Existential Friday NewsletterGenerative Art

v59: Generative Art Series (2 of 13)

Schotter Pen plot cubic disarray

Since we’re moving through a series, we’ll start at the beginning. Starting a new activity causes us to look around. We look at who has done it before, who’s doing it now, and we find ideas and inspiration to influence our own creative work. Austin Kleon would call it stealing and he talks about the merits of that here.

Generative art is something of a fringe activity today, but it’s been around for longer than you might expect. Early generative art starting popping up in the 1960’s The big names from that period are people Georg Nees, A. Michael Noll, and Frieder Nake.

The early works by Nees, Noll, and Nake are relatively simple to recreate. In recreating them, you learn some of the basic principles of generative art and end up with something cool. That’s what we’ll do this week.

Note that no discussion of generative art would be complete without some mention of randomness.  Randomness plays a big role in most generative art. The idea is that the machine influences the outcome.  Our role in making generative art is managing the magnitude and nature of the randomness.  Conceptually that’s interesting, but it’s more interesting when you visualize it.

The image below reproduces Georg Nees’s work “Schotter” (also known as Cubic Disarray). Randomness is amplified as you move down the image. Like life (and especially my desk), you quickly move from order to disorder.

Schotter Cubic Disarray

Nees originally created Schotter in black and white. Adding random color creates a totally different perspective.

Schotter Cubic Disarray random color

One of my favorite things with generative art is taking it and making it real. The image below plots out Cubic Disarray with a Sharpie.

Schotter Cubic Disarray Pen Plot Cameo Silhouette

When you plot generative art, you also end up with different imperfections. In this case, the upper left corner of the image wasn’t drawn because I didn’t prime the Sharpie.

Schotter Pen plot cubic disarray

Next week we’ll continue on with a little more history and then move to some different ideas.


Oh, this is amusing.

I like pictures of abandoned spaces and these photos of abandoned malls are impressive.

If you’re interested in how self-driving cars work, you’ll enjoy this video.

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