(Jeff_L) #1

Paul the Robot as a Naive Drawer

There are many examples of computerized
systems attempting to draw from reality, e.g., in
computer graphics, a subject referred to as Non-
Photorealistic Rendering or NPR (Gooch & Gooch,
2001; Brennan, 1982; Chen et al., 2004); these sys-
tems produce approximate renderings extrapo-
lated from reality, usually by taking as input digital
images or photographs. NPR systems are meant
to produce figurative paintings, while the scope
of our research is focused on figurative drawings.^1
Recently, Colton explores another facet of NPR by
using an approximate facial expression recogni-
tion AI system to influence the painting style.^2 To
the best of our knowledge, the vast majority of NPR
systems are designed to render drawings in a par-
ticular style by producing output images mimicking
a final result with little attention paid to the creative
steps and feedbacks involved in the artistic gen-
eration itself: i.e., how, as Zeki formulates it (Zeki,
1998), the artist laboriously extracts permanent,
lasting and enduring features from a visual stimulus
forming a novel presentation of the original subject.
The pioneering work of Harold Cohen with
his AARON system (Cohen, 1988) is probably the
most important exception to this (NPR) trend from
Computer Graphics, in which a model of the artist’s
activity whilst drawing/painting from imagination
has been studied, implemented and refined over the
years and successive generations of the system itself.
Since the early days of his work on the AARON

concept in the 1970’s, Cohen has stressed that the
crucial behavior common to any kind of art is the
awareness of the work in progress: therefore some
form of feedback—eventually consiousness—is
essential to art genesis. A program with the ambi-
tion of generating art has to show this capacity of
assessing the result of its past actions to influence
future actions. In contradistinction to Cohen’s
work, which makes no real-time use of computer
vision, we investigate the artististic drawing activity
whilst drawing from reality and memory as well as
from imagination.
There also has been a long tradition of draw-
ing automata or systematic machines which we
can trace back to at least the 18th century, e.g.,
with Maillardet’s automaton which was able to
draw seven sketches and write four poems. Closer
in time to us are important links between the ori-
gin of computational art and drawing machines.
The Algorists who were pioneers of the field made
extensive use of early drawing machines, in particu-
lar pen-plotters. A notable member of this group
is Roman Verostko, who was celebrated in 2009 by
ACM Siggraph with the attribution of a prize hon-
oring achievements in digital art, and who still uses
pen-plotters. Although Harold Cohen has for some
time now used large format ink printers as output
for AARON, until the early nineties he too used
custom drawing/painting machines. Interestingly
the first versions of AARON were using a drawing
robot, a type of mechanical turtle that allowed for

Figure 1. Paul the robot drawing Stella, Tenderpixel Gallery, London, U.K., June 2011.

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