Apparatus for Creating Generative Drawings Without the Use of a Computer

Posted on 2014-08-15 by Jan Vantomme
Tags: art, exhibition

I've created a lot of generative drawings in the past few years, and while most of them look great on a screen, I felt that something was missing when I made prints. I played around a bit with inkjet prints, but they didn't add any value to my work, so I started experimenting with traditional fine arts printing techniques.

One of the first things I tried was using a laser cutter to engrave thin plastic plates, and later copper plates with a hard ground, and printing them by hand. What I like about this process, is that it adds some imperfection to my work, something I can't add in the software I write.

Drypoint print, made by using a laser cutter to engrave the drawing in a plastic plate.

I also experimented with other techniques like screen printing, woodblock printing, photopolymer printing, etching, … In December 2013, I generated some small patterns with Processing, and had some office stamps made with them.

Stamps, generated with Processing.

The stamps were used to create the dyptich Cipher/Decipher. It took quite some work to print this piece, just over 20 hours, as the paper size is 70 x 100 cm.


The problem with using these kinds of stamps is that they only come in boring office colors. To use other colors of ink, I had to create my own stamp cushions. I printed these little orange boxes at the local fab lab, and added a layer of felt so I could work with Letraset Pantone ink.

Custom 3D printed stamp cushions.

And this is what the final stamps looked like.

Custom stamps ready for installation.

Dubbelwerk, the Exhibition

In April, there was the Dubbelwerk exhibition in Ghent. The idea behind the exhibition was that teams of two artists would collaborate to create a single piece. I decided to ignore the curator, and collaborated with the visitors of the exhibition. So I used the stamps to create an interactive installation without computers. The name of the installation is "Apparatus for Creating Generative Drawings Without the Use of a Computer". The visitors of the exhibition were invited to use the stamps, and generate the drawing during the four days the exhibition was open.

Setting up the installation

The installation looked like this before the opening of the show. A clean white wall with five stamps hanging from the ceiling.

The installation before the opening of the exhibition.

Detail of one of the stamps.

Kids vs. Adults

When the exhibition opened, I noticed that adults are bit hesitant in participating. Probably because they know that you can't touch art in a museum or gallery setting. But once they had a few beers, and saw other people using the stamps, they got over it. Kids on the other hand, don't have these boundaries. They see the stamps, and immediately reach for them. Some of them stayed over an hour doing nothing but placing stamps on the paper.

People writing their name

Expected interactions

There were a few things I expected visitors would do with this installation. People will use the canvas as a graffiti wall to draw hearts, smilies or even write their name.

Faces and Hearts

Unexpected interactions

Sometimes it's great to see what people do if you hand them your tools. Somebody started rotating the stamp while pressing it, which gave a great result. People also dragged the stamp across the paper leaving a smudge of ink. These are things I probably wouldn't have done myself when using stamps to create art.

Ink Smudges

Drawing "Offscreen"

And then there is always the aspiring graffiti artist who starts drawing on the wall. It started with a single yellow stamp, and by the end of the opening night, somebody wrote on the wall next to the piece.

First offscreen drawing

And when one person starts to draw and write on the wall, others will follow…

People writing their name

The Next Step

This is what the installation looked like after the exhibition.

The installation after the exhibition

As four days was a bit short to fill the entire wall, I want to setup the installation at a place where it can be displayed for a longer time. The good news is that I've found a place for it. The installation will be part of The New Sublime during the Brighton Digital Festival. Opening night is on September 5, the installation will be on display until the end of the festival.

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