Interview with Giulia Cosco
GH: We're so curious to find out: who are you, where are you from, and what do you do?
Giulia: My name is Giulia and I live in London. I’m from Calabria, Italy. Do you know ‘nduja (the spicy sausage), right? It comes from there.
I’ve loved drawing since I was a kid. I’m extremely good at discovering new interests and a master in getting bored too soon. Luckily, with drawing it didn’t happen.
I am a design engineer by day, I work in research and product design and have experience in Additive Manufacturing and computational modelling.
A year ago, I created Maenade.art, an always-evolving collection of my art and coding projects.
"I’m extremely good at discovering new interests and a master in getting bored too quickly. Luckily, with drawing it didn’t happen."
GH: What is the underlying philosophy behind your work?
Giulia: I began working on Maenade.art around a year ago, inspired by Robert Balke’s machines. It started out as a joke when I was playing around with pendulum formulas and a small line.us found at a department store. A day after the purchase, it was already hacked and ready for controlled gcodes.
After some research on drawing machines, I started designing one with the help of my friend @Rikesh and his experience with building 3D Printers. We collected the required parts and 3D printed additional bespoke parts, two axes, two steppers, a single belt, an Arduino, and a noisy servo. Our expectations? Zero, but we managed to have it work well from the very beginning.
Since then, the Pandora’s Box was open: this drawing technique provides countless and beautiful ways to express yourself with art, and from many unexpected places. Maths’, Geometry’s, Physics’, Biology’s… beauty often feels out of reach. I believe this is a way to flesh out their beauty. What could I focus on, when just my keyboard keeps me from limitless possibilities?
I’m always striving towards finding my own philosophy. Over the course of the year, I fiddled with portraits, geometries, curves, patterns, illustrations, and maps, but I constantly feel the urge to experiment even more. It’s hard for me to keep on doing the same thing more than once, so it’s quite challenging to cope with the need of creating something new every day, but I hope I never lose the creativity that spurs this project from the beginning.
GH: Can you pick an artwork and describe your workflow?
Giulia: I can paint portraits of singers, why not make portraits of songs?
This is a portrait of Bohemian Rhapsody. I got the sound frequencies, a very – very – long line with highs and lows of a 9 minutes song. I picked a part of the song, can’t tell which one. No really, I was experimenting with something new, so I don’t have a clue.
I separated the highs and lows, interpolated the points in a curve with some approximation (to obtain a smoothing effect), and manually drawn curves between them to obtain a shading silk effect.
I interpolated a range of curves between them to obtain a smooth gradient, lighter in the centre, similar to a flow. Now, there are two things I generally try to avoid with this drawing technique for the sake of my plotter: useless travels and lifting the head, unless there isn’t any other option (I told you, I have a *very* noisy servo). I joined the curves by alternatively flipping their direction and joined their endings to obtain a single line, so the pen lifts from the paper just at the end of the drawing. I scaled it to the paper format (A3) and converted it into gcode.
I really enjoy representing visually my favourite songs, so I ended up creating a series of drawings of different songs using this technique and named it Museica. These are just fragments of songs, but – ultimately – is it that different from a portrait, which can capture just a glimpse?
GH: What's been inspiring you lately?
Giulia: I’ve recently finished reading Factfulness by Hans Rosling, which greatly inspired me to explore new data visualisations. I’m also very moved by the social messages and the introspections depicted by the graphic novelist @Zerocalcare. Both these authors inspired my works with their contents and how they communicate. In terms of styles, I’ve been fascinated with the works of Neri Oxman, Mike Prior.
Their nature-inspired artworks look alive. I find astonishing their way to represent nature through a biomimicry approach, inspired by natural and biological aesthetics, and depicted in patterns, shapes, and behaviours.
Dan Cat and – from the beginning of the Maenade.art journey – Robert Balke inspired me with tangible and visual effects that can be obtained through drawing machines, and with different types of paints and supports. I love the way in which they experiment, they dare to go beyond with this drawing technique.
At the moment I’m getting into L-systems, patterns, and swarming algorithms.
GH: Tell us about your setup. Where do you create? What tools do you use? Giulia: I’m working at home during my free time, moving the plotter around the house to try and find the best spot where I can get decent lighting in a small London apartment.
I love a metallic effect on black paper, and until now I’ve obtained the best brilliant effect with uniball signo pens.
I typically try to use cheap paper for my initial tests but occasionally when a print fails on high-quality paper, I upcycle and cut it into newly crafted things, such as postcards and bookmarks. It’s a shame to waste nice paper.
Developing a DIY plotter with my friend @Rikesh gave us the opportunity to become familiar with the inner workings, adjust it, and improve precision, and have had the ability to customise it as much as possible.
I see the evolution of my drawings intertwined with the development of the hardware: by trying different styles and materials I collect feedback on what the hardware needs and I can improve it day by day.
GH: What do your creative projects represent for you?
Spending my free time to pursue creative activities is something that I feel the urge to do; otherwise, I start to feel way off.
I struggle to carry out anything that requires a certain amount of dullness and specificity.
So, what my day-to-day job lacks in creativity, I make it up during my free time.
– Giulia, London, UK