Time lapse mechanical drawing


Can you figure out how this robot artist is drawing so quickly?

Come for the illusion, stay for the fascinating art.


Phillip Tracy


Posted on Feb 13, 2018   Updated on May 22, 2021, 1:07 am CDT

If you’re an artist who isn’t worried about the risks of automation, think again. Instagram user James Nolan Gandy expertly blended his engineering and artistic background to create robotic drawing machines capable of producing work fit for any contemporary art gallery.

Arguably his most captivating is a time-lapse video that makes his drawing machine look like it’s doodling faster than it actually is. The optical illusion is caused by the shutter of the video camera being in sync with the movement of the drawing. In this clip, the drawing arm is intentionally slowed down to make it look like the ink appears on the paper first.

Gandy’s other Instagram posts don’t employ the same riddle, but watching his drawing machines create images of varying colors and shapes in real time is no less mesmerizing.

One of the machines Gandy uses is called a harmonograph, a mechanical structure with pendulums and gimbals that can create geometric images, like Lissajous curves. When you adjust the weights of the pendulum arm, you can make a variety of shapes that are meant to represent musical harmony.

On his website, Gandy posted images of other machines he has created, including a human-powered hand-crank machine for creating ribbon patterns and the smallest drawing machine he could build. Some of Gandy’s gadgets are as impressive as the drawings they produce.

If you’re as entranced by the machine-made art as we are, you can purchase Gandy’s work from his website. You can also check out more of his images on his Instagram page.

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*First Published: Feb 13, 2018, 8:59 am CST