Creator interview: Esme Rome
In these creator interview posts, I’ll be asking a series of questions to people using AI tools for their work or artwork.
I hope you will enjoy the read and learn one or two useful things ;).
Madebyai: Can you tell us who you are and how you ended up Doing Ai generated art?
Esme: I’m a writer, artist, and mom based in California, USA. I started doing AI-generated art on Artbreeder because I wanted to make portraits of my characters, mostly for my own interest or maybe to post on a blog. From there I started to discover other programs and other applications, and started to dip my toe into Disco Diffusion, JAX diffusion, pytti, and other notebooks on Google Colab. I also started to explore AI writing programs, like GPT-3, Jasper, and Sudowrite around the same time.
I quickly saw the enormous potential of AI to assist or co-create everything from code to color palettes to comic books. At the same time, I was completely overwhelmed. Honestly I still am. It seems like people release new Colab notebooks, new sites, new recipes, etc. every single day, it is literally impossible to keep up. If you’re afraid of missing out, you will always be afraid. Right now I’m focused on a few projects and letting everything else fly by.
Madeyai: It seems that you are a fantasy writer/novelist. How do you currently use AI tools (ai text & ai art) in your workflow?
Esme: It varies so much from project to project. I like to use AI tools like Sudowrite (sudowrite.com) to help come up with backstory and flesh out the plot. I don’t use it a lot in the actual writing part; for me, writing the first draft is like transcribing a movie I’m watching in my head, so I don’t like to toggle back and forth between an AI interface and my own thoughts. It does sometimes help when I get stuck, although it’s not a magic bullet. I usually write a scene summary before I write a scene, so if the scene is not working, I can sometimes “hand it over” to the AI and see where it goes with it. Whatever comes out has to be extensively edited even if it matches the prose style of the rest of the story, but it’s a good way to.
I do sometimes use AI programs to help translate the first draft into recognizable English. For example, my first draft will be full of sentences like “She walked acr room. Stared at phone, a/i willing it to stop ringing. Hand hovered over receiver, tension grew, until at last snatched it up & held to ear.” You can manually go through and edit each sentence into something more like prose, e.g. “She stared at the phone as she walked towards it, as if willing it to stop ringing,” but AI can speed that up considerably.
AI has been really useful in changing my editing process. You know, most writing books tell you to quickly write the first draft from start to finish, don’t worry about continuity or anything, and then wait a week and go back and edit the whole thing, starting with a big picture edit and drilling down to grammar. And that’s good as far as it goes, but it doesn’t go very far. It’s like telling a painter to fill the entire canvas with paint, splash it on, don’t worry about the underlying structure or form, then let it dry for a few days, come back, and start fixing it. I’m sure that works for some artists and writers, but for me it’s just horrible. It’s much easier to approach a novel like a drawing or illustration, to start with the equivalent of gesture sketches, then proceed to anatomical forms, and then fill in details layer by layer. AI comes in around the “gesture sketches / anatomical forms” level, i.e. when I’m discovering the form of the story. With AI, I can test out a lot of possibilities very quickly at an early stage in the creative process.
Madebyai: Do you plan to release a full comic book illustrated by Ai?
Esme: Depends on what you mean by full comic book! I’m working on a comic book adaptation of one of my novels, Shadowfire Academy https://www.amazon.com/Shadowfire-Academy-Trials/dp/B09Q749S8Q it is really helpful because it forces me to look at this story in a new light.
Madebyai: What do you think is the next big thing that gonna happen in the next couple of weeks/months, ai-tech related?
Esme: More models and programs released, including Google Imagen. More GPT-3 apps. Who knows how many Colab notebooks. Robot-ghostwriting services where a robot+human can write a novel (or essay, or dissertation, or…) in about a week, maybe less–for the right price, of course. More commercialization, I’m sorry to say. I hope AI art generation will still keep the friendly, collaborative atmosphere that it has right now.
Madebyai: With your experience using the tools, you probably discovered a couple of tips and tricks, which ones would you be ok to share with our audience? (Can be related to AI art or AI text or both)
Esme: There are so many, I’m not sure where to start! I would say three things:
1. Start slow. Don’t put too much pressure on yourself to get it right away. I’ve been working with AI for at least six months and there’s still a lot I don’t understand. So what? I started by making pictures with Artbreeder and Wombo Dream. I’m happy with what I’ve learned so far. If you’re interested in the more technical side of AI art generation, start here: https://pharmapsychotic.com/tools.html
2. Join Twitter, look for AI art accounts, and join Twitter spaces about AI. I recommend following Jeremy Torman – https://twitter.com/TormanJeremy and Kevin W Page – https://twitter.com/kevinwpage – they often post about AI art, and they often host or co-host Twitter spaces about AI art. Join one if you can. You will learn a lot by talking to other people. Don’t worry if you’re nervous, if your English is bad, if you have “nothing to say.” Do you know how many Twitter spaces have people talking about nothing for HOURS? After Will Smith slapped Chris Rock, I saw multiple Twitter spaces with titles like “THE SLAP” and 1+ million listeners.
3. One YouTube video at a time. Youtube is an amazing resource for learning about art. I recommend watching Haze Long’s tutorials, she is an amazing artist and she can teach you a lot about AI art and digital art, especially Procreate. – https://www.youtube.com/c/HazeLong – Again, don’t get overwhelmed and think you have to learn everything right now. Just start with one video and go from there.
Madebyai: what is the next thing you are going to try using Ai tools?
Esme: Right now I’m exploring three things: comics (see above), book illustrations, and merchandise. Books used to have illustrations every 50-80 pages, why not bring that back? There’s the added bonus that it’s easy to turn these illustrations into prints, stickers, postcards, etc. I cannot possibly publish a new book every three months, which is the pace you need to keep in today’s self-publishing market. I have multiple kids under five at home, so that is very challenging. What I can do is create stickers, posters, cards, etc. that dovetail with characters and themes from my books.
Madebyai: Is there anything else you want to share with our audience?
Esme: In the immortal words of Parliament Funkadelic, “if it don’t fit, don’t force it.” Find something you enjoy doing. Don’t worry about what you “ought” to be doing with these creative projects. Follow your passion, and if that’s too stressful, then follow the money–even if it’s just a little money here and there.
Madebyai: Where can people find put more about you?
Esme: The best place is my website, esmerome.com. It has my blog esmerome.com/blog and my newsletter https://esmerome.com/newsletter . If you want to start reading Shadowfire Academy before the comic comes out, you can start here: https://www.amazon.com/kindle-vella/episode/B09947RDPS
I want to say a big thank you to Esme for sharing these insights with us, check also some of his creations that I added in the “ studies “ section.
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