Art by Kenny Vaden

Desire Path

A new pen-plotter artwork is completed and available through the online shop. “Desire Path” consists of black and blue lines (Sakura Gelly Roll) on a white background (Moab Entrada Rag archival paper).

A desire path refers to a shortcut that becomes a carve-out through vegetation, which slowly erodes into an established path. The crossing of pedestrians and animals changes the landscape, appending new routes to older ones. Desire paths are commonly found in parks, college campuses, and virtually anywhere a sidewalk takes a right angle instead of a curve. Relatedly, the current code-based artwork used a simple algorithm to generate outputs with striking complexity and depth. The algorithm was written in the R Statistics Language as an homage to early code art by Manfred Mohr, a pioneer in this medium who inspired a few of my works.

Above, left: MidJourney image (AI) illustrating a desire path. Right: Desire Path generative art.

First, a 30 x 30 grid was established, which guided thick black lines across the plot space from left to right and top to bottom. To create an organic sense of movement, random values were added to the y-coordinates for each column, which accumulated going rightward. This resulted in the emergence of winding waves and paths from evenly spaced seed-origins on the left. A number of smaller lines in varied shades of blue, adding depth and visual interest to the composition. The spacing of these lines is based on the distance between the top and bottom of each cell in the grid, with denser packing producing intriguing patterns of light and shade. The end result was an interesting blend of structure and chaos.

Pen Plotter

Several important changes were made for the pen and paper version of Desire Path includes, relative to my previous pen plotter artwork (CRUNCH). Here, I created three unique iteration prints from the same algorithm (i.e., single editions). That contrasted with CRUNCH, which consists of five editions of a single iteration. I also had a few yards of excellent white-colored fine art archival paper to work with (Moab Entrada Rag), which I cut down to size then I printed with in black and blue pens (Sakura Gelly Roll).

There were some special challenges with producing this print. First, the paper came from a roll so it has a tendency to curl up. However, a robot-controlled pen produce varied line widths on paper floating above the board versus laying flat against it. To flatten this paper more consistently, I placed a large rectangular piece of stainless steel beneath the art clipboard and used several ceramic magnets to tightly fix the paper in place. After learning where the robot arm was least likely to collide with the magnets, I could affix the entire 22 x 26.5 inch paper to the drawing area and completely flatten it.

Ink absorption also created a challenge with this new plotter print. The highest line density regions in Desire Path tended to scuff up or tear the paper because there was so much ink. To allow the ink more time to dry, I broke the image up into separate layers with evenly spaced lines. Layer 1 included the thickest black lines, layer 2 included medium thick blue (gelly roll 8), and layers 3-4 with thinner blue lines (gelly roll 5). This approach succeeded in allowing lines to dry out before drawing additional lines through nearby or overlapping spaces, which prevented damage to the surface of the paper.

Below is a video of the pen plotter in action, drawing one of the Desire Path iterations.

The final versions of each print are shown below, photographed at the art studio. Although I am storing these in a flat drawer in an art cabinet, something tells me that they’d be much happier curled up again inside a tube for shipment! 🙂

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