Ropsten test mint 104. More test mints at the bottom
On December 16th, 2021, I will release my first work of my first on-chain work of generative art, Tropism, via Art Blocks. Its description reads…
Tropism is the phenomenon in which an organism's growth is influenced by environmental stimuli. Organisms of all shapes, sizes, and colors encounter varying amounts of external forces as they grow. These environmental stimuli are internalized, and the marks they leave end up being the defining characteristics of a life.
That’s the real definition of tropism. In my world, Tropism is an emergent system that has resulted from years of tinkering, bugs, successes, life events, community influence, and artistic evolution. In that regard, the process of creating this work of generative art has been very similar to the type of organic and influenced growth that the art itself depicts.
I had always been interested in art, but I never felt I had the skills to make it. I was a computer person. A math person. I just wasn’t an artist. I started to doubt that assesment in the mid-2010s, when I first found out about generative art from artists like Anders Hoff (Inconvergent) and Jessica Rosenkrantz (Nervous System).
I spent years observing instead of trying to make my own. Then, something changed. I stopped writing code for work. After accepting that reality for a while, I eventually decided I could fill that void by writing code for fun. The first result was this unremarkable image from February 6th, 2019.
This was day 1 of a self-imposed 30 day creative coding challenge. I’m pretty sure it was a tutorial from processing.org.
For nearly a month, I wore my ‘influences’ on my sleeve and copied other artists. It’s a natural thing to do, and it shaped my path forward. Then, 25 days in, I decided to take more cues from my immediate environment. The first was a vine growing up the side of a building on 8th street in Atlanta, Georgia. I attacked it with the tool that seemed best… graphs. Graphs are a series of objects, or “nodes,” that are connected by “edges.” You can use them to map out complicated networks, but you can crawl around them to create interesting paths. I used them for work back when I coded.
This was actually a bug, and not at all the intended outcome. That’s fine. It happens. I learned from it and tried again.
This was, more or less, what I set out to do. I loved it at the time, and I decided to see where else it would go.
Realistically, this code wasn’t that different from my first attempt. Nevertheless, very small differences in this system can manifest in drastically different outcomes.
It’s around this time that myself and two of my colleagues started GASP Gallery, a website where buyers could customize and buy art from myself, Kjetil Golid, Aaron Penne, and Devi Parikh.. This was my first attempt at connecting my generative art with a broader community of non-artists. Long story short, the site was extremely unprofitable, but the work and relationships have had a lasting impact on my work.
Back on the topic of graph search. I’d been creating these random graph structures, and it was alright. Then, on accident, I reduced the randomness substantially. This next graph is mostly orderly, but there are occasinoal moments where a connection breaks down or is blocked. This is the birth of what ultimately became Tropism. The paths will move in an orderly manner until they are blocked, and then they will divert whhen they hit a dead end. That diversion will ripple throughout the rest of the structure. It’s a fascinating emergent behavior.
The result is a striking lesson that randomness is often more interesting when it emerges from and is surrounded by order. The structures feel more real, intentional, and also organic. In this image, the changes to the structure happen because a path is blocked by the “invisible” lack of a connection. In tropism, the paths are blocked both by the lack of a connection (the Stability feature) as well as the stimuli that are littered around the graph (the Stimuli Amount feature).
And it works in many shapes.
And before I knew it, graph search seemed to be the algorithm that I used most often. I might see some cool animated art and go try it out, but then I’d come back to graph search.
Then I’d find something that would inspire me to try interactivity, and I’d incorporate it into graph search..
And then 3D.
And then glsl/shaders (also minted on Foundation).
Throughout my evolution as a generative artist, random inspiration from bugs, life events, and other artists would get absorbed into my work and steer my development. My specific combination of random influences is, hopefully, what makes my art unique. This echos the concept behind Tropism. The art unintentionally resembles the multi-year process from which it was born.
Whatever comes next won’t share the same concept as Tropism, but it will share the same tangled history of life, influences, bugs, and other inputs that get baked into all of my work. To close things out, here are some Ropsten test mints of Tropism.