Author Archives: Garrett Vaughn

System: Four Parameters

Current Realized version of "Four Parameters"

Current Realized version of “Four Parameters”

My conference ecosystem, Four Parameters, is inspired by Frieder Nake’s Matrix Multiplication, a series of mathematical solutions represented as computer art. My conference originally began with thinking about evolutionary art as I attempted to replicate the movements of ants in an art farm, but I found myself more and more compelled to follow in the footsteps of Nake and other artists who take mathematics and analytical data and find ways to transform this information into visual art. What strikes me about Nake’s work is his use of color, his ability to collage rudimentary shapes into a greater mosaic artwork, and his ability to create patterns in a digital space that appear almost woven or as if they were created from a textile. For my conference, I tried to create an ecosystem that, after being refreshed, or after input from the user, would change color and dynamism while still maintaining a sense of evolutionary similarity with the artwork prior.

Frieder Nake "Untitled"

Frieder Nake “Untitled”

Four Parameters replication of Nake "Untitled"

Four Parameters replication of Nake “Untitled”

Nake’s work is deceivingly complex; I know this firsthand after trying to code my own Matrix. Nake’s work cares a great deal about space and composition, and so I had to reflect on those aspects as well. What I struggled with the most in my conference was manipulating the canvas and figuring out exactly where my shapes would be drawn. In my sketchpad I had an infinite amount of room to plan and layout my design, but once I started coding loops that would draw multiple shapes, the interactions of their x and y coordinates became hard to locate. That was also part of the fun, because sometimes my errors would lead me to very interesting mistakes.

Errors can certainly be a roadblock, but other times my errors provided me an insight and a deeper, more profound understanding of the artist’ design, and helped to propel me forward down a new path of inspiration. Still just a beginner to art and coding, I had some assumptions about how the code prioritizes the overlapping of calls to draw shapes and translate without the use of push and pop to separate design elements in an object. I had to reconsider the placement of objects and the very order and outline of my code itself. I saw quickly that the more organized my code was, I was able to maintain and keep sigh of my goals in the distance. When my code became longer and more syntactically complex I found myself overwhelmed by the code I had just sat down and written. I had to be extra thorough when re-reading and trying to find errors in my code that would break my art.

Error leads to interesting patterns and inspiration

Error leads to interesting patterns and inspiration

Additionally, while working on conference I came to understand that there were multiple ways and approaches to reach my desired goal. I often had moments where I recognized the opportunity to just hard code a parameter, or make changing a variable accessible by input in the function parameters (for ex: function(x_asis,y_axis)). There were many ways I could go about my code, and finding the most effiecient solution wasn’t always apparent on the surface. I certainly gained a better respect for Nake as a pioneer of computer art at the intersection of mathematics. It was illuminating to work in his footsteps, and to consider that every process in art is intentional and mathematically understandable, and vice versa there are moments of artistic beauty in math as well.

Changes in the ecosystem

Changes in the ecosystem

My first several iterations I just worked with turning the basic shapes in objects that would be able to experience other forms of transformation (rotation, translation, change in scale). Even in the overlapping and multilayered chaos of Nake’s works, his choice of shape and specifically the color palette he chooses also the viewer to still distinguish and recognize individual shapes. Lines couldn’t be drawn on one another completely blocking out the lines below; I had to really pay attention to the opacity, saturation, and depth of field I was creating with my shapes, even if I assigned some parameters to move randomly within a given boundary.

Next came rotations and finding ways to slightly alter my ecosystem every time the user refreshes. One of the other reasons I really like working with an evolutionary system in the vain of Nake’s work is the very subtle white and gray backgrounds he frames his works on top of. While someone else may say that Nake’s backgrounds don’t lend much to his artwork, I would disagree and say that all of Nake’s colors and even the materials he prints on adds to the collective composition. I love thinking about the modernity of Frieder’s cubic design and palette at a time of few graphic designers or artists, but how his design already prefigures and predated the waves of graphic design that will follow after him.

Next, I changed the color scheme from the original blue, yellow, and red to rotating between several different pallets on refresh. When creating this evolutionary system and thinking about Nake’s work, I always wonder how a change in color can completely transform a work’s tone and atmosphere. Nake’s Matrix Multiplication and many of his other untitled works have a very deliberate color composition, and I wanted to follow is his footsteps.

Slightly changing rotation to achieve a new template

Slightly changing rotation to achieve a new template

Again, I struggled the most with translating and moving around the canvas, but my inspiration still burns and I have several more things to add! With additional time, I hope too the ability to take in user commands with the mouseX and mouseY values to rotate individual squares on their axes. I also want to elaborate my pattern more and on refresh and new pattern should be generated. With certain keystrokes or presses the user should also be able to change the size of some of the squares on the canvas.

