An homage to Gjon Mili and Pablo Picasso's Centaur light painting

This black-and-white photo, captured by Gjon Mili, ran in LIFE with the caption "Squatting in the darkness, Picasso draws a distorted spatial centaur. The lines are thick where he drew slowly and thin where he went fast."

The striking photographs on these pages, taken by Gjon Mili, show Picasso's latest and certainly his most spectacular medium – drawing in blacked-out space with a flashlight. The idea was suggested by Mili, who got Picasso interested by showing him photographs of trails of light made by Skater Carol Lynne stunting with flashlights on her toes (LIFE, Mar. 26, 1945). Picasso gave Mili 15 minutes to try one experiment. He was so fascinated by the results (opposite page) that he posed for five sessions, projecting 30 drawings of centaurs, bulls, Greek profiles and his signature (above). Mili took his photographs in a darkened room, using two cameras, one for side view, another for front view (p. 12). By leaving the shutters open, he caught the light streaks swirling through space. By setting off a 1/10,000-second strobe light, he caught Picasso's intense, agile figure as it flailed away at the drawings.

Speaking of pictures. Picasso tries new art form, drawing in thin air with light | LIFE, Jan. 30, 1950

While drumming up ideas for a Robotics class capstone project, I felt compelled to pick Gjon Mili's photo, echoing Hunter S. Thompson typing out a whole novel by a favorite author saying "I just wanna feel what it feels like to write that well"; even if it was just to do it and never tell anyone about it like Vivian Maier, I had to do it.

Credit: Andrew Yi

Here are 15 easy steps used to create a Gjon Picasso Centaur FANUC homage:

  • Import Gjon Mili photograph into AutoCAD
  • Trace spline along original light path
  • Import spline into Fusion 360
  • Tweak spline so it doesn't intersect itself
  • Sweep 1mm pentagon along the 9218.8mm spline
  • Import STL model from Fusion 360 into FANUC ROBOGUIDE
  • Use CAD to Path to draw a path along the twisting pentagonal spline
  • Generate 4852 line Teach Pendant program
  • Erect lightproof tent around FANUC Cobot
  • Turn on LED flashlight in Cobot gripper
  • Activate bulb mode to open shutter on camera set to minimum ISO w/ maximum aperture & maximum exposure compensation
  • Run Teach Pendent program
  • Step into camera FOV
  • Turn front light on for "Two Mississippi"
  • Close camera shutter
Credit: Andrew Yi

What didn't make it on the list above was the enormous series of failures crucial to successfully shaping the path from start to finish necessary for the Engineering Method to forge consistently repeatable order out of chaos. See the video below for a sped up view of the Cobot in motion: