Quick link if you just want to get to the thing I made: https://littleboxes.artfly.io/ .

Project brain dump

NB: I keep resisting writing up any of my project because it's boring admin so I'm trying the quickest possible method - type -> don't look back -> hit publish -> on to the fun things!

I was looking for a project to use with the Axidraw pen plotter I'd bought while high on painkillers during a fever! So I started stalking the #plottertwitter hashtag to see what people were up to.

It began with a tweet

My original inspiration to play with these boxes came from this Tweet by Paul Rickards:

As is my way I initially dived in and created the tiles shown by Paul and had them appear in a random order in a giant square. Only then (after over an hour!) did I realise that was random just ain't going to cut it - obviously! - there are some rules here!

Risking lazy brain overload I then spent whole seconds reading Paul's tweet and the replies to it in full (I know, "Reading"!)

Reinder Nijhoff had replied linking to a version he created on a site I'd not come across before: https://turtletoy.net/turtle/cc4d10a96c

But glancing at the code and I say lots of loops and talk of buffer arrays and walk functions which scared me so I took a deep breath and then I ran away!

Back to Paul's tweet and some googling - surely someone has created the prefect tutorial for me in the exact words I want!!!! Hmm it seems not, but there is a link to the original artist who made all this - Edward Zajec and his artwork "Il Cubo". Boom, we're on to something here. This is going to tell me all the rules and stuff in simple baby language I can understand...


It's only in bloody Italian isn't it!! I went back the tweet linking to this and noticed it said:

Zajec's algorithm for the originals is really interesting. It's a grammar for combinations of blocks, rather than foreground/background rendering. (Paper in Italian, but the pictures are great)

Hmm I guess I need to add "reading to the end of sentences" to my new year's resolution blah, blah, blah.

I started tranlating it (It's a series of images to I had to use a free character recognition thing and then google translate), but I got bored and only did a bit (sorry world - might be infringing something anyway so blah, blah). Here' the doc I started:


I skimmed things and decided that if I split things up into steps I could maybe get there. First add a random scattering of white blocks, then add the bits that go on the sides, then blah, blah (that's where my prep ended). Anyway I've ended up with a web app that...

Almost works


I'm sure I'll come back to this, but for now I just play about until I get something without errors export it and then plot it.

Well that was the plan, but because it's all made up of separate little lines my plotter didn't quite do what I wanted it to. It left extra ink where the lines joined making them look a bit plops.

So I asked #plottertwitter

And a hero by the name of Antoine Beyeler threw me a reply tweet life ring:

And after installing and running Antoine's vpype my svg was saved and my plotter behaved as I wanted.

Here's the before and after:

I've given me loads of ideas for more projects. Here's a few plots I made with the web app :

You know it's all over when the victorian lady jumps the stool.

Me on Mastodon
© 2022 ArtFly