Follow the Leader

Digitally inspired drawing

Made by Akiva

An animated drawing made in Grasshopper is projected on to a paper that is drawn on by a human artist.

Created: March 4th, 2015


The central goal behind this project was to test the waters of the complex relationship between a human user and a computerized tool.

The hypothesis (theory) was that by giving the human a single point of data as input (X and Y position) the human would be forced in to one of three possible actions. The first is to trace the movement of the point over time. The second is to ignore the point entirely and draw something with out any concern for digital point. The final possibility is to draw something that is directed by both the human imagination and the digitally controlled point. Although all three of these option have interesting meaning, I feel that the central idea of HMV is best exhibited in the third option. 

My hope was that by making direct copying extremely easy the user would get board and start to create their own added meanings and rule sets. I did several things to make direct copying very simple. The point moves at a rate that is very easy to follow with the tip of a pen. I even told the users to "follow the dot, or not follow the dot". Thus setting up the options in their mind.

There is only one point projected, so one human with one pen can follow it with ease. Hidden from the user there is an underlying simulation moving the 2D projected point. Three agents chase a fourth agent around in 3D space kicking it as they get close. This forth agent is always attempting to get back to a central point. These simple rules lead to complex continually generated loops in 3D space. These loops build up over time, but the user is only able to see a single point along the loop at a time.

This idea of handing over simple instructions to be carried out is not new. Many conceptual artists such as Sol LeWitt have explored this sort of art process. Much of the richness comes from the mistakes, interpretations, and constraints of the people following the instructions.

After seeing how my test users reacted to this project I think I can state with confidence that my hypothesis was flawed. Leading people to a simple following motion does not lead to them getting tired of just following and looking for more interesting patterns. I think that the final straw was the verbal instructions. My new hypothesis is that if I give users a simple follow-able point, but tell them not to follow it I will see much more meaningful interactions between the human and the tool. In a class art project setting almost everyone feels the need to follow "the rules" that they are told. Although the possibilities are wide open for the user they feel as though they are very limited. If I were to continue with this project I might try taking advantage of the expert story telling skill we all have. Perhaps by changing out the dot of a series of character images (e.g. dragon, flower, gun, baby)  I could change the way that the human reacts to the point on the surface.

Because of the open ended nature of this project it is very hard to rate one user as more skilled than another. That being said the art world is constantly comparing artists and passing value judgments. I think that with practice and feedback a user could start to understand a set of techniques that lead to appreciation from the audience.

In a future version of this project I would like to experiment with adding levels of information to the projected and physical world, for example a terrain where the pen and point are moving. Changing scale, speed, and direction of the point could also give it much more meaning to the user. Another huge way this project could be improved is by adding a sensor that can track the pen movement. This could take the form of a over head camera and a colored marker on the tip of the pen. This set up could allow the digital environment to be manipulated and changed by the pen movements. For example perhaps the point that the agent heads for could be pushed around by the pen. This would allow a much greater level of control by the user.


The physical set up for this project consists of a digital projector over head, a pad of paper, and a computer running Rhinoceros with Grasshopper and Agent.


A single moving dot is visible to the artist.


Once the drawing is complete the digital path can be displayed over the ink image.


This patch can be broken down in two three sections. The first (left most) is creating the agents, the second (center) is draws the point and the paths, the third (right most) applies the rules that each agent must follow.

Here is a link to the grasshopper file used.

Share this Project


16-455 Human-Machine Virtuosity

· 0 members

Human dexterous skill embodies a wealth of physical understanding which complements computer-based design and machine fabrication. This project-oriented course explores the duality between hand and...more


An animated drawing made in Grasshopper is projected on to a paper that is drawn on by a human artist.