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Blog Home Business Fireside Chat: Visual Artist Jah Reynolds Chats About Artists Using AI as Creative Partners
Fireside Chat: Visual Artist Jah Reynolds Chats About Artists Using AI as Creative Partners

Fireside Chat: Visual Artist Jah Reynolds Chats About Artists Using AI as Creative Partners

There are some jobs that AI can’t replace, though it can make work easier. Artist and storyteller Jah Reynolds tackles the difficult questions surrounding AI and art, how he uses it to enhance his work, and how it is changing artistic expression. 

The world of art has seen some major changes recently, with the emergence of generative AI and its innovative uses in the field. Several text-to-image generators are poised and ready to challenge how we think about visual arts. Shutterstock’s AI image generator is one of those AI solutions that stands out amongst the crowd, due to its ethical development and ability to compensate artists whose work its models train on. 

As with any revolutionary technology, pros and cons coexist.

While AI can expedite processes and encourage creative exploration, it also has the potential to replace artists’ jobs. Some say its outputs are theft. Many people have apprehensions around using it. 

To get a better perspective on an artist’s thoughts on this topic, we spoke to an artist who uses AI in his own work. Meet Jah Reynolds, a visual artist and storyteller. He uses several mediums, including generative AI, to create new art.

His latest collection titled Helmet City uses generative AI to produce highly-detailed, beautiful, sci-fi-esque scenes set within Brooklyn. Reynolds has experimented with Shutterstock’s generative AI, along with many other AI-based tools.  

Here, Reynolds has a candid conversation with Shutterstock’s Vice President of Brand Skip Wilson. They tackle the difficult questions surrounding AI and its potential to impact the future of creativity. 

Learn how AI can work best for you in our eBook How to Use Generative AI for Real Work: A Practical Guide for Creatives & Marketers.

What Are the Benefits of Using Generative AI in Visual Art?

Generative AI has opened up new doors for artistic expression for many artists, including Reynolds. He’s used it to enhance his own creativity and unlock new possibilities for artistic expression.

While he’s open-minded about using AI to create artwork, he is very proactive about using it as a collaborative tool, instead of over-relying on it as a crutch. He says it’s absolutely critical for humans to be in control of their own artistic processes. 

“I look at AI as a collaborative tool,” says Reynolds. “And, I don’t want it to work for me . . . I want it to work with me.” 

Ultimately, Reynolds believes that generative AI allows artists to create works that align with their artistic vision. He demonstrates this in his Helmet City collection.

Inspiration from his early life–hip hop, scenes from New York City, and Tokusatsu-style visuals–are prominent within each piece. These concepts came from his own experiences and imagination. AI simply helped him bring them to life. 

AI-generated imagery depicting space-suited friends hanging out at a cafe corner
Image via Jah Reynolds.

How Does Generative AI Open Up a New Revenue Stream for Artists?

Shutterstock is forging the path forward for ethical compensation with The Contributor Fund, which pays artists whose works our AI models are trained on.

In addition to this, AI-generated art gives creators new opportunities to sell their work. Reynolds says that he’s sold his AI artwork on Web3 and that he’s excited for his own pieces to contribute to AI model training. 

“The most exciting part is that models are trained from my imagination. Helping other people create worlds based off of that is really cool,” says Reynolds.

He adds that those who engineer AI tools need to “make sure that the artists whose work the AI is pulling from are being compensated in some sort of way.” 

What Are the Challenges of Using Generative AI in Art?

Along with the benefits of AI, there are just as many challenges. Vast amounts of questions surrounding the ethics and ownership of AI-generated artworks are constantly swirling in the cultural conversation.

People are asking: 

  • Who owns AI-generated artwork? 
  • How will the roles of artists change, thanks to AI? 
  • Is it fair to create artwork in the style of specific artists? 

Shutterstock is actively addressing these questions head-on with our generative solutions. We prioritized developing ethically-sound AI that not only compensates contributors, but is trained on diverse and representational data.

Just as Reynolds said, Shutterstock’s AI ensures that creative people are compensated for the outputs of their imaginations. 

Another challenge is generating images in the style of other artists. Reynolds says that artists should be inspired by other artists, but not blatantly copy them.

Wilson compares this concept to hip hop sampling, where credit, homage, and royalties are given to the original artist when referencing older works in new songs.

Reynolds believes that, as long as there is credit given to the original source, it is acceptable to create in a way that references others. 

“All of the information AI gets is from us,” says Reynolds. “We need to learn how to balance the relationship between people and AI.” 

Four women in green helmets stand in front of a street art mural on a sunny city street
Image via Jah Reynolds.

Is AI Replacing Jobs for Creatives? 

One of the biggest hot-button issues surrounding AI is the question of what jobs will AI replace. Many wonder if the jobs AI will replace are their own creative career endeavors. Reynolds believes that the role of the artists will change, due to this emerging technology, but they won’t be blatantly replaced. Instead, their processes will change. 

“I won’t lie to you. [AI] has made a lot of situations easier for me. It leaves more room for ideation. It’ll open up more opportunities for more people. I always believe that the human element has to be involved in the [artistic] process.”

Reynolds explains how he’s already experienced backlash for using generative AI to create art. He thinks that a large part of this backlash is fueled by the assumption that he “hadn’t done the work.”

While the AI generates final outputs, he as the artist still spends a lot of time writing and perfecting text prompts. This directs the AI tool to create something that’s visually engaging and highly specific. 

In fact, Reynolds says that prompt writing is an art form in itself, as it’s a very rigorous process for artists to learn and perfect.

Person wearing a gold helmet stands in front of a vending machine on a street at night while their blue motorbike stands in the background
Image via Jah Reynolds.

How Will AI Impact Your Creative Future? 

Clearly, generative AI has the potential to transform visual art by enabling artists to create innovative new projects. However, it’s not a replacement for artists or traditional art forms. Rather, it is here to assist highly creative people on their new endeavors. It can enhance artistic processes and open up new revenue streams. 

If you’d like to learn how it can work best for you, no matter your creative role, download our eBook How to Use Generative AI for Real Work: A Practical Guide for Creatives & Marketers.

With this guide, you’ll get actionable tips on how to integrate AI in real-world commercial projects–and revolutionize your own work. 

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