February 10, 2016


One of wonderful things about the Internet is the deep dives you can do on things you didn’t know existed only a few minutes earlier.

I found the below video when researching the overlapping worlds of math, art, and computers. I was looking into motorized pen draings when I found the world of the harmonograph. Traditionally haramonographs are mechanical devices that power a drawing tool. Using a repetitive drawing motion on a surface that changes position creates some incredible results.

Tools that allow anyone to create, and get results that spark intrigue are my favourite type. They’re accessible, but bring people into both the art and math world.

It reminded me of Turtle Programming (Logo), where the user is given immediate visual feedback to their input. I recommend reading Turtle Geometry by Abelson, and Papert’s Mindstorms to understand the care put into Logo that allows for sufficently complex drawings and logic, while balancing accessibility.

As I dived further into the world of harmonographs I found that motors aren’t completely necessary. As slow, and methodic motion of the platform is the key to outputing good drawings, I found it possible to build a platform that moves with its four corners being the pivot points.

My setup was rough, but simple.

1) Find a sturdy platform and attach all four corners to the ceiling.

2) Create a “boom-like” arm that will hold the drawing tool. It’s important that this boom be strong as it will need to hold decent pressure and contact as the platform below it moves.

3) Adding some weights to the platform allows the motion to be smoother.

4) Once you’ve got everything setup you can start playing with different degrees of twist and sway when rocking the platform. This ultimately defines the output, the drawing design. I used a rectangular platform, but if you used a square platform it would also change the motion output in the drawings.

Here’s a video of my harmonograph in motion:

And a photo of one of the designs I was able to acheive: