AI: The Threat to the Flame Within

yli is My Story

Growing up, I did what my parents asked of me, such as doing chores around the house, taking care of my siblings, and following the path they wanted me to follow. I never questioned why I shouldn’t do as they say. After all, they only wanted what was best for me and I wanted to help them. My parents sacrificed and suffered a lot for me and my siblings. My dad especially suffered extreme hardship – it’s what our family carries within. It was hard for me to break away from the need to always repay them for that hardship. It didn’t matter if my happiness was the cost of making sure my family didn’t struggle. It didn’t matter how I felt, all I wanted was for my family to be taken care of and for my dad to be proud. Nothing mattered more than becoming wealthy. For years I didn’t matter until I was wealthy. 

Then, in my junior year of high school, I put together a Christmas poster for a club charity event. That’s when I realized, I love to create things. This was something I wanted to pursue in life. I want to succeed as an artist and make a living out of it. I finally managed to see that I mattered and needed to live for myself. I had to be selfish for once and do what I wanted. Being an artist helped me break away from the chains that weighed me down. Being an artist gave me purpose and became my life. Art has helped me so much and nothing has ever made me happier despite its struggles. Art was a skill I had to build from the ground up. I was willing to put in the hard work. I remember reading finance books my dad gave me about achieving success through your drive and passion. I imagined drive and passion as a flame within. I felt my flame dwindling doing what my dad wanted. Art was the spark that reignited my flame.

Art by Nancy Aguilar-Aquino, using Glaze, a program that disrupts AI mimicry.

But now with AI technology, my flame is being taken away from me again. AI programs have made things so much worse for artists as these programs can generate “art” pieces. Many AI users are using programs to generate art pieces with the artists’ styles without consent or compensation. Many artists have spoken out but not much has been done yet. Adobe, for example, was called out by many artists for selling licenses of AI pieces mimicking their styles and names. AI is harming artists in the worst way possible. By stealing their art.

What I hate the most about AI is that people are selling AI pieces. This discourages me the most as an artist. I want to start an art business and it takes a lot of time and hard work. Building a following where people want to buy your art is even harder. I’ve seen AI users with large followings on social media, with comments admiring and praising their AI piece. I’ve seen them put links to prints they sell of the AI pieces they post. AI pieces have become hard to distinguish from art that has been made by a human. It takes a lot of time and skill building to get to a point where your art is “good enough” for people to buy. It’s awful to know that someone who wrote word prompts was able to create an amazing piece good enough to buy. Some people don’t care where or how things are made as long as they get the product at a decent price. It makes me wonder what’s the point of working so hard on art.

How will I be able to compete with AI? I can’t create amazing art quickly enough, I’m only human. I can choose to use AI, but I don’t want to, even though it could make things easier for me. I don’t want to use a tool that’s built upon the hard work and lives of others. Sometimes I want to give up but I can’t give up on art. It’s everything to me. What gives some peace of mind is that AI pieces can’t be copyrighted if created by AI. This means that AI art isn’t worth protecting like human created art. I still have value and my art is worth protecting.

Anyone can be an artist. AI can bridge the gap between accessibility and art skills. Technology has come a long way and new innovations appear. Digital artists use many tools to help with their art process. I use 3D models to help with references and an autofill tool to help with flat colors. AI can become a tool for artists – this is the argument many AI users make when confronted about the harms of AI programs. But right now, it isn’t helping. A lot of artists started their art journey with paper and pencils. If you work at it, your creativity will find a way to make its way into the real world somehow. AI can quickly generate a piece and you can spend time revising prompts until you get your desired result. Artists spend years creating and honing their skills. It isn’t easy but the results of your art are worth it. You’ll love the AI result but you’ll never understand the love of creating art from the result of your hard work. You can’t replicate that kind of love.

I’m protective of art and feel negative towards AI because my dad almost took art away from me. I got accepted to a school with special electives. I was going to take graphic design. I was really happy and excited to take the class. A letter from the school came and I needed my parent’s signature. I went to my dad and I caught him frustrated. The stress of finance was heavy on him. He was upset that I wasn’t doing what he wanted after years of him telling me. He said he wouldn’t let me take graphic design unless I made a thousand dollars online in a month. I signed a paper with that agreement. I was heartbroken. My happiness was taken away just like that. I didn’t meet the goal. My dad forgot about it and I threw the paper away. I wasn’t going to let him take art away from me.

Now, AI is threatening to take art away from me again. I went through a lot in choosing to be an artist. AI art makes me feel so frustrated and angry. It is a slap in the face and disrespectful. Why did I have to struggle so much to do what I love? What is the point of creating something of myself only for AI to do it better than me? AI doesn’t have the years of struggle artists go through for their skill. What was the point of my suffering? It’s not fair. Now I have to work harder and find a way to succeed as an artist. But  I’m too persistent to let the flame art ignited die. Nothing will take art away from me. It’s my turn to make sure art isn’t lost, and sharing my story is just the beginning.