[W3Conf] Joshua Davis: “Beyond Play: the Art of Creative Coding”

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Joshua Davis is an artist who sees the web as a creative canvas. He uses computers to make art, but isn’t limited to that as a tool.

These are my notes from his presentation at W3Conf in San Francisco as part of this live blog series.

Notable projects include:

  • Designing the face of “Watson” who played Jeopardy against humans.
  • Artwork in many museums (but never a coffee shop!)
  • Just tons of stuff, really.

His creativity began at age 9, carving shapes into dirt and gravel on the playground. The nuns at school and his parents were supportive and cultivated his creativity by taking him to museums and such.

Joshua asked people:

“What is the opposite of work?”

20+ adults say: Play
100+ children said: Home, Lazy, Relaxed, Boring, Hard, Not Work (very few said “Play”)

Play doesn’t mean it’s not work to Joshua.

He uses the Processing language to do much of his art (because it works with SVG).

Stained glass is right up his alley as inspiration. He replicated stained glass using art printed on “printers film” and applied to glass.

Hotel carpet is another inspiration. He has a folder on his desktop called “Fucked Up Hotel Carpet”.

“I like the idea of creating complexity from simplicity.”

He designs simple shapes and then sends them through a system to make something more complex from them. Then feeds that back into the system to make even more complex design.

“If I can get outside of my tools, new problems arise that help me down the path of creativity.”

This thing is called the “Time Saver”. LOL.

I kinda bet Joshua would enjoy all the art experiments on CodePen.

Joshua likes listening to music on SoundCloud. He was inspired by one particular musician and did a whole logo and identity for the artist and emailed it to them. Turns out they were a 16 year old kid and were totally freaked out.

“The type of work you make is the type of work you’ll get hired to do.”

You should make the things you like because that will turn into work. For Joshua, this lead to getting crazy cool work like doing art for Deadmau5. For instance branded headphones. Or a sphere of LEDs only 56×48 “pixels” (really weird and really tiny canvases, respectively).

“Embrace collaboration.”

One example: infrared cameras that detect people walking by a grid of digital screens. The screens flip and change as they walk by. Collaboration = screens + people.

Another example: a huge mural in Barcelona, Spain. Installed a black and white line drawing on the wall and then co-painted it with the public. Happened over 3 days, then it was destroyed. Art is not precious.

Joshua is doing a workshop tomorrow in San Francisco at Adobe for only $29 on using Processing & SVG.

He has been playing with LeapMotion and considers it a game changer.

It’s just drawing in air. No big deal.