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Spirograph

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  #1  
Old 03-14-2007, 11:49 AM
Doug Nelson's Avatar
Doug Nelson Doug Nelson is offline
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Spirograph

I read a blog post yesterday that mentioned the Spirograph. I had completely forgotten those, but I spent hours (weeks?) playing with them when I was young. For the uninitiated, a Spirograph is a set of gears you pin to paper and turn using a pen inserted into holes in the gears. The various teeth ratios make designs on the paper.

The designs were very fun to do, and fascinating to examine when finished. They were interesting, but ultimately they were empty and meaningless (how many of your Spirograph drawings did your mother save?). Any creativity involved came from an engineering desk at the toy factory.

Which brings me to modern digital art tools. Not just filters or generators (although I did recently see a new generator that let you input variables such as "beat" and "mood" which would then generate an "original" musical composition), but any tools where you're basically running someone else's routine. They're fun to use, and the result is fascinating to examine when finished. They're interesting, but ultimately empty and meaningless, since any creativity involved actually came from a programmer's cubicle at the developer's office.

Are we just using high-tech Spirographs?
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  #2  
Old 03-14-2007, 01:10 PM
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Janet Petty Janet Petty is offline
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Re: Spirograph

How about an untechnical, thoroughly biased, and unequivocal no? One only has to look at the infinite variety of artwork, retouching, and manipulation on this site alone to clear up any doubts.

Janet
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Old 03-14-2007, 06:00 PM
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CJ Swartz CJ Swartz is offline
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Re: Spirograph

Quote:
Originally Posted by Doug Nelson
...Which brings me to modern digital art tools....any tools where you're basically running someone else's routine. ... They're interesting, but ultimately empty and meaningless, since any creativity involved actually came from a programmer's cubicle at the developer's office.

Are we just using high-tech Spirographs?
It depends. If someone is running filters on an image without any critiquing of the effect and without any intent to create something specific, then they're probably still playing with Spirographs. But when they have played with those filters enough to know what effects they can create with them, and apply them to an image on purpose to create a certain look, then I think there is creativity involved and that they using the "Spirograph"/filter as a tool to create. Most creative traditional artists don't invent specific brushes, oils, canvas to create an oil painting -- they use the same tools that other people use, but they create something different than most people do with those tools because they have an idea that they want to create.
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Old 03-14-2007, 06:36 PM
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Re: Spirograph

....adds another question....

Then fractal generators just an up-dated Spirograph?

- It's a question of complexity. The more unparametrized* variables you have involved in a situation, then the more Human / Arty it will be.
Spirograph didn't have complexity. This wheel, with this ring, makes this pattern. Best you could do was to combine a few and use a different coloured pen.
- Simple filters will always produce the same results, but as you increase their complexity (i.e. more variables to play with) then the human factor becomes more important.
- You could call cloning in Painter, a filter. For those who just stick to basic routines you might get a pretty picture but zero for creativity (i.e. Spirograph). But with so many alternatives to play with, you can't blame the tool for any limitations.

You liked Spirograph, so did I, and we're both here - so may be it did serve for something?

Now Etch-a-Sketch...............


*Don't know if this word exists - but you get the meaing
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Old 03-14-2007, 08:42 PM
smak smak is offline
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Re: Spirograph

>>>>>> ultimately empty and meaningless, since any creativity involved actually came from a programmer's cubicle at the developer's office.
Are we just using high-tech Spirographs?

What's really on your mind?
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  #6  
Old 03-14-2007, 08:54 PM
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mistermonday mistermonday is offline
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Re: Spirograph

I was also a member of the Spirograph generation. They were kind of neat but I got bored very quickly generating those mindless patterns. I can't find mine anymore but like almost everything else we can create them using computers and math. That is the basis of all of the Photoshop filters and blendings. The options are infinite. The art comes from what you do with them and the creativity you apply.

