How Artists Can Reach New Creative Heights Through Artificial Intelligence

Explore how man and machine can work together to enhance and elevate our artistic capabilities and unlock our true human creative potential.

The robots are coming—but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. 

As artificial intelligence plays a growing role in our everyday lives, there are mounting concerns surrounding AI and its potential impact of automation on jobs. And, these concerns are hardly surprising—especially when you consider the unbalanced, distinctly dystopian narrative at play that spotlights the number of jobs AI could potentially displace, rather than the new career opportunities AI is positioned to create.  

These fears are further perpetuated by the media, amplifying studies such as that produced by Oxford University in 2013, which suggests nearly half of jobs in the United States will be automated in the next twenty years. Job displacement is inevitable, but research also suggests that AI will produce more jobs than it takes. Plus, AI can aid humans in countless ways by working with us (not against us) to achieve our greatest potential. 

The question is no longer whether AI will fundamentally change the workplace. Instead, how can we successfully use AI in ways that enable, not replace, the human workforce? How can machine learning make us faster, more efficient, and more productive at our jobs than ever before?

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AI has the potential to become a true creative partner. Image via contributor Sylverarts Vectors.

Fortunately, for creatives, the perceived threat of AI is relatively small. Creativity is innately human—an expression of the human experience—so it, perhaps, comes as no surprise that some studies suggest humans with creative jobs will not be replaced by artificial intelligence. In fact, creativity is one of the most important skills in the job market as it’s a uniquely human trait no algorithm can replace. That said, every job will be affected by the proliferation of AI—including humans in creative roles—who will eventually find themselves interacting with, and at times depending on, neural networks and other smart tools to help them carry out their jobs. 

Whichever way you look at it, AI presents more opportunities to create in a whole new way. Artists have, and always will, use tools to create their work—whether it’s a paintbrush, camera, or computer interface. Now, it appears artificial intelligence is our next tool for greater creativity. 

Which begs the question, how can visual artists use AI as a tool for greater creativity today? And what does the future of creativity look like in this new era of artificial intelligence? 

How AI Can Complement Our Creative Strengths

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The role of AI will undoubtedly expand within the creative space. Image via contributor Liu zishan.

Humans may excel at sophisticated decision-making and creative ideation, but not without limitations. Introducing AI to the creative process can help us develop new innovative solutions in ways we couldn’t possibly have come up with on our own. Below are only some of the ways AI can take our creativity to the next level.

Enhancing Human Creativity  

AI is largely used to enhance human creativity—not replicate or replace it. Through a process known as co-creativity, humans and AI engage in a true creative dialogue, collaborating in the creation of artistic endeavors. And, there are already several AI technologies being used to enhance creativity today.

For instance, a newly-released photo editing software called Luminar 4 became the world’s first AI-powered photo editor. This cutting-edge technology makes it possible for photographers with varying degrees of expertise to edit photos quickly and efficiently, with less skill than a typical photo editing software requires. Through the use of AI, editors can add creative objects, replace uninspiring skies, perfect portraits, and much more. The software’s AI Accent and Smart Contrast tools make it easier to batch edit images for greater efficiency and productivity. Luminar 4 is a perfect example of how AI can build on exceptional human intelligence.

Emulating Creativity 

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Elevating your creativity has never been easier with AI technology. Image via contributor local_doctor.

One of the greatest contributions of AI in the realm of creativity is it enables people to express themselves creatively—regardless of their skill set or artistic capabilities. One of the ways AI does this is through emulating creativity. 

One particularly interesting example of how AI emulates art is an application called Style Transfer. This computer vision technique allows users to recompose the content of an image in the style of another. The Runway ML hub, for example, takes two images—one content image and one style reference image—and blends them together. This produces an output image that retains the core elements of the content image, but appears in the style of the style reference image. Want to create an image in the style of a Van Gogh painting? Simply take a photo and a Van Gogh painting and apply the style of the latter to the former.

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Merge image styles to create inspiring visual content in collaboration with AI-enabled tools. Image via contributor Ozz Design.

Generating Creativity

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An AI-generated work of art entitled Edmond de Belamy demonstrates how AI can be used to emulate art and creativity. Image via Public Domain.

Another way AI is emulating creativity is through generative design—a cutting-edge field that uses intelligent software to enhance the work of human designers. To put it simply, human designers input their design goals and other requirements, and the software takes over to explore all the possible designs that meet that criteria.

One type of generative approach is known as a generative adversarial network (GAN), which received widespread attention for producing a work of art entitled Edmond de Belamy. This so-called generator creates an image based on its analysis of a database featuring 15,000 paintings by real people. It became the first AI-created piece of art to go to auction in history and sold for an incredible $432,500, further demonstrating the waves AI can make in creative spaces. 

While AI-generated art may sound like the beginning of the end for human artists, the truth is far more nuanced. The code behind the GAN, and the parameters in place, are all defined by humans in the first place. The idea behind any piece of AI-generated art is still well within the domain of the human brain. AI simply performs the task on our behalf.

Saving Creatives Time 

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AI can help with behind-the-scenes mundane tasks so creatives can focus on being creative. Image via contributor BAIVECTOR.

An increasing number of design software used by artists today incorporate AI technology to help automate basic repetitive tasks. The goal is to help speed up the process of using their tools and reduce the need for time-consuming manual processes. This means artists can spend more time honing their craft and less time handling mundane, repetitive tasks.  

As AI features become more sophisticated, it also creates new ways for artists to produce art in ways they didn’t know were even possible. This includes labor-intensive methods like oil painting, which AI can emulate in a fraction of the time.  

Can AI Ever Learn to Be Creative?

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It’s unlikely a rule-based AI system will be able to emulate the human creative process. Image via contributor local_doctor.

Experts say we’ve barely scratched the surface of what’s possible. While AI advancements mean that computers can be guided on some parameters of creativity, experts believe the extent to which AI can develop its own sense of creativity is questionable. Can AI be taught to create without human input? And, should this be the goal of AI even if it’s technically feasible?

AI has not yet given machines the capability to author creative works independently. Rather, humans “tell” machines what to create before producing the desired end result. There’s so much we don’t yet know about human creativity—after all, some of the best ideas occur when we least expect it. And yet, until we fully understand the brain’s creative process, it’s unlikely a rule-based AI algorithm could imitate the human creative process. Today, AI’s role in creativity and design is not to rival humans’ remarkable capacity, but to function as collaborators.

While we can never truly know what the future of AI has in store, the role of AI in visual arts will undoubtedly expand, and so will the creative possibilities.

Need a bit more creative inspiration? Check out these articles:

Cover image via MIKHAIL GRACHIKOV.

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