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Generative Art: A Practical Guide [Books, Processing]


Generative Art: A Practical Guide using Processing is a book by Matt Pearson, published by Manning. The book offers a guide to creating generative graphics for print, video and the web whilst at the same time addressing the philosophy and practice of using a programming language as an artistic tool. Included is a beginners guide to Processing, and applied tutorials on subjects such as Perlin Noise, Randomness, Fractals, Emergence, Agent Oriented Programming, Three Dimensional Drawing and Cellular Automata. The book also features the work of Robert Hodgin, Jared Tarbell, Aaron Koblin, Casey Reas and many more of the finest contemporary generative artists.

The book starts with foreword by Marius Watz giving a very good overall introduction to computers in the arts especially the history of processing Processing. This is followed by Matt setting context for the reader, giving his background and how his interest in generative art developed. My favorite “about this book” section, positions the book in terms of how it should be read and making clear that by no means the book attempts to teach you how to be an artist, but rather how to think about the process:

If this book were to be just a collection of recipes for you to follow, to produce certain aesthetically pleasing results, it would be missing the point—not to mention hugely arrogant. The appreciation of art is entirely subjective, so if I were to declare that there is a right way to go about creating art, I would be in need of a slap. 

Following chapters are about methods and algorithms, both existing and about creating your own. Very much about building a generative machine, Matt has a great skill in making it all sound very easy. This leaves you wanting to launch Processing and begin playing right away. Whether this is related to Matt just being British but the book is filled with small fragments of humor, inserted at places where things are just about to get serious and complicated. Matt’s tone makes it an easy and fun read and where other books of this nature tend to be either slightly too technical or conceptual, Matt seems to have found the perfect middle ground, being both practical but also pointing out the technical and conceptual issues that should be addressed. This book will by no means provide you with great technical knowledge or set a conceptual ground for your work. Instead, you will quickly become accustomed with the basic principles and algorithms used in the making of generative art together with most certain desire to learn more.

If you are new to creative code and have always been interested in how some of these images have been created, Generative Art: A Practical Guide is a fantastic start. Also those that have some programming skills may uncover some techniques that have not been apparent before.

There is no right or wrong way to be a generative artist. There are no rules or recipes. Generative art is about the organic, the emergent, the beautiful, the imprecise, and the unexpected. It’s about exploring these within a world of logic and precise mechanics. This delightful paradoxicality makes it an almost Zen approach to computing: playful and organic, free of restraint, and inviting a natural flow. 


• Introduction to the principles of algorithmic art
• Brief Processing language tutorial
• Establishing artistic “ground rules” for a new work
• Using random, semi-random, emergent and fractal processes
• Finding fresh approaches to the discipline of programming
• 32-page full-color section of beautiful artwork

Generative Art: A Practical Guide using Processing is available from:, (eBook)bulkbuy discounts

+ Every print copy includes the offer of a free eBook (PDF) upon registering your book with Manning – great for having it on your iPhone/iPad/Android device for on the go.

Free content + source code of the examples featured in the book is available on Matt’s website.


People at Manning were kind to send us an additional copy to give away to our readers. All you have to do is tweet this post with comment by clicking on the link below. Best comment will be selected by Matt and myself and one lucky winner will receive the book (P&P included). Contest now closed.

Winner is Richard from Birmingham.

(Make sure you follow @creativeapps so we can DM you if you are chosen)

1 Winner will be chosen by Matt and Filip on Thursday 25th August.


1. Postage and Packing is included. We just need your address.

2. Competition is open to everyone and anyone but you must be over 18 years of age. There will be a total of ONE winner for this competition.

3. Winner will be selected by Matt and Filip.

4. Winner will be contacted on twitter to provide their full name and postal address. If they wish to pass on the book to another person, we will need their name and postal address. If the winner does not respond by the following week we will pick another winner.

5. You can post as many entries (tweets) as you like.

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