Artist Feature

James Bass


Tuesday, September 5, 2023

About James

James has been drawing the same things over and over for the last thirty years now :) His style draws inspiration from doodle art, underground comics, architecture and the subconcscious. He received a degree in Experimental Animation from CalArts. Professionally, James has developed software for large scale interactive video installations over the course of the last fifteen years. More recently, his focus has shifted to prototyping creative applications in the world of 3D graphics, AR/VR apps and AI for the last six years.

Why is AI interesting to you?

I’ve been experimenting with AI in my practice for a couple of years, since the days of VQGAN and CLIP coming out of the open source community. Recently it’s starting to feel like the tools are shifting out of the experimental stage and into the expressive stage. There’s a sense that things are becoming more like tools and less like science lab tests.

It’s still early days, but the recent wave of generative AI artist tools are hinting at some powerful workflows. The possibility of AI to be complementary to the traditional art process rather than contradictory is compelling to me.

How have you integrated these kinds of tools into your practice?

It’s not clear for me personally how I would use AI to produce finished artworks, but as a brainstorming tool it’s an encouraging process. I can also see it as a useful tool for getting out of a creative slump or pushing your practice in an unexpected direction. It’s been a promising tool for exploring future directions for drawings.

When it works best, it feels like a collaboration with another artist. I see my mark on the work but I also see some colors, textures and shading that I probably wouldn’t have thought to include by myself.

Tell us about the pieces you've shared here.

I have a large collection of doodles and drawings from over the years. Many of them sit dormant in my sketchbooks but have particular shapes, curves, or details that are interesting to me. Using Alpaca’s sketch feature I’ve been experimenting with a workflow to develop some of those drawings further instead of sitting in a sketchbook lost to time. It’s really only been a short time that I’ve used the Alpaca beta, but already I feel like it’s a promising addition to my toolset alongside other AI tools such as Adobe Firefly. Most of the AI image tools feel designed for traditional art styles. That’s fine. I get it, but my drawings are a bit weirder so typically I’ve gotten bad results from many of the AI tools. My guess is it’s due to the gap between my style and the styles of art included in the training data.

I’m sharing a few black and white doodles that I’ve run through the Alpaca sketch feature. I’m looking to use Alpaca more as an ink and paint tool than a purely generative image maker. I’m still figuring out the right workflows, but it’s been fun to see what the AI contributes to the image. The process has got me thinking about new ways to create and sparked a renewed interest in drawing for me. It’s still early days for these AI tools. I’m interested to see what direction they can push me creatively.


Twitter/X: @jameshurlbut

Instagram: @therealjamesbass