Chapter 3. The Wrong Way to Draw a Line


If there is one thing computers excel at, it’s following instructions with a high degree of accuracy. This is partly why they have revolutionized design, architecture, manufacturing, the sciences, and countless other fields.

But precision is of only limited interest to us in the context of generative art. There is a certain joylessness in perfect accuracy; the natural world isn’t like that. If our art were to achieve such perfection, it might be dismissed as overly mechanical.

Obversely, although we may crave forms with imperfection and unpredictability, we don’t want that imperfection to wander too far into indistinction, either. We’re looking for the sweet spot: that balance between the organic and the mechanical, between chaos and order. To find this, we may need to move away from the efficient, programmatic way of drawing lines and nudge the process toward something a little less deterministic.

In this chapter (and the next), I’ll explain and demonstrate a core principle behind my particular approach to programmatic art: breaking down even the simplest of processes, and allowing a touch of chaos to creep in. The “right” way to draw a line, according to a machine, is always the most efficient and accurate way of getting from point A to point B. But from an artistic standpoint, it’s the “wrong” way that is the often the most interesting.

3.1. Randomness and not-so-randomness

3.2. Iterative variance

3.3. Naturalistic variance

3.4. Summary