BTW, if like me you have lost or misplaced those childhood platic treasures, combine one computer with the following potion to get your Spirograph back:

If the radius of fixed circle is R, the radius of moving circle is r, and the offset of the pen point in the moving circle is O, then the equation of the resulting curve is defined by:

x = (R+r)*cos(t) - (r+O)*cos(((R+r)/r)*t)
y = (R+r)*sin(t) - (r+O)*sin(((R+r)/r)*t)

Regards, Murray
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Old 03-14-2007, 10:01 PM
BobJones BobJones is offline
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Re: Spirograph

"Any creativity involved came from an engineering desk at the toy factory."

Some opinions may differ. See this site and look at the portfolios. http://www.lesleyhalliwell.co.uk/ Lesley Halliwell is a professional artist who uses the spirograph in her recent work.

Also, here's a simplistic interactive spirograph for your amusement: http://www.wordsmith.org/~anu/java/spirograph.html

Edit: Try this one: set fixed circle to 74, set moving circle to 0, and slowly drag the moving circle offset slider from one end of the range to the other. Some interesting patterns emerge between 30 and 100.

Last edited by BobJones; 03-14-2007 at 10:23 PM.
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  #8  
Old 03-14-2007, 11:00 PM
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DannyRaphael DannyRaphael is offline
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Re: Spirograph

Still have my Spirograph and its orginal box, too. As a matter of fact it's on the top shelf of my bookcase -- next to an Etch-a-sketch.
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  #9  
Old 03-15-2007, 12:47 AM
videosean videosean is offline
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Re: Spirograph

I liked Spirograph. I didn't LOVE it because I would always get mad that it was limiting in some way or I'd break something trying to make it do what I wanted. When it comes to drawing I've always been more technical than creative. I can't remember a time when I wasn't drawing cars and the first one I was happiest with was one where I had a 2 page centerfold type magazine ad for a Honda Civic in profile. I sat there at the kitchen table early one Saturday morning (still awake from the night before) trying to draw it and not getting it good enough. Frustrated, I grabbed a ruler and started measuring and matching/transfering the measurements to what I was drawing. I was using just a plain old pencil and shaded everything in to match the lighting and shadows to make it look as real as I could. I was probably about 9 years old at the time. Anyone I ever showed it to accused me of tracing it - which ya know... how do you trace a 2-page ad in a magazine without ripping the pages out??

How does this relate? No idea but it came to mind as I was thinking about what I "doodled" when I was bored in school and playing with that AWESOME link to the online Spirograph tool BobJones posted. I didn't doodle things like my friends did. No faces, animals, flowers, nothing organic usually. I was more of a scribbler than a doodler. I'd just start scribbling and then pull something out of it kinda. I have no idea how I can really explain this and I'm too lazy to try scribble like I did when I was a kid and scan it to show LOL

When I was about 12 or so I would hold my pencil (mechanical by that time) by the eraser between my thumb and first finger and letting the tip swing like a pendulum back and forth. I would do this in 3 different directions and end up with some interesting 3 dimensional looking scribble-structures sometimes. I tried to do this in photoshop to show but got frustrated too quickly.

I've never been 'good in math' but that's not to say that math can't be fascinating to me. I've had fun taking days or weeks figuring out things that I later would learn was nothing new or amazing... like how to plot a graph on paper to represent gear ratios against a torque curve.
http://www.geocities.com/gt2x/gears.html - I didn't have a computer back then nor any interest in getting one of my own due to how much they cost vs. how much they could do. I was able to get to the internet without one though. The link to the better image on the page is broken... I don't recall my password to get in and fix the page but it's here http://www.geocities.com/gt2x/gearchart.jpg

I've just always been torn... or lost somewhere between artist and geek I think, never really being truly excellent at either one IMO.

I can re-create something in PS that was always an idea I loved playing with (bored in school scribble type things) and it's not far off from what Spirograph was IMO since there's math involved if you wanted to argue it. I just played with it because I thought it was more interesting than whatever the teachers were droning on about.
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  #10  
Old 03-15-2007, 10:57 AM
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Re: Spirograph

Quote:
Originally Posted by BobJones
Lesley Halliwell is a professional artist who uses the spirograph in her recent work.
I had no idea if something like this existed, but I was hoping someone would know of similar
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