showcase all the different things that I work on,” said artist Emily Picard, an artist from the Sunshine Coast.
Like many of the artists participating, Picard’s creations complemented the space it inhabited. The eclectic nature of her work – Picard’s mediums span acrylic paint, spray paint, watercolour and marker pens – slotted in seamlessly to a garden that was anything but minimalistic.
Aptly categorised under “Ethereal” the North Vancouver garden, number 7 on the tour, had been like a scene from Alice’s Wonderland, complete with chandeliers hanging from the trees – 75 in total – birdcages protruding from flower beds and crystal dinnerware scattered large silvered tables.
Gardener Susan Bath, who has spent 27 years putting the outdoor scene together, said she hopes her mystical greenspace will inspire creativity within all who enter, and will encourage them to embrace whimsy in all its forms.
“I hope this shows that you don’t necessarily have to hire a professional, or be a professional, to create in this way. You don’t need a landscape artist, you don’t need money or a large garden, you just need time and a sense of playfulness,” she said, adding how most pieces had been gifted, bought from charity stores, or picked up from the side of the road.
While some gardens transported guests to Lewis Carroll lands, others set the scene for education. At Garden number 9, dubbed ‘Energized’, the LifeSpace Gardens hosted fellow green thumbs and offered tips and information on urban farming and vegetable growing.
At “Harmony”, garden number 4 on West Vancouver’s Whonoak Road, a fourteen year old food forest on Sḵwx̱wú7mesh Úxwumixw (Squamish Nation) land invited guests to learn about Indigenous plants and healing.
“This is an educational space, where people can come and pick different things that they need from our community, anytime of the year,” said Senaqwila Wyss, the garden’s host, adding how the garden is open to all who want to learn.
Wyss said the event provided the opportunity for guests to learn the names of herbs and plants in the Sḵwx̱wú7mesh Sníchim (Squamish language), to learn of Indigenous foods themselves – like the Indigenous wild potato wapato that has been making a comeback in local soil – and to immerse themselves in Squamish culture. Within the garden, musician Rennie Nahanee had delivered song and Squamish storytelling, talking of Elders and canoe experiences.
Whether hosting Indigenous storytelling or abstract art, each garden, said Tary Majidi, artist and host of Marine Drive’s offering, should provoke some sort of response from guests. It should inspire them to create or to engage, to connect with other people more or to just appreciate the smaller, more natural, everyday things in life.
“We could all do with getting off the internet, off social media, and going back to art and going back to the natural world, enjoying nature or clay or paint,” she said.
“If there is one thing that people should take away from this event, it’s that art can heal and that should not be overlooked,” she said.
Mina Kerr-Lazenby is the North Shore News’ Indigenous and civic affairs reporter. This reporting beat is made possible by the Local Journalism Initiative.
Bigger Art in the Park returns this weekend
Last year’s event in Windsor’s Willistead Park broke attendance records. About 40,000 people came through the gate, and sales surpassed years in the past. Event Chair Allan Kidd said one vendor had to drive home for more inventory when they sold out.
More than 250 vendors from Ontario and Quebec registered for this year’s festival. Another 20 food vendors signed up, including local beer, wine, and spirits makers.
A complimentary bike valet is new this year. Those who go will find it at the Chilver Road entrance.
Kids Zone is back with four giant inflatables, face painting, and the chance to meet some of their favourite characters.
A free shuttle service will carry festival-goers to Willistead Park from 1591 Kildare Road and the Hiram Walker parking lot on Riverside Drive at Montreuil Avenue.
Admission is $8 at the gate, but guests can buy a ticket online for $7. There is no charge for children aged 12 and under.
Art in the Park has raised $1.3-million for the Rotary Club of Windsor 1918’s restoration efforts at Willistead Manor and $2-million for local and global projects.
“Much of our community doesn’t know that Art in the Park is a fundraising event. The people who attend help us raise the funds to build schools, drill wells, and deliver books, medicine and wheelchairs at home and around the world,” said Kidd.
Art in the Park on Saturday is from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Masha Titova’s “The Music of Art”
available to read in its entirety here, manage to do.t’s not often that the cover of The New Yorker, traditionally a storytelling image signed by the artist, reflects what goes on behind the scenes at the magazine—but that is what the black and copper shapes designed by Masha Titova for the cover of the June 5, 2023, Music Issue,
The first step was connecting with Titova, a Russian artist who relocated to Montenegro last year, after the Russian invasion of Ukraine. I asked Titova to use her sense of design to orchestrate a portrayal of a variety of sounds. Titova says, “I don’t play an instrument, but I love music, especially its rhythms, which often inspire me. And when I design, I try to harmonize the various visual shapes as if they were part of a musical composition.”
Once we settled upon the image, we recorded the aural elements that make up the cover’s malleable melody. Some of our more musically adept staffers—including Nick Trautwein, a senior editor who moonlights as a saxophonist, and David Remnick, the editor, on guitar—gathered to interpret Titova’s shapes, selecting the ones they wished to play. Julia Rothchild, a managing editor, who contributed piano, viola, and voice, described the process as “an exercise in synesthesia. What sound would that square make, or those triangles? A thud, or a flutter?”
Impromptu chamber groups formed: a viola-cello duo, a vocal quintet. The musical respite in the middle of the day presented the opportunity to exercise a different kind of focus from that of closing pieces, or making fact-checking calls. The associate research director Hélène Werner, who has played the cello since she was eight years old, said, “Music set me on my way. It was the organizing principle of my childhood. . . . It demands, of those who play it and listen to it, intellectual commitment and emotional honesty. It is generous in return. There is no better teacher.” Rina Kushnir, the art director, also appreciates music for its emotive qualities, for its ability to communicate what is “not possible to express otherwise.” Liz Maynes-Aminzade, the puzzles-and-games editor, says that “drumming and writing (puzzles or otherwise) light up some of the same parts of my brain.” A unifying factor in everyone’s performance was how seriously each performer took their music. One after the other, when their turn came, they paused their casual banter, took a deep breath, played their bit, and only then rejoined the playful green-room atmosphere. It was an unplanned but perfect demonstration of all our colleagues’ marvellous dedication to all they do.
The making of a weekly magazine (or of a Web site, a radio show, a festival, any of our many undertakings) is always a concerted endeavor, but that collaboration happens behind the scenes. This multimedia project, programmed by David Kofahl, the head of the interactives department, with the help of the features editor Sam Wolson, gives a glimpse of the way the efforts of many talented individuals and departments combine to insure that The New Yorker appears on your doorstep (or in your in-box), week after week, as good as we can make it.
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