A pair of turntables that generates art

Matt Richardson of MAKE says:

I love the simplicity and beauty of Robert Howsare‘s record player-based drawing apparatus. Be sure to watch the video of it in action; you’ll find it quite mesmerizing to see the device generate its Spirograph-like patterns.
A pair of turntables that generates art


  1. Remember those plastic things from when you were a kid? Loosely related to the stencel, sometimes called “spiral art kits”. Basically a small plastic gear with holes in it, and some other plastic track in a some shape it fits inside of. You stick a pencil in the middle of one of the holes and move it round and round watching your pencil’s offset from the center of the gear and the difference in shape between the gear and the track it’s in create various line art like this.

    Isn’t this basically the same principle, just on a slightly larger scale… with the whole human factor ripped out? Art? Hypotrochoids?

    1. You mean the Spirograph, as mentioned in the description posted below the video. Yes, it is the same principle and it produces similar results. Does not stop it from being cool though.

  2. Someone had a nice drawing machine based on similar principles in one of our local galleries a while ago. This one was wind powered though, and deliberately rickety. It drew beautiful wind maps in a shaky pencil hand.

    A device that draws figures based on a couple of periodic sources running at different multiples of the same frequency (and often a bit out of phase) is a harmonograph. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Harmonograph They’ve got some lovely pendulum powered ones in the science museum in London. In Australia, the logo for the ABC, the government radio and television network, is a Lisajous figure, which is an example of the same.

    Daniel Friesen: the toys you’re describing – when I was a kid the brand was “Spirograph”, though I’ve since seem a number of differently branded versions of the same idea.

  3. I recall making similar linkages in order to draw circles in non-Euclidean geometry.  Or was it a straight line?  yeah, it was a straight line.  FYI, you can’t draw one free hand.  Not an actual straight line, anyway.  Need to copy one (a  ruler) or use a healthy bit of geometry.  :)

  4. wonder what the tunes are on the LPs.  Would be fun to hear ’em as the picture is created.

  5. The first thing I’d want to do would be to experiment with feedback.  Rather than a constant pair of frequencies, the motions of the arm could speed up and slow down one of the turntables.

    Depending on how this is done (mechanically through drag, or electronically through a control mechanism), the two turntables could wind up entrained, or the pen just might lurch more… anyway something to play with.

    Multiple sets of these with weak springs fighting for control over the pen could be fun too.

  6. I’m sorry, I know I’ll probably be hated for saying this, but that is not art.  A machine that draws a geometric shape, and one that’s been done before.  It’s slightly different way to produce it, it’s definitely got a bit of the “hey, that’s neat” factor to it, but it’s not art.  It doesn’t communicate anything, it doesn’t speak to anything about the human condition, it does do anything that art does.  It’s just kind of neat.  I know talented and hard working artists that would kill to have exposure like this on BoingBoing, or to have people as interested in their work as people are about turntables that make a shape the same way children’s toys have for decades, but since they make actual art (and not the kind with vinyl, or the kind with “a bird on it”) people aren’t particularly interested in it, which is a shame.  

    This is neat, but it’s not art.

    1. http://roberthowsare.com/
      Here is a link to Robert Howsare’s website. 
      I have to say that I think he is an incredibly fine artist and wish him the best of luck… although I am sure he will be successful. Not only is his work ‘now’ but it is also kinda ‘futuristic’ in a ‘back to basics’ kind of way. Bravo Robert Howsare!!

  7. This is a wonderful thing.

    I had a Spirograph as a kid, and I loved that thing. I also loved “splatter painting” by squeezing paint out of a bottle onto paper on a spinning turntable. Part of the fascination for me in both of those was trying to predict how the shapes I was making would look after being spun around. Watching this video gave me the same feeling.

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