Art and Design Society

Will “good enough” AI beat human artists?

Replied to

The problems of relying on AI art

AI leads towards visual convergence when trained on generic material not unique to different cultures or styles, always going to come up with the go-to visual and nothing unique unless instructed by a human. Will continue to allow the current visual paradigm to dominate. Sometimes the archetypical rendering is fine, the unique elements are somewhere else, but relying only on that will not create new visions of the future for sci-fi renderings.

The computer is limited by the input it receives, and cannot make estimations outside of 1) what it is given 2) what the scientist-academic nudges it to do 3) the scope of the project…

It cannot adequately have the dataset to make everything, because it’s limited to who can give it that data and how that data is acquired. So much of what artists are inspired by come from non-digital, non-archived sources: stories from our ancestors, inherited cultural modes, language (which affects our metaphors and perceptions of time and philosophies), animals wandering around, sensory experiences, memes, etc…

Basically, what I am saying is that just like humans, the AI is limited by its inability to access information it doesn’t have.

— Reimena Yee, The Rise of the Bots; The Ascension of the Human

Will good enough win when it comes to art? If it’s between free and paid, the free version may be good enough for a lot of commercial uses…

Is convergence enough to stop “good enough”?

In other creative fields, art is already converging to homogeneous looks and sounds:

To minimize risk, movie studios are sticking with tried and true IP, and simply adding onto or remaking existing works.

Will illustration and the visual arts follow the same trend? For some commercial art needs, the purpose is to fit a tight-fit visual niche — think romance book covers, or organic food packaging, where the goal is to communicate quickly what category of product it is.

But, some art — like magazine covers — does need to stand out. Distinctiveness is part of the goal. This is where creative work can persist despite “good enough” in other areas.

Will AI-created artwork achieve its goals?

Example: cover illustration

The art on these covers is pretty enough but the type is bad:

If you just need a placeholder cover these seem fine, but I’m curious whether these are enticing enough to sell books. Probably something you could use for a lead magnet, something you’re not selling but just want to have a cover in the Kindle library.

Example: comics

Some fine vibe-setting panels for a comic, but not super useful for storytelling, the panels are too similar, and how good will it be at action? I can’t imagine it will naturally generate unique poses and dynamic angles to keep scenes visually interesting. Just a few pages of this feels slow-paced.

If this is the only kind of art it can produce, it will only be useful for indie literary type comics. I think what’s going on is that grand vistas look impressive and are hard to draw, but the AI’s problems are also more apparent at closer scales, where it adds weird distortions or things don’t align we’ll. Our brains can ignore or fix the problems in a vista, but they’re impossible to ignore when they’re the focal point.

I would guess, like Ursula Vernon, AI will be a tool to reduce workload for artists needing to draw complex environment panels, and an asset library for rendering environments. In current state Vernon found it needed a lot of post processing.

This art style looks beautiful now, kinda Monstress – esque / movie concept art, but I suspect that the more people use it, the more generic it will feel and people will value art that’s clearly created by a human / has its own visual style.

Implications for the industry

This tech could push down editorial illustration prices so only newbies who live on starvation wages will be able to compete with AI, plus high end artists who can retain boutique clients that value uniqueness and want to signal that they are a luxury publication / brand, so the middle career folks will disappear. Or, will only high end creators with distinctive appeal be able to keep working and all junior creatives fade out?

If you’re a creator, you either have a style or you don’t. If you don’t, you’re simply a gig worker. And if you have a style, there’s a computer program that’s going to not only encourage people to copy your style, but expand it.

For some, this is going to lead to enormous opportunities in speed, creativity and possibility. For others, it’s a significant threat.

— Seth Godin, Unprepared as Always 

Not yet, but…

I’d say AI is not good enough *yet* for most use cases, but it will get better over time. In the long run there will be less work for creatives actually producing their own renderings (linework, painting, photoshoots) and more the art direction angle of knowing what prompts to give the AI to get what you want, plus correction of obvious rendering errors.

At the low end of the scale, a broader range of fields will be impacted (logo design, basic graphic design) — will enough small scale jobs be accessible to early career folks that the industry won’t collapse in 20 years, because no one was able to get the experience?

Comics Society

Superman is irrelevant — which makes him relevant?

