For the past 2 years I have been working on programming a robotic arm to paint. The 2018 East Side Culture Crawl was the first time I publicly shared my robot painting process. Over the 4-day event, my robot was painting a series of still life flowers, it was so much fun to see people mesmorized by the process. During the crawl, I was interviewed by Sheryl MacKay of CBC North by Northwest (you can hear our discussion here).
Me explaining my painting robot to people in my open studio during the East Side Culture Crawl (November 2018) in Vancouver
During the crawl I was painting color iterations of “Red Flowers”, the painting that won 5th place in the 2018 International Robot Art Competition earlier in the year. Photo on the left taken by Pennylane Shen.
Current Robot Work
Here is some of work I have been doing with the robot…
2018 Robot Art Competition
You can read more about my work leading up to the robot art competition in this post. The rules of the painting competition was to create the paint without human intervention. I entered 6 paintings into the contest and placed 5th overall.
The 6 paintings I entered into the 2018 Robot Art competition. All 6 paintings were entirely done by the robot. You can learn more about this project here.
The more I paint realistically in my traditional practice, the more I appreciate abstract expressionism and the ability to go with the flow. I took advantage that a computer program can generate random numbers and wrote Python code to generate random positions to place loose brushstrokes with the robot. I painted the washy under-painting by hand and the robot painted the over-laying acrylic brushstrokes. You can see more of these artworks here. You can also watch my process in my YouTube Video.
Abstract expressionism paintings created by my robot. To see the full gallery, click here. Acrylic paint on paper
My Painting Robot Roadmap:
What’s next with my painting robot? Here are some of the things I am working on…
Automation & art
I am passionate about both art and technology. I want to understand why the artist “hand” is often so important to the art viewer/collector – is it truly their ability to mark make with a tool and paint that they are holding. I have found people are hesitant to see me as the artists even though I spent hours thinking, coding and testing. Many old masters that we revere today had artists working for them and it was not their personal hand.
How can technology increase our creativity but keep the artist in control and maintain the value of the art? For me, incorporating AI & robotics is not about disconnecting me from my work but making me even more aware and deliberate of each step. I want to put effort in portraying this message as I work on this project.
In my current work, I load pre-processed steps of how to paint an image into the robot arm. For future paintings, I want to use vision to make the robot interpret what it has done during the process and then make decisions about what to do next.
Currently I mix the colors of paint for the robot. I’d love to give it information of the color wheel so I can give the robot primaries and it mixes the needed color.
I am interested to have the robot assess what it has painted so far with the vision system (listed above), then calculate what it will do next – optimize the brush strokes (just like an painter does while they paint)
Have the robot assess what it will paint (i.e. from its surroundings). Literally have a pleine air painting robot! How fun would that be 🙂
I would absolutely love to do a mural with a large robot. My most recent mural in Sicily was 27’ tall and I was unable to paint half of the wall due to its accessibility. I am currently thinking about how I can use a robot arm to facilitate the mural painting process.
Some of the robot artists I am inspired by:
- Pindar Van Arman – an American artist and roboticist based in Washington DC. His art focuses on designing painting robots that explore the differences between human and computational creativity.
- Patrick Tresset – is a London based artist who develops and presents theatrical installations with robotic agents as actors which are evocations of humanness.