Neko: A Painterbot


While researching art robots, I stumbled upon Laura Lippincott‘s Neko, a painting bot.

Laura describes herself as such: “I’m an artist that teaches robots to paint. And the robots teach me to paint, it’s symbiotic.” (Well said!)

There’s some background info on Neko, and she’s also got a blog at That’s actually how I found out about Laura and Neko, as she had a link to my Arc-O-Matic project in a post.


Many of the old photos look similar to my early revisions of my rolling drawbots. There’s an element of being made by hand, and sort of hacked together with hot glue and zip ties. People have actually responded to this aesthetic in my own work quite positively, even now as I’m headed more towards refining a design that moves away from that look. (I can’t help it, I also love designing objects, and creating digital files that can be shared.)


I’ve been (sort of) challenged to introduce paint as a medium to my rolling draw bots. It’s something I’m considering, though it does have its own set of challenges, as a mobile robot doesn’t have the same properties as an arm. Still, I like challenges…


Laura managed to successfully fund a Kickstarter campaign for Neko last year. (I won’t deny I’ve considered doing a campaign to extend the reach of what I’m doing with my drawbots, though I’m also considering other options for expansion.)

While there’s multiple web sites to learn about Neko and the work Laura is doing, there’s also an occasional video on YouTube. Here’s one from summer 2014 showing Neko at work.

This is great stuff, and I’m learning that there’s a lot of information out there on “art robots”, and I’ll do what I can with the little free time I have to read up on other projects and artists. Feel free to drop me a line if there’s something I should see.


Don’t be a Dick!

At Milwaukee Makerspace we have two very important rules. Rule #1 is “Be excellent to each other.” and Rule #2 is “Don’t be a dick.”

These rules are common among hackerspaces, and in an ideal world those would be the only two rules you need. Unfortunately, people need to be reminded of these rules every now and then, so when I saw Brant in the Wood Shop making a beautiful “Don’t Be A Dick” sign on the CNC Router, I figured I too should make one using the skills I possess.

Don't be a Dick!

I present to you “Don’t be a Dick!” – by Pete Prodoehl – enamel on canvas – 8″ x 8″.

Nixon Times Two!

I started with this photo of Richard Nixon (aka “Tricky Dick”) and pulled it into Photoshop where I ran a few filters to knock down the number of colors used and basically posterize it down to two colors. It’s still pretty recognizable. Typically at this point I’d do some manual cleanup, but I did very little with this one. Some pieces require more than others, YMMV, etc.

You’ll see I also added registration marks. (Those little crosses.) They worked, but I’ll probably go back to the old registration mark method I used for my annular series.

Nixon Separated

The Photoshop file has two layers, one for black and one for gray. This made it easy to create separations, since I wanted to save each color out to its own file. At this point it would have been helpful to turn the gray artwork into black artwork for the next step, but it wasn’t needed this time. The next step? Oh yes, after I exported the two images to PNG files I then imported them into Inkscape so I could create vector files.

Lines for Cutting!

The art imported into Inkscape, I did a ‘Trace Bitmap’ operation, and our raster file gets converted to vector outlines. These are what we need for the Silhouette Cameo to cut the stencils. (I typically save the files in SVG format, which is the default for Inkscape, but then export as DXF files, as that’s what can be imported into Silhouette Studio, the controlling software for the Cameo.)

Paper Stencils

For the stencils I used thick glossy paper that was originally from a calendar. (Pro-tip: grab all the free calendars people offer you, the paper is quite useful!) As a special treat, the calendars I used had images of concrete walls printed on them, which, when put in contrast with spray-painted stencils, looks almost as cool as the final artwork!

So remember, friends… Don’t be a Dick!


From Processing To Painting

I’d been working on using Processing to create these grid patterns using circles of varying diameters for a while now, but moving from the digital world to the physical world is something I first started experimenting with last fall when I was attempting to win a laser cutter. While I love laser cut wood, I wanted to try applying the idea to something different, and it’s been a long time since I put paint on canvas, so…


More info on this series of painting (titled annular) can be found on the project page, but the basic process involves running a Processing sketch, using the output to cut stencils, and then painting using the stencils.

Cutting a Stencil

The Processing sketch outputs a PDF file, which is a vector file easily opened in Inkscape and adjusted to the correct size. I then save out the file as a DXF to load into Silhouette Studio to cut the stencils. (I could use the laser cutter, but the laser cutter is at Milwaukee Makerspace and the Silhouette is in my basement, so it’s more convenient for pieces 12″x12″ or smaller.)


The stencils are cut from old posters that a local printer was discarding. I hate wasting things, and the posters are a great source of strong paper that can be easily cut to size and run through the Silhouette.


I’m pretty happy with how these turned out, and I’ll be creating more of these. Ultimately it would be nice to have 64 of these, but that’ll depend on funding. (And yes, these pieces will be for sale.)


Don’t forget to check out the project page for annular where there’s more info on the concept behind these pieces and plenty more photos.