Points, Lines and Systems

  • Deadline:
    Nov. 4, 2021, 12:11 p.m.
  • Location:

School of Machines, Making & Make-Believe presents a 5-wk online class on creating generative art with code.

About this event

How can we use abstraction as a tool for personal expression and for making sense of the larger societal systems we are a part of?

/ Five-week Live* Online class begins 4. November ends 2. December

/ Every Thursday, 7pm-9pm, CET

/ Small class of participants

/Tickets available through Eventbrite https://www.eventbrite.com/e/points-lines-and-systems-tickets-167302332781

Course Description

How can complex systems be created from simple rules? What unexpected emergent behaviour comes about when multiple rules overlap and interact with each other? In this class we take a hands-on approach to answering these questions, through creating generative art with code, under a simple constraint: our programs will be limited to drawing using only points and lines.

Working within such a strict economy of means in the context of today’s technological pursuits of computer generated photo-realism becomes a subversive act, as it leads to questioning how much is actually needed in order to convey meaning. At the same time, it helps us demystify the inner workings of the various graphical interfaces we use daily. This limited set of building blocks will also allow for our focus to quickly shift from learning how to use the tools at hand towards developing our visual and systems thinking.

The course meets once a week for five weeks, and each session will be split up between introducing new technical topics, engaging with the history of generative art, sharing work and discussing short readings. Outside of class, we are following a daily practice schedule: for the duration of the course, students are encouraged to spend 30-60 minutes daily working towards one finished sketch, with the tools and knowledge available thus far. By the end of our time together, everyone will have created a collection of about 30 visual (or not) pieces. The class focuses exclusively on developing still, poster-like compositions, but students are encouraged to explore motion in their daily sketches as well, if they desire to.

In this course you will be introduced to:

* Browser-based creative coding, using Javascript and the canvas-sketch framework (similar to p5.js, Processing, etc.)

* Artists working with analog or digital media, with practices relevant to our topic, such as Agnes Denes, Sol LeWitt, Anni Albers, Manfred Mohr, Vera Molnar, Casey Reas, and more

* A daily practice routine for creative work

* Basic graphics programming concepts, and some simple math to support them

* Generative art tools and techniques, going from trigonometric functions and noise, to L-systems or vector fields

* A warm community of designers, artists, technologists and tinkerers with similar interests to yours!

Course Outline

Week 1: Encounters

We will start the session by learning about each other, through a round of introductions and a conversation about our interests, motivations and expectations for the class. We will then take a look at the syllabus, and continue with a presentation showcasing a selection of generative artists. On the technical side, this first week is all about getting comfortable with our tools (Javascript and the canvas-sketch library.) We will learn how to draw lines and curves, and how to manipulate them using trigonometric functions.

Week 2: Unpredictable Outcomes

Randomness is one of the most effective ways to create seemingly organic outcomes from well defined sets of rules. During this class, we will add a few different types of randomness (noise functions) to our toolkits, understand how we can use them in order to enhance our line drawing skills, and learn about random walks. We will also take time to share our progress and thoughts on the previous week of daily sketching.

Week 3: Noisy Textures

Our constraint of only drawing using points and lines raises an interesting challenge – we lack a direct way of giving shapes a color fill. During this class, we will investigate various applications of a technique called interpolation, and use it towards creating fills and textures out of linework. We will also hold space for a mid-point review of our daily practice.

Week 4: Trees, Maps and Fields

During the first three classes our focus has been mostly on drawing techniques at the line level. During this week’s class, we will take a step back and think about larger scale systems, which can act as containers for everything else we’ve explored. We will engage with recursion, fractals, L-systems – often used for creating generative trees or maps – and vector fields.

Week 5: Celebrations

During the last class we celebrate – the end of your daily practice (for now!,) your resilience and our community. We will do a deep-dive into everyone’s process and outcomes, brainstorm ways of sharing the work we’ve done together as a class, and take a brief look at a few techniques which could serve as future exploration.

Who is this course for?

This course is designed to be a nourishing environment for creative exploration through code, regardless of predefined ideas of technical or artistic ability. Anyone with an interest in systems (visual and beyond), abstract art or the poetics of code is encouraged to enroll. Some programming experience could prove helpful, but the class structure is meant to accommodate all different levels of expertise. The class is also for anyone interested in trying a month-long daily practice exercise, with the support of an inclusive, warm and friendly community!

The only requirement is the ability to commit 30-60 minutes daily to creating a new sketch, for the duration of the class. This translates into a weekly commitment of about 3.5-6 hours outside of class – hopefully a good way to start or end the day, and to build the habit of carving out time for creative work in your daily schedule.

The classes are live?*

Classes are 'live' meaning that you can directly interact with the instructor as well as with the other participants from around the world. Classes will also be recorded for playback in case you are unable to attend for any reason. For specific questions, please email info[at]schoolofma.org

About fees

We realise we're living in uncertain times. During this time, we are offering a limited number of pay-what-you-can solidarity tickets for this online class. These are reserved for women, BIPOC, and LGBTQ+ who would otherwise be unable to attend. We are a small organisation with no outside funding and like many, we are also in survival mode and we ask you to consider this when making your donation.

Note: Due to the fact that we are receiving way more requests for Solidarity tickets than we can accommodate, we ask that if you have already taken three that you please purchase a regular ticket in order to make them available to other people. Also, please note that we may send a follow-up email asking you to confirm your eligibility for these tickets. We are trying to make our classes accessible to as many people as possible and greatly appreciate your understanding and support.


Please Note: For tax purposes, we need to include the 19% VAT on top of ticket price.


In order to utilise this feature at checkout, under Registration Type & Tax Receipt Information, select Business (which as a freelancer you technically are). Then enter in your USt.ID.

If you have any questions, feel free to get in touch: info[at]schoolofma.org


Cezar Mocan cezar.io/

Cezar Mocan is a Romanian artist and computer programmer based in Brooklyn, whose work focuses on the power structures that shape society’s engagement with technology. He works with software, video and computer generated imagery towards recontextualizing aspects of digital culture we take for granted, often in absurd ways. His practice at large investigates the role branding and Silicon Valley discourse have in shaping contemporary ideologies. Most recently, he has been researching the computer desktop’s use of nature photography through the lens of landscape studies. He also enjoys generative art and working with pen plotters, and sometimes posts his sketches on Instagram at @moving.drawing.

Cezar has shown work in New York and Berlin. In conjunction with his artistic practice, he teaches and often designs or develops software for other artists. He holds a B.S. in Computer Science from Yale University and an M.P.S. in Interactive Telecommunications from New York University, where he is currently a Research Resident.