My names Rebecca Kaye and I work under the moniker of ploterre, creating artwork from environmental data.
But how do you create artwork using data and what does that actually mean?
Below I’ve tried to explain what exactly I create and how I create it by sharing my process.
The majority of my work is produced as limited edition prints. The environmental theme behind my work runs right through to the final pieces where I exclusively use hand powered or sustainable printing methods such as screen printing, letterpress prints, or riso printing with banana leaf stencils and soy based inks.
So where does it all begin?
It begins with a curiosity although to step back slightly, it actually begins outdoors amongst nature. Whether that’s a walk in the mountains, a cycle through the woods or waiting for waves in the sea. And that’s where my natural curiosity and a habit of asking too many questions comes into play. And being outdoors throws up so many questions.
What’s the most prominent colour flying into our green spaces? Are Scotland’s islands as jagged as the archipelagos of Norway? And can you predict the northern lights?
This is where the process is sparked and the search for data begins.
So, what data will help to answer my question? Do I need detailed maps to measure the lengths of coastlines, or do I need data about the number of birds and all the colours of their feathers? And is this data freely available?
This can take days or weeks.
But those days and weeks are all part of the process. They throw up interesting information about the history of the topic and this all feeds into how the final piece will look and why I chose a certain typeface, colour or print process.
Once I finally determine the dataset I’ll be using, it’s then time to ask more questions. What are the patterns within the data? What are the stories hidden within the spreadsheets?
It’s these stories, that I spend further days and weeks gleaning, that I ultimately share through the artwork.
Now I have a story, a dataset and a series of visual concepts. Now its time to sketch ideas to try and tie all these elements together. Once I have a rough sketch, the original question can be answered.
How can you create artwork from data?
I basically take my sketches and work out how I’d draw them with formulas. This involves a lot of geometry and trigonometry. Sine formulas for curves and polygons for lines. Once I have this structure, I feed the data into the formulas so that, for example, coastline lengths will decide the length of the seaweed or weather data will decide the shape of a tree ring.
And the result of all this is carefully made into a print or a blanket or any other number of things that help to tell that original story.