Blog  Creating original anime art better than your average AI

Creating original anime art better than your average AI

AI really isn’t intelligent in anyway

Midjourney. Stable Diffusion. DALL-E. A boo to all of them and any other AI art generator out there. We occasionally get asked the question, ‘What do you think about AI?’ and my general answer tend to be, ‘I hate it. Interesting in its own way but soul-less.’

So if I am to very quickly summarized the upcoming paragraphs of AI-dismissive prose for those of you without time, it’s basically,

AI art sucks on many level. Art is more than a mishmash of everything ripped off Google image search. Work with us and we’ll create something new, original, unique for your brand.

*disk scratch*

If I have to say what sparked off this blog post, it is the fact that some prick (pun intended) of a GenAI business moved into our heritage office building. The sight of their bloody postcard around the building brings disgust, fury and ennui. As the not-landlord, we can’t stop them but we sure can still feel very, very miffed. Miffed enough to shout into the internet void with an entire blog post.

First voluntary Brush with GenAI

Back in Oct 2022, CDS took part in Artblovk’s Halloween Party of Five exhibition. Between us and our friends, we managed to put together a full team to face off against…

Blob, UWU, go go go in Japanese, nice

an AI artwork.

ugly af, a knight probably, misshaped moon, emo edgelord goth, smoke, fuck off

It was an interesting theme. Especially when you consider the timing back then when discussion about AI artwork as a whole was just getting heated. I don’t think that was the original intent of the curator, Tragic Comedy (founder of the doujin circle), to directly pit the human creativity against computer-generated rehashed mish-mash of stolen artwork. But it was a terrific coincidence that worked in his favor.

The growing Ouroboros

Since then, the AI art fervor had grown quite prominently. And of course, the counter-push as well. Some of the more memorable instances include the anti-AI art revolt on Artstation and Deviantart. There’s also the rise of alternative art websites such as While the new site have a strong, attractive proposition, CDS won’t be quitting the older sites. Yet. Even if it means that our nice, original, human-made artworks have to jostle for attention with basic, ugly artworks. After all, we need to be present, in one way or another, to be noticed by our clients.

Unfortunately, GenAI is seen as a cheap and lazy way of creating artworks without paying more artists. It all sounds very high tech and attractive (despite what it really is, machine pattern learning on questionable database) so I think gullible investors or clients buy into the whole thing. Bigger companies like WACOM and Wizards of the Coast have been found to have utilized GenAI artwork in their marketing. They have since apologized for that and withdrew that specific marketing material.

Wacom, sorry, I’m sorry, apology, letter, text only

Closer to home, we see companies like Temasek or Uchify use GenAI materials in their online posting. And there’s government bodies like SPF, NHB and NLB that use GenAI as well. There are some pushback but my gut feeling is that these might be brushed aside here since there isn’t enough market awareness of what GenAI really is and what it meant. Other than new ‘sexy’ tech. I am personally most disappointed with NHB and NLB since their mission involves nurturing and preservation of creativity. They had access to some of the best artistic talents in Singapore and regionally too. A charitable reading will be that they should have known better what we think when we see them using and promoting GenAI on their online platforms. A less charitable reading will be that… they just want to include the latest, cheapest tech into their portfolio while saving cost at the expenses of creatives.

coffee shop food, hawker culture, thanks mum, you have a phone camera and the store’s just downstairs ya know, ratio-ed

There had been studies to show that consumers are significantly less likely to trust companies that use GenAI in their marketing materials. Consumers want the human touch and sometimes, it is very obvious and off-putting when companies use GenAI. It is always THAT same sheen, THAT same look. If it is not already so offending a concept, I’ll say the artworks are boring. It is our hope that the pervasive sense of disgust against corporate GenAI becomes more universal.

Our immediate clients

As art mercenaries, we have noticed that more and more of the creative briefs we received from our clients contain GenAI reference materials. That still irks us but there is an understanding that, at least, our clients still understood that those stolen art cannot replace human imagination. For most parts, we also have the agency of throwing out those offending materials and making sure that nothing of those make it into the final product.

Occasionally, we get someone who wants us to art-launder a GenAI artwork. For example, take this artwork, work off it directly so that it becomes ‘human’. For those cases, we make it a point of quote really, really high.

We know of clients who have started including ‘no GenAI’ clauses within their contracts. They want to be sure that the art they are getting are new, original artworks. Free of the messy legality of GenAI materials and of course, free of backlash controversy. GenAI has become so common and so problematic for some that clients have to take preventive measures. Good, I say.

Preventive measures

Truthfully, there isn’t a lot of things YOU, as a human artist, can do. Scream into the void. Commiserate about dinosaurs with fellow creatives. Educate other creatives (musicians, producers, you know) about the threat. Join the luddite movement. Actively complain in the comments whenever a government institute posts some GenAI art.

Use protective technology to counter bot scrapping of your artwork. There are software. Free software. That helps to cloak your artwork against bot scrapping for the never-ending hunger of databases. Glaze prevents the machine from recognizing the artwork as yours while Nightshade ‘poisons’ the database into associating the scrapped artwork as something else. Preventive measure might only be a drop in the almost-infinite ocean of stolen art but it is better than nothing.

Glazed, sketch, wahawednesday, anime, blue archive, bang

Too lazy to download these software? You can use the web version too if you already have a Cara account. For the last few months, all of CDS’ artworks that are posted online have been glazed with WebGlaze. We’re waiting for WebNightshade!

Close encounter

The Singapore government is definitely funding image generator machine learning research because it is the new sexy tech thing and they think it can fulfill the cheaper + faster = better(?) motto of Singapore Inc.

Most recently, CDS was quoted in Lianhe Zaobao regarding the use of GenAI within marketing materials. The article itself is in Chinese but our quotes were the only one with a negative tinge against the offending tech. Disappointingly, the final article is a little too middle-of-the-road (understandable since mainstream media probably cannot be too negative about a tech that the government is interested in). That said, during the course of the interview, I think the journalist was rather sympathetic towards our stance.

CDS has been approached by someone regarding creation of materials for ‘research’. Research that is euphemism for creating a database that will erase the need for artists to create new original material for unspecified purposes in the future.

During a professional chat over kopi, they told me that their budget per ‘research material’ was only 50-100 SGD. With due respect, hey, at least they asked and they are willing to pay. Even if it is a rather insulting amount considering the total funding. Trying to build a proper, actually legal database is… respectable at least.

All that said, I’m not backstabbing the entire industry just for that amount so I counter-quoted a fuck-you price and offered them a copy of ‘How-to-draw-manga’ instead. (The book was rejected because, you know, Iswaran.)

I highly doubt I’ll be hearing back from them again but if I do and they accept the fuck-you counter quotation…

And over here, I should go stick our own flyer over that frickin’ postcard.

petty, still satisfying, but only for now, le sigh