Spotlight on Controversial AI-Generated Paper Art

AI (artificial intelligence) has been in the news quite often recently with good reason... it's both intriguing and perplexing to many of us. And definitely controversial. Will it replace human talent or enhance it? AI images abound as text-to-image generators such as DALL·E 2, Midjourney, and Lensa AI, all of which can be tried for free at this time, are being put to the test by millions of people around the world.

white 3D geometric heart with colorful paint splashing out from some of the heart's sections
Blow It!
AI + Procreate
Marina Talamaska


In my newsletter last week I included the image you see below that was created and posted by paper sculpture artist Polly Verity in Wales on her Instagram feed (@polyscene). (Polly's art was previously featured here.) I then shared it to the All Things Paper Facebook page where it captured an immense amount of attention, however, it quickly became apparent that many viewers didn't grasp that Polly had created the images virtually despite the posted description.

collage of in-progress paper sculpture face of young woman plus human woman's face with closed eyes

Yes, AI created the human face too.


Polly's transparent Instagram description of the collage images was as follows:  


This is all fake! I asked AI to make paper artist folding paper faces in their studio. It did rather well, I can sit back now and let it run! 


The last sentence was facetious, of course, as what she does is sculpt paper by hand. I'm quite sure most everyone would agree that creating dimensional paper art in that manner is more challenging and requires far more talent than commanding a computer program to generate a result by typing in a phrase. (How do these programs work? In simple terms, by searching the internet for images that match a request, and then compiling them into a new image.)

textured red paper sculpture of two kissing pairs of lips

actual paper sculpture

Polly Verity



A person commented on Polly's post to implore others to not utilize AI because the images are taken from artists across the internet without consent. I appreciated Polly's thoughtful response:


Yes, I worry about that too. I hope that in the future artists will be somehow either paid oeuvre royalties or have a right to deny use. I just wanted to find out a little about how it works, the process etc so that it doesn't seem like a scary thing but rather to imagine how this technology could be used in the future in positive creative ways. For example an artist interacting with their own bank of archival images, collaborating with A.I. in real time. My creative flow is often following idea threads offered up by my previous works and building on these ideas. If I had a handy algorithm to intelligently offer up likely leads and suggestions based on my past choices, that could be extremely helpful for me.

all blue papercut image of bear walking in woods surrounded by plants and a bird
AI papercutting
Marina Talamaska



I then asked versatile artist Marina Talamaska in Tashkent, Uzbekistan whose paper art was featured previously on the blog for her thoughts on AI paper art. She has been posting examples of art via Instagram (@talamaskanka) for which she used Midjourney to assist in their creation.

white paper sculpture face of Bhudda surrounded by palm fronds and flowers

Bhudda in Silence
AI + Procreate
Marina Talamaska


This is her reply:


I don’t think AI will replace the real artist soon, although I see some digital illustrators are furious about having their art used without credit, etc. Actually, I think they are possibly the first to be hurt as AI is a tool that can give great results - fast visualisation of an idea - in sixty seconds. When working with a client it will save a lot of time on the idea approval stage.

white on-edge paper art letters spelling LOVE decorated with colorful quilled flowers and three birds
Mixed Media
AI + Photoshop
Marina Talamaska


For my recent art, I used Midjourney to generate some simple ideas imitating paper art techniques like quilling or kirigami. As I wasn’t entirely satisfied with the results, I made the needed changes in Photoshop using AI images in a collage. I have also used Procreate when I want a more illustrative result, like matte-painting. This approach is seen in Water Dragon art.


 fierce white paper dragon in center of white and aqua thrashing waves

Water Dragon
AI + Procreate
                                                   Marina Talamaska



I see AI as a revolution in visual art that one can’t deny. It expands the professional horizons and raises the visual art quality request. We will have a visual boom soon that will blow up the industry and change it, but the more effective this wave becomes, the sooner our eyes will tire of digital noise. When the tide has turned, handcrafted art will be as valuable as ever.

paper sculpture of a variety of colorful flowers and a large dragonfly
Paper flower scene
AI + Photoshop
Marina Talamaska

Chi Michalski, @ChiChiLand on Instagram, a freelance 3D artist and art director in Seattle, Washington, created these playful geo-folded birds via Midjourney. I contacted Chi to ask her thoughts on AI-generated art and its ramifications on the industry:
jewel-toned paper bird composed of geo shapes standing on tree stump and another tiny bird standing close by; stump surrounded by leaves
 AI paper bird
Chi Michalski
Last October, during the Pacific Northwest fires, I worked on a digital art project called Paper Birds. With my once cheerful garden now silent from the heavy smoke, I utilized AI assistance to bring my own paper-like birds to life. The experience was both challenging and inspiring, as I explored the possibilities of AI art. 
I firmly believe that Artificial Intelligence (AI) is here to stay and can serve as a valuable helper tool for artists and creatives. For me, text to image AI art generators, like Midjourney, are a favorite tool for brainstorming and experimentation. While I primarily use these tools for ideation, I’m excited to see how AI technology will continue to evolve and how it can aid me in creating final artwork. The possibilities are endless and exciting!
 multiple colorful birds in various sizes posed on tree stump
AI paper birds
Chi Michalski
I'd love to hear your thoughts on AI-generated art. For the record, I'm in the camp of AI art is here to stay so we should embrace it. That's easy to say, as then there is the problem of the initial image originating as an unknown person’s work, and that is an issue that needs clarification and most likely artist permission. Do you think that will happen? 
Should AI art be referred to as 'directed by' rather than created by or made by? And how about calling this type of art 'artist-led', as the results depend on the artist's submitted phrase? And perhaps most importantly: will AI make what we do by hand obsolete? 
For further reading - This Artland Magazine article is thought-provoking: AI-Generated Art Controversy: The Future of Creativity or a Replacement for Human Talent?



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Ann Martin
Ann Martin

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  1. I am a lifelong researcher in AI (Phd in Computer science, lots of papers etc.). I see the potential of AI art, but also that it is hardly art without the artist who has experience and can judge when an image is worth retaining and also can supply sample art to begin with. I also am quite concerned about the use of images without approval of the artists involved. I am also a potter and photos of some of my work are online. I don't take that to mean that I have given away copyright. But so far, none of the AI algorithms are set up to consider that at all. And hence it's all a lot of plagiarism. So far Microsoft, Open AI, Google etc are not commenting on this matter. And they won't unless our legal system constrains them.

    1. Candy, thank you for offering your perspective. Yes, fine AI art needs an artist's eye in its conception and realization. We're in for a wild ride until the legalities are worked out.


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