Illustrator discovers her art was used to train an AI art generator

Los Angeles artist and character designer Hollie Mengert found out that someone used her online portfolio to train an AI text-to-art model. The AI art looks a lot like Mengert's work, at least at a first glance. Andy Baio has a great article about it.

Using 32 of her illustrations, MysteryInc152 fine-tuned Stable Diffusion to recreate Hollie Mengert's style. He then released the checkpoint under an open license for anyone to use. The model uses her name as the identifier for prompts: "illustration of a princess in the forest, holliemengert artstyle," for example.

Artwork by Hollie Mengert (left) vs. images generated with Stable Diffusion DreamBooth in her style (right)

Andy asked Mengert how she felt about having her art used this way without her permission:

"For me, personally, it feels like someone's taking work that I've done, you know, things that I've learned — I've been a working artist since I graduated art school in 2011 — and is using it to create art that that I didn't consent to and didn't give permission for," she said. "I think the biggest thing for me is just that my name is attached to it. Because it's one thing to be like, this is a stylized image creator. Then if people make something weird with it, something that doesn't look like me, then I have some distance from it. But to have my name on it is ultimately very uncomfortable and invasive for me."

Andy also spoke to the person who made the model, Ogbogu Kalu, ("a young Nigerian engineer living and working in Halifax, Canada"):

His take was very practical: he thinks it's legal to train and use, likely to be determined fair use in court, and you can't copyright a style. Even though you can recreate subjects and styles with high fidelity, the original images themselves aren't stored in the Stable Diffusion model, with over 100 terabytes of images used to create a tiny 4 GB model. He also thinks it's inevitable: Adobe is adding generative AI tools to Photoshop, Microsoft is adding an image generator to their design suite. "The technology is here, like we've seen countless times throughout history."