Artificial Art

an image made by ai of a face with many little details
Is it “real?” Artificial intelligence resets the boundary between the created and the generated. This image was created by artist Q. Cassetti with the aid of artificial intelligence.

rtificial intelligence programs are altering the creative process. Many people wonder and worry about how this rapidly changing technology, which generates images and text, will affect the careers of artists, architects, filmmakers, game designers and interior decorators.

Programs like DALL-E 2, DreamUp, Midjourney and Stability Diffusion can help and hurt the creative class, but your view of this technology may depend on if you are already established or an aspiring newcomer.

a man sits on a chair smiling with some paintings by his feat.
Artist David Klug has not done much experimentation with artificial intelligence, but has some concern that images can be manipulated to even further spread misinformation online.

“It’s gotten so good, it’s scary,” said David Klug, adding that his main concern about AI is that it can be used to spread misinformation and undermine democracy.

A sought-after artist, illustrator and businessman, Klug traced Mad Magazine drawings as a child. As a student, Klug was deeply influenced by Henry Koerner, an internationally renowned Jewish painter who sketched witnesses at the Nuremberg trials after World War II and painted more than 40 portraits of famous people for Time Magazine covers.

an illustration of the strip district with orange buildings and many peoples facesKlug, a former Mt. Lebanon resident now living in Carnegie, creates sympathy cards and posters for pet owners but that’s just part of his portfolio. Clients include Barron’s, The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times. Klug is finishing a mural of historic figures for a Primanti’s due to open in Chambersburg and says his workload prevents him from having time to experiment with artificial intelligence to generate art. Last year, he did courtroom sketches during the trial of convicted Tree of Life murderer Robert Bowers.

“I don’t feel threatened by it as an artist,” he said. “AI could do romance novel covers. And it will affect the people who work in video gaming. If I use it, it’s going to be a tool to create my own style.”

AI programs have a serious shortcoming, Klug said.

“I don’t think AI can translate personal reflections and emotions into artwork.”

a selfie of a man wearing a scarf and glasses
Illustrator and graphic design professor Mark Bender uses AI as a creative brainstorming tool for his students.

Mark Bender, an illustrator for nearly 40 years, also sees the programs’ potential and pitfalls. Decades ago, Bender worked for ad agencies, taking days or weeks to finish a project. Initially, he faxed his illustrations; later, they traveled by FedEx.

Now, he said, “I can do 25 changes in a day. Deadlines are tighter and that’s a challenge for young designers. They need time for ideas to percolate” because they are just establishing their artistic styles, he added.

Not everyone is elated. Last year, three artists filed a class-action lawsuit against three AI companies, claiming that the technology, which scrapes 5 billion images from the web without the creators’ consent, is “infringing the rights of millions of artists.” The companies that make AI art generators DreamUp, Midjourney and Stability Diffusion are defendants.

Nevertheless, Bender said, “We have to learn to live with it, and, if possible, use it.”

an illustration of a football player So, in his graphic design class at Chatham University, Bender’s students use AI as a “brainstorming buddy” when they are conceiving the overall look of an ad for a product or political candidate, a logo or a public service campaign.

Initially, Bender’s students create “mood boards” to decide which visual language to use, such as Cubism or Abstract Expressionism, plus what time period they want to evoke.

Artists, art students, art historians and designers draw inspiration from Instagram, art history books, architecture, galleries, gardens, museum exhibitions, nature, photography, tapestries and woodblock prints.

But, Bender said, “With AI, it doesn’t go through a human brain. AI is drawing from genuine existing artwork all over the world. They could be taking it from my work.”

By giving Midjourney verbal prompts, an artist receives four low-resolution black and white or color images.

“It can be a graphic, a woodcut, folk art or a collage,” Bender said. “A novice can do it.”

But AI images, Bender said, “are not eligible for copyright. For an artwork to be eligible for copyright, it must have a human author who contributes significantly to the artwork. Verbal prompts are not enough.”

a woman with grey hair and glasses smiling
Q. Cassetti, a student of Mark Bender, has made extensive use of AI in her work. “The only way you can control something is to learn it,” she said.

One of Bender’s CMU classmates is Elizabeth Q. Eddy Cassetti, known to clients as Q. Cassetti. She has run a consulting company since 1997. In 2019, Galeries Lafayette, a French department store in Paris, hired her to create a whole Christmas ad campaign after seeing her online work that was prompted by her research into bees. In 2014, she created the Forever Love stamp for the U.S. Postal Service. Her work is at

In July 2022, Cassetti began devoting her daily lunch break to experimenting with Midjourney by giving it word prompts. The 65-year-old Pittsburgh native, who grew up in Point Breeze, said that one spark for her successful career was “going to Joseph Horne’s and seeing the fabulous illustrations on their bags.”

When Cassetti committed to working with Midjourney daily, she said, “There was no manual, no guidance. I listened to podcasts daily and went on YouTube. They were changing the tool daily. The images got better.”

a design of a poster showing fog on a black backgroundShe relished the experimentation. “I enjoyed this because it was more of a challenge as a designer, which was, ‘“How am I going to learn this?’”

Q. Cassetti is embracing Midjourney. “The only way you can control something is to learn it. I am watching videos. I am learning how to write prompts. I am going to start introducing it into my graphic design projects.”

She cited an example: “I needed a picture of the Golden Gate Bridge on a very foggy, foggy day in black and white. I created it in Midjourney, submitted it to my client and they loved it.”

She also sees the tool’s flaws. “There is a certain soullessness to AI’s work. It doesn’t breathe as much as something created by the hand. I don’t think anybody’s going to be put out of business.

“We are all going to the same well for inspiration. If you feel like you need to copy somebody, it’s your problem. We all have to create our own particular style or vision. How you get there is irrelevant. It’s a tool.”

As AI-generated art becomes more prevalent, Bender said, art done by hand can become more precious. That’s one reason why art students must be versatile.

“When we teach art students, we don’t want them to just be a pair of hands. We’re building the whole person,” who, ideally, will become the creative inspiration for a project, Bender said.