On Generative Art and Pen Plotters

Artists have long worked on breaking down the creative process into a series of parameters and steps that can be followed by a human being or a machine. Instead of producing a single result, crafting the parameters can generate an endless multitude of variations. Computers add a layer of possibility with a precise language of control with programming primitives like conditionals, repetition, and randomness.

Art produced in this manner is often called Generative Art. In the words of Sol LeWitt, the idea becomes the machine that makes the art.

When an artist uses a conceptual form of art, it means that all the planning and decisions are made beforehand and the execution is a perfunctory affair. The idea becomes the machine that makes the art.

— Sol LeWitt, “Paragraphs on Conceptual Art,” 1967

My tryst with generative art draws inspiration from artists belonging to various art and design movements. The artwork can be crafted with carefully constructed geometric patterns. It can also be an array of unimaginable variations achieved by incorporating a chance. "Randomness", like Vera Molnar, puts it, "can replace intuition and enrich the artistic sense" [1]. I see algorithmic art as a beautiful blend of order and chaos.

Take a designer who’s drawings resemble chicken scratch, add an obsession for fancy pens & ink, a pen plotter is the final missing link. Even just watching my plotter in action is mesmerizing. It could easily compete with any oddly satisfying video on Twitter.

The basic premise behind a plotter is fairly straightforward. The artworks are defined as shapes and the plotter “draws” them on a surface by moving a pen across. This not only reproduces the final image but also reconstructs the order in which these lines and curves are defined in the artwork.

Unlike humans, plotters are capable of drawing with extreme precision and don’t get tired and sweaty with endless repetition.

My Artworks

Here’s a collection of plotted generative artworks that I made for an ongoing #100daysofCreativeCoding series organized around concepts like grids, repetition, perspectives, dimensions, etc.

Mandalas are the best examples of the infinite variation and beauty that can come out from playing with a few parameters. These are similar to the concept of spirographs created by drawing circles around a central point. Adding some trigonometry (high school nightmares, anyone?) does wonder to the possibilities.

The premise of the 100-day project is quite simple: pick one thing that you are passionate about and repeat every day for 100 days. The fun is not necessarily about gaping at the final piece — it’s about enjoying and learning through the process. Groups of like-minded people share their work on platforms like Instagram and the accountability of doing something alongside other people on a public platform can be quite empowering. The best trick to experience this is to just subject yourself to it.

For more works, check out my Instagram page.


[1] Randomness Generator