Tag Archives: arduino

Twitter Data Drawings – VIDEO

I’ve put together a quick time-lapse video to show some of the process behind producing the twitter data drawings I exhibited during my final MA show.

I shows the machine in action so should hopefully help people understand how the marks were made when looking at the final products.

The video features 3 pieces from the exhibition. The first is a drawing of all the ‘love’ shared in Wales on the 9/9/15. The second comprises of 4 larger drawings showing all of the ‘love’ and ‘hate’ shared in New York City on 4 consecutive days leading up to and following the anniversary of 9/11. The final piece shows the ‘love’ and ‘hate’ shared in 4 different cities around the world on the 9/9/15. The cities (clockwise from top left) are: Singapore, London, San Francisco and Paris.

For more information on the process behind this series you can read my other blog posts on the project:

Draw bots and Data Visualisation (part 1 of 3)

or see more images in my portfolio.


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Postgraduate Exhibition – Photos

A lot of my posts recently have been pretty process/theory heavy, so I thought I’d keep this one simple. Here are some photos of my final work in the Postgraduate Exhibition.

For more photos and videos of finished and in-progress work take a look at my Instagram: benpartridgebtp

I am currently putting together a time-lapse of the drawing machine in action in the exhibition that I will upload later this week.


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Polarograph drawing machine – Wales 9/9/15

This drawing machine is drawing all the love shared on Twitter in Wales on 6/9/15. The drawing will depict 24 hours with each ‘pixel’ documenting one minute, the darker the ‘pixel’ the more love was share in that minute. The ‘pixels’ are drawn chronologically from the top left hand corner of the drawing to the bottom right.


New York –  9/9/15, 10/9/15, 11/9/15, 12/9/15
These drawings show the love and hate shared on Twitter in New York on four consecutive days. Clockwise from top 9/9/15, 10/9/15, 11/9/15 and 12/9/15 . Each drawing depicts 24 hours with each ‘pixel’ documenting one minute. The darker the ‘pixel’ the more love or hate was shared in that minute. Love is drawn in red and hate in blue. The ‘pixels’ are drawn chronologically from the centre of the grid to the outmost edge of each drawing.


Paris, London, San Francisco, Singapore – 6/9/15
This drawing shows the love and hate shared on Twitter in four cities around the world on 6/9/15. Clockwise from top these cities are Paris, London, San Francisco and Singapore. Each drawing depicts 24 hours with each ‘pixel’ documenting one minute. The larger the pixel the more love or hate was shared in that minute. Love is drawn in red and hate in blue. These pixels are drawn chronologically from the centre of the grid to the outmost edge of each drawing.


San Francisco, New York, Sao Paolo, Cardiff, London, Paris Jakarta, Hong Kong, Tokyo – 9/9/15

This drawing shows the love and hate shared on Twitter over one hour in nine cities around the world on 9/9/15. The drawings are arranged according to their time zone with +0000 GMT in the centre. Each drawing depicts one hour with each ‘pixel’ documenting one minute. The larger the pixel the more love or hate was shared in that minute. Love is drawn in red and hate in blue.

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For more information about this project see my blog posts:
Draw bots and Data visualisation – Part 1

Drawbots and Data Visualisation – Part 2

Drawbots and Data Visualisation – Part 3

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Drawbots and Data Visualisation – Part 2

This is the second part of a three part post on the work I have been doing over the summer towards my final postgraduate exhibition.

In the previous post I explained how I had built my own drawing machine, something that could take a digital input and make a physical analogue drawing from it. In this post I will explain why I decided to try and draw data.

IMG_3997I really liked how the mechanical mathematical way the machine interpreted an image and handled tone, especially when those images happened to be well known works of art:


Although fun, I knew this type of drawing was only a means to an end, I wanted to create drawings that tapped into the innate nature of digital media rather than copying existing images. A lot of the digital processes we use to make art in film, photography and illustration were developed in response to their analogue counterparts. To establish themselves they were framed as equivalent or superior to the analogue processes that proceeded them (I recommend Vilem Flusser’s ‘Towards a Philosophy of Photography‘ on this).

In a sense this framing of digital processes in relation to analogue ones shapes most of our interactions with digital technology, even today we still save ‘files’ into ‘folders’ on our ‘desktop’. Even the visual interface we use references processes and technology that are increasingly obsolete. In most cases we still use icon of a floppy disk to signify ‘save’, yet for anyone under 20 the action and icon it references will have no correlation. Cut and and paste is another good example, their digital uses are now far more common than the analogue processes it references.

I aimed to combine the serendipity of the drawn image with the accuracy and speed of digital technology when completing repetitive computational analysis of real time data. This would be an attempt to create physical representations of digital data.

i first became interested in data when making my polargraph, while the design and software is open-source and free I still needed to buy the hardware, the stepper motors, motor shield, counterweights etc. At the time some teaching I had agreed to do had fallen through so I was pretty broke, so I was completing online surveys in exchange for Amazon vouchers which I used to buy the components I needed. Not glamorous, or quick, but it got the job done.

Completing these surveys started changing how I viewed my personal data, my demographic data, age, gender, nationality became a commodity with economic value as did my opinions; whether I thought a certain brand was trustworthy, or ‘for people like me’. I also began to realise how much of this we give away for free to companies such as Google, Facebook and Apple I wanted to know if this data is so valuable to companies, allowing them to improve marketing strategies and increase profits could it be used for more positive ends? It while researching this that I came across the Open Data Institute and in particular their Data as Culture exhibition, see the catalogue below:

Data as Culture 2014 – Catalogue


I was really excited to see artists using data as medium, I especially liked YoHas’ Invisible Airs, a dada-like interpretation of Bristol City Councils’ expenditure database.

