Christopher Arndt and AI

Christopher Arndt Postcard Co has begun using AI in their printed postcards, without any apparent disclosure of the fact. What does this mean? Let me begin with some backstory.

Christopher Arndt is a postcard designer who has used others’ photos (with permission) and graphics to create his merchandise. I’ve been an avid supporter of his for years, even exchanging emails with Christopher himself amicably over some feedback I had on a Texas map postcard design.

One of his latest releases, the cicada collection, do not use actual photos - instead opting for images generated by AI. (Save for the original “Cicadas Postcard” made prior to the adoption of AI)

What is AI “art”?
AI is trained through art taken from artists online without their consent. It generates the images based off text prompts the user inputs. With the current state of AI, I am personally against the use of these images for profit. I am a digital artist myself and sell stickers and other merchandise with my art online. To think someone could use my art without my permission, and sell the resulting designs, upsets me greatly.

The majority of online artists feel the same. However, even if you don’t mind AI art being sold, I also believe Christopher Arndt Postcard Co should disclose how these designs are made. Nowhere in their listings do they mention this.

I noticed the usage in the first place because AI struggles to recreate coherent letters, as seen on the cap of this hedgehog:

If you look through the details of the cicada collection as well, you will notice inconsistencies in patterns, objects merging unnaturally together, and other mistakes commonly made by AI.


The “Cicada Outdoor Concert Postcard” - some of the people in the background merge together, or are missing portions of their bodies. The left wing of the rightmost cicada disappears into the background, and I can’t make heads or tails of its legs.
Other AI designs feature much of the same.

I made this post because I believe this information should be public. I feel betrayed, both as an artist and a customer, because it isn’t truly his artwork that is being sold. I hope that they consider being more transparent about their practices.

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Thank you for calling attention to this. I feel the same way you do – AI might turn out to be a useful tool, but there is no excuse for using it to appropriate other people’s creative work. So many postcrossers talk about how much we like the human element of hand-written snail mail. The postcards we send are better when humans design them.

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This is such an interesting topic. There are so many aspects of AI that must be worked out. I am NOT an artist, and therefore, genuinely appreciate and respect artistic talent in others. I’m not sure if we should (or could) limit the use of AI, but it should certainly be identified. And, it’s very strange to see the inconsistencies that are so obvious when you pointed them out. Seems like they should have been corrected before publishing.
I can relate somewhat because I do hand embroidery. It seems odd to me that machine embroidery is admired so much. The design is on software and you just line up the material and let the machine take over. Hmm…not sure how it compares to actual handwork. But, now most people don’t appreciate true handwork because they don’t know what it took to make it.

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I feel pretty strongly about this as an amateur artist. Thanks for posting about this! I wish more people understood how AI use can harm a lot of creators.

However, I realize the average person is likely to not recognize AI art or understand how it negatively affects creators whose art has “trained” the AI without proper credit or fair usage.

This is true! I took a watercolor class a couple a years ago and it gave me so much appreciation for artists and a better understanding of their prices.

Have you discussed this with the company? If yes, what was the outcome?

I had a conversation with Chris, the owner of the company, and he explained that he prefers to do photo painting based on public domain photos and artwork, but many of the things he wants to create just don’t exist yet. He is not an illustrator so for many of the Cicada postcard designs he used AI to create different images and then photoshopped those together to create final designs.

Different artists create their artwork in different ways. Some people use physical pen and paper, others illustrate with electronic materials through illustration software, and others create art with AI. I believe there is space for all types of art to be created in the manner that each individual wishes to create. AI is not perfect and will never truly replace human artists. Although the AI doesn’t get all the minor details perfect, the Cicada postcard designs were pretty cool and I’m happy to be mailing them anyway.

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I’ve only given my opinion in a recent survey that was sent out, and in the following newsletter he made no mentions of AI. With this, and the explanation @Angelthepup22 got from them, I get the feeling that they do not wish to debate the use of AI. So I don’t plan to reach out further.

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I think Chris has previously been very responsive to customer feedback. It might be beneficial to send an email expressing how you feel about his design process and how he should move forward.
What do you think would be a good solution? Discontinue using AI-based artwork altogether? Use some AI-generated artwork but be open about including it and inform customers? Only use the photo-painting artwork with permission from the original creator like he was doing before?

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I would rather he discontinued the AI usage and go back to what he was doing before, which I feel could easily sound like an attack towards him and his process if not carefully worded. If there was an ethically trained AI, using only images that creators gave consent to include, I might feel differently.

If he wanted to change up the style, I’d completely endorse hiring an artist to do the more painterly designs. Of course, I’m not sure if it’s affordable for him at this time, but that’s what I would try to do if I were him.

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For me personally, AI scares me and I think AI means the beginning of the end of the world, already strange things happen and have happened.
And using it in art is way too easy if you ask me.
So I am against it anyway.

The problem, is that AI images are created by training on real artists works, and not even asking for their permission or compensating them. These companies make money on the backs of real artists.
AI is a plague when it comes to postcards, both from sellers and on Postcrossing.
Cards with horrible anatomy and especially cards that steal a real artists style!
I am going to leave this thought here:
I find it very distasteful, when some Postcrossers only or mostly send AI cards, but expect real artist postcards on their profile. Why do you expect Blue Cats, maximum cards, illustrations, paintings, Moomin, Disney etc in return? An AI-copy of those should just be fine, right?
We know very well it’s not the same thing.
Please protect postcard artists! As many companies are replacing them with AI art. And this not the direction I want this industry to take.
At least make them put a disclaimer, that it is AI art for the customers. People who use AI, even Etsy sellers, try to hide it in very fine print or not mention it at all.

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I sent an email to Chris last night suggesting this and explained that customers would like to know when AI is used in creation of a design, and it looks like he has already been receptive to this feedback and added it into the description of the postcards:

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Thank you for sharing your experience and bringing this to our attention. I just placed my first big order with them last month. I realize how naive I was as I just assumed he had originally created all the images. I like supporting small businesses and creators but would prefer not to purchase AI generated cards or at least know that is what I’m purchasing.

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I also participated in his survey and thought the hedgehog was cute, I’d probably buy a few of these. I keep a fair number of his cards on hand…I know most are not his own photos so I assume they are purchased or public images that he runs thru photoshop and has printed on a textured paper. I think of him more as a distributor rather than an artist.

People can buy art cards directly from an artist and pay $3 or more; from a commercial company at the gas station and pay $.50 so I see him as an in-between. I personally am unbothered by the AI as I assume most card images are photoshopped or tweeked in some way. Big commercial distributors have used stock photos since the 1950s

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Hello again all!
Christopher Arndt recently did a 5-part newsletter series addressing the concerns people have had with AI-generated artwork being used on postcards. These can all be read here by scrolling to the first part dated May 7th, 2024, and the subsequent newsletters until May 24th, 2024.
The important parts are that he has confirmed publicly that he only uses ethically sourced AI in the creation of his postcards, and going forward, any time there is AI used in the design process, it will be disclosed clearly on the website, and also disclosed on the address side of the postcard.

He also shared some of the feedback received and I believe he has been very receptive to the opinions shared.

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