Cartooning with Code and Randomness

None of these artworks were drawn by hand. They were all made by writing my own computer code. The code combines shapes and colors into cartoon figures, scenes, and designs. Using random numbers gives surprising, unpredictable variations.

I've used my code to make comic strips, art prints, large wall installations, endless animated drawings, and instant, randomly generated code art sketchbooks, filled with hundreds of cartoon patterns and landscapes.

While code can easily make abstract designs, I like the added challenge of designing with cartoon figures, scenes, and other cartoon elements.

Years ago, I wanted my computer to draw comics for me automatically. Even if it drew mechanical nonsense stories, I wanted it to surprise me.

I had to learn a little programming. Soon, I found endless ideas for new randomly generated artworks, and a totally addictive art-making process. If you try it, don't say I didn't warn you.

code art prints

These are single large format prints, done for various art shows. They were all drawn by custom PostScript code I wrote. Acrobat Distiller converted the randomly-generated art to PDF files for printing.

digital color print, 22x33 inches
A newspaper color "Sunday Comics" page layout. The balloon text, artwork, and colors were all chosen randomly. Some of the section titles were random. I chose the page's title and programmed this specific page layout. The idea of doing a random "Sunday Comics" page goes back to my earliest vision of random comics.

digital color print, 22x33 inches
A newspaper daily comics page layout. Each section of the page uses different random procedures.

digital color print, 48x17 inches
The print has many cartoon characters in rows, fading into the distance. Each character mutates from the previous one.

black and white laser print, 51x88 inches wall installation, on 6 sheets by 8 sheets of paper

The large face is a non-random drawing I converted to pixels in Photoshop. My program used each pixel's gray value to make a smaller random face -- there are 3888 faces. Some are better likenesses than others. I haven't found any that are alike.

49 POSITIONS, 2009
digital color print, 12x12 inches
For Accident Gallery's erotic art show.


code art animations


PostScript code, running in GhostScript (Mac Classic OS)

This program, running on a computer in the gallery, writes and draws random comics and cartoon art onscreen endlessly. The colors, compositions, poses, words and sentences change constantly. Because it uses random combinations of many basic parts, you will probably never see the same drawing twice. It's hypnotic.

An 8 minute segment from RAN DUM LOOP 1999, on YouTube:



Instant Code Art Sketchbooks

Starting in 2010, I adapted my RAN DUM LOOP code to make a series of instant digital sketchbooks, each one filled with cartoon patterns, designs, landscapes, or comics.

After I spend a few days or weeks testing, revising, and re-organizing the code, it randomly generates a book in a few minutes. I have the code make several covers, so I can choose the one I like best.

I use online printers Blurb, Lulu, or Viovio to make one copy of the book, in a square hardcover format, 7, 8.5, or 12 inches square. Page counts range from 120 to 440.

For each sketchbook page, the code randomly chooses:
a color scheme,
a drawing style,
a page layout,
and a drawing procedure,
to draw varying faces, figures, scenes, things, or abstractions. Because there are so many possible combinations, I never know what it will draw next. I always look forward to seeing the printed sketchbook arrive.

RAN DUM 1 -- Code Art Compilation

(see RAN DUM 1 inside pages)

RAN DUM 1 is a compilation and catalog reproducing several code art prints, some experimental pieces, and early randomly-generated digital comics. Everything was drawn by writing custom PostScript code. I wrote a brief essay about working with randomness, and how the more complex works grew from the earlier, simpler ones.

RAN DUM 1 is full-color, 28 pages (including covers), 8.5 x 11 inches. First published in 2005, in an edition of 200 copies. The second printing of RAN DUM 1 is now available for $15.00 US from Shipping is extra.

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