The image at the top of this piece was created by DALL-E in response to the request from a friend for a picture of people picnicking in the churchyard of a medieval church in the style of Van Gogh. Now, admittedly the style is more a generic impressionist, but it's hard to argue this isn't an attractive image.
I don't think there is much threat to 'true' art. I asked my daughter, Rebecca Clegg, who is an artist - she commented:
I think AI provides both opportunities and challenges to artists. On one hand, AI could help generate an artwork that an artist would find difficult to create by hand, but it brings into question who owns the right to the artwork. Is it the artist who inputs the information or the AI? Or even the person who created the algorithm. Also would an algorithm not be limiting?
AI can help in the initial stages of ideas and support the inspiration and creation of maybe mathematically complex designs that would be difficult for an artist to produce. This helps the artist be more efficient in the production of their work as well as providing concepts not yet considered by the artist. The artist can also discern and chose between various images generated by AI and consider the limitations and applications of them as a design, I am not sure if AI knows what a good piece of art is compared to a bad piece of art?
Also art is not just about creating a visually appealing piece, its about conveying emotion and ideas on a deeper level pulled from the complexity of the human experience. AI does not have the emotional intelligence to create artwork that would resonate with an individual as it lacks unique experiences and perspectives, or even cultural backgrounds that an artist would draw inspiration from.
I think what Rebecca says is true. However, she is mostly considering fine art here. And even there, arguably there is a potential for the intrusion of AI, as witness the recent win of an AI image in a prestigious photography competition. In reality, though, I suspect most professional artists are employed in commercial art fields, whether it's designing greetings cards, web imagery or even illustrating comics. For me, these are the areas where AI-generated images could pose a significant threat to employment.
Similarly, fellow science writer Andrew May, who has an interest in the weird and wonderful Charles Fort, decided he'd experiment with Bing Image Creator to produce a comic-form introduction to some aspects of Fort's work, shown below (click on the images to see the impressive level of detail). He does note that 'One weakness of Bing at the moment is that it can't give you any consistency from one image to the next (which is why I picked the concept for my comic to minimize the need for continuity, and why Fort changes his appearance from one panel to the next).'The Phantom Scientist, Prime Suspects and Mysteries of the Quantum Universe. Many of these have, frankly, distinctly mediocre illustrations. I think that Andrew's comic pages are better quality than the real thing in some of these cases.