Human Creativity vs. Artificial Intelligence with Arteza's Alison Nearpass

Protecting Your Artwork in the Age of AI: Leveraging
the Center for Art Law


Venture into the highly debated topic of Real Art and AI with our very own Alison Nearpass! Join us as we explore community reactions to AI art, protect artists' rights, and navigate the clash between tradition and pixels. At Arteza, we're not just watching; we're warriors for creativity! Let's reflect on art's past, chart a tech-positive future, and celebrate the human touch. This episode dives into Arteza's commitment to nurturing creativity in an increasingly AI-generated world!

Jeff: 0:09
Welcome back to Art Supply Insiders . My name is Jeff Morrow and today we've got a really, really cool subject from some good friends of ours in the industry. We're talking with Alison Nearpass and she's with Arteza, and y'all might remember, a long time ago we chatted with Arteza about their wonderful grouping of products, and today we're going to talk about something a little bit different. So before I give it away, let me say Alison, welcome to the show.

Alison: 0:40
Thank you so much. I'm excited to be back.

Jeff: 0:43
Well, we are really glad to have you back, and today we're going to be talking about AI, our artificial intelligence. So let me just jump in, and I see that you guys launched a real art campaign and you've really kind of taken a strong public stance on AI. Tell us a little bit about what you guys are doing.

Alison: 1:09
Sure. So the real art message is really a celebration of tactile creation, leading with the stance that real art isn't artificial and, as you can see, this sort of play on words is us officially entering the conversation on artificial intelligence and, to be candid, our stance on this is really nuanced, as our many artists stance on the topic, and this is a result of an extensive amount of research and education on the topic. That landed us in a place where we felt really passionately about leveraging our platform, and leveraging our platform to us meant getting credible partners, sharing resources, continuing to keep the artist's voice at the center of the topic and for as long as I've been at Arteza, we have prided ourselves on being a human-centric brand. It's almost this umbrella for all that we do, and when I think about the most human-centric brand in the space, putting a human artist at the center is a non-negotiable I couldn't agree with you more.

Jeff: 2:22
And AI is just getting bigger and bigger out there, whether you watch it in your movies or if you even want to do a I mean, my goodness, I've seen AI do art you just tell it draw a tree and it draws you 4,700 different trees, right?

Alison: 2:43
It's funny you say that, because I think we could engage in the debate of is that considered art? And I think that's a little bit of what we tackle a bit in terms of how we sort of view and approach the topic in general.

Jeff: 2:56
Yeah, I agree. So tell me how and when did you guys start talking about artificial intelligence?

Alison: 3:02
We really started this internal dialogue on artificial intelligence roughly a year ago. It was pretty soon after AI really entered the art space in a meaningful way. And I remember one of the discussions we had early on was regarding AI generated content winning first place in a fine art competition in Colorado. And there was yeah, and this is where I go back to what you said around is it considered art? I mean, there was some serious backlash once it was uncovered that this was actually generated by AI and, in turn, debate over is this okay or not? Should this be allowed or not? Are these pieces of content and art on the same playing field? And then you know, I think most importantly, it started to, you know, open a dialogue on some of the ethical boundaries you know on the matter, and so, for us, conversation took off really quickly with our own internal collective of creators. So, as you know, or you may remember from last time, Arteza is really unique in the fact that our organization is comprised of real artists, hobbyists, through fine artists, and the topic was very real and very urgent within this community, even internally. From there we, you know, we expanded the conversation to our ambassadors and we have a really, you know broad ambassador group and we had one on one interviews with many artists in our community and, I will say, some really emotional conversations as well. I mean, these artists were feeling so personally affected about the topic, both for themselves and for the community as a whole. And I think you know both of these sets of conversations were, you know, sort of us as people having real conversations with real artists. We talked about the fear of copyright infringement, the fear of losing jobs and work, the acceptance of AI and concepting and so on, and you know the raw and very open dialogue was so helpful and so impactful for us in terms of understanding all of the bad and potentially what the good could be from these platforms. And so from there, we assembled a task force, so a team of six of us internally were and still are really dedicated to this topic. We still meet almost daily. We follow all new stories, recent articles and publications. You know current public and social sentiment. We just stay really current and really informed on what's going on in the space. At the same time, you know we started reaching out to other parties in this space as well. You know we fully acknowledge. You know we are not lawyers or legal experts, but we felt the need to have a really robust and rounded out point of view and we connected with law experts, new app companies, professors, I mean we really spend time and resources getting educated on the things that weren't, you know, necessarily originally in our scope of expertise.

