A.I. Week: Detroit artist shares what it’s like to create art with artificial intelligence as debate rages on

Posted at 1:50 AM, May 13, 2023

(WXYZ) — Across the world, artificial intelligence art is raising both eyebrows and, in some cases, concerns.

The art created by text-to-image generators can be both beautiful and at times deceptive.

You may have seen some AI photos of former President Donald Trump being arrested, or photos of Pope Francis wearing a floor-length puffer jacket on the internet. They all went viral, drawing questions of "is this real?"


"I made up this series called Blacktopia Detroit 3000 where I imagine Detroit in the year 3000," said Tylonn Sawyer, a Detroit-based artificial intelligence artist.

At first glance, Sawyer’s art collections may seem like mesmerizing photographs from around Detroit, but ...

"Existing in reality, I knew that couldn’t possibly be real," said Sawyer.

Full interview with Tylonn Sawyer

Each one of the images was made by Sawyer using the artificial intelligence Midjourney. It's one of the top text-to-image generators being used to create AI art.

Subscribers type in what kind of image they want, and within a matter of seconds, it’s created.

"You have to think like an art director, I am taking a photo with this type of camera, this type of lens, this particular lighting, this type of composition, this many people in it, this type of thing, you have to be that kind of specific with it," he said.

The form of creation is re-fashioning the art world.

In August, a stunning AI generated piece of art won first place at the Colorado State Fair’s art competition.

"My true largest concern is really copyright infringement and how to check it because the AI images come from somewhere, they're inspired by something that already exists," said Sydney James, a Detroit-based artist.

James doesn’t use the technology, but she, like many artists, is aware of the ethical splatters it brings to the canvas.

At the beginning of this year, three artists filed a class-action lawsuit against AI art generators including Midjourney, claiming the AI companies were using copyright images to train their algorithms without asking for consent or offering compensation.

Sydney James speaks about AI in the art world

And that’s just the beginning of the potential legal problems.

"Say I love this photograph and I want it to be hanging in my house, do I then need to pay you for this photograph?" we asked.

Sawyer said yes.

Currently if you subscribe on Midjourney, it says you own all the copyrights to the images you create on the site.

But as Washington catches up to the technology, lawmakers are now having to decide how much of the cut the AI developers should get for Sawyer's work on the site.

"I’m more fascinated by it. I know a lot of artists saw it as a thing that was gonna steal this craft away from us, but I see it just like any other technology," he said.

James said, "I really feel like it’s the equivalent of concerns when Photoshop came out."

Whether people like it or not, Pandora’s box of artificial art has been opened, the future is here.

"In an art world where people can be purely conceptual and never paint a thing or draw and become really profound artists who contribute to the culture, I don’t see why this can’t be seen in the same way," said Sawyer.

To see more of James' work, click here. To see more of Sawyer's work, click here.