Digital and Analog Drawing Machines?

Thu, 17 Dec 2015

Digital and Analog Drawing Machines?

You may have noticed that I've been getting quite in to computer drawing recently! Over the past few weeks we've had the Computer Drawing: DP Henry and Beyond exhibition running at Phoenix and LCB Depot Lightbox and I've been running a number of related workshops and events.

It's helped reignite my interest in drawing machines and generating machine drawable images and it's led to me building up quite an interesting collection of drawing devices. I've had the WaterColorBot and my own Etch-a-pi Raspberry Pi controlled Etch-a-sketch for a while and these have recently been joined by a high-quality Makeblock XY Plotter (pictured) and a homemade mini-plotter based on the Tiny CNC design.

The thing that all of these machines have in common is that they are digital. A computer of some sort controls X and Y motors that in turn control the pen, or mark making device. Drawing machines need not be digital like this. Both DP Henry and Jack Tait's work (featured in the exhibition) are created by analogue devices based around pre-existing machines (in Henry's case) or made with custom components (as in Tait's case). The pen is controlled not by a program as such, but instead by combinations of gears and cogs.

I can't see myself heading down the analogue route yet, but it has made me wonder if hybrid analogue/digital drawing machines might be an interesting thing to explore. Perhaps with an Arduino being used to alter the configuration of a mechanical device? Or maybe even the creation of a machine that allows a drawing expert to drive a machine through a connected pen?

It's definitely something I need to think about in more detail. I'm not in a rush to build something, but one thing is sure though, you can expect to see at least the occasional use of a drawing machine in my future work.

Author: Sean Clark