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What is Evolutionary Art?

Evolutionary art is a comparativly recent artform, and is virtually exclusively generated on computers.

The basic idea behind evolutionary art is that the artist is able to control the development of a piece of work through some form of "selection", in a manner analogous to natural selection. In all evolutionary art one or more parent pictures or virtual sculptures are mutated and/or crossbred to produce a number of "children", which are then selected again. The more advanced systems allow the artist to assign a "goodness" factor to each child.

The results of this "selection" are then used to produce the next "generation". Evolutionary systems allow the artist to generate complex computer artwork without them needing to delve into the actual programming used.

Most, if not all, genetic art systems, and many organic art systems, are "Evolutionary", .

Genetic Art

an example mutation taken from interactive genetic art

Genetic art is entirely computer generated, based on the ideas of genetic algorithms.

Briefly, and probably wrongly, genetic algorithms work by creating a number of entities which are then selected by some criteria, cross-bred and mutated to produce another generation of entities.
Each entitiy has lists of operations which it performs to produce it's own output. The individual operations on the lists are treated as genes, and can be mutated. Cross breeding occurs where two entities are selected by their "goodness" and sections of operations are copied at random from each to produce the next generation.

The common link between all sorts of genetic and organic art is the ability to modify some essential factors, in an original. These factors may be just the numbers, the formulae, or some other changable units that are used in the shape.

Organic Art

an example frame taken from a Form animation

Organic art is the production of organic looking shapes. (I'll probably get flamed for this oversimplification)

William Latham has converted his FormSynth artistic technique into a computer program called MUTATOR, this can produce complex shapes from simple rules. These shapes are often abstract but can often resemble the underlying shapes seen in living creatures.

Other people have done some work on programs to produce computer generated organic art, the The Zen Room have a program called vitruvious, and I have written a program called FORM which is based on Latham and Todd's work as detailed in Evolutionary Art and Computers (reviewed here by By Henri Achten ), Todd and Latham, Academic Press, ISBN 0-12-437185-X.

The most powerful feature of most Organic art systems is the ability to "mutate" an original, this means that usually you create a form once (or copy one) and then create a whole series of forms all clearly 'descendant' from the original. You can then select the one(s) that you personally prefer and reapply the whole process again, without needing to get too heavily into the actual programming of the shapes.


Who does it

I make no claim that the people/organisations listed here are bona-fide artists. Most, if not all, have at some time made some claim that they were evolutionary artists. There are a few organic/evolutionary computer artists, one group that I've had a lot of contact with are The Zen Room

There is an Organic artist called Marius Watz in Norway, you can see some more of his work at the SITO site

Bryan Smith is another artist who using 2D applications such as KPT Power Tools, Photoshop Filters and tools uses unique textures, colors and shading, to produce 3D images which challenge the common notions of reality and assignment of meanings. His site also includes tutorials, bookstore and downloadable resources.

Steven Rooke is a profesional evolutionary artist who has produced some work for sale.

Peter Kleiweg is using postscript to generate evolutionary art. He has a program which can be compiled and run on UN*X machines, uses Ghostscript as a display device.

Jeffrey Ventrella has a page showing how he developed an evolutionary art system based on modifications to the basic iterative schema of the mandelbrot set. The imagery displayed is effective and shows that there is more room for artistic intervention within the confines of fractal imagery than is usually found.

Marek Michalski has produced some evoart using the FORM system (similar to William Lathams FormSynth program)

William Latham is arguably the most famous evolutionary artist, his site contains a number of images produces by his FormSynth program.

Darren Fisher has in the past used FORM and I believe was instrumental in getting another Evo-Art/Sculpture system called BIOFORM together. He has some nice images on his page.

I can insert a link to your organic page here, just email me.


© and maintained by Andrew Rowbottom
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This page last updated 10 August 1998