Who are you?
Hi! My name is Andrew Brereton. I’m a scientist from Ontario, Canada. I like video games, programming, rock climbing, and solving mysteries. I’m pretty much an open book and I’ll chat with anyone, just reach out 🙂
What do you love about art?
I love that there are no rules. When I am programming normally, I have to consider many different competing concerns. The code has to be legible, useful, extensible, tested, documented. Sometimes there’s a chance to solve a problem in a really creative way, but just as often you’re simply doing something that you’re already good at and have done many times.
Comparing that with programming for art, and I can just do whatever I want. If I can think of it, I can attempt it. If the attempt fails, it usually doesn’t even matter, because often even the bugs or errors will be interesting, and worth studying to create some kind of usable effect. It’s fun being able to make things that are just for me, just for the joy of doing it. Not to mention working on the Pico-8 has forced me to learn a lot of coding principles that I hadn’t previously learned about, and already I find benefit in my other programming when I apply these principles.
Also in most cases with programming, I need to identify, understand, and eliminate bugs. With art programming, I can appreciate the bugs for what they are: unexpected emergent properties of a growingly complex system. Sometimes, my favorite elements of a piece are those that arose unintentionally and could be cultivated into something more mature.
When did you start making art?
I guess I’ve always been making art on and off, but usually not sharing it. I used to write little songs for the Ukulele… one time I even made a ukulele from scratch. I can’t paint though, it’s a severe deficiency. I’m not a very patient person, that’s why I like the instant response of programming. I also started using programming to display visual information when I was doing my PhD, I started with R in 2014 I think. Around that time (maybe 2016?) I also trained a few style transfer networks to make some visual art, but instead of sharing it I just made a big tattoo for my ribs LOL. I actually minted that piece.
I started sharing my art more in April 2021, when I joined HEN.
Do you see yourself as more of a programmer or an artist. Maybe you see them as one in the same?
I consider them to be the same. Art to me seems to be all about the execution of a concept. Programming is the same. You have the idea and you have to make it real. For some, looking at the code is enough to understand the art of it, but it requires a lot of knowledge typically for that. Even when I look at some of the excellent code of my mentors, I often first think “oh no”, until later when I understand the code more fully, and then I see the beauty and elegance of it.
With #creativecoding the fun part is that the code is the art, and the code also generates art, which is also art. It’s very meta, I love it. It’s also why I really enjoy sharing the source code to a lot of my pieces. I think that way even outside the whole NFT world, I know I’m still contributing back to the community that has helped make all this possible.
What is Pico8 and why did you start using it?
The Pico-8 is a “Fantasy Console”. Basically a retro-style video game console that never existed. It’s got highly restricted “hardware”, you know like limited RAM and such. It’s glorious. Zep aka @lexaloffle on Twitter, is a genius. This thing is a work of art on its own. So much polish, so many tiny tiny features that end up making a huge difference. The fact that I can export things to html, or JS, or more, is too useful. I can do so many things on this little console, I haven’t even scratched the surface yet. Check out the #tweetcart hashtag on Twitter to see some insane things done by real masters.
I started using it because it seemed fun, and I’ve always wanted to make a video game. I find Unity and Unreal to be really clunky and counter-intuitive to me. Pico-8 though just makes sense to me. You just write the code, and it runs it. There’s nothing else to it.
What different programs do you use for your art?
So obviously the Pico-8. I use Sublime Text as my editor typically, with a Pico-8 plugin. Git for version tracking. I also love the TIC-80… it’s basically the FOSS version of the Pico-8, with some differences. It’s got a HIGHLY chaotic energy that I just love. You can also change the palette of 16 colors to be any colors you want, which is something that I intend to explore more in the future.
When I need to edit a gif or something (most commonly for a mixed media piece), I use Aseprite. I’ve used Photopia in the past, it seems great. For sketching concepts I use an app called Concepts, mostly because it works on Windows and regrettably I own a Surface Tablet.
In the past I’ve done some AI art by writing my own models and training them. These days if I do AI art I will typically use notebooks shared by others in the space. It’s much easier to extend of modify these, rather than starting from scratch, and I feel as if it’s okay as long as my usage is novel enough that I’m not just “pressing buttons”. The best notebooks I’ve ever seen or used have been by @RiversHaveWings on Twitter. She’s outstanding, and has been kind and helpful every time I’ve chatted with her.
I also use the browser dev tools (on Microsoft Edge lmao) very often, to try to understand what is going on with my CSS for my interactive Pico-8 pieces. It doesn’t always work the way I want, but I wouldn’t even be close without the ability to interrogate things in real time like this.
