Who are you?
My name is Oscar, I’m 31 and live on the regional outskirts of Melbourne (Australia) with my fiancé and our chihuahua Guzman (he’s 7 months old and thankfully sleeping while I do this interview). I work full time in an engineering / data role and study compsci part time (mainly for fun, kinda wish I did a maths undergrad now though).
When did you start making art?
I have had an on/off relationship with drawing for most of my life (I was never very good, in fact I am pretty sure my old art teacher would throw up in his mouth a little if he knew people were giving my work any attention). Mum was doing a visual arts degree and majoring in photography when I was young, so whatever house we were renting at the time always had a makeshift dark room and my sister and I were often participants in Mum’s creative process (whether we knew it at the time or not). In my early 20s some friends and I would pass a notebook around and do some collaborative doodling at the tail end of a big night, but prior to learning to program properly this was really the extent of my artistic output.
I always had a lot of vaguely interesting ideas but often felt like either my abilities or the tools at my disposal weren’t really adequate to manifest them.
When did you start making generative art?
Effectively as soon as I started to take programming seriously (~2018). Being able to define and execute the state and parameters from which emergent systems arise (and finally actualize some of the experiments I had been incapable of prior) was really the major impetus for me to learn to program (which followed numerous failed attempts throughout my youth, and I honestly would have failed again if not for the saint like patience and generosity of my friend Tom who held my hand for weeks as I wrote my first Discord bot).
A bit of research around the naïve areas of interest I had at the time had me reading about automata, procedural generation techniques, common methods of visualizing numerical systems etc. I can’t recall exactly how I came across it, but while I was working on the first program that ever made me particularly proud of myself (this extremely linear natural selection simulation in gamemaker) I came across Processing, Dan Shiffman, and the Instagram/Reddit accounts of many of the artists went on to take their rightful places at the forefront of whatever went down this year.
The rest is kind of history (my mind was blown by the potential, by the vast amount of knowledge and history that already existed in the space, and I was invigorated by the fact that I was much better at programming by this point than I ever had been at drawing).
I have always had a fascination with isometric visuals, and you can sort of see the progression from the depths of my twitter (one of the first times I opened processing), some horrible tooling I made a year ago ( – seriously don’t download this, you can’t even save your work), and then the more recent isometric stuff I have worked on which I partly credit to 12 weeks of cramming linear algebra this year (tfw a single transform > your whole jury rigged coordinate system).
How did you hear about FxHash?
Twitter. I can’t remember the tweet which is kind of messed up because it was like 3 weeks ago and I’m pretty sure it – – – never mind, I checked; it was this tweet and it was 6 weeks ago (what the hell) -> no idea who got it on my feed though.
Planet Panels was your first success story on FxHash. What was the story behind this piece?
Haha, honestly I am still struggling to reason about this. In terms of the piece itself, it’s been a bit of a grail of mine for a long time to get procedural landscapes happening with as much of a sort of “newspaper comic” aesthetic as possible. I kind of had Skyfloors at a point I was happy with and was idly experimenting with some more traditional noisy terrain generation, and like many pivotal moments I have experienced while programming, an answer was much closer than I was anticipating and much simpler than I had been conceptualizing. If you look at the top corner of the left hand image in the first tweet you can see these are rendered as stacked planes running along the y axis of the isometric grid so a fairly robust occlusion solution already existed, once I had the linework sorted out the rest was pretty straightforward.
Social media has never been a particularly important part of my process. I have been learning for a long time and haven’t produced much polished work for starters, and until recently it’s been a pretty personal experience for me – so when I tweeted that I might mint a few Planet Panels and ended up having to turn my phone off to sleep it kind of freaked me out to be honest. I was so nervous when I hit the mint button, and nearly threw up when I tried to get a 3rd edition for myself 2 minutes later and they were all gone. Putting my art in to such a public forum is still a weird experience, but it’s been all love and I can’t thank everyone who has engaged with me throughout this period enough.
What is your favorite part of generative art?
It’s definitely the way in which these rigid abstractions (logic/mathematics/computation) intersect with the creative process to enforce this paradigm where you have this purely abstract representation of a system (your code) and you can make changes to it and you can see your values move, and like, this is it man, this is the whole thing. For a lot of people in more theoretical fields this is enough, if push comes to shove and they need a more tangible way to reason about what’s happening they might draw some circles or render some tabular stuff or whatever, but their generative system exists and is alive and works. But here there’s this whole other side of things where it doesn’t matter how well you’ve reasoned about your calculations or how trivial your idea is, you can never truly be prepared for what you’re going to see when your art renders, you get to plumb the depths of your imagination and via a process of formally and explicitly defining the rules that govern a system which only existed in your mind prior, see it made manifest in all its sensory glory. There’s really no better feeling than when you hit something you resonate with and spend the next 30 minutes looking geeked while you smash f5 with some tunes on.
What advice would you give to somebody wanting to learn more about generative art?
I’ll answer this with the assumption that this somebody wants to make generative art; don’t ignore the need for software engineering skills and don’t ignore mathematics. These don’t need to be your primary focus – by all means spend 90% of your time on processing tutorials, it should be fun or you probably shouldn’t be doing it after all, but don’t discount their utility. They are the only tools you have, you don’t necessarily need to be able to use them very well to make something that looks amazing, but the better equipped you are, the further you can travel and the more chance you have of finding somewhere new. I don’t purport to be anything resembling an expert in either of these fields, but it’s for sure no coincidence that the quality of my art seems to share a relatively linear relationship with my ability to intuit across them.
Have there been any mints of your works that have stood out in your eyes more than others?
Not really, I am kinda partial to a couple of SYSTEM_HASH mints at the moment despite them sitting at 26/300, this was probably not a great project for fxhash but I do really like the architecture still..
Is there anyone you want to shoutout?
Kenny Vaden – One of my favorite artists and great sources of encouragement.
ALT ESC – I got tickets on this guy.
Meodai – Dude has some seriously good open source generative color tools.
Mathias Isaksen – I don’t know them but boy do I like their art.
Ciphrd – <3
Thanks heaps for reaching out!