Why AI Art haters are right

29 Aug 2023

Reading time: 5 minutes

Ever been trolled by AI-art haters?

I have.

A robot covered in paint holding a paintbrush

But then I stumbled upon a truth that transformed how I see art and deal with critics. That truth?

They’re right.

Before you dismiss this, let me explain. In this piece, you’ll discover:

Why even the harshest critics have a point A crash course on the essence of art Fresh perspectives to enrich your own creative journey

But first, why should you listen to me?

Science & Art

My journey with AI Art began at the cusp of the new millennium in 1999. I enrolled in “Medilab Arts” at Plymouth University - a unique program that elegantly bridged art and science.

And it wasn’t just theoretical; I worked on a generative AI story writer for my final project.

However the highlight of my AI Art journey came in 2022, when a series of outputs I prompted with Midjourney went viral, amassing almost half a million likes in an hour on Instagram (thanks to the Russo Brothers sharing a tweet I made).

AI image of a 1970s Wes Anderson take on Teh Avenger's. There are too many fingers on the superheros

While the rush of recognition was exhilarating, it also unveiled the unexpected: a vehemently vocal faction of anti-AI-art critics

So I understand art and have experience in this new wave of AI Art, and the arguments against it.

And (as I’ve told you) I think Anti-AI Artists are right

How can this be?

It’s because Art means different things to different people

Meme of a hipster looking at a red wall. "It's just red" he says. Grumpy chracter says "No, you don't understand it!". Then hipster is showing an abstract rendition of a lady using lots of colours "Look at this cool art my computer made." Grumpy guy says "No, art requires imagination and creativity!"

For some people, AI Art is not art.

And for others, myself included, AI Art is art.

But these factions don’t agree on what art actually is, so let me break it down for you

What art is

There are 3 characteristics of art, and the appreciation of them is different for every person.

The 3 characteristics are… Aesthetic - Does it look good? Effort - Does it look like they tried? Meaning - Does it build on something for the observer?

Let me give you examples of each of these.

Aesthetic For some people, aesthetics are the only important thing in Art. Does the piece look good?

And for a large number of AI Artists that is the case. “What does it matter if a computer drew this or a human, the piece is really beautiful?”

And I guess one of the problems with this statement is…

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

Remember when people were up in arms when “Space Opera Theater’’ by Jason Allen won an art competition back in September? This is because it was judged on aesthetics.

Space Opera Theatre by Jan Allen

You may have seen these arguments thrown at your own work, with a terse simple one word comment…


Epic handshake meme. On the left is "me". On the right is "AI Art Generators". In the middle above the handshake is "Being bad at drawing hands". The hands have far too many fingers.

Thanks to advancements from platforms like Midjourney, such criticisms are fading. But for amusement’s sake, explore #aihandsociety to see AI’s amusing hand-drawing hiccups.

I know the quality of aesthetic to be true personally. In December I was once invited to display my pieces at a Parisian Art Gallery until the curator heard the pieces were made using AI. They were aesthetically pleasing and meaningful but they violated another quality…

The second quality of art….


When we perceive effort in art, we resonate with the dedication poured into it. The Pyramids of Giza aren’t aesthetic marvels, but their grandeur inspire awe.

Consider 2018’s audacious art event: @elonmusk’s launch of a rocket into space only to have it reveal a spacesuit driving a Tesla playing Bowie’s “Starman” whilst saying “don’t panic” in large friendly letters on its display. This spectacle, infused with cultural nods, demonstrates effort transcending the conventional.

Photograph of a Tesla being driven by a SpaceX spacesuit above planet earth

There’s no denying that AI art often sparks criticism for its perceived ease. And in many ways, the critics have a point.

Buzz lightyear meme he is saying "Years of academy training wasted!"

Yet, for individuals like me who are strapped for time, AI art becomes a gateway to latent creativity. Ironically, my journey with AI has deepened my connection to art and led to engaging more with an enriching community than ever before. I’ve also seen people suggest it has democratized visual communication, especially so for people with disabilities. Being low effort isn’t negative.

As Ai Artists we need to get better at sharing the effort that goes into honing our style with the world or this missing quality will continue to be used as a stick to beat ai art. This means being more open with our process. It’s why I’ve shared one of my early pieces “Drunken Punchup at a Wedding” and its process as my pinned tweet for almost a year.

Renaissance style AI Art of people in lovely flowing wedding attire in a mass brawl

However, we must acknowledge the difference: iterating over AI-generated images isn’t the same as a traditional artist sketching multiple hand variations. Recognizing our advantages means compensating by amplifying art’s two other qualities.

Which brings me to the 3rd and final quality


Art is inseparable from its context, acting as a time capsule for eras gone by.

What makes AI Art intriguing? It lacks this intrinsic quality. AI, in its present form, can’t grasp the depth of “meaning” or the emotions it evokes in humans.

Humans crave familiarity, yet yearn for fresh perspectives. Take the viral Wes Anderson-inspired AI Art. It marries two well-loved aesthetics, leaving audiences both comforted and intrigued.

Wes Anderson style image of Gandolf played by Bill Murray

From @curiousrefuge

Thanks to AI, we can parody real-time events, rivaling the best entertainment shows. Expect a surge of satirical AI visuals, especially around election seasons.

The challenge with social media art? Capturing fleeting attention. The masterstroke lies in immediate clarity.

For us AI artists, responsiveness to global events and clear, impactful messaging are crucial.

So to conclude.

There are 3 qualities of art, and each person has a different level as to which it is important.

  • Aesthetic
  • Effort
  • Meaning

To be a successful AI Artist you need to be honest about what you want to be known for.

Within each one you should try and identify sub-genre to appeal to…

My art will focus on Aesthetic: Grungy Effort: Numerous pieces per day Meaning: Left-leaning political messages


Aesthetic: Beautiful pastel pieces Effort: Sharing the prompts Meaning: Visions of loneliness

And once you’ve started persona focus on the aspects you enjoy, and you’ll grow the followers.

You will not get followers who hate AI in your fan-base. After all - they are right about what art they like to see.

Instead you get fans who care about the art you make. And they are also right about what art they like to see.