Robotic Art on the Left Bank of the River Aire?

Since the last Raspberry Jam in Leeds, back in July, it’s been on my mind to try out more activities with the Watercolorbot.

That Summer’s day event was hosted at Digital Garage, with the backdrop of Leeds Dock, and it got me thinking about real-time art applications and projects.

Robotic art possibilities on the Leeds’ Left Bank?


Wanted: Artist’s brush or input tool

In the last couple of weeks I’ve also been intrigued about AI with art for data visualisations and in particular the AI Painter project.

We’ve been manipulating images and taking art as a medium for data visualisation pieces, alongside further considerations with WaterColorBot as a hackable tool.

And so my fundamental aim shifted and started to centre around opportunities to add a graphics tablet as an input device to manipulate images and create a painted output.

all compoenents

Painting by Stylus?

‘Painting by Stylus’ and ‘Paint Brushed with Watercolorbot’ were the intended outcomes but drivers were a stumbling block when connecting the different components for the hardware I was seeking.


Photoshop possibilities?

Until another collaboration with a colleague last week, who was successfully using AstroPad to give graphics tablet functionality through an iPad.


Tools from the ‘Graphics Tablet’

That’s given me opportunities to explore and manipulate data through Photoshop and AstroPad tools, using the stylus on the iPad, and also with a connected workspace through the Macbook and Watercolorbot.


Connected tools

It’s early days yet with example activities tested to add layers using Photoshop. That’s given a stimulus to add custom brush strokes to some images or take sections to modify or display with alternative data visualisation examples and manipulated outputs.

#GonePainting.  Back soon.


‘Can you play your drums quietly, please?’

I admit it.  Another example of a spur of the moment rhetorical question that’s met with a bemused reaction.  Only this time there’s a pause and then a period of conversing which sparks a drum and bass focused maker project.

And the question to explore?  The one that I asked initially, really…..and a quick follow up:

  1. Is it ever possible to play drums quietly?
  2. Could it be possible with a hack or by making the kit and/or the drumsticks?

Initial thoughts: Not a Cardboard project!

All part of the problem solving and planning and eventually with a solution to explore using the Summer term’s craze with pom-pom making.

An e-textiles percussion conundrum with a solution eventually built up in just a small number of (not so silent) steps:


Step 1: Traditional Pom Pom making


Step 2: Add Conductive Yarn into the spin


Step 3: Attach some Dowel Rod and Hey Presto

Is quiet ‘quiet’ or can quiet actually become silence?

At this point the project skewed and focused on the softer side of pom-pom creation and the minimal noise level possible when playing the drums.


Step 4: Drumsticks ready, kit to play?

The intention was always to use a Touchboard to drum up the sound outputs and make the circuit connections through electric paint and conductive yarn.

Launched by connecting the drumsticks to a 2D painted drumkit, the actual drumming movements could be quiet but the whole performance could also then be silent to a nearby audience if headphones were introduced.


Step 5: Ready to rock?

Did it work?

Well yes, wool touching paint on paper can be very quiet indeed.  Particularly as the performer wears headphones!

But audience participation, review and opportunities for air drumming collaborations?

Sadly lacking something.  Substantial noise levels fitting of needing earplugs?