Gallery 2

Art Machine

Experience whole body effects of g-force and rotational physics.

How it works

Press the screen with one finger and drag a 'paint' colour (red, yellow or blue) onto the canvas, then press a second finger next to the paint splotch and make the virtual palette spin to splatter colour across the screen.

Things to try or ask around the exhibit

  • How can you make green, purple and orange from the colour choices on the screen?
  • Is it possible to make colours darker, or just mix colours to create new ones?
  • How many students can work together to make an artwork before the technology is unable to process all the information?
  • As you mix colours and create patterns, are you being an artist or a scientist or both?


The Art Machine is a touch screen that allows users to digitally ‘finger paint’ and save their ‘art work’. Up to ten paint fingers should be able to make their mark on the screen at a time. Any more than that and the computer system cannot compute the extra information. This is similar to when two people try to write on a classroom Smart Board at the same time: it just doesn’t work. The number of users would also be limited by how many people can fit around the table.

The three colour choices are the primary colours: red, blue and yellow. When mixed in different proportions, they can make any colour.

  • Blue and Yellow = Green
  • Blue and Red = Purple
  • Yellow and Red = Orange.

When mixed in different proportions, they can make any colour.

Red, yellow and blue (RYB) are the three primary colours that are the starting point for any artist’s colour wheel. These colours can only be seen when a light shines on them (at night, of course, you can’t tell what colour a room is painted!) as they reflect different colours of light and subtract others. For example, red paint reflects only red light back at us which makes it look red. When all these colours are added together, they make black: subtracting all the light that is shining on them and reflecting nothing back. For this reason, these colours are known as subtractive colours.

Light, however, is an additive colour system. The primary colours of light are red, green, and blue. When all these colours add together, they create white light: reflecting all colours to our eyes, rather than subtracting any colours.

Finding the science in your world

Printers have a different primary colour system but it is also subtractive. If you look at the cartridges in your printer, you will see they are cyan, magenta, yellow, and black (CMYK; where ‘K’ denotes black). A printer cannot simply add white to make grey tones like an artist can, so instead they have three primary colours that mix to make grey. Because of this, black then becomes a necessary fourth option in this colour system.