Jeff: 6:30
What you guys are doing is so important because AI is here to stay, and the only way that we can manage our way through this dense forest is by having conversations about what's right, what's not right, what are we accepted, what's acceptable to us? And so tell us a little bit of some of the AI platforms that you're referring to, that take a public stance on the topic, and how do they work?

Alison: 7:03
Mid Journey and Dall-e are two of the more popular AI platforms in the visual art space. To use these programs, say, for example, I was using Mid Journey, I would start by entering a text prompt. This text prompt would be a description of how I want the piece I'm trying to create to look From there. It essentially scrapes content from the internet to return an image. You can then continue to adjust the prompts and tweak and generate new images until you're satisfied with your result. This is done in seconds, within a few strokes of a keyboard. I think it's important to note. With the scraping of the content, these AI platforms are pulling from existing work already out there. Majority of rich is without consent of the original artists themselves.

Jeff: 8:03
Wow, I mean, this is just such a broad category. I guess that there is a legitimate reason for having this kind of art within its own, I guess, classification. But, dall-e, we really want to have that human touch where you put a brush in your hand and you put it in paint and you put it on a surface. That's what makes it so interesting and motivating and emotional, isn't it?

Alison: 8:41
Yeah, for us we understand and acknowledge that AI can be a supplementary tool for artists. It can be interesting and concepting and there are usages of it when used ethically and appropriately, that makes sense. But we really disagree with the notion that this replaces the human, creative, tactile journey which for us will and I hope the community will continue to remain so important for so many reasons.

Jeff: 9:18
Yeah, you said the word there community. The art world is a community, as seen when we go to all of our shows and we go to see all of these different pieces of art displayed. It seems to me that the very reason you guys took a public stance on this topic is kind of what you were just talking about, right?

Alison: 9:44
Exactly, it became really clear to us that the visual art community was being deeply affected by the use of AI but lacked protection. Different than some of our adjacent industries, the visual art community has no governing body that houses artists' rights at the center. With that, we continue to see and read about and hear about more and more artist's IP being ripped off with no proper regulations or compensation in place. If we draw a parallel to an adjacent industry, we can use the SAG strike as an example, which I'm sure we were all watching very closely. A big part of what they were fighting for were contracts that included provisions on artificial intelligence. I mean this 118-day strike, I believe, was the longest in Hollywood history. Now, as a result, these performers secured, amongst other things, consent and compensation guardrails on the use of AI. This is a really big deal. It's acknowledging the need for these protections for the talent. It doesn't mean that AI won't be used as a tool in the film industry either. It just further ensures that these actors are protected and their right to consent is protected and their right to fair compensation is protected as it relates to the use of generative AI. I mean that's a really big step forward for the talent in that industry. We need the same rally cry for our visual artists, the same awareness of the need for rights and regulations, property protecting, indoor compensating our artists. These conversations need to be had in our space as well. Frankly, beyond the protection of artists' rights, there are many other reasons why we felt compelled to use our platform to share the message also. Think about the artist newly on their creative journey. Deciding about art school or deciding about embarking on learning a new craft. Somewhat confine themselves, opting out simply by deciding a few strokes of a keyboard is easier, or assume their craft won't be relevant in the future due to an AI replacement. I mean, how sad is that for the future of our industry and our artists?

Jeff: 12:20
Oh, it's incredibly sad. We can't lose that tactile part of any art, whether you're painting or sculpting or photography. I know Arteza has always seemed to be on the leading edge of what's current and what's happening in the art industry. Does Arteza have a formal stance on AI in the art industry?

