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Art Digital

Generative Art

Algorithms as Artistic Tool

by (author) James R. Parker

foreword by Sara L. Diamond

Durvile Publications
Initial publish date
Dec 2019
Digital, Image Processing
  • Paperback / softback

    Publish Date
    Dec 2019
    List Price

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Generative art is the art of the algorithm where artists must carefully design the nature of their work, and then implement it as a computer program. In the book, J.R. Parker presents computer programming concepts and generative art principles as a way to create algorithmic computer art using art and design best practices. In addition, readers have access to program codes and video tutorials through the book’s web site at

About the authors

Contributor Notes

About the Author Dr. J.R. Parker (“Call me Jim”) studied mathematics and computer science before ending up as a Professor of Art at the University of Calgary. His expertise ranges from computer simulation, image processing, artificial intelligence, game design, and generative art. When asked, he claims to be an expert in ‘complex interacting systems’, but don’t ask him to tie a half hitch. He lives on a small ranch in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains where he helps raise small animals and Tennessee Walking Horses. He’s also quite a cook, and was the original bass player for the 1970s band “Detour”.

Excerpt: Generative Art: Algorithms as Artistic Tool (by (author) James R. Parker; foreword by Sara L. Diamond)

Computers were originally built to do repetitive calculations with a high degree of reliability. Humans, you see, get bored and tired. Having a person do the same kind of arithmetic over and over again leads to fatigue and errors. The original solution was to have the same calculation performed by more than one person and then compare the answers. Correct answers tend to agree with each other, but mistakes are likely to be different. Mechanical calculators tend to either work or not, and it's pretty clear when they do not. Computers are the same way. Because of their origin, computers have one essential property to keep in mind: Computers can only manipulate numbers. Of course, humans have written millions of programs that hide this fact. Computers can recognize voices and speech commands, can identify faces, can play chess, and do millions of things that appear to be non-numerical. The software hides what is happening underneath. To get a computer to create a picture or music, we must devise some sort of code that allows pictures and music to be made into numbers. Truly, at the lowest levels of abstraction computers only handle numbers. People see computers using letters and words, for example, every day. A keyboard is fundamental to a computer, and almost all computers have them. Surely, computers can manipulate letters. No, not unless a method is devised to convert the symbols we see as letters and the keys we press into numbers. Then the computer can manipulate the numbers. This is an encoding, and computers use many of them. Characters are just one of the first that was devised, and so it shall be the first one discussed.

Editorial Reviews

“In an era in which Artificial Intelligence is positioned as both existential threat and transformational opportunity this book uses computational tools to augment and express human imagination, without supplanting human expression and experimentation.” — Sara Diamond PhD, President, OCAD University, Toronto.

Other titles by James R. Parker