Interview with media in San Antonio

Here are some parts of a recent interview with San Antonio media.

Steve Bennett: You are the designer that worked with San Antonio artist Judith Cottrell on her automatic drawing machine, which is busily making art at Artpace in San Antonio. I wonder if you could tell me a little more about it from your perspective.

Darcy Whyte: Yes, I was contacted by Judith Cottrell to make the drawing machine.

I had already made a couple of machines that can draw portraits as part of some experiments leading up to my Paint-o-matic project (http://mambohead.com/category/paint-o-matic/) which is a robot that will paint using acrylic paint. She discovered me because of my on-line presence. She contacted me with her interesting and challenging requirement which included some challenges like having pen angle adjustment, sketching on glass and paper and mounting the machine to various challenging situations. Working with her was a total joy and the machine materialized in my lab and has been installed on two windows during her show so far (more to come).

Steve: Have you seen the machine in action? What do you think?

Darcy: I’ve seen pictures of the installation and I’m sure some video will follow. I’ve got pictures and video of my other similar machines at http://mambohead.com/category/drawbot/.

Steve: Have you made one before?

Darcy: I think I made about 4 or 5 machines before I made the machine for Judith. I made a couple of prototypes as well to test new design choices that came forward for her project. I think I must have done 40h of stress and other testing.

Steve: How did this project come about?

Darcy: The project came about a couple of years ago (or a little less) when I was thinking about a robot that could paint. It was just a thought but that that changed to a concrete plan one day when I was walking through the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. I happened across a painting that stopped me right in my tracks. I was overwhelmed because the painting wasn’t just a beautiful and striking portrait but there was something about the color experience. I was getting some sort of a purple or blue experience or something that I could not quite describe with a known named color. It was a strange and amazing thing for me. I looked closer and saw that the artist had divided the canvas into sections of about 1cm squared. He added paint to the squares using juxtaposition of colors rather than mixing the paint.

At that moment I was quite excited because I knew I had to make a painting robot that could help with this technique. I now realize that the Lucas portrait has an increased color gamut because he was using more than the usual CMYK or RGB primaries we’re used to with printing and computer monitors. So you can’t have this special experience while looking at a picture of the work.

I’m planning on using 6 or 7 primaries and keys with my machine.

I expect this to be a several year journey and the drawing robot was one of my areas of exploration of this sort of robotics.

Steve: Has it been satisfying for you?

Darcy: The ink drawing robot project has been incredibly satisfying. Making Judith’s machine helped me make more discoveries about robotics, usability and design. The machine uses some open source software an hardware. Sandy Noble’s Polargraph software, Processing.org and other cool stuff like the now very famous micro-controller called Arduino (http://mambohead.com/2011/09/arduino-team-shares-what-they-learned/). I believe Arduino and the communities surrounding these open source practices will change art and technology forever.