“I describe my process as growing the drawing,” Emily says. Similarly to organisms and trees, her drawings grow through emergence, not top down but bottom up. Cities also grow this way, organically, over time, and under a specific set of rules, and Emily’s maps reflect this. “I decide on some simple rules and I work with those rules. I don’t know what the outcome is going to be, but I know the rules.”
Some of the animations I showed in my presentation, illustrating the steps of my process:
Last weekend I took the train up from Boston to Salem to teach a workshop at the Peabody Essex Museum on connections between maps and biology as part of their participation in the Big Draw festival. The blurb for the workshop was:
Maps and geography surround us in our daily lives, but did you know that the growth of cities had anything in common with the growth of trees, or the cells in your body? In this workshop, we’ll use maps and geography as a starting point to explore the variety of fractal, biological imagery in our world through drawing. Emily Garfield is a professional artist who uses geographic imagery in her work but is just as inspired by the maplike imagery that exists in nature. She’ll present some of how she develops her new drawing projects, and we’ll use these techniques to explore how maps as a graphic format relate to other natural patterns like cells and trees.
Some of the slides from my presentation:
Some of my more biological map artworks
And some of the biological imagery that inspires them
Participants took the materials in different ways! It was a more drop-in event so some people came for a moment to draw something they liked, and others stayed for the whole 2-3 hours and really dug into the material and the maps they found in their minds.
I connected with Fathom Information Design
during the Eyeo festival
and they invited me to give a presentation during their Friday social hour in mid-July about my work and its connection to infovis and computational artmaking. I drew up a slideshow about my recent forays into Processing and how they relate to the “Organic Algorithm” series I’ve been developing.
Handwritten “algorithm” for generating a hand-drawn map
Procedurally-created hand-drawn map process
Map of a local pub
Visual notes from Eyeo during a presentation by Ben Fry, co-creator of Processing and head of Fathom
The best part of the presentation was that while I was presenting on my visual notes, I was getting visualized myself! Attending employee Rachel Harris drew an amazing map of what I’d talked about; see more of her work on her Instagram here
I’ve always wanted to find a good way to secure and exhibit an object for jewelry. Wire-wrapping was interesting but often clunky and attention-taking. But after a tip from an exhibitor I met at a show in Cambridge, I started exploring macrame techniques. Most of those were too clunky as well, but when I figured out the general concept I was able to develop a more delicate technique that worked for my projects.
The stones are from my collection; I’ve picked them up on beaches here in New England as well as Long Island and North Carolina.
On the last trip to North Carolina I also started playing with agglomerating stones together. The process is time-consuming but I’m enjoying how it’s coming out.
One idea I’ve been playing with is to put them together in a larger necklace form, but there’s also other directions this could go as well.
I had a great time at the recent Machine Learning for Artists hack day
at Bocoup. I didn’t actually accomplish much myself—I generally resorted to drawing in my sketchbook—but I learned a lot from the projects presented, and was fascinated to see my drawings applied as style transfer, a project K. Adam White
and Kawandeep Virdee
among others took on during the event. New drawings of mine were created without my having to do anything! It was magical.
We ended up with this…
by combining these two
Style transfer is a machine learning process whereby a content image gets transformed using the style of a source image. If you’ve seen the Google Deep Dream project
, with its hallucinatory puppyslugs in pop colors, it’s related to that.
More recently, the Prisma app
has been super popular for Instagram posts and uses a similar technology—it gives you a range of artworks that you can use to transform the style of your photos. When I gave it an image of my map art, it even added extra roads to it:
Using this local style transfer process is like being able to transform a photo Prisma-style into ANY type of artwork. So of course I got mappified :)
I’m excited to see what else can be done with this process, and especially if it’ll affect my drawing in any way. I’m already thinking about doing a fractal drawing process where I make progressively bigger drawings with the aid of these machine-hallucinated map details. Stay tuned!
I recently attended Eyeo Festival
for the second time, in early June. This time, instead of my separate sketch and written journals, I took notes all in my multimedia sketchbook. This meant that for almost every talk I attended, I ended up with at least one page full of important quotes and memorable visuals. Some highlights:
Alexis Lloyd on the history of robots and androids in our culture and our relationship to them. The video of her talk is up here
on her amazing IoT-type art projects she called “post-scary media arts”. She’s an inspiration. View the talk here
presented so much fascinating info about style transfer and machine learning that I literally wrote off the page. He’s the only presenter I had to use more than one page for. Somehow I still managed to get some visual representations of his slides in too! They help me remember the presentation since I’m mostly visual. And since the video isn’t up on the eyeo channel
I’m not sure if you can tell yet, but Eyeo was -extremely- inspirational. I’m in love with all the projects here, and I’m so glad I have my notes to remind me what I want to strive for. I’ve already had a hand in some style transfer experiments using my maps—keep an eye out for a post on that soon!
Last month I taught an imaginary mapmaking workshop as part of Hubbub
, a children’s book festival produced by Boston Book Festival
There was a real range of ages, small children and older children as well as the adults with them, and I tried to come up with something that might have some interest for everyone—and be executable within an hour.
I first asked participants to draw some thumbnails. I like teaching thumbnailing (which I remember learning for both high school art and college-level animation classes!) because it helps people get their ideas on paper without resorting to being precious or finicky about it.
Then we chose from those thumbnails to work on a larger drawing. This is the way that I do pretty much everything—I sketch out visual ideas or conceptual algorithms for a piece starting at the smallest scale and continue to develop it as I scale up. The initial concept is usually pretty fully-formed already, so the critical part is to get it down as soon as possible.
I’m always really impressed with what people draw. Even if they themselves aren’t proud, it’s always fascinating to me to see where people take my instruction and what they bring to it. Everyone has such different ways to map!
I visited LIC Open Studios at the end of last month and saw a significant amount of work that really resonated with me aesthetically. Some highlights:
Alexis Duque (website)
I’m of course a fan of the super dense city drawing style; I was also really intrigued by the way he translated it onto carved sculptural works as well. I’m definitely considering trying out something like that.
Kathy Ferguson (website)
I’ve seen her work at previous open studios; this year she was demonstrating gel plate printing, which she uses to get the different textures that she collages together onto her works.
Kyoko Takei (website)
I’ve also seen her work before but it continues to be fascinating; it’s so delicate and intriguing.
Marjorie Van Cura
Very interesting markmaking on clear film–another project I’ve been hoping to try…
Overall it was a particularly inspiring event, and I’m looking forward to working on some new projects out of these ideas!