Questions Asked, Once Or More
These would be Frequently Asked Questions if people were to ask me anything frequently.
People have asked me if I blog, and the answer is no. Words are tough, images are easier.
This is a living document of questions people have asked me about my work. On the off chance people want to ask me again I will have better answers the second time around.
If you don’t see a question here you would like answered, please email me.
I’m a designer and artist, and I sometimes write software to do both.
I was born in Wisconsin. I went to the University of Cincinnati to get a B.S. in Graphic Design. I lived in LA for a while and now live in New York.
How long have you been making generative art?
I’ve been dabbling in Processing for over a decade now, but have only been seriously practicing for maybe 2 years. About 6 years ago I was fortunate to take an intro class to Processing with Casey Reas. That sort of instigated a path toward generative art.
The road to being a generative artists isn’t very linear, I’ve discovered. After years of writing code for websites and things, generative art is easier now than when I started with no coding knowledge, but it still isn’t a one-to-one correlation.
Truth be told, I probably started as a generative artist in elementary school. I would often make these scribbly little art pieces using some instinctual but procedural process. I would often try to sell/trade them when we had school sales or whatever. Unsurprisingly, no one bought my art then, either.
Where can I buy your work/Where can I buy this particular piece?
A lot of my work is available in my webstore.
It’s possible that you’ve seen pieces of mine that are still available but no longer in the store. If I kept every piece I’ve made available in the store there would be a lot of listings and I would feel like a failed artist. Your best bet if you are very interested in a piece is to contact me.
International buyers may notice my store can’t process foreign transactions. It sucks (my webstore also costs me nothing...so there are tradeoffs). Please contact me—we can definitely get something figured out for you.
Why is your work so inexpensive? (This is commonly followed up with “You should charge more for your work.”)
I currently work at the New York Times and that covers most of my monetary needs. I also produce a ton of work and I don’t really need it filling up my flat files and just sitting there. So that leads me to trying to lower the cost of my work to the point that people who want it can have it, rather than people who can afford it.
We could talk about democratizing art and lowering the cost of artwork vs what that does to other artists (and perhaps we can outside of this F.A.Q.), but I will simply say that I set prices that I’m comfortable with and believe all artists should as well.
I want to give my money to you, not a charity or non-profit. How do I do that?
Well first off, I’m flattered. There are a few ways I make this available.
I have a very small Patreon that I use to collect monthly fees that go toward supplies and helping keep my store costs covered.
Next, I do a handful of Kickstarter projects a year around various themes. The proceeds of those projects go to me, although I often donate a small percentage of them to non-profits.
Lastly, please consider commissioning work from me. I love doing custom piece for people and am happy to discuss and collaborate with you on something.
Why do you donate the money from your sales to charity?
I just wanted to make it an option that you can give to good causes and get something out of it (in addition to the good feelings). Unlike many other artists who need to survive on their art (and you should buy their work!) I have a steady job that covers my living expenses.
Right now this just feels right. I may in the future change it, but for now I’m happy that I can give people art and help out causes I support.
Is it true I can get free art?
Kind of? Like, its true you can get art from me without sending me money, but its not “free.” Here’s how it works:
- You donate to a good cause.
- You email me your donation receipt along with a piece of art you like (of equal or lesser value than your donation) and your address.
- I will ship you art.
This is a better deal than buying work from my site and having me make the donation for you because you get to keep the tax deduction, but people seem reluctant to take me up on this. It’s your call in the end.
OK, but like, how do you give my money to you?
Please see the last question in the previous section. And thank you, I appreciate it.
OK, before I get into how I made various pieces, I want to preface this with a little note for artists that ask me about this or that.
One: I’m happy to help explain how I make things. So many others have contributed their time and code samples to me that to refuse to do so would be pretty damn rude. If I have source code on GitHub I will gladly link to it.
But: like all learning processes, just being handed the answer doesn’t really get you much further than that solitary answer. I will try to explain my process without mentioning code processes because it’s better to re-engineer your own method 95 times out of 100. I have felt so much better about my work when I solve something independently than just cutting and pasting someone else’s code. Most of the time it gives me a huge number of other ideas while working through my own struggles.
So: take my verbal explanations first, then try solving it yourself. If you’re still stuck after a while then ask for code.
Ok, with that in mind...
How do you make those circle collages?
From a code perspective, the layouts are generated using a process called Circle Packing. I set a number of parameters, then generate a bunch of layouts. From there I pick ones I like.
That’s as far as it goes on the code side, everything else from there is just like any other collage. I pick pieces I think go well together, I cut them out and slap them down. I have some scripts and things that help me speed up the process, but there’s no tricks to just sitting down and being an artist at that point.
Do you only use Processing?
While Processing is my main tool, I do use many other things, including iPhone apps and other tools. I’ll eventually compile a full list here.
What kind of pen plotters do you use?
I own a lot of pen plotters. All of them have pros and cons, but here’s what I’ve found works best for me.
I own two of these. I really like these old HP pen plotters for a couple of reasons. One: they’re fast. Two: They can hold up to 8 pens at a time. The downside is you the interface is a little, well, old. I followed this tutorial and hooked it up to Chiplotle. I then wrote a custom script in Illustrator to convert vector graphics to HPGL language. It was a lot of work but I can now produce plots very quickly and efficiently. I’ve also made some mods to it so it can hold modern-day pens.
Also, these things are insanely heavy. Just a warning.
The 7550A can draw up to 13x19in (ish) drawings. You can find them for $50-100 on eBay, which is way cheaper than current plotters.
HP Draftmaster 1
After being obsessed with the 7550, I found someone list one of these on Craigslist an hour or two away from me. It cost me more to rent a UHaul truck to get it then the thing itself was.
This plotter is pretty similar to the HP 7550, except it can draw up to 36x48in! (Someone should request something that large from me, please). It also has larger memory buffer than the 7550A which means it can do some more complicated things.
This is the latest pen plotter I’ve purchased. Unlike the HPs, this uses a flatbed (the pen moves along the Y axis as well as the X) which makes it more fun to watch but a little slower. I like to use this for weird shaped objects and paper.
This was the first plotter I ever bought. I don’t really recommend it if you want to do serious pen plot work. If you just want to play around a little and use a really simple interface, this might be for you.