100 Day Project - Generative Spirograph Art Prints

Posted by Michelle Chandra on

"from so simple a beginning endless forms most beautiful and most wonderful have been and are being evolved" - Charles Darwin

I have been wanting to return to generative art for many years since my graduate program at ITP - NYU ended in 2015. Over the past few months, I decided to revisit an old Processing sketch to create Generative Spirograph prints! These prints will be released for sale as a limited release on October 1st - join my email list to find out when the spirograph print collection launches.

It’s been fun transforming this project from an animation I programmed while in grad school to a physical print years later drawn using an Axidraw drawing machine! 

generative spirograph art print creative code algorithmic art computational design axidraw

You can follow along as I create a generative spirograph every day on my Instagram as part of my 100 Day Project.

What the heck is generative art? Or Processing?

For those not in the know, generative art is a genre of art that is created programmatically using code. Processing is a programming environment many visual artists use that is based in the Java programming language. Visual artists like Processing because it makes it easy to make changes to their "sketch" or program, and visually see what is happening. Processing also has a lot of programming power!

However, many artists these days also use JavaScript and the Javascript library, p5.js to power their generative art sketches on the web.

Why create generative art?

Creating art programmatically allows you to make endless permutations of a design. There is a high level of precision possible. The final art can be interactive or go on forever and ever.

Generative spirographs 

Unlike traditional spirographs that are created manually using plastic gears and a pen (and which many of us growing up in the nineties knew and loved!), the spirographs I am making are created from a program I wrote using Processing that draws circles rotating around a central point.

The placement of the circles around the central point is determined by the frequency and amplitude of waveforms (trigonometry, anyone?) With manual spirographs, a user is limited in what shapes they can create based on the shape of the gears themselves. My program is not limited in this way!

It's All About Waveforms - and Mathematical Curves

Spirographs are part of a family of mathematical curves called hypotrochoids. These are curves created by tracing a point on a radius of a circle. My program creates similar curves by drawing circles rotating around a central point, where the placement of the circles is modulated by waveforms. Waveforms are a great way to generate patterns mathematically as waveforms repeat over and over.

Pure waveforms can be created using trigonometry - sine, cosine and tangent calculations for instance. The waveform frequency (number of times the waveform repeats in time), and amplitude (the size of the waveform) determines the design, in conjunction with the shapes being drawn. 

100 Day Project

Every day, I am posting a new generative spirograph to my Instagram - @dirtalleydesign. Follow my Instagram as I make a new spirograph every day!

Each spirograph is drawn on paper using an Axidraw drawing machine and gelly roll pens. My 100 day project will end in mid-October.

Small quantities of the spirograph prints drawn using the Axidraw will be available to purchase for a limited time in the Fall of 2019! Join my email list to find out when prints will be available.

About Dirt Alley Design

michelle chandra dirt alley design


Dirt Alley Design was founded just off a dirt alley in San Francisco in December of 2016 by artist Michelle Chandra. Inspired by the beauty of street grids, Michelle invented maze maps in which she transforms street grids into mazes. In 2019, she began a new project - generative spirograph prints created with code and drawn with a pen plotter. Follow her on Instagram and Twitter @dirtalleydesign where she posts new spirograph designs daily.


100 day project 2019 generative art spirograph

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