Data + Curiosity: Ijeamaka Anyene on using rules and math to create beautiful generative art

In this episode of Data + Curiosity, I had the opportunity to chat with Ijeamaka Anyene about how she approaches generative art, what inspires her, and how she recommends beginners get started.

You can also read a lightly edited transcript of our conversation below:

JESSE MOSTIPAK: How do you go about-- so you make all kinds of art, right? Like, incredible stuff. But looking at your portfolio, a lot of what you make is generative art. So how do you describe generative art? 

IJEAMAKA ANYENE: Yeah. So I find it very hard to describe. And if I was ready, I would have had a quote from this article that I've directed so many people to that I think is so great by Charlotte Kent. But how I think about generative art is that you like you have to create a system that can operate by itself. Usually you do it in some kind of programming language. I do R but the most popular programming language is actually do it in JavaScript. 

And you kind of create a system that has a very specific rule structure. And so the rules will be like what are the available color palettes? What are the shapes? What are the things it's working within? But then you incorporate levels of chance so that when you run the script, the output should somewhat surprise you. It's like a little bit deterministic and a little bit like magic and chance. Like you always like incorporate some level of randomness in it. 

And that's what I really like about generative art because the overlapping of when chance meets your rule system allows certain things to like emerge that like you wouldn't have expected. And it's just so much more fun to me. 

JESSE: Yeah, it sounds like you're building a world in my mind. You're determining the rules and you get to-- is there a set-- is there a rule set that you always have to incorporate in a generative piece? 

IJEAMAKA: Not at all. There's rule sets that I really like to lean on. But I think that really it's like rule can be like anything, like when you think about some of the early as generative art pieces, it's things like people, like flipping a coin, and depending on what the coin says, maybe they draw something, maybe they don't draw something. And so like, the rule, so it's kind of like how you define it. 

For me, because I tend to really do things that are like pattern-based and minimal rule set always is kind of starts like, from like, the layout will be a grid. And then certain parts of the grid will be filled or not filled with certain things. And then things get laid on top of it. So I would say like, there is no strong rule set. There is no haves to have. It's really based on you. 

JESSE: So you mentioned a coin flip. And my brain immediately went like, wait a minute. Are you saying that generative art doesn't have to be done in a computer? 

IJEAMAKA: Yeah, it doesn't have to be done in a computer. The earliest generative artists like incorporated some computers, but a lot of things were like manual as well. 

JESSE: Really? 


JESSE: OK. I have some reading to do. I guess, I came in knowing with a good idea of what generative art was. And now I'm like I don't know at all. Like there's a whole history of it. Yeah. 

IJEAMAKA: I think it's advanced to a place where it really does, like almost everyone's always exclusively doing things in a computer and building systems that way. But technically when you really break down the definition, doesn't have to be that way. 

JESSE: So there's no rules, but then you get to determine the rules. This is-- 

IJEAMAKA: But say even if you did a coin flip, like you would still have a rule system. So I have say I was like, the rules are, I want to draw a square. And I'm going through a grid, but the coin flip decides if I'm going to draw a square. And the dice decides what color of the square it's going to be from how many sides are there on the dice, six? From like six colors. 

And like that could be like the rules that you create up, but so that's your rule structure, but then the like chance incorporation is the coin flip and the dice. 

JESSE: Yeah, that is such a fascinating thing to think about because the rules can be as simple as a coin flip. And then it's really so when you're creating a generative piece, do you write down or list or come up with all of your rules beforehand? 

IJEAMAKA: I always start with a concept where it's like so in my sketchbook, I'll be like, OK, I'm thinking through I want-- like, for example, the Saturn profile picture project I worked on. So I created this-- for all the viewers-- I created this system for Staten cloud where using your username as like your-- which is essentially like your seed, the username is the seed. And it spits out a profile picture. 

And so for me what I knew was like, OK, it's going to be very tiny. So I knew why it needed to be and there are other rules like it needed to run very quickly. Like no more than a couple of seconds. And so I knew that I wanted to do something grid-based and very bright colors and very simple shapes layered on top of each other because you can get so many different outputs and stuff like that. 

But really how I started it was like in my sketchbook, I drew a couple grids. I drew like shapes. And I knew like, OK, that's the concept. And then I started coding that up. But then as you're coding, you start to think through, OK, what are other things I want to incorporate? Oftentimes what I'll do is like I'll generate 100 outputs, and I'll look at them. And I'll be like, what did I like? What do I not like? And then trying to define what I like, what I don't like as a rule. 

