Portland News

Jason M. Allen’s art competition win with AI-generated image sparks controversy in the art community

An AI-generated piece from Midjourney sparks the wrath of the art community after winning an art competition
An AI-generated piece from Midjourney sparks the wrath of the art community after winning an art competition

Image source: NY Times

While AI has been of great use across multiple industries, it became a source of controversy when a man won an AI-generated image in an art contest.

Jason M. Allen, 39, came out on top when he submitted an image that won the digital art/digitally manipulated photography category at last week’s Colorado State Fair.

The work submitted

According to CNN, Allen was nervous about entering, but his decision earned him the win and the $300 prize.

The image “Théâtre D’opéra Spatial,” which translates to Space Opera Theater, depicts a scene from a sci-fi fantasy concept and features women in Victorian dresses looking into a portal.

Jason M. Allen

Jason M. Allen, the man who sent the AI-generated image, is the founder and lead developer of the board game company Incarnate Games.

Allen, based in Pueblo West, Colorado, decided to take the opportunity in the competition.

“I’m fascinated by this imagery,” said Allen. “I love it. And I think everyone should see it.”

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The tool that developed the image

While Jason M. Allen was thrilled to win the grand prize on his first try at a contest, it turned out he was using Midjourney.

Midjourney is a Discord-based AI art that has recently made the rounds online.

It is one of many AI image generators, like Imagen from Google Research and DALL-E 2 from OpenAI.

The process

Although Allen didn’t follow the same processes as most artists, he said the image didn’t come easily.

In his view, there was a lot of work to be done.

Jason M. Allen said the work took 80 hours to render, playing with phrases to create images of women wearing Victorian-style dresses and space helmets.

Allen developed over 900 iterations of the women’s submitted images before cleaning them up in Photoshop.

He later ran the images via Gigapixel AI to improve the resolution and later printed the piece on canvas.

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Reaction to the win

Allen’s use of AI to make the job sparked outrage over the price, with many saying it took away the hard work people put into creating physically real artwork.

“Jason Allen, you are NOT an artist. You have never used actual tools. Just texts,” one Twitter user wrote.

“Midjourney can be fun, but it should never be used to cheat other artists.”

“That’s ridiculous,” another wrote to the Colorado State Fair’s tweet. “Makes your whole art competition less prestigious to the point where it’s laughable.”

“This is the literal definition of ‘pressed a few buttons to make a digital art piece’,” a user tweeted. “AI artwork is the ‘banana taped to the wall’ of the digital world now.”

Meanwhile, Jason M. Allen remains unfazed by the reception, saying:

“I’m not going to apologize for it… I won and I didn’t break any rules.”

Despite his victory, Allen agrees with others that AI-generated art should be placed in a separate category going forward.

“I’m okay with that, there’s no problem with that,” said Allen. “But someone had to be first.”


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Opinions expressed by Portland News contributors are their own.