My friend sent me a screenshot that people saw someone at the January 6th attempted insurrection who looked like Clark Kent, and was like, they know Superman would never, right? I also was listening to Land of Confusion with the line, “Superman where are you now / when everything’s gone wrong somehow”

I’ve never liked Superman so I am admittedly biased — but I think Superman is particularly irrelevant and impotent today. His storylines worked in a time when good and evil seemed clear: America good, commies bad. America’s dark deeds and inequality could be shunted to the edges of society and glossed over; but now the veneer has been pried off and the rot at the heart of American culture and independent heroism is clear.

In contrast, Batman fits in a modern era, with his psychological trauma and heavy conscience and self-flagellating batter-his-head determination to pursue a thankless, impossible mission alone. He holds himself apart, making himself weaker in refusing to build real relationships, crippled by fear of loss, building bonds only through his secret second life. He is a hero of the shadows, born of darkness, hopeless yet grimly persevering.

Superman is the 1950s American hero: a strong man with clear convictions, willing to fight for his country! *Triumphant music* He’s a man for black and white problems with a clear solution. That doesn’t fit today’s problems — climate change, social division, a deadly and disabling virus, erosion of Americans’ civil rights, destruction of the democratic process — which can’t be punched into repair, can’t be muscled into a happy ending. Batman knows he’s not up to the task, but he’ll show up to fight anyway, not recognizing that filling the role of hero reinforces the divisions in the community and he thus defeats himself, tragically missing that it’s community and collaboration that are the key. That he will never be able to fix this on his own. Bruce is an elite, a 1-percenter, his very existence at the heart of the problem he seeks to fix. The systemic problems are beyond one man’s ability to charity his way out of, so his guilt drives him to bear personal responsibility by physically fighting the manifestations of his constant failure. He’s so tragic and lost, I love him — and he fits our world of gray morality and deification of the toxic American myth of the lone gunman, the independent hero. His despair is ours, his failure ours.

How would Superman react to the modern world? Where America often plays the villain on the world stage, invading countries and supporting coups and rebellions to suit political ends, and fails to live up to its ideals with the suspension of habeas corpus for brown terrorists while doing nothing to stop white supremacist violence, intensive mass surveillance of its own people, and permanent separation of children from their parents at the border as they flee their homes to escape violence. Frankly his impotence could finally make him an interesting character, when he loses the ability to save the world and his powers make no difference. When the nuclear arsenals are so large he could never stop all the bombs. When his helping the government is letting himself be used for the purposes of the nation state rather than the benefit of its people.

Yet he’d be a never give up hope kinda guy, even in his personal impotence a la Watchmen. Which could make him once more a powerful inspirational figure in leading the fight against fascism (from within), inspiring people to never give up, to never accept that they are powerless. Ironically becoming the hero needed today through his own personal loss of power.

Would he hang up the cape and spend his time on investigative journalism? Would he become a spokesperson (or social media influencer???) for climate action? Would he lead voter registration drives and phone bank? Would he become a protestor and chain himself to machinery, blocking construction of pipelines? Would he punchinate Mount Rushmore back into the indigenous people’s sacred form?

How would he grapple with the psychology of losing his identity of hero? Would it be a relief to be unburdened of responsibility, or a source of guilt and shame to not be able to set things right? Or would he let go the world’s bigger problems and keep his focus on the ones he can settle with his powers so he could remain a hero in his traditional form?

So basically I want a Vertigo Superman story 😉 Still sad about Vertigo…

(If anyone’s actually written Superman or Batman comics like this please let me know, I don’t follow DC or Marvel releases, too many to keep up with and too much lore. I tend to read one-offs like Frank Miller’s Batman.)

ETA 7/26: DC Films doesn’t know what to do with Superman – lol not without pissing off Nazis anyway

Comics History

Read Baggywrinkles

Read Baggywrinkles by Lucy Bellwood

Welcome to the world of Baggywrinkles a rollicking, educational survey of maritime lore, built around cartoonist Lucy Bellwood’s time aboard tall ships. From the scourge of scurvy to the exhilaration of climbing the rigging for the first time, Lucy’s comics bring the reader into a world of high seas history and informative adventure.

A collection of comic “essays” about tall ships, incorporating history lessons and her own experiences. Her enthusiasm for tall ships comes through. I would have liked a few more essays or one-pagers to flesh it out a bit more – one more autobio essay at the end would have helped round it out and make it feel more of its own thing than a collection of smaller things.

That said, this feels like what I should aim for as a first big comics project: a collection of small, even mini comics.

Learning Resources and Reference

Character Design Videos


Videos by Stephen Silver from Adobe Max to watch for character design:

Effective Character Design: from Start to Finish

Effective Character Design: Shapes and Structures

Effective Character Design: Story, Gesture, Design, and Details