AI Is Coming For Commercial Art Jobs. Can It Be Stopped?

The progress is exponential

Forbes — Earlier this summer, a piece generated by an AI text-to-image application won a prize in a state fair art competition, prying open a Pandora’s Box of issues about the encroachment of technology into the domain of human creativity and the nature of art itself. As fascinating as those questions are, the rise of AI-based image tools like Dall-E, Midjourney and Stable Diffusion, which rapidly generate detailed and beautiful images based on text descriptions supplied by the user, pose a much more practical and immediate concern: They could very well hold a shiny, photorealistically-rendered dagger to the throats of hundreds of thousands of commercial artists working in the entertainment, videogame, advertising and publishing industries, according to a number of professionals who have worked with the technology.

How impactful would this be to the global creative economy that runs on spectacular imagery? Think about the 10 minutes of credits at the end of every modern Hollywood blockbuster. 95 percent of those names are people working in the creation of visual imagery like special effects, animation and production design. Same with videogames, where commercial artists hone their skills for years to score plum jobs like concept artist and character designer.

These jobs, along with more traditional tasks like illustration, photography and design, are how most visual artists in today’s economy get paid. The issue even has international economic implications. Some of the more production-oriented art jobs are now offshored to low-wage markets, where they are helping to jumpstart creative industries in places like South Africa and Bangladesh.


I asked Midjourney to show me what artificial intelligence looks like. Spoiler alert: it’s not wholesome.

Let the lawsuits begin

Very soon, all that work will be able to be done by non-artists working with powerful AI-based tools capable of generating hundreds of images in every style imaginable in a matter of minutes – tools ostensibly and even earnestly created to empower ordinary people to express their visual creativity. And these tools are evolving rapidly in capabilities.

“The progress is exponential,” said Jason Juan, a veteran art director and artist for gaming and entertainment clients including Disney and Warner Bros. “It will allow more people who have solid ideas and clear thoughts to visualize things which were difficult to achieve without years of art training or hiring highly skilled artists. The definition of art will also evolve, since rendering skills might no longer be the most essential.”

This isn’t an issue for the far-off dystopian future. Dall-E (a project of the Microsoft MSFT +2.7%– and Elon Musk-backed nonprofit OpenAI), Midjourney and others have been in limited deployment for months, with imagery posted all over the internet. Then in August, an open-source project, Stable Diffusion from, publicly released its model set under a permissive creative commons license, giving anyone with a web browser or mid-grade PC the tools to create stunning, sometimes disconcerting images to their specifications, including for commercial use.

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