There is always a certain dynamic to be found when leading a workshop and invariably it comes nearer the end rather than at the beginning. On the first day of our Coding Impressions workshop at the École d’Art d’Aix-en-Provence we had to test the waters and judge the various levels of knowledge each student had in terms of programming with Processing. The main objective for the week was to generate images with code. These were then to be printed onto various materials using the silkscreen technique. So, we kicked off with some simple drawing systems which covered some of the fundamental concepts such as functions, variables, transformations and loops. It wasn’t long though before we realized that most students already had a good grasp of Processing and even had some firm ideas of what they would like to create for the week ahead.
That dynamic then had potential as we knew that generating ideas can be one of the most difficult parts during a workshop. Some students are very clear cut in their concept and will invest their time in developing a program that gives exactly what is written on the paper. Others need time to let ideas brew, preferring to explore various systems and concepts before committing to a final idea. Then there are those who doodle or try to write code for something they have seen or drawn themselves. Whichever strategy is followed, all ultimately finish with something in their hands at the end of the workshop, the main difference is how each builds up a dynamic in the group with bursts of energy developing at different times. Of course, this isn’t the only factor in building up an energetic group of busy bees.
Julien and I were in a sort of modern day Bauhaus where the act of creation had myriad sources and the students were driven to explore and expand their everyday tool kit. From this hybrid environment comes a wide variety of ideas and this clearly showed in the projects each student pursued throughout the week. We were pleasantly surprised by this eclectic mix of ideas and it was encouraging to see that each student had a different vision of what could be achieved with coding systems. The question now though was how were these systems going to print with silkscreen?
There are a few rules to adhere to when working with a limited printing process such as silkscreen and lithography. Fine lines and details are a no go area and of course colours are kept to a maximum of four in general. These limitations however make for good practice, helping to remain focused on other parts of the creative process such as composition and the very process of printing itself. Two factors play a crucial role in the printing process – the choice of paint and the printed material. These can often be overlooked yet are the make or break between a stunning image on the screen and the final printed version. There is therefore a process of trial and error, even for the most experienced print maker at hand, getting the right mix to bring the best out of one’s work. This was then a phase which saw a lot of action, the dynamic beginning to swell as the clock began to tick away precious time.
There was no rush though and even if some had clearly finished the days work, they were happy to lend a helping hand to those still in search for that perfect print. The results were surprising to say the least. Others perhaps turned out better than expected although there is always room for development and evolution. Once again though, time got the better of us on that front. I sensed a certain pleasure in working with these two mediums – the precise imagery created with the computer expresses another dimension once transformed into a plate and the paint begins to drip through the fine mesh onto a surface. Whilst some pursued perfection in getting a clean print, others or rather I should say myself at least were content with the happy accidents that leave a trace of the human hand at work. Happy accidents that also reflect a procedure we model in the digital realm of code through functions like random and noise.
This is the second part to our short article on Code Impressions. Read the first part here.
Code Impressions was our second workshop working with code as a creative tool and developing that approach within the context of a traditional printing technique, silk screen printing. It took place at the École d’Art d’Aix-en-Provence, 13 – 17 February 2012 based on an invitation by head professor of the Hypermédia department, Douglas Edric Stanley.