AI Can't Replace Artists—But Here's How Artists Can Use AI

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Artificial intelligence isn’t going anyway any time soon. And while there are still numerous questions about AI’s capability to replace art, there are also opportunities for artists to use AI as a tool—as long as they know the technology is still evolving. 

“There’s a lot of stuff in AI I’ve learned that was great four months ago, [but] it’s useless now,” says Chris LeDoux, the co-founder and senior visual effects supervisor of Crafty Apes. “It’s changed; it’s moving so fast—so what’s important is to learn the fundamentals of what’s going on and learn to think within the framework.”


How to ethically use AI

Man using ChatGPT

Vadym Pastukh/Shutterstock

The legal and moral landscape of AI is in a constant state of flux. Though major legal developments are in the works, it’s not too late to take part in the conversation. “I think [creators] should be involved as much as possible. I think they should have a voice, and I think they should speak very loudly about what they don’t like and what they’re afraid of,” says Dr. Maya Ackerman, the CEO and cofounder of WaveAI, which specializes in creating AI-generated music.

One simple rule: Don’t try to pass off AI-generated content, performances, or artwork as entirely your own. With the way AI works, you would arguably be committing plagiarism—at best, you’re not properly citing the art that “inspired” your own. Even if it’s for personal use, this is a bad look. But if you submit it to contests or paying clients, you could wind up facing legal action. In the long run, hiding your use of AI is far more likely to hinder your career than help it; it will not only erode your credibility if you’re found out, but it will give both employers and peers false expectations regarding your actual skill set.

That said, there are plenty of ways artists and writers can use AI ethically. This technology isn’t going away anytime soon, so it’s a good idea to get in on the ground floor; by joining the conversation now, you can help shape it.

How to use AI

Keep in mind that the technology is imperfect. If you’re using AI to gauge your performance or break down a script, for example, don’t take the results as gospel. AI is a tool, not the be-all and end-all. 

“What I consider to be really important is flexibility. It’s this idea that the person should be in control of how much help they receive,” says Ackerman.

AI uses for actors

Determine whether a role is right for you: When you get a script, you can use an app like Largo.AI to quickly break down the scenes and roles in just a few moments. Instead of having to piece together the puzzle and make assumptions about a character, you can immediately get an understanding of their personality: Are they chirpy and upbeat? Deep and brooding? Morose and melancholic? How do they fit into each scene in the narrative? This can help you quickly assess if the project is a good choice for you and your skill set.

Evaluate your expressions: AI can help you check whether your acting is on point. Apps like Viso are expanding the capabilities of emotional analysis. Essentially, this kind of tool assesses the expressions of a sample given by the user through facial recognition software, which can let you know how your face reads to an onlooker. (But again, keep in mind that there is no “right” way to express a line, and AI won’t know the context of the script.) 

Use it as a visualization tool: Reading a script is one thing, but imagining the scene and how your character fits into it is another. If you plug a vivid description into an art generator, you can actually see the details of the setting and better picture yourself within it.

AI uses for writers and artists

Use it as an assistant: In terms of cutting down on legwork, artificial intelligence is undeniably helpful. A language model like ChatGPT can help writers create an outline for a script or article. However, the ideas and prompts themselves have to come from you, as does the actual writing. 

“You have to go to the system and prompt it with something in order to get the thing back that you want,” says Joe Vanderhelm, the associate director of education for the improv hub Rapid Fire Theatre based in Edmonton, Alberta. “Sometimes, what you get back isn’t what you want, so you have to refine it.” 

Generate ideas and prompts: When you’re in the brainstorming stages of a project, AI can act as your muse. Even if what the algorithm generates is completely unusable, it still might spark your creativity. 

For instance, when we asked ChatGPT to generate an idea for a children’s movie, here’s what it wrote:


Source: ChatGPT

This is a pretty generic idea, but you could take away a piece from it as a building block for your story. For example, maybe you like the idea of the main character being a fox or the message about protecting the environment.

“You can understand where you would fit in as the creative,” says Vanderhelm. “Like, OK, it can do this for me, but it can’t yet do this. So I need to focus on the areas where it can’t [deliver].”

Catch up: Creators who are already well-versed in their craft can now speed up their process significantly, while those who are untrained can more easily bring their ideas into the world. 

“It's going to be bridging the connection between people who might not necessarily have this hard skill set or the time, but you do have the creativity and the understanding of aesthetics to be able to create something great with these tools,” says Vanderhelm.

Hanno Basse, the chief technology officer at Digital Domain, a VFX company whose work can be seen in Marvel Cinematic Universe and “Terminator” films, adds: “Maybe we will see a lot more art being generated this way, because it democratizes it. There’s a barrier to entry that’s being removed.” 

As AI technology evolves, it’s important to stay up to date on advances in the field. Whether you’re beginning a career as a creator or are a veteran with decades of experience, it’s a good idea to learn about what artificial intelligence has to offer. 

“We’re going to have a lot more assistive tools, building on a long, long history of computers assisting us in doing things,” says Ackerman. “I think there are going to be some autonomous use cases, but they’re going to be kind of narrow and specific.” 

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