So, for example, I have a ton of different shapes. And then I realize in the grid. And then I realize shapes I like the most are the shapes that touch at least three sides of the square in the grid, which means I can only do these shapes. And that became a role. 

JESSE: OK. This is fascinating because you're really interacting, I mean, all of it is generative. So you've got some kind of skeletal structure that some-- you have to start with something, some sketch or rules. And then you put it in place. And then I love this reflection and evaluation and trying to figure out what it is you like about what you generated. And then generating the rules based off of that iteration. Sounds like-- 

IJEAMAKA: Yeah, a lot of it's like going with your gut. But I also like to think about it as a collaboration with my computer because since it's generating all these outputs, it's not, I wouldn't be able to sketch all these like possible combinations. And so by it generating all these outputs being like, this is what you're allowing me to do, I get to go like, oh, I don't like that. You're right. That combo does not work. Let me write a rule so that combo does not happen again. 

JESSE: Yeah. Oh, I love this. Someone is going to hit me in the comments and be like that's exactly what it is. But it feels like in a way a kind of reinforcement learning where you're getting something and saying like no, we're not, like that's not OK. And so putting more restrictions and kind of shaping what comes out, like weird, not weird, but like a digital sculpting in a way. 

JESSE: Yeah. What has been really interesting as I have learn more and more about generative art, I've become less and less interested in pure randomness and more and more interested in like controlled randomness, like probabilistic randomness, where it's like I want you to choose this color, for example, like choose any color, it's like choose these colors 50% of the time and make this color more rare because I think when it happens, it's so special when it happens. So I don't want to happen too much. 

Or placing things and not placing things randomly but instead using like noise to place them. And so I, when my first couple stuff was like truly just completely random, and it's why like 50% of the outputs were so trash. And now that I have a better understanding of true randomness isn't that fun, it's more like controlled randomness that's fun, I think my outputs have become a lot more cleaner and nicer. 

JESSE: Yeah, so I mean you're a generative artist. I mean, I love looking at all the things you create. But you also, in your day job, more data science type work. So are the two related? Essentially, what I'm asking is how did you get started with generative art? Did you just have a bad database day and you were like, ah, I'm done with this? 

IJEAMAKA: Honestly, like yes in a way. So I was doing a lot of database, and I was kind of leaning into data arts. And then people just kind of kept saying like your stuff is so uninformative. And it's just kind of like, but they were right. Like what I was trying to fit, what I wanted to create art was to the data instead of like, looking at the data and creating something that best fits that. And then I had a realization I think from like following Danielle Navarro, that you can just create things and create your own data that will make the things you want it to look like. 

So you just completely dropped the database part and was just like I just like-- now. And how I started was it was actually not even that generative. It was just purely like computational art in art, where I was like really into exploring these different ways of messing with radial circular-type patterns. And I created like-- and I was like, oh, to challenge myself because I can't stop doing that, I'm like I'm going to create 30 unique ones. 

And I created a zine in R, yeah, doing that. And that was like my first big art project where it was like just purely uninformative, not trying to do any kind of data art, just like really leaning into like art and things that I think are pretty. 

JESSE: Yeah so that brings up a question I had. And it was really fun generating questions for this because normally, I'm like, oh, here's the story I want to tell. And I literally just have a wall of questions because I want to pull on so many threads. But you work in a variety of outputs. So you've done shiny apps with your clouds, you have a zine, and you've even done physical art where you've taken something you generated and done an embroidery with it. 

So what do you-- what's your favorite of those mediums? What's next in those world of medium? 

IJEAMAKA: All of them. There is like a period that, I think what I'm really enjoying is like doing things in an unconventional way. Like even the embroidery, I don't do it on like canvas or fabric, I'm doing it on paper, which is like 10 times harder. I love to suffer. 

Like if I have to be honest. But I love the idea that because I have to do it on paper, and there's a very strict there's a restriction on paper of like, the holes can only be placed a certain way. Otherwise they rip into each other and they become one big hole. And I have to just throw away the piece. And I love that I have to take the restrictions of like, OK, the holes have to be placed a certain way or you have to like offset them a certain way if you want the holes to be close to each other, then make that a rule in a generative art. 

