Parametric CNC Watercolor

Design Work, Research

This research explores the implications of digital fabrication on understanding the cognitive and metacognitive methods embedded in “expertise” as they are associated with watercolor painting. This question offers ground for both philosophical rumination as well as technological research: Through analysis, can (and should) we codify expertise? Can the processes, as opposed to objects, be digitally analyzed to enable the reproduction of the technique instead of the artefact on CNC equipment? Beesley and Seebohm have suggested the notion of a digital tectonic; a methodology that scaffolds traditional construction methods with design software. The argument observes that much of design is an abstraction that emphasizes visual and spatial issues in lieu of material and construction methodologies. This argument is extended into the production of watercolor painting through channels that observe the physical act of water coloring, dimensioning of the relevant variables and processing the information via making tools.

Having expertise in water coloring may be described via the metaphor “reading a book about swimming.” What we seek is to understand the Masters gesture; the process of repetition, failure, success that has toned the muscles to sync with the mind to execute a task with precision, speed and craft. The work began in a similar framework as that of the traditional crafts person jumping into an art for the first time but with the added digital strength and nativity that the machine provides. We know very little and every action projects trajectories of discovery. The advantage of the machine immediately illuminates the process. We [the programmer and the machine] can repeat actions with absolute precision enabling the isolation of variables. Is it the machine or the programmer who thinks this way?