Overall I think my ecosystem needs some tuning up and optimization, but I am very enthusiastic with more attention I can make a very interesting ecosystem like Nake’s work that explores gradualism, pattern, collage, and color in a mathmatic vein.

Perfect Weather

 
beggining scrollpaper

Final Realized Collage

Like many of my classmates I thrust myself into the great unknown when creating my wallpaper. My process didn’t begin with any fancy sketches or a long overdrawn brainstorm, instead I went straight to the internet and began perusing wallpapers and patterns created by other digital artists. Some of the patterns and wallpapers that really spoke to me include:

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After collecting a sizable folder on my desktop of patterns and wallpapers, my own wallpaper began to coalesce. I was intrigued by the intersection of natural and obtuse shapes in a repeating sequence to create a wallpaper, and when creating my own wallpaper I wanted to incorporate the idea of nature vs. a pristine, human-generated pattern. Thinking about these things, I moved to create my own wallpaper.

Beginning with a repeating pattern: zig-zag lines

Beginning with a repeating pattern: zig-zag lines

Perhaps the most challenging part of my code (save animation) was creating the pattern that would serve as my background: a horizontally repeating zig-zag line. Even using a loop to repeatedly generate the lines, I found I was having trouble with the positioning of the vertex-drawn shape I created. While I considered scrapping the lines altogether at one point because of time, I was possessed with having the zig-zag lines as my background and finding a solution ot my coding problems. When I finally got the code to work and properly run along the length of my canvas, I felt incredible satisfaction and triumph. One thing this coding assignment has taught me is that every individual coder has his or her own “mountain” to overcome. For some people, loops and animations are incredibly tricky, or for someone well versed in loops, composition and design pose a challenge. Each assignment has given me a new set of tools to put to use, and another challenge which to overcome. After triumphing over the creation of my background pattern, I moved on to creating and flushing out other graphic elements.

Adding clouds and a sun

Adding clouds and a sun

When creating my wallpaper I thought a great deal about nature and perfection, and the ugliness of nature colliding with the structure and perfection of repeating patterns on a wallpaper. While most of the shapes on my wallpaper ended up being geometric, I tried to create some more organic and custom shapes with the coding tools at my hands (vertex drawing and arc to be specific). With arc, I was able to create clouds, and soon I was well on my way to creating a weather pattern. As I was coding, I reflected on how the proximity of shapes with one another created a new shape, or familiar objects we all know. Using arc, ellipse, and rect I was able to create a cloud and generate symbolic weather underneath using rectangles. However, if I were just to put all of my shapes in a horizontal line, they would have no meaning to one another. As I’ve spent over half my the first semester coding art, I’m surprised at how art and coding are both about relationships.

beggining scrollpaper

One hangup with my project is that I was unable to achieve animation. I wanted my rectangular raindrops to oscillate up and down, and the background pattern to loop and move upward, creating tension between the piece. I wasn’t able to achieve animation primarily because of the way I coded my objects’ x and y positions. When trying to return and introduce animation, I found it difficult to do so when I was already using the x and y in my for loops. I would really love to return to this piece and add animation!

On the subject of composition, while I generally like the colors I was able to achieve and the overall asethetic, there is something very bland and head-on about my wallpaper which I don’t especially like. After looking at my finished wallpaper, I shook my head a bit because the pattern I created reminded me of a blanket. I’ve noticed in much of my artwork a level of “coherence” or comprehension that turns my art “flat”. As I’m just beginning to dive into art, especially art created from code, I would love to develop my sense of composition and creating more organic artwork not so rigid and heavy-handed. Overall I am pleased that I was able to solve some personal problems with my code, but I still think there is much to learn and improve upon!

 

Virtue and Vice

Finished Realized Collage

Finished Realized Collage

 

My collage began with a brainstorm of words and associations, held together by the single narrative of vice and virtue. Having just finished the Odyssey in my literature seminar, I was struck by the physical and psychological pleasures and seductions the narrative protagonist Odysseus had to temper himself against to make it back home after ten long years of war, and another ten years spent as a vagabond on the sea. While a handful of the seductions he has to overcome are supernatural, many of the “vices” Odysseus must ward himself against are almost impossible to overcome, simply because he is human. There were many personal lessons I could distill from reading the story of Odysseus and his battle homeward, as well as the the internal struggle that sometimes proved even harder than whatever his divine antagonists could cook up. With this in mind, I set off to make a collage to capture my interests in Greek myth, modern graphic design, vice, virtue, and the journey from adolescence into adulthood.