And so I think I love just like, how can I take something else and use it in a new way? And so I think that's what really excited me about the Shiny app, where I was like, OK, I want to create this zine. What are the things I have at hand to do that? And then creating the zine I was like, what do I have that hand to create a zine. So I just like it's-- I love having a wild idea and following it. I think it's really the definition of everything I do. 

JESSE: So but the theme I'm hearing too is, oh, gosh, I lost it. It was right there. So we're talking-- 

About explaining things, oh, it's this idea. So I have taken a handful of design classes. And before taking design classes, I really had this idea that no rules gives you the greatest freedom. And you can choose whatever you want. And after taking design classes, which is, first of all, design is incredibly hard. 


JESSE: I knew it would be challenging. I was not prepared for how challenging design was. I found that the constraints really force a level of creativity I don't think I would have ever gotten to on my own. Is that something, it sounds like that might be similar to what you're experiencing. 

IJEAMAKA: Yeah, I feel like I think about that in like, you kind of like touched upon something I've been like really walking around my house and mulling over for like a couple of days. But yes, I do think there's an interesting thing about working within constraints and not seeing it as a constraint, but seeing it almost more like, again, just like as another rule. Like another like trick to the medium that you're just trying to work with instead of like hating running up against it. It's like how do I like incorporate and celebrate it in a way? 

But then I think the other thing which is like this is only very tangentially related to what you're saying, but I've been thinking about my journey through generative art. And the packages I use in the beginning, the packages. I don't use at all anymore. And I was been reflecting a lot about how I use ggforce. Because if you are not good at trig, ggforce is really, kind of, the move when you're trying to make interesting shapes like circles or like squares and rotating things and stuff like that because it really doesn't require you to know trigonometry. 

But after a while you're like, all right. I'm relying on a default. And by relying on the default, I am not-- you shouldn't rely on the default because it's the default. It should be intentional. And so because I'm always using that, I don't actually know what else I can do. So what if I try to recreate what it's doing so I can try something new? 

And it's like it's really interesting thinking about if you look at my first stuff, it was like all ggforce because I didn't know math. And now I'm like so much better at math and I never use it anymore, even now. Now what I'm doing recreates what it does almost exactly sometimes. But it's a choice to do it, not it's the only thing I can do. 

JESSE: Right. That's so interesting. So one of the questions I have is how much math is involved in generative art? 

IJEAMAKA: So much. It's so annoying. The other day like yesterday, I was like, darn. This is going to rely on me figuring out how to calculate the intersection of two lines. And I really have to put it down, like not today. 

But it's so much math. But I think in the beginning, you can get away with not knowing a ton of math if you're good at pattern recognition. Yeah. So if you're good at maybe you don't know that this is the fast way to calculate the midpoint of something, but you do know that it's always like here. 

And I'm able to add this and then that's a midpoint of the next thing. And so I was able to get away for quite a long time of not knowing that by being quite good at pattern recognition. And then after a bit, I was like really hitting a wall. And I was like, OK, got to learn some trigonometry. 

JESSE: Yeah, I mean, I feel like unless you're used-- trigonometry especially is one of those things, I remember learning it 20 plus years ago. So it's probably in there and latent and could be re awoken. But I could not tell you right now. I could not tell you the difference between a sine wave and a cosine wave, could not draw them. Used to be able to. 

IJEAMAKA: A lot of it. Yeah. A lot of it is stuff like sine and cosine and understanding angles and being able to use that to transform stuff. Interesting amount of unit conversion and definitely some algebras and solving for some x. And it's fascinating that I now think I like bombed that section of the SAT and the drawings. And I now think I would kill it. I think I'd be still good at it. 

JESSE: Yeah. So, I mean, that-- what are you using to-- you obviously recognized a point where if I learn the math or if I brush up on the math, I will unlock all of these capabilities in generative art. How did you approach pushing your math skills? 

IJEAMAKA: Khan Academy. It was like math targeted towards middle schoolers. 

JESSE: No-- no-- no-- I think it's fantastic. 

IJEAMAKA: Yes, but I really needed that. I think it's like I learned it in school, but I never really learned it. And now like having to actually apply it in my art, all of a sudden things were just making significantly more sense. Like relearning the unit circle changed my life. 

