Generating Surprise with Scratch and TurtleArt!

Generative art refers to art that is created by a system that operates autonomously. The artist may create the system, and/or set some parameters that affect the outcome, but the result is created, at least in part, by the system rather than directly by the artist. Generative art systems are frequently computer programs, although biological, social, or other systems may also be used to generate art.


In this workshop, you will use Scratch and TurtleArt to explore generative art

An important characteristic of generative art works is the surprise we encounter while making them. That is, you never know precisely what will happen. Intriguingly, since the outcome of a generative art system is not fully predetermined, variations are expected and surprising! You can think of this like a good conversation—you don’t know exactly what your partner is going to say, and the serendipity of the exchange is an important reason for having the conversation in the first place. Similarly, you don’t know (precisely) what you’re going to get from a generative art experience. This emergent serendipity is one of the most wonderful things about making generative art.


The workshop will introduce generative art as an activity in itself, but will also encourage you to iterate on the artful surprises that you can generate with  Scratch and TurtleArt.

This workshop is for teachers and anyone else interested in generative art. The material is suitable for students ages eight and older. Some prior experience and familiarity with Scratch and/or TurtleArt is a helpful foundation for participation.


Scratch Studio for the workshop:
Scratch Studio for a similar workshop at the 2016 MIT Scratch Conference:

Articles about Generative Art

Wikipedia article on Generative Art
What is Generative Art?
by Phillip Galanter
Generative Art for All by Michael Tempel

Web-based Generative Art tools

Interactive web drawing

Examples of Generative Art (computational)

Rothmo (a robot on tumblr)
Echophon (a collection on tumblr)
Kyle Stewart
Sean Justice, Five Lines Option & Seven Lines
Note: a Google search on “generative art” will return thousands of examples! 

Artists who might be considered exemplars, or pioneers of Generative Art (non- or pre-computational)

Hans Haacke
John Cage
Ellsworth Kelly
Sol LeWitt
William Burroughs

Other Resources

Turtle Art is a blocks programming environment for creating drawings and for explorations at the intersection of art, mathematics, and programming
Scratch is a programming language and online community where you can create your own interactive stories, games, and animations -- and share your creations with others around the world.
MediaMilitia (introduction to other tools)
Processing for generative art (Processing is a java based programming language often used by artists and designers)


Society for Generative Art