Steps is a long form generative art project about transcendence and our dual human / divine nature.
360 NFT editions were on Art Blocks on Monday, July 25th 2022 https://artblocks.io/project/332
For prints, you can find more info on this page.
During the 6 months of development, the project was a warm refuge at a time where things in my personal life were rocky. There were several moments when I thought the project was done, but new ideas would eventually flow in. This reminded me of how the production of Night Sea's first album Still felt: a letting go of control to allow the work to be the guide, a process of surrendering and listening instead of doing and deciding. This page presents a chronological overview of the evolution of Steps over the course of its development, with a focus on the artistic process rather than comprehensively covering all the features and details. All throughout, the following quote by Agnes Martin deeply resonated:
Before diving in, an output from the final version.
The starting point of the project was this quick code sketch from September 2018 where I was playing around with grids and blurring.
When I found out about long form generative art and Art Blocks, this image came to my mind as I had always felt it was an interesting beginning that could use more love and development. Some of the core visual principles from Steps were there right from the beginning: square shapes, color bleeding, and grain. Over the following months the fundamental rendering technique didn't change much, and the majority of the time was spent adding shape and color variation.
Size, color & aspect ratio
The first element I experimented with was the size of the squares. The project started to have long form potential once it became clear the composition and rendering strategy were holding at small and large sizes. I also started to play around with other colors to see how it would react. Each palette is composed of two colors, and interestingly, different combinations emphasize different aspects of the drawing algorithm. For instance, the blue & white in the middle image below makes the blurring artefacts more obvious.
Certain themes of the project solidified in this stage: the co-existing micro & macro dimensions, and transcendence which was reinforced by the switch to a portrait aspect ratio.
Stretching, distortion, reflection & palette combination
Some ideas then came to add variety to the shape and color language. The challenge was to do so while staying true to the minimal nature of the project, and relevant to the central themes behind it. First, certain squares got horizontally stretched, with various options as to what squares to apply this to. The first red image below has the stretching spread out randomly, whereas in the next purple it is organized in a column. In the third one, everything gets stretched.
Then, distortion brought in some curves, with different shape options.
Combining palettes added more color variation & depth within one piece. At this stage, a palette is still primarily made of a pair of colors, with the addition of other parameters such as contrast or fade. The location on the canvas determines how palettes get blended.
Finally, reflection with a left / right mirroring, or 4-fold.
After these additions I thought maybe the project was done. But it's humbling to see how I actually don't get to decide that, and at some point the process and work themselves make it clear that there is more to explore by providing new inspiration.
Images with different grid layouts started to appear in my mind. What if there was more structure and rules to the size and position of each square, as opposed to a random assortment? First, going through the canvas in a concentric manner from outside in.
Then row by row.
And column by column.
Each of these layout modes has a few options that add variety within it. For instance in the last one about columns, you can see that the blue image has each column following the same structure, whereas in the following red / orange each column is different.
Once again, I thought the project was done :)
At that point, the project got reviewed by Art Blocks' screening committee. They encouraged me to explore the addition of subtle movement. Animation is something I had briefly explored, but never landed on something that connected to the themes behind the project. It was clear it would need to be slow and subtle, inviting the viewer to focus in order to feel the movement.
Fairly quickly the idea came to have each square / step follow a regular breathing pattern at their own frequency with some slight color movement. Collectively this would add up to something ever evolving that doesn't obviously repeat.
Even though movement was the last piece added, once it was in it felt like it had been there all along.
A lot of details that went into Steps weren't covered here to keep things relatively short. But don't hesitate to reach out via email or Discord if you have any questions or observations. For prints, more information is available on this page. Thanks for your support!