A Year (2020) of (almost) Daily (code) Sketches

Sure, 263/365 is only 72% but I have definitely gotten worse grades in my life and doing something consistent for 72% of the hellscape of 2020 isn’t the worst.

Below are the screenshots of all 263 sketches, grouped by month, except for June where I did not do any sketches:

You can see the date in the name of the image. Feel free to look closer.
A video recap of sketches

Motivation

The motivation behind these daily sketches, at least for me, is iteration and the ability to focus on a visual creative thing at least once a day.

Process: Sketching

Sketching with code is different than sketching with a blank canvas. Mostly, because of a good old copy paste.

My very first sketch of 2020. Ah, how little I knew of what was to come.
Some early iterations in January, showing a remix of the same sketch.

I had an architecture professor who once told me that a good designer and a good scholar is someone who is willing to “kill their darlings”. Someone who is willing to go deep into an idea, prototype, or aesthetic but then kill it off if it isn’t working. There is a strength in that.

I have felt this sense on a large scale throughout my graduate education, but on a smaller scale with these sketches. This was good I think.

I think this combination of constant iteration and constant pivoting has definitely made me stronger in terms of sketching, visual design, and creative coding.

In terms of the sketching process, it’s honestly just me coding. Sometimes I seek out something to improve on. Like I will look up and re-learn how to do fractals for snowflakes. Or see something that inspires me.

Process: Posting

I at first posted all of these on a private blog which I set up on a Slack RSS feed that Zach and I had access to. But I soon realized that as a human being who craves attention, posting these to my public social media would be better.

Lessons Learned: Sketching and creative process

As I mentioned above, I learned a lot this year about code sketching and I reacquainted myself with a lot of drafting and sketching and visual grammars I had been rusty on.

  1. Background opacity and motion (how you get “trails” on a single shape to give a more complex effect). It also gives you a fake 3D effect sometimes.
  2. Sinusodial motion can give some really beautiful effects and forms. Basically getting used to what trigonometric motions do in my drawings.
  3. Polar coordinates are your friends.
  4. I finally got comfortable with different noise functions.
  5. I divorced myself from strict particle systems that look like particle systems.
  6. I took inspiration from other artistic trends and mediums like cubism, Art Deco, and more.
  7. I finally made my peace with arcs and bezier curves.
  8. Messy code creates some beautiful effects visually.
Some sketches that embody a lot of what I addressed above.

Lessons Learned: Reception

I want to thank all of the people that followed the art and even went to the workshop I held in Fall 2020. My mental health and life I guess, like many others, has not been the best in pandemic times. I have, if I’m honest, been having a hard time since 2019 fall semester and it just hasn’t stopped.

You have no idea how much your comments and engagement and appreciation of my silly sketches motivate me, especially in the current insanity of the world.

Below are just some comments, but honestly, they all mean so much to me so thank you so much:

Future Work/Goals for 2021

After my 2019 and 2020, I am not making resolutions for 2021. But I have some hopes for my daily sketches.

  1. I want to do more workshops about these sketches. Teach people how to make these things in an easy and approachable and friendly way. Life is too short to be presumptuous about a sine function.
  2. I want to get involved with the p5.js community and other open source and art tech communities. I have been in purely academic and institutional circles too long. I also want to carve out what I want my role to be in this space. Creative coding isn’t my main thing, but it’s a hobby I love and I think it’s a valuable educational tool as well.
  3. I want to stream myself coding these sketches. I want to normalize messy coding and stream of consciousness and having more women live coding. I also want to challenge myself to do this, because I suck at live coding.
  4. I want to have better documentation for these sketches and post all of them to a more organized website. This is already done here.
  5. I want to make more stuff on my Redbubble, because it is extremely satisfying to have my sketches in my physical life.
  6. I want to post on Instagram as well as Twitter.

Conclusion

A lot of people find me through sketches and ask me “What do I do?” Am I an artist? Is this what I want to do full-time?

But really, I think I just care about using computers to make people think about other people. And if there is one thing we have learned from 2020, there are too many who are not doing that.

And while these sketches are decoupled from data, I cannot help but think about the “art x tech” space they exist within.

Thanks

Thank you everyone who has interacted with my sketches and attended workshops. ❤ Really, really it means the world to me — especially this past year! ❤

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Nina Lutz

Nina Lutz

Instead of making computers think like people, I want to use them to make us think about other people.