Should AI art be considered art? Interview with Gabriela Handal

As I mentioned in my previous post, I think AI art is here to stay. There is no putting that cat back in the bag and unfortunately, as with most tech things, inventions come before regulations. I think it is important to share the perspective of the most affected group, in this case: artists, including painters, designers, and photographers.

It is a privilege to know Gabriela, and that she has agreed to share her thoughts on this topic. I respect and I am a huge fan of her incredible work. I have encountered none AI generated art that comes close to her art.

Gabriela Handal is a Panamanian artist living in New York. An excerpt about her work from her bio on her website “Her work depicts the human figure in different facets, like self-portraits, somewhat surreal individuals with very long necks and occasionally a more generalized view of Nature in the form of insect, flower or animal drawings.“.

I emailed Gabriela eight questions for this interview and she kindly took the time and respond to each one of them. I hope you appreciate her perspective and I would love to hear your thoughts on this topic and this artist’s perspective. Interview below.


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A post shared by Gabriela Handal (@gabrielahandal)

JC: An observation that has been mentioned is on how artists already borrow inspiration from other artists’ work, so how different is that from a non-artist daydreaming/thinking of a prompt and writing on the tool requesting for a generated art. What’s your opinion on this comparison?

Gabriela: I suppose that comparison is ok, but then that same person who alleges is not an artist can just as well try to make a sketch of their idea or a photograph or a collage or a scrapbook or writing it down and make something with their own hands and their own brain, instead of having a device make and think something for them.

I suppose the comparison of artists being inspired by the work of other artists is perhaps arguably similar, but again, it’s the Artificial Intelligence doing the borrowing, not the person writing the prompt.

Being inspired by another person’s work, by Nature, by music, by history, by one’s own experience, by stories is not the same as thinking of an idea or prompt and telling a device to come up with an image. That which motivates a person to make something, and what they produce doesn’t even have to be art, is a very complex procedure and giving a prompt to a device in order for it to produce an image is a gross oversimplification. It’s also borderline cowardly in my opinion, because making something with your own body is not easy, so then by using the Artificial Intelligence, you are delegating away all the problem solving and work involved in making the image.

For me, being inspired specifically by written text or song lyrics is more similar to the Artificial Intelligence making an image after being given a written prompt.

Even then, however, it’s obviously not the same because the pool of information from which the Artificial Intelligence takes is limited. The pool of information from which we take is completely unknown and unlimited, and it isn’t just about reading the text, it isn’t just about seeing an image and then producing something new. When we make something, the idea (which by the way, what even IS an idea to begin with? Just to demonstrate how sophisticated procedure within ourselves is) goes through an unknown path in our brains and bodies, then it comes out in the physical process of creation, resulting in the solidification of that idea. Solidified into a poem, a drawing, a painting, a book, a song. It’s not merely the amalgamation of images fed to the Artificial Intelligence with slight variations so that the end result looks just different enough to be considered a new image.

I think one of the biggest mistakes we make when it comes to overestimating Artificial Intelligence and robots in general, is thinking that being able to calculate numbers really quickly is all it takes to be smart. Or being able to process calculus and equations really fast is all it takes to be intelligent. It takes WAY more than being able to add or multiply super fast to be intelligent and feel and be a useful individual or to be an individual at all. The humans who are hyper-specialized in a single mental activity are also autistic and possibly also completely inept in social situations. They cannot make or have a family, cannot have friends, cannot interact with anyone, they need someone else to do basic things for them like cooking food, because it takes an undetermined amount of moving parts to be able to be alive and even vaguely competent.


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A post shared by Gabriela Handal (@gabrielahandal)

JC: I have tested using their free trials, Midjourney, Dalle-2, and Stable Diffusion. When typing the prompts to generate the ‘art’, I felt a bit uncomfortable when using a living artist’s name as part of the prompt to specify a style. It felt a bit different when using, e.g. Michelangelo or Leonardo da Vinci. Do you think living artists’ work should be banned from being used on these tools?

Gabriela: I think if we’re going to play with this technology and try to discover its true capabilities, it shouldn’t be restricted in what we can put into it, because restrictions will only truncate its potential development.

JC: Dalle-2 already has some limitations, and it doesn’t allow you to use some dark terms e.g. ‘corpse’ and so does MidJourney, they don’t allow you to use some famous people’s names e.g. Joe Biden and there are rules on banned words to make it safer and keeping it PG-13. Are there any other limitations you consider art should have?

Gabriela: Similarly to the previous question, I don’t think there should be any sort of limitation to what we can put into the AI art device, for the same reason that speech should be unrestricted always and unconditionally.

The unmitigated exchange of ideas is what allows for good ideas to flourish and bad ideas to be discarded and for progress to happen, because when someone expresses a bad idea other people tell them “no, that’s a bad idea” and they discuss about why it is so, versus when someone expresses a good idea other people will tell them “tell me more about that” or “that’s great, how about adding this to it” and they discuss about why it works and what flaws it could have. And often, lots of people think an idea is stupid or dangerous and the person who originated the idea is still allowed to pursue and explore it. Maybe they polish their idea and propose it to other people again and then other people will tell them “that’s cool, what about adding this to it” or maybe they have to continue to pursue their idea all alone without anyone else believing in it until they make the idea succeed without anyone’s approval.

This whole thing of keeping the user of a device or an app or anything “safe” is incredibly condescending to the user.

