DigitalFruit is an interview series from Adafruit showcasing some of our favorite digital fine artists from around the world. As we begin this new decade with its rapidly changing landscape, we must envision our path through a different lens. Over the next few weeks we’ll feature many innovative perspectives and techniques that will inspire our maker community to construct a bold creative frontier. The only way is forward.
1. Where are you based?
Lovely medieval Ghent in Belgium.
2. Tell us about your background?
I was born in 1989, with multiple artists on both sides of the family- I was exposed to visual arts from an early age. Growing up in the early 2000’s meant that I spent a lot of my youth in front of a computer screen, playing video games with my friends and participating in forum Photoshop challenges. Those passions grew into a degree in Web and Multimedia Development and later a bachelor in Game Development.
After a short 3 year stint as a web developer, I landed at my current job as a technical artist for an AAA game studio in Brighton, England. My job involves tool development, laying out pipelines for artists, developing special effects for games and procedural generation of video game assets.
Throughout my career and education, there was always a distinct lack of advanced mathematics- it has always been my biggest weakness. Fortunately, I‘ve been exposed to loads of interesting algorithms, theories and formulas while working closely with the many amazing graphics programmers and engineers in the gaming industry.
In an effort to not be completely clueless, and out of curiosity, I started reading up on these subjects. After browsing dry wikipedia pages filled with complex looking formulas, I stumbled on some amazing YouTube channels that opened up a whole new visual world of mathematics to me. (The Coding Train being one of the most impactful in terms of entertaining and understandable lessons with interesting topics.)
And so, early lockdown, I decided to explore the world of mathematics using art as my medium. I am now four months into my journey and have been amazed by the welcoming community and large amount of online learning resources.
3. What inspires your work?
The relationship between nature and mathematics has always fascinated me. The process of inserting cold and rule bound formulas and getting back organic looking textures, lines and flows is something that never ceases to please me. The exhilarating creative process of grooming a heavily randomized snippet of code into a visually pleasing and deliberate image and building up my own visual library inspires me to keep coming back and playing.
4. What are you currently working on?
Lately I have been getting more into real time rendering using GLSL shaders in Touchdesigner. I have been exploring ray-marching as a means to add a 3rd to the concepts I have been playing with in 2D. Next to that I am continuing my experiments with my plotter, using different tools, papers and ink combinations and exploring new algorithms.
“The Brain, sound design by @apollocomplex
5. Describe your process and what tools you like to use.
My process is very much one of chaos. I will use whatever digital medium strikes my interest at the time, be it Java for plotting 2D shapes, TouchDesigner for generating real time 2D or 3D visual effects, or Houdini for generating large complex 3D shapes and environments.
I also very much enjoy using my AxiDraw plotter to turn my Java generated shapes into physical drawings using all kinds of pens, pencils and paper types.
Usually I will first focus on implementing a known algorithm or technique, for example Physarum Growth previously explored by the amazing @mxsage and documented on their website here: (https://sagejenson.com/physarum). After I have a working model, with as many parameters exposed as possible, I start introducing randomness and moving sliders around to figure out how far I can push the algorithm and what kind of interesting shapes and motion falls out of it.
6. What does your workplace or studio look like? Do you work in silence or listen to music while you work?
Dotted in between the things you would expect (a computer, 3D printer, plotter machines) are plants, geometry toys, drawings, geodes, and art supplies everywhere. I am always listening to music, I experience working in silence as quite unnerving. Music drives my creative process in different directions, and so the shuffle function on my Spotify is in a way contributing as a random parameter in the creative process- and isn’t that what generative art is all about?
7. How has technology shaped your creative vision?
The super quick iteration time and flexibility of digital media has allowed me to deeply explore and get to know what I am working on. Watching a shape develop with every line of code creates a deep understanding of the end result allowing you to play with your recipes and construct a visually pleasing and engaging image.
8. Any tips for someone interested in getting started in the digital art form?
Join a community, be it on Reddit, Facebook or a forum. Engage and post on these communities and document your creations on Instagram. Start by following tutorials and building up a visual library and an understanding of the building blocks to your chosen art form. Mold and combine these building blocks to build up your style by creating lots of work. Don’t be afraid to collaborate, and mix up your creative energies with people from other disciplines like audio design and photography, you will be amazed at the interesting results you get.
9. Where do you see generative and digital art heading in the future?
With all these big communities of people creating and sharing, I feel like digital art is more accessible and engaging then it’s ever been. I’m super excited to see what comes out of this quickly growing art.
Thomas Van Nuffel
DigitalFruit is curated by Adafruit lead photographer- Andrew Tingle