I have blocked that out completely. Like all of a sudden, I'm remembering a circle, and pi, and pi over 4, and I unwrap it into a sine wave and radians and decimals. Like this is all coming back to me all of a sudden. Unit circle has been like, honestly, like one of the biggest tricks because a circle-- oh my God, this is going to be absolutely insane. But like-- 

JESSE: I'm loving it. 

IJEAMAKA: Doing a unit circle is like essentially like all the angles and it's just like very, very tiny angles. But if you do, kind of, like the unit circle, but you're like, all right, it goes from like 0 to 2 pi, but instead of doing like 100 steps to get a circle you do four steps, you get a diamond. 

And then if you're doing art where you want to rotate diamonds all around, you just change where it starts from where-- so instead of going from like 0 to 2 pi, maybe you go from pi over 4 to like 2 pi over 4 or something like that. Or whatever is the conversions of whatever, 8 pi over 4. And that rotates it that much. So much of it's like it was just absolutely weird to just be like, oh. and teachers were probably like, Ije, you got this. 

JESSE: So you're explaining this, and I'm like, yes, this makes-- because I'm definitely-- I love having a system to hang things on because it makes learning other things faster. But that's something-- so I've done a little bit of motion design. And I just go in and I'm like, well, I'll just manually adjust it. And then I'll just kind of work with things. And it'll be like the equivalent of hand coding things in Excel when I could use R is what this sounds like. 

But also I feel like I had a similar experience in school where I was very good at math and I could take the test. But I was like, when am I going to need this? There was never-- there was rarely an application. And it's hearing that there's an application and that it unlocks art, I think is such a fascinating-- I mean, everybody probably knows this, but like, such a great crossover. And then doing it with code, it's like you're working in this really cool intersection of all of these things swirling together. 

IJEAMAKA: Yeah it's fun. 

JESSE: It sounds amazing. So, I mean, how would you recommend someone get started with generative art? 

IJEAMAKA: You know, I find it very hard when people ask because I feel like sometimes people are saying, how do I get started in generative art, but that's not actually the question they're asking. They really are actually more asking like, I want to make this specific thing. How do I get started? 

And that's like actually very-- if you're looking to make something very specific, like how you start is kind of different than maybe in general, if you were like willing to just walk through like tutorial type thing. Then I also think sometimes people-- the other question people are asking is like how do I take-- how do I find inspiration and translate it into art? 

Because I'll sometimes see people be like, oh I read your resource about this. And I've created this thing that you showed how to create. But now what? And I'm like, what do you mean now what? 

Like really what they're saying is like, how did you-- how are you being like-- creating all these different things? And it's like, I just like-- I don't really know how to explain that. But to explain what to say, like, all right, if you really want to just try some random things. I really do-- personally what I recommend is like take an inspiration picture. Try to go with something more minimal. And try to recreate it in R using the tools you have. And that's how I started. 

Like I think that's a really good like foundation of thinking through what are the coding skills I already have? And how can I apply it in a very unexpected way? Because you can do so much if you know ggplot. You just have never thought of like you use gm point and you think like, oh, I'm making a scatter graph. But like, what if you use it and make something completely different? It's the same thing. 

JESSE: Yeah, and it breaks out the functionality and you're just repurposing it. Repurposing. Yeah. 

IJEAMAKA: Then Danielle Navarro has the whole art from code workshop that she used at the last art RStudio Conference that's on her website. I know Megan Harris also has some resources as well. There's other people that I'm forgetting, Antonio-- what's his last name? You're going to remember tonight. And you're going to be like, this is the [INAUDIBLE] But he has a great blog called Frankenstein that I think is really great. Like he's like an OG. And then also Wilt Chase also has a real good blog where he did like 12 months of art. And that I think is really interesting. And he shared all this code. 

So that's like what I would recommend if you're like, oh, I just kind of want to follow along what someone else did, but I think what always happens is like you follow along, and you hit a wall because you're like, now what do I do? And I think that's when your eye and you're like aesthetic taste starts to have to come in. 

JESSE: Yeah. So I've been taking 3D character animation courses. And I'm coming up on week 12 of a 12-week course for beginners. And I have been bouncing balls, little tail waves. And then last week, they let us kind of off leash on our own to do a, instead of just a vanilla walk, a character walk. 

