Bonus: Art Process
Talkin' 'bout doodles
My blog posts are illustrated and I wanted to talk about my process, because some people have asked. When I write my rough drafts I’ll put text-based placeholder comics. Here is an example from my last post on posetree.py:
<Robot doing an ‘Instagram Influencer’ pose. Caption: “Not that kind of pose”>
The comics are often an important part of the rhetorical flow of my essays. I find them especially helpful to clarify what I mean by showing the opposite viewpoint. I find ideas are often better explained by showing what I don’t mean. So I need them in there as I write and edit so I know what to say next. But I re-write enough that I don’t want to sink all the time into creating finished art until the very end.
Once the text is in a pretty final shape, the next step is to draw the line art. I used to use pencil, photograph them with my phone and then use some free Android app to bump the brightness/contrast to get a black and white line drawing.1 But recently I’ve got a ReMarkable2 tablet (an e-ink drawing tablet) and I find that it is almost as good for drawing as pencil on paper, but better for undo and erase and I get nice black and white digital versions uploaded automatically.
Then I use an AI assist coloring service to color. In the AI world it is ancient, and I’ve been using it for years. It does a mediocre job unhinted but it has a UI for adding color hints to the line drawing. I find it very rewarding to work iteratively with it making modifications until it looks right.
Lastly I’ll pull it into Gimp (because photoshop is expensive) and do things like touch up the eyes/teeth if I can’t get them bright enough. Or I’ll pull them into google slides and do annotations on top of them and then screen shot them (for things like arrows or bounding boxes).
That’s the process I’ve been using, but I’ve also been playing with Stable Diffusion and controlnet a ton for my video game project so for my last post I decided to see what I could get from control-net and my doodles. I thought the results were pretty cool but in the end decided to keep my art style consistent across the blog posts. I’m curious what people think of the two different styles, though.
Let me know what you think in the comments.
I’ve been writing illustrated blog posts my entire career, just in the past they’ve been internal memos for my workplace. General Robots is my first ‘public’ blog.