Feathered vertical stripe pattern made of different colors

CREATORS – Tyler Hobbs

In ALL, CREATORS by McKenzie Prillaman

Name: Tyler Hobbs

Which came first in your life, the science or the art?

For me, art and science co-evolved in different stages. Growing up, I was always creating artwork, and I wanted to study that, but Computer Science ended up being a much more pragmatic thing to study during college. My love for artwork never subsided, though, and after working as a programmer for a short while, I renewed my focus on it. By that time, programming had become a large part of my life, and I knew that in order to be a good artist, I needed to involve it in my artwork somehow. I began to experiment with ways to merge programming and artwork, and really fell in love with the idea of “writing a program that creates a painting.” That’s how I first thought about it, and in many ways, that’s still how I think about my work.

“I began to experiment with ways to merge programming and artwork, and really fell in love with the idea of ‘writing a program that creates a painting.'”

Tyler Hobbs

Studying Computer Science and working as a software engineer has also influenced how I go about creating my artwork. It taught me to think in terms of patterns and processes. On the other hand, artwork has taught me a lot about being a good programmer, about making something to the very best of your ability, and how to explore new areas productively.

Hemispheres of different shapes and striped colors with blue dripping off them. They almost look like umbrellas in a heavy rain.
Ectogenesis 0.175 (2019) by Tyler Hobbs, 20″ x 30″, unique pigment print
Small circles, swirls, and other round geometric shapes of different primary colors arranged in irregeular pentagons amidst the white space.
Isohedral III (2017) by Tyler Hobbs, 19″ x 30″, unique pigment print

Which sciences relate to your art practice?

Most directly, computer science does. By working through programming, my artwork is skewed towards the types of patterns that our computers and software are able to do “naturally” and easily. My art is, at least partially, a reflection of what computers do best.

However, given that generative artwork deals with patterns and processes, my art also inevitably ends up mirroring many of the natural patterns and processes that scientists in other fields observe in the natural world. In my artwork, I’ve heard geologists see geographic strata, biologists see DNA sampling patterns, architects see building and street layouts, and so on. The world itself is generative, and so to me, it’s not surprising that much of my work is almost accidentally related to it.

Art that looks like a dripping paint splatter made of geometric triangular shapes of red, orange, pink and blue.
One Hundred Billion Sparks (2018) by Tyler Hobbs, generative design for album cover and posters for Max Cooper’s album, “100 Billion Sparks”
Profile of a person embedded in a blue and red somewhat pixelated overlay
Comfort in Red and Blue (2019) by Tyler Hobbs, 11″ x 17″, pen and ink on paper
Outline of a person made of geometric triangular shapes that are white, orange, pink, blue, and yellow.
Decompilation 5.33 (2018) by Tyler Hobbs, 19″ x 25″, unique pigment print

What materials do you use to create your artworks?

The primary “material” is code. For each new work, I’m typically sitting down at my computer and writing the code to create new algorithms and programs. These programs output images, which I often print. For some works, I instead make the program drive a plotter, which is a sort of simple robot arm that you can put a pen in and make it draw. I use the plotter with all sorts of drawing utensils, including pens, pencils, inks, and paints. I’ve even put a drill bit in there and had it scrape paint off of the surface of a mirror!

Framed print of silver lines forming a squiggling maze-like pattern. Tyler's is reflected he takes a picture of the print.
Mirror Removal (Blue) (2019) by Tyler Hobbs, 12″ x 12″, gouache on mirror

Artwork/Exhibition you are most proud of:

My 2018 solo exhibition at Galeria Dos Topos in Leon, Mexico is the first thing that comes to mind. I spent many months creating the artwork for that exhibition, and it was easily the most focused and unified body of work that I have created so far.

More recently, I feel very proud of my experiments around combining hand-drawn elements with generative processes. This feels like I’m breaking new ground, and also unlocking more potential for individual expression in my work.

Five stacked triangles progressing from almost completely black to containing geometric patterns with more white space from top to bottom.
Progress 2B (2018) by Tyler Hobbs, 19″ x 25″, unique pigment print
Geometric image that looks like a valley with purple mountains, a pink sky, and a pink sun.
Progress 3B (2018) by Tyler Hobbs, 19″ x 19″, unique pigment print
Image with solid black on the bottom, thin, irregular vertical stripes on the top, and black dots on top. It looks like a black and white image of a snowy forest.
Afterwards (2017) by Tyler Hobbs, 19″ x 19″, unique pigment print

Which scientists and/or artists inspire and/or have influenced you?

The artists who really inspire me to keep going are those who didn’t achieve success when they were young, but continued to grind until they established something significant for themselves. Cezanne and Rothko are the two that come to mind. Rothko, for example, did not hit his “signature” period until he was in his late forties, after decades of experimenting and creating artwork. It is nice to see that level of determination pay off sometimes.

Is there anything else you want to tell us?

Every year, we spend more and more of our time with our computers. It’s so important for us to integrate computers into our way of creating artwork in order to set up a healthy digital society. Anything that we can do to encourage and support digital artists, including education and tooling, is a worthwhile investment.

“It’s so important for us to integrate computers into our way of creating artwork in order to set up a healthy digital society.”

Tyler Hobbs
Two images standing vertically next to one another. They contain vertical wavy blocks and stripes of color.
Loxodography 2.1 (2020) and Loxodography 2.2 (2020) by Tyler Hobbs, 1m x 1.8m each, unique pigment prints
Stacked black squiggling lines that look like thick brushstrokes with ink splatters around them.
Elektroanima 0.14 (2020) by Tyler Hobbs, 12″ x 12″, unique pigment print
Wavy lines made of different colored blocks and stripes of varying thickness.
Annetta (2020) by Tyler Hobbs, 12′ x 30′, adhesive print mural

For more by Tyler Hobbs, visit his website, Instagram, or Twitter.

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About the Author

McKenzie Prillaman

McKenzie is a fledgling science communicator working at the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). She has a background in neuroscience, and was a research assistant at the University of Virginia and a postbaccalaureate fellow at the National Institutes of Health. After years of thinking she’d become a neuroscience researcher, she discovered her passion for sharing science with others. That finding, in combination with her lifelong dabbling in the arts, led her to write for Art the Science's blog. In her free time, she can be found volunteering with the Smithsonian Associates studio arts classes, trying new foods, and wandering around her home of Washington, D.C. Twitter: @meprillaman