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Artist Spotlight with Tyler Hobbs

We had the chance to talk to artist and creator Tyler Hobbs about writing programs that create art, his influences, tools, and more. Check out Tyler’s work on Instagram, Twitter, and tylerxhobbs.com.

How did you come to your current process? Has it evolved over time?

My current process evolved over time and is still constantly changing. I’m very motivated by learning and trying new things, which means my artistic practice doesn’t stay in one place for very long. Broadly speaking, though, I originally studied more traditional drawing and painting techniques for years before I became interested in generative art.

I studied computer science in college, and eventually I started searching for ways to integrate computer programming into my art. Since then, programming has played a huge role in how I create artwork, although I still love to integrate hand-drawn elements whenever possible.

What is an intricacy in your work that you think most people might overlook?

To people that aren’t familiar with generative art, one of the most unique challenges is designing a whole system that outputs many distinct but interesting images. Most visual artists are only trying to design a single image at a time. For generative artists, if you can create a program that doesn’t just output one great image, but a whole series of them, that’s really the sweet spot.

An installation by Tyler. Follow Tyler on Instagram.

Do you feel that social media and the consumption of infinite art is changing the way artists are creating today?

Social media is undoubtedly changing the artwork we create. In fact, I recently wrote an entire essay on how feedback from social media can sway artists’ feelings about their own work, and about how only particular types of work are likely to do well on social media. These are tough influences for artists to reckon with.

Of course, social media isn’t entirely a negative thing, either. One of the positive aspects of social media is that it makes it really easy for people to connect directly with your artwork, no matter where they live. So, hopefully art fans are also able to develop more diverse interests in the arts.

How do prospective clients typically approach you? Do they come with something in mind or is it more of an anything goes with your kind of style?

When clients approach me for a commission, they generally have a very loose concept in mind. Something vague about the vibe of it, or the colors, or perhaps a collection of my previous work that stands out to them. It’s up to me to work with them to discover what the best fit is. With that said, it also has to be something that I want to create. I’m at a stage where I do have to try to be more selective about what projects I take on.

Follow Tyler on Instagram.

Do you ever collaborate with other artists? If so, how do you like it?

Yes, I have done some collaboration in the past! I teamed up with an artist known as The Most Active to create a series of works that integrated generative patterns with digital collage techniques. These days I’ll still occasionally do small experiments with other artists, but it’s a major part of my work. I have to admit that I like having the control as the sole artist to make the art exactly the way that I want it.

Can you give us a quick break down on some of your favorite tools? (IDE’s, design programs, programming languages, etc.)

When I’m programming generative art, I’m almost always using the following tools:

  • Clojure. This programming language is a Lisp dialect that runs on the JVM, which means that it’s incredibly powerful and flexible, and also has access to all of the great libraries in the Java ecosystem. The start of my talk “Code Goes In, Art Comes Out” explains in more detail why Clojure is such a perfect fit.
  • Processing. This is a basic graphics library that provides some tools around drawing shapes, working with layers, etc.
  • Vim. I love it so much. Using anything else for a text editor is an exercise in frustration.
  • Almost everything else is custom coded. I write a lot of one-off software interfaces where I can do digital drawings that interact with generative effects that I’ve programmed.
Follow Tyler on Instagram.

What kind of music gets your artistic gears turning? Any favorite artists? (if you have a playlist you would like to share we would love to see it!)

I find that I can program most productively when I’m listening to instrumental music. I’m a drummer and studied jazz drumming, so of course I listen to a lot of jazz (Miles, Monk, and lately Mikaya McCraven). I love how Post-Rock mixes in elements of that with bands like Do Make Say Think and Battles. Then there’s music that is so rhythm and pattern oriented that it’s almost a sonic representation of my artwork, like Philip Glass and Steve Reich.

Follow Tyler on Instagram.

Any major influences?

Oof, my artistic influences are numerous and varied. You really have to browse my bookshelf to get it! I largely enjoy work by painters, especially abstract painters like Agnes Martin, Mark Rothko, Richard Diebenkorn, and Mark Bradford. But, artists with a unique take on representational work really capture me too: Francis Picabia, Egon Schiele, and Euan Uglow. Straight up Op-Art with trippy vibes excites me, and I think the best work is probably by Bridget Riley and Jesús Rafael Soto. Among artists involving programming or generative ideas, it’s hard to top Harold Cohen and Sol LeWitt!

To see more of Tyler’s work, or to get in touch, you can find him on Instagram, Twitter, or tylerxhobbs.com.

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