And it was the first time that we were allowed to not-- there's, kind of-- I guess what I'm getting at is it's analogous to there is a level of hand-holding that needs to happen. Like the foundations and the skills, you need to learn some basics. Because when I first started taking this course, I was like, four weeks of a bouncing ball, like are you kidding me? 

I could animate a dragon tomorrow. I absolutely could not. Absolutely, no way, shape, or form. But I definitely, like the Dunning Kruger and all of that was real strong in me. But now I'm at a point where like, oh, everything we did sequentially led up to this point. So I know enough to now go out and do certain things on my own. In education, we call it-- Vygotsky came up with it, it's the zone of proximal development. 


JESSE: One of my favorite theories and figuring out requires so much reflection to figure out where you are, to know what you know, and to know what a next logical step is for you. And that's hard. You can't-- I don't know how you teach people that. 

IJEAMAKA: Yeah. And I think it's also like, I find it easier to do it with database than with art. Like with database, I'm very much-- it's very easy for me to be like, this is how I think you can get yourself there. Like you start with these basic graphs. And then you like start like adding more information. You start learning about annotation. And you start breaking out of the box. 

But I think because depending on your style, like, for example, me and Danielle are sometimes using not at all the same tools. But we're in the same sphere of what we're doing. We are both artists in R. But me and her are not doing the same thing. 

JESSE: No, very-- you both have a distinct style. 

IJEAMAKA: Yeah, but because of that it's very hard to almost be like, here's a foundation because if you don't like what I do, the foundation-- or it's either if you don't like-- if you don't want to do what I do, if your taste level or your desires is pushing you in a different way, the foundation I will give you won't help you. 

JESSE: Right. Yeah. So it seems like the foundation you need that is common to everything is probably, if you're doing this in R, is ggplot. 

IJEAMAKA: Yeah. Some people do that in Base R. 

JESSE: I believe it. 

IJEAMAKA: And I am shook by the concept that they're doing that. 

JESSE: I tried to do one. I did it when I was streaming. Meghan Harris was so kind. She tried to talk me through it. We took something she had coded in Base R. And we're trying to make like a breathing circle. Like just four seconds in, four seconds out. And there was this Base R code. And I didn't know what it did. I was just like, how does this work in your brain to turn into this? It was incredible. So yeah. It's hard. It's hard work. 

IJEAMAKA: It's so hard. It's a very different way, I feel, of thinking of how you build. If you're someone who does it in ggplot, like almost like you build all your data. And then you plot it. In Base R, you're creating the data and plotting at the same time. I think it's actually a lot closer to what people do in JavaScript. 

JESSE: Yeah. 

IJEAMAKA: And I can't think that way. 

JESSE: The Tidyverse was such a gift for me. As a little baby data scientist, do you see it as, oh, I am literally writing sentences. And that resulting sentence is now acting on my data. And it clicked for me. I could visualize it. It was happy times once I had the tidyverse because I thought I fought with Python, I fought with Base R. It was just so hard. And it was, for me at least, the Tidyverse was what clicked. And then ggplot, as soon as someone was like it's layers that you build up, I was like, yeah, oh, got it. So, yeah. That is so much so much good stuff. So do you have a favorite piece of yours? 


JESSE: No favorite children? 

IJEAMAKA: OK, this sounds terrible. But if I think of myself in like eras, then I have favorite pieces from different eras. I think just a zine in general first era, I really love the zine. And then I I'm trying to remember what's my next era. 

JESSE: I'm was going to say what do you-- what are you pushing on next? Or what do you exploring now? 

IJEAMAKA: So I just finished something for Data Science By Design where it's a generative art to embroidery piece. But I went large. So I made a 12 by 12 embroidery piece. So it's like this big on my body and I love it. So it's like-- that is the most recent current favorite thing I've done. And it's like really inspired me to think. 

I'm really enjoying working physically. That's something, I think I was feeling really trapped in my computer in a way. And I've been really enjoying incorporating textile and physical manifestation of what I'm creating in front of it. And really thinking of my computer as a collaborator really because these designs I'm coming up with are not things I'd be able to inherently think through and sketch out. And thinking through all the rule sets and then having the computer spit out a ton and then be like, that's the one I want to embroider on paper, that has been really fun. So I'd really enjoy the thing I create for Data Science By Design, which I haven't shared yet because I want to make sure it's fully accepted before I'm like, this is going to be in their book. And then it's not. 

