Will AI Take Over Children's Book Illustrations?
Today’s newsworthy topic is art and artificial intelligence. Websites can take written and visual prompts to create a new image in the style of nearly any artist. The art world is not happy about this. Professional artists are worried about their livelihoods and questions about copyright infringement are surfacing. So, what does this all mean for children’s book illustrations? Unfortunately, there seem to be more questions than answers.
It is still early, and only time will tell how AI art will be addressed in the future. Will artists be able to sue others for creating work similar to theirs or in their style? With one click, anyone could create a scene in the style of “Norman Rockwell”. Are those creators that use AI free to use and sell these works? Can artists prove that AI is stealing their work? What can an artist legally do about it?
Where are the AI websites getting information?
How is this different from artists studying from masters? Artists worldwide study past artists to learn technique and attain skills to further their own abilities and art. The difference between this and AI is that a human often develops their own unique style. Or do they?
Are both the artist and the AI software compiling information to create? On the flipside, it would be impossible for a human to study every artist and art style that ever existed, but that is not a problem for a computer. AI is way ahead of the human in that regard.
Is anything new?
One of my undergraduate art classes asked if anything was new in art. Everything builds from other art. There are new ideas, only new ways of putting them together. We could look at this again, now, in the age of AI art. With technologies always changing, humans learn to adapt. So, how can we use this new technology to further our own illustrations?
How to use as an illustrator
I wouldn’t suggest using AI art generators to create artistic work and treat it as my own.
Quite frankly, many of the images AI creates are fantastical, abstract, and almost dreamlike! Multi-armed humans with abnormal features and finger counts are disturbing. I don’t doubt that this glitch will be fixed sooner than later.
In the meantime, there are quite a few ways to use what is generated for concept art. Creating unique settings, the use of lighting, and character design, could all be great ways to use AI art to spark inspiration. Be careful, though. Not everything would be the best use of AI art.
I gave an AI generator a prompt of "rabbits playground sunset" and the left image is what I got. I laughed wondering what world that playground was even in! It is so very distorted. It isn't great but it could help an illustrator who might want to get an idea of how a scene could look.
How to not use AI as a non-illustrator
As I said before, the current state of this technology is not perfect and is still developing.
Alien humans aside, it is not strong at creating consistent characters. The settings and styles are not always the same either. If I was an author looking to create my own illustrations with AI art, I would think twice. Not only are the copyright issues not ironed out, consider the inconsistencies and how that will affect your illustrations.
An example that I created is of a "cute bear playing at the park". At first glance, that is what it appears to be. Taking a closer look, there is a lot of this image that is off: bizarre eyes, morphing backgrounds, and an overall creepy feel.
What is the verdict at this point in time?
There will always be a need for an artist and a creative mind to combine the images provided into a clear and cohesive story. There is so much more to an illustration beyond a consistent character, setting, and style. The illustrations must tell a story and lead the reader through a character’s emotional journey. There are no short-cuts, only tools. It is how we use them— and our skills—that determine quality.
How do you think AI will affect children's book illustrations and picture book production?