Interview with Jos Vromans

– Dec. 16, 2023

Recently, I responded to a series of interview questions delving into my artistic practice. Having written down detailed answers, I publish them here to share about my background and thoughts on creating art using the computer. This section might be extended in the future, with more questions and answers.

Do you make art full time? If not, is that a goal of yours? Why/why not? If so, how did it happen?

Yes, back in 2018 I quit my job as a back end web developer, to take a sabbatical and make art full time, with the intention to do that as long as I can afford so, and as long as I am having fun. In 2021 I did spend a few months doing freelance work as a Blender add-on developer. Which was an amazing journey to dive into 3d software. But in June, after Fidenza released, I discovered ArtBlocks and that disrupted everything for me again. I learned JavaScript and have been making browser based artwork since that moment.

Perspective study 2021
Live coding at the Marfa Public Library during the ArtBlocks weekend in 2022. Recording on YouTube

Is there a direction you wish to “progress” toward with your art – are there aspects you want to improve, or new things you want to try?

There are many, especially since I've seen some excellent collections over the past years, that dive deeper into certain concepts than I have done myself. For example: color theory, composition, and making a connection with an art concept from the past. Other than those, I still aspire to become more knowledgeable in topics like computational geometry and certain parts of mathematics. My artistic practice goes hand in hand with gaining knowledge.

I also crafted many algorithms in the past that deserve a deeper study and a write up on how they actually work. This is a big challenge for me, because it is very time consuming to write an article. But I really hope I can spend some more time in that direction in the future. Because I believe there are a lot of valuable insights, that deserve to be documented somewhere.

Perspective study 2021
An early output from a perspective study - 2021

Also, there are a few directions I explored already, but never published yet. One great topic is architecture. I did build a perspective engine already, but I have yet to use it for a further study or a generative artwork. That is definitely something I will explore some time in the coming years.

What artists, if any, inspired you to pursue Generative Art?

None specifically that made me try generative art. I found myself making generative art naturally, without being aware of that term or about artists who made art using the computer.

I learned programming as a part of my Applied Mathematics study, and although I struggled at first, in the second year everything clicked for me, and I became very passionate about programming. I've been lucky to have implemented a genetic algorithm very early in my programming journey, thanks to my teacher who suggested that, among other very interesting topics. Having that implemented myself, made me fully understand how simple parts of logic and code, can make a system that can achieve amazing results. A genetic algorithm can even achieve feasible solutions to problems that are otherwise extremely hard to solve. This was also one of the first times I used randomness in the code just for fun, so it might have been the first generative system I implemented.

In that same course, we made mathematical figures like cellular automata, the Game of Life, the Koch curve, the Pythagoras tree and other fractal shapes. So I got familiar with a lot of things that are possible with math and code.

Line drawings 2017
Pencil drawing - 2017. One of the first systems I implemented on the computer.

Fast forward several years, I was working as a programmer and I was making some doodles by hand on paper. And I decided I wanted to implement them on the laptop, so it could become a system I could control. I imagined I could make it morph into other directions by changing parameters. That was literally how I started generative art, I looked up how I could output images and drawing lines using Python, and I have built everything else from there. I quickly discovered randomness as a tool, which came naturally when trying out variations of my code. And it was also the moment I discovered that mistakes can be very interesting when making art. The output would be different from expected, which could sometimes be very surprising. That naturally evolved in a way of thinking to allow algorithms to do unnatural things, or deliberately change things in the code, to see how it affects the outputs.

Which would you say most influenced your work?

Nature and mathematics. Even before I learned programming, I have been observing things in nature, small and big. I was into astronomy when I was a child. I saved my first money for a relatively large Dobson telescope. Since I studied math, I have a lot of interest in visualizing mathematical concepts, and that beautifully comes together with natural systems and algorithms.

What is something you really want to talk about, or that you’d like to tell people about you and your work?

I can make any artwork I have ever made from scratch, independent from the programming language. I do not need any libraries or code/techniques that someone else wrote. It has been the essence of what I do, as I am looking for simple systems, of which I can grasp and own every single part of the concept. It excites me that such simple systems often produce interesting, beautiful and sometimes complex looking outputs.

Besides programming, my passion used to be traveling, I traveled to over 55 countries, 20+ on a solo bicycle trip. I am also very proud of my atlases collection, especially since I try to only collect if they are in fantastic condition, with a perfect spine. Some of them are 150 years old, and are made use fantastic printing techniques. Some are made by copper plate printing on a hand press and have hand colored details. Which reminds me that I want to try printing with a press one day.

Atlas collection - Jos Vromans
One shelf of my atlas collection.

The artists spotlight by Zharta can be read here.

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