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NovelAI Art: NAILM3B Clio & Shoggy

Updated: Jul 12, 2023

I'm so happy to have had the opportunity to illustrate a new model and the visual representation of our H100 Supercompute cluster so I thought I'd share some of the thoughts behind it and the art in a nice little blog post. Starting with the H100 supercompute cluster Shoggy: The NovelAI team was trying to find a name for the cluster of our compute and someone threw out Shoggoth as a suggestion. There's a ton of backstory in the AI Dungeon department when they hosted an AI model in the past that was named Lovecraft and a lot of people used to harken for that time and performance so it was an instant hit in my mind. A large part of our userbase (especially the text fanbase) harkens from the collapse of AI Dungeon and I am a sucker for history callbacks - "Never abandon your roots & never forget where you came from" is something that I live by. SO aside of the current memetic & worried atmosphere in the LM community - I think both our designer, TabloidA's and my mind instantly went spinning about how we could display a super powerful being as small cute creature that produces our model. Inspiration for visual banners and such just, flooded us. There was a lot of internal discourse about it, but I think it is a good convo starter in terms of alignment fears as well - in order to keep our Shoggy from going bad, he's got a little "good" sticker - also Kurumuz has been heavily invested in the alignment space and I think if anyone has doubts that he doesn't worry and work on preventing our doom they should start a convo with him. Personally, I kind of liked the idea of our underdog NAI team going against the grain of general LM models that are all creatively dampened through filters, sauce material and even size secrecy and limitations, so the "Masters" in this rebellion-relationship are more like, other AI model providers. That's why I'd like to say, this Shoggy is our own little thing - inspired by our own AI dynamic storytelling backstory in terms of Lovecraft inspo and all. So let me see, I think I have a few initial doodles of first iterations, they are more goo/slime-creature like done during a three day discussion as a quick idea pitch visual.

I'd say as amorphous, shapeshifting being, Shoggy can still look like that but it was going to be a little hard to match this version with the existing model art - works as little chibi-sketch but not with the hard shading lines of the NovelAI aesthetic. So, I had the initial Clio sketch done by the time we decided to release an official "Hey everyone, we're cooking our own model - it's close, having some issues, thanks for your support and patience" blog post: Text Model progress is going strong!

We didn't get around to introducing our little creature before that and I was stressing about explaining the happy gremlin creature on Clio's shoulder before the release so a good opportunity presented itself. Also, posts with images have better engagement in general so to make Tabloid's job easier as well it was a prime Shoggy premiere time!

I went for a cutesy toddler playing with building blocks idea, since it was our first proof of concept - gotta start somewhere right?! The block feature Clio's color scheme. Some users joked about her chest size so I went with two balls, but someone ended up pointing out the balls in combination of the NAI pen-nib logo all look a little... phallic after the fact which... just shows that people have dirty minds. THAT WASN'T MY INTENT IM SO SORRY!!! Anyway, that drop went bretty gucci - our userbase loved little Shoggy - I'm happy <3

From the blog:

That’s all the news for now… except, we have a new mascot introduction coming up:
Ladies and gentlemen, gather ‘round and brace yourselves for a mind-bending encounter like no other!
Look at his totally reassuring “Good” star sticker! Awww!
Prepare to delve into the boundless realms of innovation and imagination as we unveil to you the one, the only… Shoggy! But fear not, for this Shoggoth is not of the eldritch horror variety that might send shivers down your spine. No, no! This Shoggoth, affectionately known as “Shoggy,” is the extraordinary visual representation of NovelAI’s cutting-edge H100 supercompute cluster. Using Shoggy as a conduit for inspiration, we shape our innovations: Whether you’re a writer seeking the perfect plot twist or an artist yearning for a stroke of genius, this magnificent amalgamation of data and dreams is here to shape our work into new fantastical text and image models.
Let’s see who our Shoggy shapes first…

Alright, let's move on to Clio!

The first NAILM3B finetune model: Clio

Amazing Banner done by TabloidA Fresh out of the Shoggy (H100 Supercompute Cluster) oven: Clio is the muse of history, the proclaimer and celebrator of great deeds and accomplishments! She packs a powerful punch above her size, like all NovelAI models!

Nailing the design idea:

So internally it's always a big old struggle to name models, figure out who they are, where they are based from etc. The rule of thumb however is genders are always rotating, F > M > F > M and so on. This time around we had a female coming up, that much was determined. However with the fact that we were now making our own models, independent of open source base models I wanted to differentiate the art for the model somehow - that's where Shoggy comes in - but I also wanted to give a callback to our existing work that always showcased just high much higher our in-house NovelAI finetunes of those open source models punches - that's why it is another muse, a sister of the existing girls - and that is why her color scheme is very close to Calliope our first model which is of a similar 3B parameter size as well.

The design nitty gritty:

So I had my idea, now I had to design it. I researched a bit on how the actual muse Clio was generally visualized: laurel wreath, books, a cape/shrug hanging around/over her shoulder/arm. I knew instantly I was going to have the shurg/cape be Shoggy. No need to think twice - if you look at Euterpe you'll see I like drawing shrugs of that type - they are fun, flowy, dramatic! Initially I was going to have her hold some scrolls since she is the muse of history but I felt it was a little too much visual clutter alongside Shoggy on her shoulder and I had insane difficulties finding reference of ancient greek scrolls being held, or transported. I was going to have them on her shoulder, but they ended up looking stupid so I scrapped them outright after many attempts of fixing them.

