Discover more from The Dan Catt Pen Plotting Newsletter
📙 #018 - 6 min 8 sec reading time
According to Grammarly - Also shop news (again), Kitty AI video, more Kitty and even more Kitty.
# Pen Plots in the Shop
After many months of faffing around, I've put five new pen plots into the shop. You're the first to know! To celebrate, I've done something I don't generally do and created a discount code: NEWSLETTER15 to get you 15% off for being special. And to save you trying (you know who you are), NEWSLETTER20 or NEWSLETTER25 doesn't work 😏 I've set it to be valid for a couple of months (Shopify tells me until 22nd November), so there's no rush.
Well, there is no rush for things like prints; these pen plots may be different, who knows? I haven't shared them with Instagram or that place yet.
These came about because of the Hidden Line Removal update added to the AxiDraw tools (more here: https://youtu.be/uNJcdEW1vpY?si=58QSeDxU0fwk5CKy) which suddenly turned something complicated into being much easier, and a bunch of previous projects that were impossible, or at least very annoying, into something feasible.
Last year, I created the Hexagone Landscapes collection for fxhash's first birthday (an online cheap/eco-friendly NFT platform), which was quick and "easy" to do because, with digital images, you get to draw over the top of the stuff in the back with the things in the front. In this case, you draw the furthest away hexagon tower first and then work your way forward.
In reality, the design we see, shown on the left with all its fills, and what the pen plotter sees on the right, with just the outlines, are two different things.
But now that "easy" hidden line removal is a thing, I've been revisiting older projects. Some to add an "export as SVG" option, like (hopefully) these landscapes, and others to explore new areas, like I'm doing with FALLiNGWATER; more on that some other time.
However, because nothing can be "easy"; when lines and points are perfectly lined with other lines and points, little artefacts get left behind by the line remover. Since we're in the business of perfectly lining up points and lines, this happened quite a bit.
Ultimately, I created a quick script that went through and cleaned up any lines that were essentially dots, and all was good.
Getting back on track, while going through this whole process, I pen-plotted an entire bunch, most of which had seemingly random dots all over the place. However, these are from when I finally figured out what was happening and nailed the clean-up script. And I loved them so much that I decided they should go into the shop (rather than getting cut up into cards or otherwise repurposed).
# Systems, systems, systems
An amazing thing has happened!
I'm now benefiting from past-me, having built systems to theoretically allow now-me (and future-me) to save time. I think this is the first time this has ever properly happened. Or at least up until now, I've felt like I'm perpetually building and adding to systems more than using them.
But I reached a turning point last week where I started using them MORE than building them; they've even saved me time. Of course, there's still a to-do list of bits and bobs I want to add. However, that list is getting shorter rather than longer and in a few more weeks, I think I'll be done.
Actually, properly finished, with no feature creep or anything.
The Hexagone Landscapes above have ended up in the shop mainly because I've (nearly) finished the "putting things into the shop" tool. There's a screenshot below. The short is it asks you questions, and then you get to pick from a "drop-down". There are not many options now because I've only added the black paper and silver pen, but you hopefully get the idea.
The result of asking me all those questions is that it resizes all the images and generates a descriptions.txt file that turns all the paper and pen types (and signature locations, edition type, etc.) and margin measurements into "Paper size" and "Print area size" and so on information. Something that was pretty easy before (copy and paste it from a similar one), but not easy enough that I enjoyed doing it, and so things never got put into the shop.I even got Kitty to help with the descriptions a bit, it’s not good but it’s not awful either, it’s half me and half AI mangled.
While I've tried building web-based tools to do this for me, it turns out that I much prefer the question-and-answer format running on a command line. It's like blasting through a Choose Your Own Adventure book with a really shit plot but good knowledge of standard paper sizes.
I set aside the whole morning yesterday to get those plots into the shop and was surprised when it took just shy of an hour, including taking and editing the photos. I was genuinely confused for a while about what I was supposed to do with the extra time.
So, I had a quick ideas generation session, more on that in a moment. It turns out though, that I like the question-and-answer format for things; I wish I'd discovered this years ago.
# Kitty, the AI PA
Speaking of questions (yes, that's a very poor segue), I've had a whole bunch (3) from people asking, "What's going on with 'Kitty' posting on Twitter?" So, I made a video all about the whole thing.
It looks long because the second half is about the code; you only need the first six minutes if you're pressed for time.
The short version is that I'm using GPT-4 to generate three journaling questions for me each morning (along with "What are your plans for today?" and "Anything else to mention") and then three more at the end of the day. The magic sauce here is that GPT-4 is told that it's "Kitty, a helpful AI PA" and some stuff about being a studio manager for an artist called Daniel Catt, and the previous five days' worth of questions and answers are fed back into the system, to create an ever shifting feedback loop.
So if I mentioned I was planning on doing X (oh ffs, now I can't say that), if I mentioned I was planning on doing such-and-such one day, there's a good chance Kitty would ask follow-up questions about it over the next few days.
In this way, we've ended up with a continued slowly evolving back-and-forth set of Q&As, which keeps things interesting from a journaling point of view. In as much as I've been doing it now for nearly two months; that's more than I've ever done journaling before, even if it is just answering five quick questions each morning (and four in the evening).
The flip side of this is as I now have a growing file of Q&As that are doing a pretty good job of documenting my day-to-day thoughts in a format, I can get Kitty to post out tweets (sorry Xs) about what I'm doing. But I'm hoping at some point to throw in a year's worth of Q&As so I can ask it to spot patterns and interrogate them.
# Kitty, the (terrible) ideas collaborator
As an experiment, I fed in the last eight weeks' worth of Q&As, which mainly revolve around what I'm doing in the studio. I then asked Kitty (a.k.a. GPT-4 + code) to pull out ideas and concepts that seemed to pop up repeatedly and then randomly combine those ideas to create new ones.
I'd hoped this would be a curious way to think about what I'm doing and perhaps give me some ideas to riff off.
Kitty had other plans.
Because I've talked (and tweeted) about making the "Kitty AI PA" video, and that I keep making the Weeknotes videos, AND that a to-do list item I keep coming back to is "Get Kitty to summarise the whole week/month"; what actually came out was Kitty suggesting that she (Kitty refers to itself as she/her) should make a weekly video summarising the week as "Kitty Notes".
This is a marginally better idea than when Kitty suggested that she write poetry about the week, which came about because I ONCE mentioned poems.
The odd thing about all this (and it's already pretty odd) is that while I think this isn't AI (yet), it's just a stochastic process with carefully crafted inputs; it still feels like I have a genuinely helpful AI sidekick that saves me time.
And my art practice now feels like 90% Daniel + 10% Kitty AI PA.
# The End
The outside world is full of rain, and I couldn't be happier. I'm feeling the most creative and least overwhelmed I've been for a long time, which somehow equals not-working-on-anything-that-pays-me-money, so that can only last for so long.
Next week is "Planning week", the week between the third set of 12 weeks ", chunks" ending and the fourth set starting. I swear, that chunk will finally be the pen plotting tutorials. I've run out of all the "I need to make these videos first" videos, so I guess there's no choice.
I'll catch up with you next time (or with Kitty on Twitter)
Love you all,
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