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  • Writer's pictureRob George

Week 1 Research: Generative Art + Zach Lieberman

Updated: Dec 4, 2020

What is Generative Art?

Before I get into the works of Zach Lieberman, what is generative art? explains it as a work of art that "incorporates a self-governed or autonomous system in some way." The artist could either allow a computer to do all the work and generate random results or have some control over what is being produced. Another source,, mentions that "A generative artist designs the system using language rules, machines, algorithms, or genetic sequences to generate a final product that serves as the work of art. These systems can be digital, chemical, or manual, and are practiced in a variety of disciplines, including architecture, poetry, literature, animation, and visual art."


Who is Zach Lieberman?

Zach Lieberman is an artist and educator located in New York City who creates works of art using code with a focus in drawing and animation. He is also the co-founder of openframeworks which is a C++ library for creative coding. Having an interest in drawing and animation, I felt he was the perfect artist to research for Generative Art.

His Work:

There are a few works by Lieberman that I thought proved machines could create something original. One is his project Land Lines which is a web app that combines human touch with computer generated images. The only work a user has to do is draw a line and the web app will instantly pair that line with a line found in a satellite image from google maps. There is also the option to drag a continuous line across the screen, creating a collage of computer generated images from google maps that have been paired with that continuous line. I like this idea of not having control over what images will appear. The computer is doing the finding for the user and with the drag option there are infinite ways to create a collage using a single line.

(A video I recorded of myself using the Landlines web app.)

A similar work by Lieberman is Inkspace. Using the same idea of drawing simple lines on a screen, he created an android experiment app that turns 2D line drawings into 3D works of art. The user can draw a contour line image or scribble some words onto the screen and the app will generate a 3D version of that drawing as you tilt your phone around. It will also animate the lines drawn. He provides the explanation on how this app works: "It reads data from the accelerometer on your device and manipulates drawings by rotating them based on the phone movement. Every new point that's entered is entered in 2D (ie, it has z value of zero) but as you move the phone it gets manipulated in 3D. Typically most graphical applications don't change the underlying points of the model but alter a matrix (a box of numbers) to manipulate the points, but here, for several reasons, it's easier and faster to actually manipulate the points." Although this app was only experimental, it still is an interesting work that demonstrates how a computer can instantly change a scribble into a work of art and he even provides the codes on Github.

(The Inkspace images shown come right from Github.)

One last project by Zach Lieberman I found to be the most interesting and his best example of generative art would be his Daily Sketch Challenge on Instagram. He started this challenge in 2016 and continues to post coded sketches to Instagram each day. It is a great example of how a computer can generate beautiful and interesting digital images. Each coded work is a short animation of geometric shapes, gestures, and graphic forms. Some are black and white, some are in color, and some have typographical or human form elements. It is all generated through code using either OpenFrameworks or paper.js. Every post is original and he tries not to focus on organization or structure too much while coding to come up with these very interesting and unique works of art. I especially enjoyed his blog post on that explains his process and how he was inspired by his previous works such as Reflection Studies.

(Sketches from Zach Lieberman's instagram)

Resources: (Bio) (Bio) (Generative Art definition) (Generative Art definition) (Land Lines) (Inkspace) (Inkspace: GitHub source) (Medium blog post)

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