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I decided to try to reveal my creative coding process with a series of experiments. I wrote the 1st experiment this morning (when I should have been working on my book,) and it’s a pretty big hack job. However, I think it illustrates the basic process of finding/playing with the code (as a creative medium?) The experiment extends through 5 Processing sketches.

Sketch 1:
I wrote a simple triangle plotting algorithm, using basic trig (remember the Unit circle relationships?)
view sketch 1

Sketch 2:
I parameterized the triangle plotting function, giving it more expressive range
view sketch 2

Sketch 3:
I call the parameterized tri function in a loop using the same trig relationships, which now control the x and y position of each triangle as well as the structure of the individual triangles
view sketch 3

Sketch 4:
I just messed with some of the numbers to create something more visually engaging
view sketch 4

Sketch 5:
I structured the spiral plotting into a function with parameters, which internally handles calling the tri function. I also added Processing’s draw function, which starts an animation thread. From the draw function, I call the spiral function passing in random arguments, generating random output results. I also messed around with the numbers to try to make something interesting to watch.
view sketch 5


  1. With this kind of art, obviously Eric’s paradigm holds — the code has nothing to do with it. I’m interested in the “messing around” parts (sketch 4 and sketch 5). First, background:

    What makes poetry great art (as opposed to merely pleasing) is a kind of reflexivity in which its conditions of existence (production, reproduction, reception) are somehow thematized and addressed formally.

    An analogy between poetry and code are may not hold. But if it does, is there a way to make visible your process of messing around in the art work itself?

  2. This is definitely NOT great art!
    Is it even art? I’m not sure.

    The code, in the early sketches, is like the painter’s brushprint, or the weave of the canvas pressing through the gessoed surface; it serendipitously denotes activity. The artist incorporates and responds to this initial data, as she iteratively builds up the surface. Sometimes this initial data remains central to the piece (Agnes Martin), but usually this stage of development only functions as a framework for a more exploratory and rigorous process.
    The 5 sketches in experiment 1 basically follow this development path (albeit without much rigor.) And although the code itself is not terribly important in the early stages, the initial algorithms are. The triangle plotting and spiral functions provide a framework in which to play with the algorithms. By experimenting with the values to be input into the function(s), the development process moves from an analytical engineering phase to a playful (arational) creative phase: I don’t know what will be output, and I can try different values until the output begins to “feel” right. Of course, I may reach an expressive limit based on some analytical structure, which is when I might reengineer at the algorithmic level. However, this phase would then be followed by another experimental (“play”) phase. This back and forth process can continue iteratively, lending rigor, history, (and even reflexivity) to the process.

  3. So interesting: I never thought about painting as responding to the canvas, but I can see that in Martin. And so the way that reflexivity enters into your creative process is insofar as creating responds to or somehow participates in the initial structure (algorithms). In terms of connection between hand-craft or gesture, on the one hand, and feeling: in digital art, the feeling comes from a whole series of small, even un- or pre-conscious hand movements, consciousness of them lost in absorption with code — first, within “an analytical engineering phase” and second within a “creative phase.” But in any case, the absorption when painting in the way the painting is coming to look doesn’t somehow obscure the process of feeling the gesture as much as does a keyboard, ctrl-x, crtl-v (or their mac equivalents).

  4. This blogging stuff is fun. As usual, I have many more questions. If art exists in the realm of “messing around” (which I agree), than why code? I thought the benefit of coding was to be able to control more precisely what happens on the screen. If you are looking to mess around and randonly create images to find the one that “feels” right, wouldn’t it be easier to do this using a painting program or some other shortcuts that allow easier ways to mess around?

    It also seems like stretching the definition of art to say plugging random numbers into mathematical equations is akin to a creative process. Ira’s process of creation here seems more similar to tossing a stone into a pond and observing the ripples. Yes, each toss would be unique and the artist can observe the ripples and decide which ones are most pleasing. But so what? This is not a human experience that is likely to touch another human being in such a way to be deemed a great piece of art. If it did work as art, it would be more aptly labeled a beautiful natural wonder of the world rather than a man-made masterpiece. Perhaps that is the role of this digital artform – to visualize the aestetics of math. It reminds me of the artist who photographed the atom and other natural wonders.

    While I’m not sure what Mandell means by thematized (nice to meet you too), I like the analogy to poetry. If I understand this, a poem works by somehow communicating the mind state of the creator to the receiver of the art. The poem itself is an experience that is conveyed through another experience to the observer who can process it in some formal manner. Using Ira’s process, the poet would simply randonly throw letters, words or marks onto a page and see which one “feels” right. Indeed, this would even be closer to conveying an experience since the actual words and marks on the page would be made by the poet, as compared to the computer generating the output.

    Thus, it seems that while digital art may help us see natural beauty, I’m not sure it rises to an artform.

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  1. […] CHAT — Collaborative for Humanities, Art, and Technology A blog about collaboration in interdisciplinary digital research projects, focusing especially upon exchanges between humanists and visual artists « Code As Medium | Experiment 1 […]

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