I decided that I would try and use twitter data as the raw material for the final drawings, it seemed like a good source of constantly changing information. I was also inspired my a number of other artists who had used Twitter in their data visualisation work.

In the final part of this post I get a bit techy and explain how I interpreted the twitter data in Processing and created drawings mapping the love and hate shared on Twitter in different cities around the world (below).



Drawing showing all of the Love and Hate shared on Twitter in New York – 31/8/15.


For more information about this project see my blog posts:
Draw bots and Data visualisation – Part 1

Drawbots and Data Visualisation – Part 2

Drawbots and Data Visualisation – Part 3

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Draw bots and Data visualisation – Part 1

Over the summer I have been working towards my final postgraduate exhibition, as it opens next week I thought it was a good time to (attempt) to write up what I’ve been up to.

Since first working getting to grips with the open source prototyping platform Arduino in 2013, when making an interactive audio screenprint. I’ve been interested in combining emerging open source technology with tradtional artistic media.


In Gas 2013 (above) technology was applied to an image created by hand to make it interactive, I became interested to see how this technology could be incorporated into the making of the image itself. It was about this time that I became interested in the open-source and maker movements, I liked to democratic, collaborative values at their core. I also saw their ‘hacking’ and repurposing as a subversive yet positive way of combatting the incredible wasteful nature of the cycle of upgrading and disposing we seem to be locked into with modern technology. A product of structured obsolesce and our closed-source system I increasingly see the rate of technological progress as being set by market forces as opposed to actual technological discovery. (I recommend Maciej Cegłowski’s piece on the future of the web on the nature of technological progress).

I decided I wanted to make a machine that could ‘draw’ in the physical sense, it would create a physical, analogue image based on digital data that I gave it. About 30 seconds of googling showed me I wasn’t the only one, and there was already an online community of people making and sharing images created by their ‘drawbots‘. After studying a number of Instructables I made a number of prototypes, which seemed as good excuse as any to raid me and my brothers boyhood lego stash. As you can see the initial attempts were pretty crude and could only really mange basic shapes and patterns.

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The next design I decided to try was a hanging pen type plot called Polargraph, after seeing Sandy Noble’s excellent instrucable, seriously, check it out. Based on a draw bot called Hektor (2002) byJürg Lehni & Uli Franke
2002 (below), a polargraph consists of a pen suspended between 2 stepper motors run from an Arduino and motorshield.

Despite its rather basic appearance it’s an incredibly versatile drawing machine, not least thanks to the open-source controller designed by Sandy in Processing (a java based programming language designed for artists and designers, more about that in part 2). Once I had it up and running I started putting it through its paces:

Once I had got the hang of it I decided to see how it coped with some some iconic works of art:

To test how it handled drawing vectors I combined it with a programme I had been working on in Processing and turned it into a photo booth:
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I was really excited with the results, I loved how it combined the serendipity of the physical drawing materials with the precision and repetition of their mechanical means of production. Things like tone and quality of line take on a different significance when they are products of mechanical reproduction. It made me question the emotive value we attribute these qualities.

I knew I wanted to explore the relationship between the emotive power of a drawing and its mechanical means of production further. I decided I would try to create physical analogue drawings of digital data. To do this I would need to learn a heck of a lot more about coding and data visualisation, something I will explore in part 2.

Here’s a video of my polar-graph in action:

This is the first part of a 3 part post on this project, read the other posts here:

Drawbots and Data Visualisation – Part 2

Drawbots and Data Visualisation – Part 3

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Gas – interactive Screen Print

The seed of this piece work was planted at the international printmaking conference Impact in Dundee 2013. After presenting a paper on my work I attended a demonstration on ‘conductive ink’. I had no idea what conductive ink was but was curious to learn more. The demonstration was my first introduction to Bare Conductive a water soluble ink that conducts electricity. In the demo we drew circuits to light a LED:

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Here he is, by connecting a battery between his glasses and smile you complete the circuit and the LED on his nose lights up. It was fun, but what really got me interested was the potential to use the ink as a sensor, by running it through an Arduino.

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now a capacitive sensor the drawing can sense how close or far you are from it and brighten and dim the LED accordingly.

I knew I wanted to produce some work based around this, but the ideas stayed on the shelf until I was asked to take part in a group exhibition. The venue was Aberystwyth’s Oriel Nwy, an old Harley Davidson show room it is a large open space with great big windows and great views from the street. I decided this would make it a good venue to show an interactive print installation based around what I had been doing with Bare Conductive ink.

I wanted to turn the idea of a gallery as a sterile environment in which one may look but at all costs not touch on its head by creating a multi-sensory piece that actively encourages physical interaction.

Gas was the result, a collaboration between myself and another artist showing in the exhibition Kim James-Williams, I felt her beautifully balanced pen and ink drawings would echo the aesthetic of the wires and circuits behind the scenes. The image we chose was a drawing of the gallery itself, I love it, the composition makes the gallery seem impossible light almost like it is about to float off, fitting for something called the ‘Gas’ Gallery.


I screen printed the image in Bare Conductive ink and attached it to an Arduino, the Arduino would then take the capacitive reading from the ink and create a varying audio output, the idea was for it to sound like a theremin (not sure what one is? Listen to the Star Trek theme tune or The Beach Boys ‘Good Vibrations’, or for a more contemporary example:

I was really happy with the end result, it was great to see people interacting with it at the opening, nervous at first, they became increasingly bold and confident and ended up ‘playing’ some really nice stuff.

Here are some photos of the opening and a video of the finished work in action:

My film piece ‘Flicker’ was also included in the show. I was really thrilled to be asked to take part in Transitions at Oriel Nwy with such a talented group of artists, you can see there work in the Catalogue. We were really grateful that John Harvey agreed to open the exhibition, he gave a really encouraging and inspiring speech at the opening, which you can read on his blog.

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