Category Archives: generative

Quilt & Code




I grew up with a sewing machine in the house. My mom taught herself how to sew at a very young age and became very skilled at just about any type of garment. Probably half of our family closet was custom-made — everything from bathing suits to fur winter coats. Following her example, I sewed a few outfits for my dolls but beyond that never managed to produce anything wearable in real size. Alas, I don’t make my own wardrobe. But my affinity for fabrics and threads persisted nonetheless and these days I will sew anything that has a straight edge — pillow cases, totes, curtains and, occasionally, quilts!

I didn’t actually know much about quilts until only a few years ago. Nobody in my family made them and their traditional aesthetic was never that attractive to me. But I gave them a closer look once I discovered that I have a slight obsessive-compulsive tendency for assembling big things from small pieces. After doing some research to see if there were any new modern trends in quilting I came upon Japanese textile artist Yoshiko Jinzenji and her work totally transformed my mindset about what quilting can be. I was instantly inspired and embarked on my first quilt back in 2008. It was lots of fun but also lots of work. I wasn’t sure how soon I would want to do another one.

Last summer I finally got the itch again and made two quilts at once! But this time I took a different approach. To be honest, I’m not so much interested in the patchwork aspect of a traditional quilt (which some might argue is the whole point!). Perhaps the most important part that was revealed to me in Jinzenji’s work was that fabric can be as much of a creative surface as paper or an oil canvas. Duh!

So for these quilts, I wrote a couple of geometric algorithms to generate the designs and then used Spoonflower to get them printed on large pieces of cotton. (Unfortunately one of the colours was too light and didn’t  come out but thankfully the designs still worked overall). Then came the quilting — 5mm apart — the most labour-intensive part of the process! With my first quilt I didn’t go for such frequency but I kept seeing it in Yoshiko’s work and wanted to try it. All I can say is that once the quilting was done, it took me another six months to attach the binding, haha. The final result is a rather stiff and heavy panel which works best as a wall-hanging or a mat, not so much as a sleeping cover. I’m quite pleased with the outcome. It’s confirmed to me once again that I like working with fabric and hope to continue using it in my future projects.


Manfred Mohr


P-61, “geometric hints”, plotter drawing ink on paper, 50cm x 50cm, 1970


Bild 12/366, Tempera/Leinwand, 1966, 73cm x 92cm

Mohr-P-18 Random Walk

P-18, “random walk”, plotter drawing ink on paper, 50cm x 50cm, 1969


P-196/B, Acrylic on canvas, 1977, 130 cm x 130 cm


P-10, “random walk”, plotter drawing ink on paper, 50cm x 35cm, 1969


I’m not sure if this blog is starting to show it yet but you might notice soon enough that I gravitate towards black and white quite a bit. Not that I don’t like color, I do, but black and white will always be my first love. Many of my initial sketches or renderings are void of color.

It’s no surprise then that these paintings and drawings by Manfred Mohr made it into my folder of favorites. Mohr is considered a pioneer of digital art. He programmed his first computer drawings in 1969 and has been creating with the machine ever since. His body of work is well documented on his site where you will notice that he’s been working with color the last decade or so. But I remain partial to his earlier decades, even before the computer. I especially like the very subtle geometry and the abundant negative space in his egg tempera paintings.



Code Drawings

SonVo-drawing-1 SonVo-drawing-10 SonVo-drawing-11 SonVo-drawing-12 SonVo-drawing-13 SonVo-drawing-14

I few years ago I was browsing in the shop of the now-closed Function 13 gallery in Kensington Market. It’s really too bad that the gallery couldn’t survive as it was the only spot in Toronto that kept its pulse on the small and emergent digital art scene. If you were a generative artist, this was the gallery that would get what you’re doing. I’m not sure what the alternative is right now..

But anyway, as I was browsing, I randomly picked up this book ‘Code Drawings’ that was filled with very elaborate and dynamic black and white ‘generative sketches’. Or that’s what I assumed at first, only to discover that the sketches were actually hand-made drawings that adhered to a set of rules defined by artist Son Vo:


The project directly references the work of Sol LeWitt who created a his well-known series of Wall Drawings based on a variation of loose guidelines and diagrams. I just love the fact that a single line of instruction becomes the seed for 200 unique and beautiful drawings. That’s really the crux of what attracts me to generative art so much — the possibility of creating great complexity with very simple input. Granted, I like to use the computer to speed up the process. And yet, as these drawings remind us, it’s certainly not a prerequisite for engaging with the same ideas.