Alison: 12:48
We do. First and foremost, we are against artist IP being ripped off without their consent. No royalties paid or no regulations in place, period. We also fundamentally disagree with the notion that AI-generated content is art by definition. Art is human-created skill in imagination and we simply do not consider AI human and, frankly, don't want to. We also believe in the value of tactile creation and that it has irreplaceable value for the mind and the body for all creators. We also believe in creators having the resources and the education they need to protect themselves and all of their creative genius. And I think lastly I mentioned this earlier we understand that AI can be used as a tool to support creators. We love tools as long as they don't replace the human creative journey. There's really a difference between concepting an idea and then physically allowing it to unfold, versus just clicking a button and watching it appear, and I think that that's some of what we're talking about here as well. And I think it's important to say we're an organization that embraces progress and evolution in the industry. We consider ourselves a young and disruptive brand. We're not anti-tech. We love technology. We're not anti-progress, but where we do draw the line is when it comes to AI and the ethical boundaries associated with it. I mean, speaking of tech, we're much more excited about some of the new apps out there, such as Glaze and Nightshade, and these apps that are actually emerging and designed to better protect artists' work against AI.

Jeff: 14:43
You know, as you were talking, it just hit me that art, and even craft, is a journey of discovery. It's all about what is the peace saying to me in the moment, because we all know we're not going to paint the same picture two days in a row. It's all dependent upon our moods and the atmosphere and how we're feeling and what we're seeing. So what do you say about people who draw parallels to past events and say, ah, it's nothing to worry about, with AI, it'll all come out in the wash.

Alison: 15:24
Yeah, yeah, I mean, I think the most common and probably obvious parallel we've discussed is when photography emerged in the 1800s. I mean, at the time, artists were commissioned to paint portraits and landscapes and painting was, you know, primarily to capture an image. Photography came and was seemingly a threat to this. It was a threat to artists, to their livelihood, their commissions. What we also know is the role this played in the rise of impressionism Artists feeling free to represent art in an entirely new way, represent what they saw in an entirely new way. I mean, you think about, you know, more focus on light and color and movement and painting and creating in ways that photography could not. I go back to the idea that the antidote to this was more creating. It was new creating. It was things that didn't exist yet, things people had never conceived of yet in the art space. And the learning and you know, the thing I draw from this now is the value is in the new tactile creation, the new innovation in our art space. Because imagine a world I mean, as mentioned before, ai is really scraping the internet of works from the past. Imagine a world where all art is just iterations of works from the past. I mean, I firmly believe the next movement in art won't come from AI. It will come from us human artists and creators, and that's a statement that makes me happy. I believe that's the way it should be.

Jeff: 17:16
Well, I can't agree with you more and I keep hitting on this word journey. It's just, it's so intensely personal. And you know, there was a sports magazine that recently used AI to write an article and they didn't disclose that and it seemed like it was an article that came from a real person and there was nothing about it that was real. It was just all kind of made up. So what are you guys, what is our T's doing about this as a brand?

Alison: 17:56
We started a coalition in partnership with the Center for Art Law called CHAP, so it's a coalition for human artist protection and we are encouraging brands and artists alike to join on and support the mission to drive awareness and share resources. We also have a dedicated landing page on our website, artisacom. That includes our message and our resource hub, including some how-to resources of how to protect your work, and we'll continue to update that with new resources and new learnings. In partnership with the Center for Art Law, we've also started an online challenge, so check us out on social media, where we are encouraging artists to create a piece of artwork with their handprint as a symbol of human creation and tag us. We'll share it to our story. We'll continue to get you know the engagement and the conversation going, and we have also gotten involved with our trade organization and we've gotten involved as subject matter experts, offering our time and our resources just to help elevate the discussion in the industry, to draw attention and draw importance to the topic.

Jeff: 19:12
So you guys aren't suggesting that it's an either, or You're suggesting that we need to just step back, have conversations, talk about how it can enhance and or help what it is. All of us artists are doing Very similar to what you talked about in the 1800s, when photography came out, and now people are taking picture, or taking photography and adding color to it and doing other sorts of things that are very creative, right?

Alison: 19:45
I think what we're suggesting is more so in the sense of as we continue to understand that this isn't going anywhere how are we supporting the visual art community with the proper regulations in place to protect our artists in their work? You imagine an artist who has spent years perfecting their craft, perfecting their personal style, their personal technique. This is all then with a few strokes of a of a keyboard easily replicated and spit out on the other end without proper compensation. And there is. You know there's a lot to unpack with that and there's, you know, a lot that goes into into getting proper regulations in place, but we think it's an important topic.

