The Erasure of Artists
Lea-Seanna Ruiz Gastil
For years now, it has been well-known that the career path of an artist is a bumpy and challenging one. However, it seems that artists’ struggle to maintain a stable career has become increasingly difficult due to many obstacles arising recently, such as greedy corporations, new technological tools, and downright art theft. These challenges have been impeding the success of many artists in the art and animation industries who pour their hearts into their craft for hours on end to entertain us.
The Hindrance of NFTs
One of the many detriments to artists’ journeys today is the digital assets known as NFTs. Essentially, NFT art is supposed to be beneficial for artists as it allows them to increase the profits of their artwork. However, many independent artists soon agreed that it caused more harm than good, not just for artists but also for the environment.
“Cryptocurrency, in general, is not very sustainable. All the exchanges and transfers are generated by extremely strong computers that pollute the environment. And for what? An image of a bad monkey? You could get a personalized picture of whatever you want for a small fraction of the total price of an NFT,” says Kristina Levesque, a 19-year-old Illustration student at Dawson College who strongly dislikes NFTs.
Another reason NFTs have such a bad reputation amongst artists is because a lot of their artworks have been stolen by thieves who turn them into NFTs and post them on NFT websites to make a profit. Furthermore, artists must constantly be on the lookout for people who try to hijack their accounts to promote NFTs.
Art Theft: A Selfish Act
Yet, art theft is much broader than NFT trade: it is a common occurrence amongst the online art community. Many independent artists who strive to share their art and make a name for themselves on social media platforms like Instagram, Twitter, or Tumblr must often deal with their art being stolen and reposted on different accounts or platforms without their permission.
Just like with NFTs, many art thieves steal art to gain profits by turning artworks into merchandise such as pins, stickers, and shirts. Other thieves are simply looking for more likes and follows through stolen art, which is saddening when you consider that there have been many cases where stolen art on repost accounts gained more views than the original artwork posted on the creator’s account.
“Artists put a lot of blood, sweat, tears and money into being able to create art,” says Levesque. “It also takes years and years to master your craft, so to just blatantly steal someone else’s art and make more profit from it than the artist is really unfair.”
The Threat of A.I. Generated Art
A recent technological asset that has been concerning digital illustrators and photo editors is A.I.-generated art. Since 2021, A.I. generators such as DALL-E, Midjourney and Stable Diffusion started gaining the attention of editorial magazines like Cosmopolitan magazine and design industries. Many companies are currently firing illustrators as the use of A.I. technology to generate art and designs saves them time and money.
“It’s threatening for us artists because we fear that a robot is going to take our jobs,” says Lyna Djafer, an 18-year-old Illustration student at Dawson College who specializes in digital art. “A.I. generated art is just one style, there is no diversity. A computer can’t be creative without the creativity of artists.”
Not only does A.I. art threatens the jobs of illustrators, photographers, and designers, but it also tackles many ethical questions about individuality, creativity, ownership, and privacy. In August 2022, a man won the Colorado State Fair’s fine arts competition using A.I. art, a situation that infuriated many artists and started a hefty debate regarding the harms A.I. art creates within the art industry.
While many illustrators fear for the future of their jobs and the integrity of the art world, others believe that the era of A.I. art is simply a phase. “We’re worrying now, but I think that it’s going to get better. It always gets better,” says Levesque. “It’s mostly going to end up being a tool unless it becomes too smart. Then, pretty soon, it’s going to get old and people aren’t going to want that anymore.”
Despite the challenges that they face, artists continue to persevere due to their strong sense of community and their love for art. Artists convey stories, create worlds and inspire us with the gift of their craft, so we must continue to appreciate, help, support and encourage artists of all kinds. That is the best way we can ensure that artists will not be erased and forgotten