But that was really fun. I think before that, what-- I didn't actually, like everything I've liked has been like, and stuff like a one-off piece, it's like a really big project because it requires me to just be so much more thoughtful. Sometimes I explore ideas and then I drop them and I move on with my life. But having it tied to a project, which is something I want to explore more in 2023, where it's like having these small sketches, exploring ideas like learning and then being like, OK, taking the learnings from this and making something bigger and more concrete. 

So I feel like in that vein, then the last thing I really liked this year that I made was the Saturn icons project. Some of those outfits are just like great. Sometimes I'm like, man, I sold this algorithm. I'm feeling real selfish I sold it. I'm like, I should have kept it to myself. But again, I deserve money. 

JESSE: 100%. Yes. Pay artists. The Saturn output, so I'll make sure there's links and we can show them. I mean, they're gorgeous. And hearing a bit-- I know you've got the write up but also hearing from you how they're created. And the computer is collaborator and like this labor of love that goes into creating things, all I'm imagining is one day I'm going to be in a city, and you're going to have some kind of mural commissioned on the side of a building that I get to see is going to be amazing. 

IJEAMAKA: It'd be so fun. Like yeah, if people want to hit me up for like fun generative projects, well, I won't definitely say yes because it is my year of no. But I might say yes. 

JESSE: Yeah. And I think-- well, so I mean for generative projects, what are some things that people could approach you for? I mean or things-- what interests you? Like what is something-- we're not guaranteeing yeses to anybody here. But if someone came to us, like, I would like you to make this, you would be like, OK, that's interesting enough for me to consider. 

IJEAMAKA: All right. So it's really funny. But one thing I have part of helping me in this year of no, year doing less, is I actually have a list of things, it has to hit yes on every single thing in order for me to say yes to it, which has been really good for me to say no to things. So one thing is like yes, you have to pay me. 

Another thing is I don't want to do data visualizations. I don't want to do like-- if it has to be really grounded and we have this data set that we want you to-- even if they're like it could be data art, no. I'm really-- I'm OK with certain bounds. So for example, with the Saturn icon project, the bounds were like it has to run fast. 

It really needs to be like visually compelling. The way that Jacqueline framed it was like if someone was looking at 10, and then they saw one on the side, they should be able to look back at the 10 and identify it quickly in the 10. Because it's like profile pictures. And I was like, I love that as an idea. 

Because it meant that all the outputs really have to be quite different. But I was like an artist, I still wanted them to be cohesive and seem like they were in conversation with each other. So it's not that I want full artistic freedom, I understand that there's bound. But I kind of want the bound to just be almost more operational than like, oh, you can't use a color red or something like that. 

JESSE: That is fantastic. Are you are you taking applications to be life coaches? Because I feel like this list of having it must meet all these criteria, I feel like that is, again, like jotting down for a personal. 

IJEAMAKA: I am not taking applications. I think what my biggest recommendation is like if you're someone who struggles to say no to things, really like creating a list of what do you actually want to do? And if it doesn't hit that like very enthusiastically saying no, what also makes me feel better is I almost never say no. But that has helped a lot, but also just kind of like realizing that what always happens is I take on too much. And then my health just rapidly declines due to it. And I have to say no because I physically can't do it. And I get cranky because now I also can't physically do the other things that I really make me happy. So that is my recommendation. 

JESSE: No. I love it. That is perfect. That enthusiastic list that is, oh, I have some work to do. But it's not about me. I want to know what inspires you? Where are you drawing artistic energy from these days? 

IJEAMAKA: I love following people on Instagram. I also use Pinterest a lot. I take pictures when I'm walking around being like, oh, I love that color. Or I love that pattern. Or things like that. So just going like everywhere and following things you really like. 

I'm also often really inspired, not even so much by arts, but by concepts of things people say. So I listen a lot to podcasts. I'm actually a little concerned how much I listen to podcasts, I think about it. I feel like I'm giving off can't sit with her thoughts. 

JESSE: I think it's just like Spotify Wrapped season because someone was like, I listened to 20,000 music or 20,000 minutes. And so I was like, have you ever tried silence? And I was like, first of all, I'm in like, 200,000, sir. I do sit with my thoughts. But no, I think I'm slowly coming around to podcasts. So tell me more about your podcasts. 