What is the process of creating a piece?
This depends heavily on the piece. For many there are two kind of major methods. Sometimes I start with a concept (falling leaves drifting in the wind), sometimes I start with an idea for a bit of code that I think I want to explore. The latter is always very fun because typically I don’t know what’s going to happen. For example, I am currently playing with the concept of “seed loops”. This is where you create a list of random seeds for the pseudorandom number generator, and you use the random functions to select a seed from this list. You seed the generator, do your art, and then select another seed from the list, and start over. However, this can lead to what I call seed loops, in which the choice of a seed eventually leads to other seeds that lead you back to the original seed. So instead of having constant generation of new things on the screen, you end up stuck showing some sort of fragment of randomness. This really fascinates me. The subjective nature of randomness fascinates me. This is a good example because even as I’m typing this I can’t stop thinking about this. I am definitely going to make a piece based on this concept.
Anyway once I have a concept then it often evolves as I try to realize it. I like to just go with it usually.
I spend a lot of time just letting my brain sit with an unfinished idea while I do other things, and later when I come back I find that it has grown into something new.
Do you have any creations that are your favorite?
Yes! My most recent favorite is my “pico_punks_infinte.p8”, it’s a punk generator that just uses text to generate infinite punk-like pfps. There are so many punks in here, and you can download high-res images of them right from the Pico-8! It’s also my first piece (and maybe the first Pico-8 piece?) to use the viewer’s wallet address as a seed for generating the art.
That said, I think my favorite pieces I have made so far are probably:
One of my early interactive Pico-8 pieces. In a way this piece is the precursor to almost all the art I’ve made since. The console usually (but not always) crashes after a few seconds, freezing a still image of the escaping Dead God onto the screen. This way of generating an image right in front of the user is a lot of fun. Like 90% of this piece is crazy emergent glitches, and I love all of them. At the time, I didn’t know where those rainbow sparkles were coming from. Now I do, but at the time it was just a happy accident. I still don’t understand why the screen gets a vertical black bar in the center when it crashes. I also don’t understand why sometimes it doesn’t crash, but somehow reaches a stable equilibrium. I go back and look at this piece a lot.
The final piece in my Three Body Problem series. This is the series that got me started on HEN. It’s a realtime simulation of the Three Body Problem, all coded on the Pico-8. It took me months to get it just right. It’s a lot of fun. For this last one, I took a different turn, and I stripped away anything that wasn’t essential, leaving just the things I liked most. Of course I also really love this collaborative version I did with @bisdvrk https://www.hicetnunc.xyz/objkt/102635 . He made some amazing music to go with some much trippier than usual visuals, and the overall vibe is really something I love.
Why did you join Hic Et Nunc?
It seemed like a really fun way to make and collect art, as well as supporting artists that I liked. HEN specifically because I don’t want to contribute to the ecological costs of minting on Proof of Work blockchains. I learned about it because I love Mike Tyka’s work, and I was following him on Twitter, and saw him posting about HEN. I joined right about the time of Objkt4Objkt2, and I minted a video of some Three Body Problem simulation footage, and people collected it! I couldn’t believe that people liked what I was doing, it was far more encouraging than just shouting into the void of social media.
What do you have planned to release before 2021 ends?
Right now my next project will be a tweetcart to be minted and airdropped on November first, to anyone holding my Tweetcart Token Club objkt. There will also be another on December first. Other than that I have no specific plans. I still want to release a final version of my gif engine, but I want the next one to really be polished if that’s the case, so I’m just waiting for ideas to come.
Is there anybody you want to shoutout?
Yes! I have collected a ton of art by @celad00r, @guandanarian, and @alexthescott. I think they are all incredibly talented, and you should absolutely be checking out what they’re making. I also think that the community that @sableRaph is building/gathering is very wholesome, welcoming, and supportive, they’ve been fun to chat with and at times a great help to me!
Also want to shout out:
All have been super supportive and are incredibly talented. There’s many more people I could list, honestly, but I’ll have to hope to get them in the next one 😛 (seriously sorry if you feel I missed you).
I also want to thank my amazing wife (who for now remains anonymous). She has a very good sense of aesthetics and often gives me the most useful feedback. She also helps me with the titles a lot of the time, I tend to be very verbose (if you hadn’t noticed), so she really cuts to the core concept pretty often. Most of all she just always encourages me and has believed in my art from the beginning, even before I did. I love her a lot and admire her, and I probably wouldn’t be doing this if it weren’t for her support.