My Creative Research Process

January 07, 2020


(Or, what am I doing when I’m making art?)

I like to make artwork with computers, and spend a lot of time doing that. Talking with people about the ways they make art has triggered me to be more reflective about my own process.

This is me writing down some thoughts about my artistic process in order to better understand it, and hopefully to prompt others to reflect on their own patterns of making or learning.

Why do I make art?

Creating things is a way to have a conversation with the world.

I might have a passing thought or observation: “These birds move in a nice way.”

starling murmuration

but re-forming that idea with my own hands means engaging with it from different angles.

Making art builds my understanding of the world and of my own perception. It gives me a structure to think ideas through and teaches me new ways to appreciate the world.

Giving shape to an idea also helps me to communicate it. Sharing something with others and hearing their perspective is another layer of learning.

Why do I make art with computers?

I wish I knew! If you’ve programmed a computer, you probably know that it’s not an inately pleasurable experience. Computers would prefer not to make artwork, and they’re very efficient at finding ways to avoid doing what you want.

Convincing the computer to make art forces me to enter a very focused state, like threading a series of needles while rotating an idea in my head.

Left alone, my mind spends its energy worrying about things I can’t control or generally bouncing around and knocking into things. Writing code is a good activity for me because I can tire my mind out on less destructive activities, like naming variables.

Coding as understanding

I think that all forms of art teach you new ways to pay attention to your surroundings, but for me programming is

Art as research

Creative & emotional cyles:

Because of the fiddly and frictive nature of using computers, and because of my own moodiness, I’ve found that creativity is something that comes in phases for me.

I handle different tasks when I have different types of energy to spare.

points of departure

Starting new things based on sparks or ideas!

  • natural beauty
  • ideas that I find beautiful
  • recreating an artwork
  • learning new technologies
  • forking other people’s demos

-> happens when i’m in nature, or talking with people, or whenever.

-> I usually can’t immediately start working on these, so i write them down for later, or do inital research on the web to learn more and build a list of resources.

yak shaving, setup, schleping

Setting up new tools and building out programming environments for myself can be really hard work.

Installing dependencies and writing the first layers of code that set

building out core abstractions

requires optimism, math, different aproaches, design thinking

exploration, recombinate creativity

parameter space exploration hook up midi control

ergonomic investments, oss contributions

waiting for inspiration,

outward energy, documentation

Not wanting to make things