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Line Drawing as Process: AARON

If art is a uniquely human form of expression, automatic art generation must be a branch of cognitive science: it involves the computational simulation of human psychology. This appears to be the position of Harold Cohen, who designed a sequence of art generation programs called AARON.

"Art is valuable to human beings in virtue of being made by other human beings, and the question of finding more efficient modes (. . .) simply does not arise."

Cohen (1979), p. 1028.

Given the limitations of our understanding of human cognition, this would seem to imply that serious efforts at automatic art generation ought to be deferred to the indefinite future. But Cohen views art-making as a very unusual cognitive activity, which lacks purpose and reflection:

"(. . .) art-making in general lacks clear internal goal-seeking structures. (. . .) the program has no critical judgment that would enable it to declare that one of its drawings was better than another."

Cohen (1979), p. 1030.

Untitled Drawing, 1979, by Harold Cohen's program Aaron.

AARON's style went through a sequence of stages. Its early work resembles abstract children's drawings. Its later productions depict persons in gardens or interiors. AARON's "image grammars" are implemented by means of A.I. techniques (systems of "production rules").

AARON's drawing technique emulates a process which is characteristic of early child drawing: the correction of inaccuracies through visual feedback. When AARON draws a closed shape, for instance, it executes an incremental process which accumulates errors which are corrected with increasing accuracy when the line approaches its starting point.




Harold Cohen: "What is an Image?" Proceedings International Joint Conference on Artificial Intelligence, Tokyo, 1979, Vol. 2, pp. 1028 - 1057. [In Reader 1985]

Harold Cohen, Becky Cohen and Penny Ni: The First Artificial Intelligence Coloring Book. Los Altos, CA: William Kaufman, Inc., 1984.

Harold Cohen: "How to Draw Three People in a Botanical Garden." [In Reader 1992]

Harold Cohen: "The Computability of Art." Ms., 1991. [In Reader 1992]

Harold Cohen: "Parallel to Perception -- Some Notes on the Problem of Machine Art." Presented at INTERACT, Edinburgh 1973.

Curtis Roads: "An Interview with Harold Cohen." Computer Music Journal 3, 4 (1979?), pp. 50-57.

Ed Burton: ROSE

Ed Burton embraced Harold Cohen's research paradigm. His program ROSE is designed to emulate a certain stage of children's drawing.

Ed Burton: "Thoughtful drawings: A computational model of the cognitive nature of children's drawing." Eurographics '95.
Ed Burton: "Representing Representation: Artificial Intelligence and Drawing." In: Stuart Mealing (ed.): Computers & Art. Intellect Books, 1996.
Ed Burton: "Artificial Innocence: Interactions between the study of children's drawing and artificial intelligence." Updated version of paper published at Creativity & Cognition '96, Loughborough.