Scrapped WIP, due to looking wobbly, stupid and possibly being a super inaccurate transportation method for text scrolls. Note Shoggy used to look a little more... menacing, derpy? So Clio was relatively easy, most of the work went into mimicking the NovelAI shading I started with Euterpe which is quite time consuming but now also features many little Shoggy eyes (inspired by the Nvidia company logo) I wanted to have a specific number but quickly got too lazy to actually keep track. I wonder how many eyes ended up in her model and in the final artwork for the announcement but you won't find me taking the time to sit down and counting them!

So the full body model bust was done first - completed in the span of a few feverent drawing days - this one was done all on my iPad and I really wish I had access to my Cintiq to copy paste eyes in Photoshop but unfortunately I've been road tripping through America atm so I drew everything by hand (EVERY LITTLE EYE), no copypasta here.

I had fun designing her shoes, I think I'd actually wear them! Also I kind of wanted to imply that she's made from/out of Shoggy but it's very subtle so I went with cape, toga skirt edge and lacing oh and her eye color! In my head, if I ever animated it, the eyes and Shoggy's form would constantly be in movement, and just slither along the teal colored spaces as needed. Reminiscent of Jake the Dog from Adventure Time, kind of? Also, Shoggy's face got some adjustments, to be more cat-like and a little less goblin (attempted at least). So, with the Euterpe we shipped with a Full Body and a close-up portrait. The time was right around the above mentioned blog post announcing the actual model work to the whole comm / updating the people more attentive that we need a bit more time to finalize things. I wanted to make something a little more... epic on top of a normal face/bust thing.. soooo I got to work!

Early concept, not quite as epic and an abandoned hand Shoggy. I really, really, really wanted to symbolize that SHoggy - the H100 cluster made her - somehow and I really, really, really love drawing ladies tangled/holding ribbons. That's just how I roll! So I got started on the secondary illustration. At this point I want to mention that I really wanted to use NovelAImage generation but running this through our existing model for pointers was kinda fruitless AND the amazing Aero on our team had been cooking something sweet for me as an experiment but it wasn't quite ready to be used. So while normally I really love implementing AI in my current workflows it didn't work much on this one at that point in time.

My WIP, whack, ugly yuck and not even the AI was able to point me in directions to fix this mess...

AI did help point out that her pose and left arm was pretty whack. So I ended up attempting to cover it with Shoggy first, which I also abandoned and opted to replace with cover and throw Shoggy back on her shoulder instead. I drew myself into a corner. I was really sick, bed bound and I just sat down for drawing sessions in between work tasks and concentrated on refining and then! THEN - remember my mention of Aero? He came to the rescue! I was able to toss what I had at the AI - but not just any AI no, no, no, no! This one was trained on my art and photos and I was able to use our Controlnet implementation on top of it and I found the direction I wanted after just throwing it in there right away: More ribbons, more drama. I saw AI-ni's direction and I got a new vision.

Alrighty so, fueled by my image AI vision I sat down for a good 12 hour session and boom:

I "finished" this the day before release. I sent it to TabloidA to be included in the video, proclaiming I refuse to work on it any further - little did I know our Designer had a really neat idea that would add like another lengthy drawing session to the whole endeavor.

I had some drama but now I saw a chance for an extra HEAVING and 5 hours of maniacal eye scribbling later I was truly done. I fixed so many issues I still had with her face, added the og nai logo in a sneaky spot as well hehe and overall those 5 hours of polishing / additions really paid off. I'm truly happy with the final result!

Bonus Thoughts:

I had Shoggy on Clio's shoulder, snuggling up to her cheek - realized I was about to risk everyone's safety - I forgot his GOOD STICKER! What was I to do? redraw his smushy cute wittle arms somewhere else to shove it in?! But no... It dawned on me as I was doing editing of the blog in between drawing - in Finetune's blog draft was a nice section:

"Originally Clio was just intended to be our first proof of concept model. A small model allows us to easily experiment and figure out all the little issues that invariably pop up in any large endeavor such as creating a large language model from scratch without costing us too much time and compute. But Clio surprised us by performing even better than we expected, hitting 73% LAMBADA accuracy during the pretraining phase and even went above 74% during the finetuning process." Of course! Shoggy would put the sticker on her! I knew it (I'd been feverishly testing with a run of the mill romance story ofc), Finetune mentioned it so openly, Clio IS good! Boom - perfect spot! Final seal of approval by Shoggy himself. It is all coming down to Clio, fresh out of the amphorous, shapeshifting goo oven - a sweet moment of this super powerful but super cute creature lovingly putting the sticker on her cheek! D'awww! <3 Thank you for reading, and truly, thank you for the warm welcome the art has received so far! Oh, and please feel free to use the art to make fanart or image gen edits, or really, anything you want with them - and don't forget to share them with me and the NovelAI team!

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