I can't draw as well as DALL-E, and this makes me sad

sad artist
(Image credit: Shutterstock)

I've been drawing all my life but I never have been or will be as talented as DALL-E.

OpenAI's image generator, which crafts wild, realistic, and impressive illustrations based on text-based input, is so talented - though I'm sure it doesn't know it or demurely blushes and says, "I'm not that great" - that it's already created a professional magazine cover.

My drawing career, which started with crayons and pencils, graduated to fountain pens and inks, and then later transitioned to the endlessly editable digital medium of the PC and iPad, has never been an occupation in the truest sense.

I studied art as a minor in college and created all sorts of works, including giant still lifes, paintings, sculptures, and illustrations. For a little while in college, I had a comic strip. Granted, it wasn't particularly well-draw or all that funny.

In the early days of my journalism career, I would spit out spot illustrations to accompany my work and even did a bit of political cartooning. Fast-forward 36 years and I mostly draw for relaxation and the greeting cards I send to friends and family.

The author versus DALL-E

(Image credit: Future / Lance Ulanoff)

Understanding your limits is probably the key to happiness. And yet, I can't help but smart over DALL-E's innate skills. This AI understands the human form, objects, the earth, abstract expression, and most every illustrative technique. It's also ten times faster than any artist I've ever seen.

Unlike a graphic artist you might hire to paint or draw a magazine cover, DALL-E never complains about a change. It doesn't even mind if you hand it someone else's art and ask it to alter it.

Everything DALL-E creates is built with an invisible, accommodating smile.

It's infuriating.

When I look at that Cosmopolitan cover and see the assurance and sheer artistic skill, I wonder if I should even pick up an Apple Pencil and iPad again.

I know, I'm no longer drawing for others. This is just a hobby and my personal pleasure and sense of accomplishment are all I need. Comparing what I might create if someone fed me the sentence, "Man eating corn on the cob while riding atop a dragon," with what DALL-E would do with that thought is a pointless exercise. I know DALL-E's will be better.

There are already numerous articles questioning whether or not DALL-E spells the end of graphic designers. Surely the answer is "probably?"

There is something to the intricacies of human skill and how a truly gifted artist perceives things. What she'll create will obviously be different than DALL-E's interpretation of "Donkey playing chess," and in some eyes, it may be better.

Art critics claim art, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder. Not only can no one tell us what is and is not art, no one can say with any certainty what makes good art.

Still, from my objective viewpoint. DALL-E's art is good, sometimes breathtaking, and a signal that it's probably time for me to fold up my virtual easel.

If you still have the courage to draw, you might want to check out our collection of best free illustration apps for iPad.

Lance Ulanoff
Editor At Large

A 38-year industry veteran and award-winning journalist, Lance has covered technology since PCs were the size of suitcases and “on line” meant “waiting.” He’s a former Lifewire Editor-in-Chief, Mashable Editor-in-Chief, and, before that, Editor in Chief of PCMag.com and Senior Vice President of Content for Ziff Davis, Inc. He also wrote a popular, weekly tech column for Medium called The Upgrade.

Lance Ulanoff makes frequent appearances on national, international, and local news programs including Live with Kelly and Ryan, the Today Show, Good Morning America, CNBC, CNN, and the BBC.