(Post by Bettina)
Having introduced Mike to my way of working it is now my turn to visit his workshop and see what he does. The first thing I saw was the lathe and after a quick demonstration of what it does, we began to see whether there was a way to combine drawing with it to create some hybrid objects. I started making marks using a colour pencil on the dowel as it spins, adding different pressure to create different tones. Mike then in relation to the marks cut into the dowel using different tools. We made a few versions of this, which ended with us using different colours with each colour representing a different tool to use. The process was fun, particularly the colouring part for me. The resulted objects looked like strange handles.
Next we decided to create some drawing tools. We wanted to draw using more of our arm movements, so we drilled holes into dowels to fit charcoal of different sizes into them. It turned out the charcoal was too brittle and was difficult to draw with. The charcoal would snap easily with part of it stuck in the dowel. I ended up stabbing the stuck charcoal with a screwdriver to create charcoal powder to then scattered on the paper by hitting the dowel with the hole to the ground against the paper. It created interesting marks.
Mike then on a whim decided to attach an off centre motor to the dowel to make the dowel wobble but the motor was not powerful enough to cause an effect. However this sparked the idea of creating automated mark making tools – Drawbot4000 and eventually Dustbot.
Drawbot 4000 is essentially a block of wood attached to a motor with legs and charcoal attached underneath. Its aim is to draw as it moves across a surface. Dustbot is similar but a wooden container holding charcoal powder that sprinkles charcoal as it moves along the surface. They are not robots per se and need refinement but they produced some promising results (see pictures).
After the session, we both would like to further develop these automated drawing tools to make them move more efficiently and look into different shaped legs or drawing materials they could have.
Mike mentioned swarmbots. Swarm robotics involves coordinating a large amount of simple physical robots, where a desired collective behaviour emerges from interactions between these robots and their interactions with the environment. It would be interesting to have these robots react to marks I make, which could then resulting in me “conducting” these robots. Having these robots interacting with physical environment will be interesting too.
We also discussed the possibilities of experimenting with materials that react to the environment such as heat (thermochromic materials) and light (photochromic pigments/paint). Working with these materials would enable different experiences to the art work depending on the environment it is displayed in. However not being able to see the whole piece fully each time could mean the making process would be recorded in the form of a time lapse video perhaps.
I think we will have a lot of experimentation to do. Next meeting will be at the Kinetica Art Fair and I am sure we will find even more inspirations there.