Awesome Indies: LCRC Kinetic Painting with Robots Workshop

After making tiny vibrating robots from the head of a toothbrush, dipping it in paint and watching them spin on paper, I asked the kids if they were the artists or if the bots were. Mostly the answer was “It tickles!”

In this final workshop for 6 to 8 year olds at the LCRC‘s after school program we explored the act of co-creation in kinetic painting with robots. This project is part of Artengine’s community arts initiatives and is funded by the Community Foundation of Ottawa.

Based off the bristlebot design from Evil Mad Scientist, the robots were made from the head of a toothbrush, a pager motor and a 3V coin cell battery. When the battery connects with the motor it produces vibrations that shake the entire brush, and when set down on paper it spins and moves based on the weight distribution of it’s parts.

I had prepared ahead of time 8 containers of non-toxic acrylic paint lightened with water but still opaque in color. On absorbant paper the paint could flow and dry quickly, allowing for a build up layers and trails the likes of which I haven’t seen since the days of learning about abstract expressionism. Here are some robot creations:

One of the fastest bots made!

One with huge googly eyes!

This one had a pipe cleaner pull string!

I had the kids race and move the bots about on 4 large sheets of paper and at the end of the class I was so surprised when I saw what had been created. There were sections of the paintings that could rival a Kline or Twombly.

In allowing for a type of controlled chaos of unthinking movement guided by the hands of those that know no self-doubt in expressing themselves, the paintings showed a remarkable amount of depth and dynamism.

I couldn’t look away from the abstract worlds this merging of human-robot movements had made.

There was a recent study done examining the differences between abstract expressionist masterpieces and paintings done by children. The researchers brought in people trained in the arts and non-artists and showed them two paintings side by side, one a masterpiece and the other a child’s painting. When asked to identify which one was the masterpiece, the researchers discovered that on average we are able to recognize the mind behind the art and label the works correctly.

I wonder what the perception and reception would be of these, an amalgamation of machine defined movement and semi-cognisant control by human hand. All I know is that the kids had a lot of fun.

[For more projects by Emily Daniels please visit her site here.]

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