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Creative Creative Works AI

The difference between AI and human art is love

By Paul Pateman, Founder

June 26, 2023 | 7 min read

Paul Pateman is a London-based illustrator and ex-agency creative director. Through his words and billboards, he details why AI can never compare to the emotional storytelling and expertise of humans.

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AI art or human art, the difference is love, writes Paul Pateman / Paul Pateman

Lately, I’ve been feeling a bit like Sarah Connor. Not only because I love wearing really tight vests while firing semi-automatic weapons, but because I feel like I’m being relentlessly hunted down by an AI killer.

And like the T-800 it just won’t give up, so I’ve decided the only thing I can do is to stand and fight, by making some posters.

How very human of me to channel that energy and use my imagination, my instinct, my experience, my skill, my personality, my style, my taste, my idiosyncrasies, my attention to detail and my eyes and my hands and a pen to mold it into art. What a Luddite! Should’ve just done some prompts, mate.

I created the posters as a rallying cry for discussion before we sleepwalk into the algorithmic abyss and, as a consequence, I find myself talking to you.

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Don’t get me wrong, I’m not anti-AI. I’m a sci-fi geek and genuinely excited by the possibilities of AI for medicine, say. But I thought it was supposed to replace the jobs we couldn’t do or didn’t want to do, not the jobs we love to do. Like being an illustrator.

I can also see a usage case for AI in adland. You can produce the kind of polished decks clients expect nowadays in a fraction of the time.

No, I’m not anti-AI, I’m anti-creatives getting cut out of the equation for a perceived cost efficiency. There has been a race within the creative industries to make things faster, quicker and cheaper. In my opinion, this has led to an overall decline in standards. So inevitably some people will try and cut artists out. They will try to make something similar at a lower cost, and I think those businesses will fail because their communications will be mediocre and mediocre equals invisibility.

The role of visual communication is to cut through the noise with high-quality, memorable images that can inspire change or evoke emotion. For this, you need people who love what they do. Because the people who love what they do become great at ideas, they develop great styles, make great observations and develop unique perspectives and they understand what makes people tick.

Last time I checked AI was incapable of love.

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My particular idea of a great idea is a seamless, beautifully simple visual portmanteau. The combining of two images creates a third new image with a new meaning that tells the essential story. When I read a brief or editorial copy, words with strong visual connections leap off the page and lodge in my brain where they marinade. Once ready they pour out through my hands and into illustrations. The end result is that my illustrations are a sort of joke (insert your own joke here) that needs to be deciphered. A smile in the mind.

This is useful because the ’Ah I get it!’ moment releases dopamine which makes a moment feel more exciting or more vivid and in turn enhances memory formation. It makes my ideas sticky and sticky is really good for brands. I was born with a lateral thinking brain but I became good at lateral thinking because I love to do it.

I just checked again and AI is still incapable of love.

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My style is born from my life experiences and my personality. I see the world as a chaotic and dangerous place so I use order in my illustrations because it gives me a sense of control. I hate ambiguity and so I like to produce clear messages. I am shy so I developed a sense of humor to hide behind, so my work is often funny. As a kid, I hated the overlapping lines when you color with felt-tipped pens so I love bold flat colors. I’m impatient so I like to keep things simple and to the point. Through a love of drawing these quirks combined to form my unique style. Through love, it has been honed to work.

Hang on, nope, just checked again. AI is still incapable of love.

We also love to work together, solving problems, pushing each other, riffing, bouncing ideas off each other, making each other laugh and making friends. Because we love to collaborate we produce great art that people love. And through collaboration comes happy accidents. In the act of doing, of making, you can discover things that were unexpected and because we’re human we can recognize that these mistakes can be compelling and can be better.

Love creates specialists and specialists create great art. AI is a jack of all trades and master of none.

Put your faith in a computational hallucination or a human who loves what they do? When it comes to AI art, hasta la vista, baby.

Paul Pateman is a London-based illustrator and ex-agency creative director.

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