“Nested Curves, A Robot Painting”

(54″ x 48″)  269 brushstrokes   2006

Artistic Background This painting had its genesis during an artists’ trip to Scandinavia in the summer of 2006. The idea for the color palette came from Anders Zorn’s studio and museum in northern Sweden. His palette used predominantly browns and greens, with a splash of red.

The manner of using red in this painting came from a Edgar Degas show in a Copenhagen museum, where the red leads the viewer’s eye across the painting. The compositional ideas came from earlier studies of Mannerist and Venetian artists in Italy, in specific their use of embedded curves. There is also a bit of the New York School painter Clyfford Still thrown in.


Robot’s New Brushstroke To achieve the rich, thick brushstroke, a new brushstroke was needed.  As the wrist dips the brush into the paint, and after first finding and contacting the surface of the paint, more depth of dip was added to load more paint onto the brush.   

Then the brushstroke was applied at an increasing angle and with an increasing amount of pressure, thus progressively applying paint from higher up the flat side of the brush’s bristles.  Then the stroke was repeated in the opposite direction, applying additional paint from the other side of the brush. 

This created the rich, thick strokes you see in the close-up picture.  The strokes were applied wet-on-wet to achieve the blended colors. 

In addition to the paint being thickly applied, each stroke has a randomly-placed, slight bend or curve added to it.  This helped render a more human-like attribute to the brushstroke. 

Technical Background This robotic painting used a form of artificial intelligence known as complex adaptive systems.  Paul drew upon the Santa Fe Institute’s publication “Swarm Intelligence: from Natural to Artificial Systems.” Rodney Brook’s ground-breaking, subsumptive architecture and micro-rules had a hand in how the ants and painting evolved.

Creative Enchantment   Through computer simulation, breadcrumbs were deposited along the curving and straight lines in the painting.  Then ants were given simple rules of behavior to wonder around and find the breadcrumbs, whereupon they would deposit a pebble there.  Within limits, an ant could also deposit a pebble next to an existing pebble.  This activity created a complex system that is adaptive, based opon the ants interacting with the emerging pattern. 

Later, Dulcinea’s programming converts these pebbles, deposited by the ants, into brushstrokes on the canvas yielding a feeling of spontaneity and movement.