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Robots That Create Art: Harvey Moon's Drawing Machines

Harvey Moon's robots can draw portraits, give visual form to a cricket's movements, or interpret Google Earth as an abstract picture.

How does a cricket become an artist? Try placing it in one of Harvey Moon's drawing machines where its movements will be tracked by a camera and turned into original works of art. Bugs Draw For Me, just one of Moons' impressive setups, are "happy collaborations" built in his Chicago studio where he creates the system, a set of rules, and allows a machine to do the rest.

The machines are created from motors and servos, while the drawings they create are defined by algorithms which determine the machine's movements and gestures. For Moon the art isn't necessarily the drawing that the machine produces, but rather the performance of the machine in the act of drawing.


Part of that process is how, often, a machine can fail at what it was told to do. "That loss of communication and that failure for a machine to communicate properly is what I find exciting and the randomness in which it produces these results." Moon says above. An example of this is found in his drawing machine that pulls satellite imagery from Google Earth and draws it randomly, creating "impossible maps" which showcase the failures of machines and their inability to communicate properly.

Moon in his studio

With their mechanical movements that break down the act of drawing, it's what the machines can highlight about ourselves and our interaction with the world that interests Moon. For instance, the way a machine incrementally drawing an image shows us the gradual progression of the creative process, which is something we might miss if it was drawn with the dexterity of a human hand. "It plays with a different way of producing work, where we don't have to rely on our own physical bodies to produce art, we can extend our system beyond our own hands." Moon notes.

You can check out some of the images the machines have drawn below.

Bugs Draw For Me

Photos by Jordan Kinley.