IJEAMAKA: So if any artist or person I like says that they did a podcast interview, I almost definitely listen to it. But then I do have some podcasts that I like always listen to, but none of them are art related. So they end up bringing it up in art conversations all the time. So there's this romance podcast I really love called Fated Mates. And why I really love them is that they talk about books, not so much in a like, I love this book. But it's like this is why this book worked for me. Or this is why-- It's actually really funny. I brought them up in the conversation with Sharla talking about there's some art that I like, where like, I don't think they were the art piece was actually that successful. But I think they tried something really different. And I use the phrase swing for the fences. 

And that's something that one of the podcast hosts talks about all the time because there's some books she brings up where she's like this book isn't great, but they really try to subvert the genre in a really fascinating way. And I love when people swing for the fences even if they didn't really hit the ball. And I'm like, oh, I love that phrase. And I started taking that concept and thinking about it in art where it's like there are pieces where I'm like, I don't like that, per se, but I liked what you were trying to do. I like how what you were doing was very different. I don't like it. But I like what you tried. 

JESSE: But I think an art, especially, process is a big piece of what we do. And if you don't do things, I think art in so many ways teaches you to get comfortable with failing because you will learn from it and great things come from it down the road. You can't always whatever sports metaphors, home runs, grand slams, not everything's a grand slam. You have to be really bad for a long time. 

IJEAMAKA: And I think what's really fascinating about thinking about art in generative art is that because people are coding instead of having to manually paint something. So like you're manually painting something, it takes you like weeks to get it done. You show it and it becomes a trend. But it becomes a trend over years because it takes everyone so long to create things. But that's not true in generative art. 

So like trends-- all of a sudden, everyone will be doing something. And then I always think it's really interesting when someone takes something everyone's doing and subverts it because of the fact that it's really easy to do what other people are doing because you're like, oh, how did you code that or you're able to also even like once you get good enough, see what people do and be like, oh, this is how they coded that, just thinking it through just by looking at the output. And so I'm always really fascinated because of how quickly trends go, like literally like, it'll be like one person does one thing. And like in two months everyone's doing it. Like no shade, but just in terms of you get inspired by the people around you. And it just spreads so much faster because it's so much faster to create something. 

JESSE: Oh go ahead. Go ahead. 

IJEAMAKA: Oh. So I was going to say that that's why I'm always really interested by this idea which she brought up in the podcast remembering this question was about podcast about the idea of swinging for the fences. 

JESSE: With generative art, you're saying something that I am realizing is not as true-- so for physical artists, let's take painting. I can tell you what my process is. And you can watch me. But you can't know my process. But with generative art, I can go to GitHub and I can post my code, which is my process and anybody can come. And I'm sure there are some subtleties and nuances, but for the most part, you can know someone else's process inside and out with generative art. You literally can copy and paste the code. 

IJEAMAKA: You can copy paste their code. You can take their code and comment outlines and see what each line is doing. It's really fascinating the way that works and how it does also makes it harder to distinguish yourself. And I think it goes back to what I was saying where it's like, one of the best ways I think to distinguish yourself is like, especially when you're using certain code, using certain packages, there are some packages where it's like, people are like, oh, it's really hard to figure out how to make this shape. So I created this package to make this shape for you. 

And then you rely on this package. So every time you make the shape you just use that package. But what if you learned how to make the shape yourself? And then you get to start doing really interesting things. And so I think that's a really interesting thing with generative art and also with learning to do journal of art where it's like you have to rely on these things. But at some point actually you don't have to, but it's like if an easier start up costs to get going when you rely on someone who did all the thinking for you. So at some point, if you really want to grow, you're going to drop it and really recreate it yourself so you can start tweaking with it using it different ways. 

JESSE: Yeah, that's really beautiful to think about. You have these packages you can rely on them. And then to distinguish yourself really requires that next level of mastery to push. So to close things out, where on the web can we find you? 

IJEAMAKA: So I am still on Twitter going down with the ship. So ijeamaka_a at Twitter. I'm also on Instagram on And then I'm on LinkedIn. I don't post there. 

In closing

Thanks for tuning in to our latest episode of Data + Curiosity! I’d love to hear your thoughts on this interview, how you’ve been experimenting with generative art, and what you’re curious about! Let me know in the video comments – I can’t wait to hear from you!

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