 
Initial Brainstorming and Layout sketches

Initial Brainstorming and Layout sketches

After brainstorming, I went in search of iconography and inspiration to guide the tone and mood of the collage. Creating a “third space” was not an easy task, and creating a specific tone and unique texture evolved constantly at every step in the collage process. Beyond just the images I selected for the collage, I had to be very careful about position and relationships. Questions such as: where do I want my audience to focus on? what elements of the collage am I naturally drawn to? what doesn’t look right? continually popped into my head. Many images or changed or discarded, and one of the hardest parts of this assignment was finding the correct typography to convey the tone I was seeking. Perusing through Google Fonts, some of there selection was either too comical or didn’t add to the atmosphere of the piece. Or worse, I would gather together a collection of fonts that practically looked the same. I found that I could spend hours browsing images and fonts online, but until I took the leap forward and threw the paint on the wall, I wouldn’t know if my design decisions would stick or not. Needless to stay, creating a collage was an exhaustive effort that felt even more meticulous than my self portrait. However, I also recognized after brainstorming that as long as I held onto the essence of my collage, the elements and imagery would naturally insert or subtract itself. The creation of the collage itself guiding my artistic selection.

 
Background: Topographical Lines with Cyan Purple Gradient

Background: Topographical Lines with Cyan Purple Gradient

Central Images And Color Palette

Central Images And Color Palette

                               

There was a host of digital and graphic icons and imagery I drew inspiration from. Since Robert Rauschenberg, collage has only been aided by the advance of digital imaging and processing. While I didn’t have very many fancy applications at my hands besides Photoshop, p5.js is a very robust drawing program that allowed me to edit, translate, rotate, scale, and manipulate in many other fashions the images i inserted into my digital canvas. After creating this collage, I come away with an even greater appreciation for the subtle art of position and placement. For example, I struggled as a beginning collage artist diversifying the placement of squares which gave my collage a very rigid and structured look. I can say I spent as much time thinking about where I was going to place and translate an image on the canvas as I did coding that translation, if not more. Even still using a great deal of squares and rectangles, I think I begun to achieve some diversity and nuance in the drawing the audiences’ attention to specific portions of the collage.

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If there is one part of my collage I can latch onto and say that I am happy with, I would argue I am very happy with the color scheme and palette I was able to achieve. I love working with conflicting, opposite, and opposing colors, and in my brainstorm I was latched onto the idea of a gradient. While that original gradient changed in some dimensions, I really fell in love with the background I created using a topographical map and an overlay of color. While I sometimes felt the ideas of vice and virtue I was playing with didn’t always shine through, the highly pigmented color palette and hues cinch the collage together and keep the viewer constantly searching for information and creating inferences from association.

collage image

My creation of this collage comes from my own appreciation for the story of Homer’s Odyssey, my love fro graphic design, strong color palettes, and my own musings about mortal temptation. While not directly hitting the bullseye, I think I landed somewhere close.

Self-Portrait

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Before creating my self-portrait I never considered myself an artist in any dimension or medium. However, as the end of my first month in Art From Code quickly approaches, I’ve found a budding appreciation for abstract artists and art not concerned with perfection. Thus, my self portrait is very much a reflection of the personal and intellectual growth of this last month after seeing Ian Cheng’s Emissaries and Paul Klee. These two artists in particular resonated with me because I find the idea of creating art that is ‘perfect’ and without flaw daunting and discouraging. In contrast, Cheng and Klee’s artworks don’t possess a final or fixed ending to me, which is what inspired among other thing, this self-portrait.

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In my self-portrait I worked primarily with animation, inspired by Emissaries and our continual work with loops. Before even writing down ideas or sketching, I was possessed with the idea of a moving, interactive face.  I personally feel like my face is a canvas that changes ever day, and in that same vein of thinking about unpredictability produced from finite code, I did not want my self-portrait to keep a single colored face, but rather have a moving and constantly updated face. Animation, however, came with it’s own challenges of course.

face03 face04

In my process sketches many things were discarded, left behind, changed, and tinkered with until reaching this final self-portrait. That is also one of the reasons I loved this assignment, because one change in code propelled both myself and the project into a different direction. Originally, I wanted the background cells to change color with each other down the y axis to create a synchronized and smooth gradient of color from top to bottom. While I was unable to achieve that originally desired gradient in my code, by experimentation and error I found that changing the background color while retaining the proportion of rgb values produced incredible patterns that I would have never imagined possible. My own stumbling through the code led me to produce a self-portrait I liked even more than my original idea. Every time I refresh the page I come across a new pattern and color scheme I’ve never seen before, and I was pleasantly surprised how I avoided perfection but found it again through the chaos of loops and animation.

face05

Not everything was left up to chance, of course. I wanted to also include very stationary elements about my face and identity in my self-portrait as well: specifically, my eyes, beard, and nose, and ears. If given the opportunity I would also probably add eyebrows as well. I decided to only include one ear because of Paul Klee’s Senecio in 1922, with his woman with misshapen eyes. It was that characteristic of the artwork, along with its striking colors that drew me in.  I am very satisfied with my final project and how I was able to strike a balance between purpose, chaos, and infinity, much like Ian Cheng in Emissaries. For a someone who has never felt like an artist before I am very happy with my self-portrait from code.