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What is Generative Art?

Posted by Michelle Chandra on

I had been wanting to return to generative art for many years since my graduate program at ITP - NYU ended in 2015. In August of 2019, I decided to revisit an old Processing animation to create generative designs reminiscent of spirographs as part of a 100 day project! Each design is drawn with an AxiDraw pen plotter, a type of robotic drawing machine.

What is Generative Art?

Generative art is art that is created with code. Processing is a programming environment many visual artists use that is based in the Java programming language. Visual artists like Processing because it makes it easy to make changes to their "sketch" or program, and visually see what is happening. Processing also has a lot of programming power! 

Why Create Generative Art?

Creating art programmatically allows you to make endless permutations of a design. There is a high level of precision possible. The final art can be interactive or loop forever and ever. The artwork becomes a collaboration between the artist and the computer, and then between the artist and the pen plotter. 

Generative Spirograph-ish Designs

Unlike traditional spirographs that are created manually using plastic gears and a pen (and which many of us growing up in the nineties knew and loved!), the designs I make are created from a program I wrote using Processing that draws shapes rotating around a central point.

The placement of the shapes is determined by the frequency and amplitude of modulating different waveforms (trigonometry, anyone?!)

It's All About Waveforms - and Mathematical Curves

Spirographs are part of a family of mathematical curves called hypotrochoids. These are curves created by tracing a point on a radius of a circle. My program creates similar curves by drawing shapes rotating around a central point, where the placement of the shapes is modulated by waveforms. Waveforms are a great way to generate patterns mathematically as waveforms repeat over and over.

Pure waveforms can be created using trigonometry - sine, cosine and tangent calculations for instance. The waveform frequency (number of times the waveform repeats in time), and amplitude (the size of the waveform) determines the design, in conjunction with the shapes being drawn. 

Check out the designs currently available as prints! You can also join my email list to find out when new prints are available. 

What Else Do I Make?

Besides making rotational generative art, I also create geometric artwork with code that is inspired by famous algorithms like the 10 print algorithm.

You can bet that if it involves geometry, pattern and mathematical waveforms, I will be all over it!

All Generative Art, All the Time

Check out these additional blog posts:

michelle chandra of dirt alley design

Dirt Alley Design was founded just off a dirt alley in San Francisco in Dec of 2016 by artist Michelle Chandra. Inspired by the beauty of street grids, Michelle invented maze maps in which she transforms street grids into mazes. In 2019, she began a new project - generative designs created with code & drawn with a pen plotter. Follow her on Instagram and Twitter @dirtalleydesign where she posts new designs daily 



100 day project 2019 generative art spirograph

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