Each user decides what is safe for himself, an outside entity does not impose what the entity deems safe on everyone else. It is not the job of the device or the maker of a device to treat the user like a child and to shelter the user from the dangers of the device. It’s rather similar to a sheltered individual who then goes out to the world to find work or to live life in general and he knows nothing of potential dangers or how to defend themselves, because they have never had to protect themselves from anything. Moreover, it’s not up to the maker of the device to tell the user what he needs to protect himself from and it’s not up to the maker of the device to protect other people’s children by “keeping it PG-13”.

JC: If someone had a physical impediment to create art with their own hands, but they appreciate art, maybe even studied a bit and were to use one of these AI Generator programs, would you consider their art “real art”? If not, then what would be the minimum effort a human should have to put into a work to be accepted as art?

Gabriela: There are people who don’t have arms who are able to paint and they use their mouth or feet to hold the brush with which they were making their work. I don’t think we have to further condescend on people with missing limbs, because if a person really wants to make something, whether it’s art or anything else, they will find a way to do it. The way we have survived this entire time and produced such incredible things is by being resourceful.

People with missing limbs don’t have to have the process of making something with their own body robbed from them. This would be the case if they put a prompt into the Artificial Intelligence and then the device is the one who gets to make something because it’s the device that generated the image, not the person.


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A post shared by Gabriela Handal (@gabrielahandal)

JC: The other comment that is often shared is that having programs such as these gives the masses more accessibility to art creation and ownership. What are your thoughts on this comment?

Gabriela: I don’t think the masses necessarily require more access to art creation or ownership because there is plenty of both to go around as it is.

Art is already plenty democratic and accessible in that the term barely has a definition, so if someone wants to “create” art, they can just declare any object in their home as “art” and it will be such. Museums are open to the public, very many of them at no additional cost to attendants, online exhibitions are open to whomever has an electronic device with which to look at the online show.

Nobody needs permission or a university degree to pick up a pencil and make a little drawing and play with it and see where it goes. The method of pencil and paper is arguably much more accessible, because both objects are practically free compared to any and all electronic devices.

If you DO have any sort of electronic device, be it a desktop, laptop or a smartphone, you will have an application with which you can draw and use colors. That is already very “accessible to the masses” in terms of making art and owning the art you just made. That same person does not need an AI art device to make the work for them, the person doesn’t need to obtain the AI art device to make the work for them. If anything, perhaps another obstacle has been added when the person not only needs a computer device or a smart-phone, now they also need to have a specific program.

Moreover, we must remember there are also plenty of people who have zero interest in art. The people who have any interest about art or curiosity for it, will seek it out, whether it’s an art degree or casual art or the AI art device. They don’t need anyone to make art more accessible to them because they will find it on their own, precisely because art is already readily available for anyone who has the smallest smidgeon of inquisitiveness about it.

JC: Guessing that these tools/programs will not go away. Which direction do you hope they take as their access unfolds to the public?

Gabriela: I have some thoughts regarding digital art along these lines and they are similar to AI generated art.

In the case of digital art, I think we are barely starting to scratch the surface of digital art. Digital art being work produced with tablets within a computer and “the original” is a digital file. We are barely becoming familiar with what the capabilities of that tool is.

It reminds me of when I was starting to study art: it’s common for new art students to make master copies for them to learn how to make art in general. So when I started to study art, I had to make master copies of pointillist paintings, a Leonardo DaVinci painting, a Kandinski painting, I’ve also made master copies of Pontormo drawings. The purpose of master copies is to try to reproduce what the masters did so we can learn how to solve problems when we make our own work. So the master copy is meant to be very similar to the original, but one has to make it from scratch, there’s no tracing and no forging, because you are making it with your own hands with the intention of studying.

So my hypothesis is digital art is doing its own version of this by imitating analogue media as best as it can, therefore this period of imitation is only temporary and it’s a rite of passage so that digital art can find its own voice.

Some people argue digital media has already found its voice in the gaming industry, but games were already made before digital media existed, so I actually think there is something else besides that for digital media, but I don’t know what it is.

I speculate there is something of the sort with AI generated art. Right now it’s imitating the art humans produce, but we don’t know what other capacities it might have. And back to the second and third questions, if we keep putting limits into what it can do, by limiting the words that can be used in prompts, then we’re just stifling its progress and its potential and this is obviously only to our own detriment, because we might be missing out on something incredible, but we’re pussying out of it because of “safety” or embarrassingly stupid things like political correctness.

Moreover, let’s remember when photography came about, artists and the art world had a conniption fit and there were all these premonitions about how art was obsolete and painting was obsolete and drawing was obsolete, yet here we all are still. Digital art is just another medium and AI generated art may just become some completely different thing. Who knows?

JC: Have you tested any of these tools? Would you be interested in testing them?

Gabriela: I have tested them and I put in something about Milla Jovovich and Marilyn Monroe having sex because I have zero imagination and sometimes sophomoric humor. I can’t say I’m interested in them, I am currently trying to familiarize myself with digital tools to make art and I have to sit here for a bit and simmer with them before I can move on to anything else.

JC: Non Ai related, but what are you working on or going to work on? Please share a link if there’s something you’d like to share.

Gabriela: I am always drawing, then scanning the drawing and putting it up on my instagram or on my website for sale, feel free to contact me if you want to purchase any of my work. Here is my website: and my instagram: @gabrielahandal

You can also purchase prints of my drawings here:

I will be teaching a class on the three-quarter view of the portrait in February through Studio Incamminati in Philadelphia. Here is the link if you want to learn more about the class and register:

— End of Interview —

Thanks for reading this interview, share your comments below and follow Gabriela on YouTube for her series of interviews with other artists. I have really enjoyed them. Her Instagram is also a treat to see her work in progress! 

– WebsiteGabriela Handal
– Instagram: @gabrielahandal
– YouTube: GabrielaHandalArt

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