Week 3: Art as Instructions


Making of Sol LeWitt’s Wall Drawing #797 at the Blanton Museum of Art

The idea becomes a machine that makes the art.”

Sol LeWitt

In Week 3’s workshop, we explore the practice of rule-based-art. We research known artists working in this modality, we execute some works, and we have a go at producing our own rules.

Research & Analysis

Find 3 artists who were creating ‘Rule Based Work’ or who belong to the movement known as American Minimalism’ in the 1960’s, 1970’s and 1980’s . Identify one of each of their works, and note down the rule / rules used to generate the work.

Then note:

  • Most importantly: Why you think the work is successful … the visual idea, the pattern, the combination of colours etc.
  • The name of the artist, the name of the work, the year
  • Write down the rule that they have created (if it is a rule based work)
  • Find photographic documentation (if it exists)
  • Aesthetic value: Write down the possible realms of meaning that the work delves into. You may have to do a little bit of research to identify these.

I you are stuck trying to identify what the meaning us about, you might try following these simple guidelines:

  1. Write a list of all the representations that are made in the work
  2. Write down a list of all the questions that the work poses (i.e. the questions that enter your head when you are trying to work it out).

As a start, you might have a look at Lewitt’s work documented here: http://archive.fo/OAesu

3 Exercises (executing instructions)

1. Rule-based paper sculpture

(Idea taken from here: https://chloedraper.wordpress.com/2011/10/13/rule-based-art-2/)

  1. Draw a square, 6cm x 6cm
  2. Add a triangle (of any shape/size) to the side of a square
  3. Add a square to that triangle
  4. repeat steps 2 and 3 six times
  5. Cut the shape out
  6. Fold along every second line
  7. fix together (into 3D shape) using tape


2. Knots in 3’s

(from https://www.conditionaldesign.org/workshops/knots/)

In a group of 3, with 3 different coloured textas: do the following (see the video above)

  1. Elongate your line on both sides by looping it over and under a line of another colour.
  2. You may not loop your own line or the line you looped in your last turn.
  3. If you have no options left on one of the sides, that side is dead.
  4. When both sides are dead, you may place a new line.

(explore the other works at https://www.conditionaldesign.org/archive/)

Kaleidoscope: this is another interesting work from this site (https://www.conditionaldesign.org/workshops/kaleidoscope/)

3. Algorithmic drawing

  1. Draw 9 cubes (your best cubes, doesn’t matter how messy) in a grid of 3 by 3 on a sheet
  2. Shade in a different side on each cube. (only 3 cubes will be shaded … you can only see 3 sides of a cube!)
  3. Draw many parallel diagonal lines from the edge of the sheet … start at the top left corner (more or less) and progress towards the bottom right hand corner. Do not cross a cube. If you hit a cube, stop the line.
  4. Continue until a large part of the page is covered in diagonal lines

Writing instructions

Create 3 of your own instruction based works that are informed by the research and analysis exercise you completed earlier.

Ask yourself:

  • which visual forms seem to be the most engaging,
  • which visual forms manage to make a broad range of representations
  • why?

Create your own set of instructions, pass them onto 2 other people who will then execute them.

Repeat twice.


Examine the below plotter drawings by Vera Molnar from the series: (Dés)Ordres, 1974.


  • Identify why you think they are visually rewarding piece.
  • what are the representations that they make, what do they remind you of, what do they look like?

Identify how the work was produced:

  • how many shapes are there in each unit?
  • how are they varied?
  • are there many different line thicknesses?

Then … choose one and reproduce it in Processing!


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