Jeff: 20:34
Oh, there's no doubt that it's an important topic. If if any of our listeners have questions about how AI impacts them, their art and so forth are, are you guys a resource that they can reach out to and just kind of maybe ask some general questions?

Alison: 20:56
We are absolutely here as a resource. We have been here as a resource for artists since we began. We want to be a resource for artists in every capacity. We have a dedicated customer service team that is answering calls, answering emails around product questions, inspiration, how to use certain mediums, all things like that. We're a resource on AI questions here as well. We've really gotten to a place where we feel confident in our ability to share resources. We're going to encourage artists to check out our website, check out our how-to's and then again continue to reach out to us directly. We're here to support.

Jeff: 21:38
This is really just the beginning of the conversation, isn't it? I mean, there's so many facets to talk about and to come out and there's just so much discussion that needs to be had.

Alison: 21:51
There's so much still ongoing. I mean, there are so many copyright lawsuits going on right now regarding this topic. We are so anxious to, as we follow along, to understand how these things are unfolding and what it's going to mean in terms of proper regulations for our community.

Jeff: 22:10
Yeah, I can't imagine all the red tape behind the scenes and everything that's going on. Where can we find you and all of these resources that we've been talking about?

Alison: 22:23
You can find us at artisacom. You can check out our landing page, which is a landing page for human art. You can also follow us on all social platforms at Artisa Official. We are on Facebook, instagram, youtube and TikTok. Please, we encourage you to participate in the challenge. Create that piece of art using your handprint and tag us at Artisa Official.

Jeff: 22:50
That's cool. Now I can't let you go because we always ask manufacturers do you guys have anything cool and new coming out that you just want to let our audience know about?Alison: 23:03We've been up to a lot that is cool and new, Jeff. One really interesting thing that I would love to share about what the brand itself has been up to has been a retail expansion. You can now find us on shelf. We have been primarily an online player. We've now launched in major retailers nationwide. We went from 0 to 2000 points of brick and mortar distribution over the past year. You can find us in all Michael's Doors, Select Assortment in all Michael's Doors. You can find us in Select Joanne, as well as in Select Walmart. Pop into your local store. We've also been up to some really cool and new collaborations. We've just partnered with Priority Bikes this past fall, where we collaborated with them to raise money for vibrant emotional health in the 988 crisis hotline during suicide prevention awareness month, where we collaborated on a unique bike that you can purchase on Priority's website, with 100 percent of net proceeds being donated to the cause. Some fun, interesting things that the plans went up to From a product standpoint. This is where I could talk to you about it for hours, but we've launched some fun new SKUs this year and we're continuing to develop, and we have some exciting new things coming next year. We've launched some new art kits. I tease these a little bit on our last call, but they are live. We've launched a skate deck art kit, which is a fully matte black standard size skate deck. It's truly an art piece. It comes with a mount with a white pencil for sketching our new metallic mirrored chrome markers as well as some other fun paint markers in there too. So a really fun all-inclusive kit. We also launched our Experience Box program, which we've been really excited about. These are curated, creative experiences that are intended to bring people together. These are experiences that have supplies for a party of four, with an activity that can be completed in under two hours, or under $25 a person when you shake out the mask. So we're really excited about that. We have a wine glass decorating kit, a calligraphy kit, a vision board exercise and some other fun new concepts on the way, so we've been really excited about the response We've seen on that thus far as well.

Jeff: 25:48
Well, Arteza has always seemed to be on the forefront of new and exciting products, and the fact that you are looking out for the artist, the creator, the crafter in this world of AI and at least starting to give them some direction on what they can do and where they can go for more information is really amazing. So, Allison, thank you so much for being with us today. What a great subject.

Alison: 26:24
Thank you so much for having me. I appreciate the opportunity to talk about it. This topic has been very close to a lot of our hearts and it was exciting to be able to share it with you.

Jeff: 26:35
Thank you. You've been listening to the Art Supply Insiders. Check back with us often as we talk about the world of art and craft supplies. If you'd like to hear more of these podcasts, please hit the subscribe button on your preferred podcast platform and we'd really appreciate it if you tell a friend. If you'd like to show your support, please consider going to our website and hitting the support button at artsupplyinsiderscom. Now go out and create something.

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