Summer 2017

ART 285: Digital Tools for Artists


Tony Mullen
410 Thompson Hall

Phone: 253.879.3562

Office hours

My office hours for Spring 2018 are:

Mon: 12:00-1:00 & 1:30-2:30

Wed, & Fri: 12:00-1:00

You can make an appointment to meet at other times also.

I try to respond to emails within 24 hours. You should not expect a response to emails received after 5:00 PM until the next day.

Attendance and lateness policy

Students are expected to attend class and labs. Multiple absences without a written excuse can result in a reduced grade for the class.

Academic integrity

Please ensure that any work you take credit for is your own. Homework should be assumed to be individual work unless it is explicitly given as group work.

When working on individual coding assignments (i.e. all assignments not explicitly labeled as pair or group assignments) you should never look at other people's code for your benefit or allow them to look at yours for their benefit. You may look at another person's code in order to help them identify a problem they are having.

There are sophisticated tools available to identify code plagiarism. Simply changing superficial characteristics of code (variable names, line breaks, spacing) is not enough to conceal when a program has been cribbed. Aside from this, however, someone who copies code cheats themselves out of the opportunity to learn the material. Sooner or later, this will catch up to them.

If your work involves contributing to code written by other people (as is often the case when working with open source software) always be aware of and respectful of the license governing the use of the code, and always be clear about where your own contributions begin and end.

Soliciting answers to homework exercises on websites such as Stack Overflow is a breach of academic integrity and will be dealt with as such if discovered. Stack Overflow is a valuable resource for getting help with legitimate programming problems, so please use it appropriately. In addition to cheating yourself out of the opportunity to learn the material, posting homework questions pollutes Stack Overflow and shows disrespect for the efforts of your instructors in creating the exercises. You may turn to online resources (such as Stack Overflow or other forums) for general support for software libraries or tools and for technical troubleshooting. If you are not sure whether your question is appropriate for a public forum, check with me first. Once you post content on Stack Overflow, you will probably not be able to remove it, so don't post anything you may come to regret.

Please review the Academic Integrity section of the UPS Student Handbook for more specifics on what sorts of behavior constitute violations of academic integrity.

Devices in class

Please avoid using devices during class in ways that distract yourself or others.

General policies

The university is a place for respectful exchange of information and ideas.

University-wide policies regarding student conduct and integrity can be found in the UPS Student Handbook.

If you have any questions or problems related to this class or anything else I may be able to help with, please don't hesitate to email me or drop by my office any time to talk.

Special Accommodations

Academic accommodations are available for students with disabilities who are registered with the Office of the Office of Accessibility and Accommodations. If you have a physical, psychological, medical or learning disability that may impact your course work, please contact Peggy Perno, Director of the Office of Accessibility and Accommodations, 105 Howarth, 253.879.3395. She will determine with you what accommodations are necessary and appropriate. All information and documentation is confidential.

I also encourage all students having difficulty, whatever the reason, to consult privately with me at any time.

Emergency Procedures

Please review university emergency preparedness and response procedures posted at There is a link on the university home page. Familiarize yourself with hall exit doors and the designated gathering area for your class and laboratory buildings.

If building evacuation becomes necessary (e.g. earthquake), meet your instructor at the designated gathering area so she/he can account for your presence. Then wait for further instructions. Do not return to the building or classroom until advised by a university emergency response representative. If confronted by an act of violence, be prepared to make quick decisions to protect your safety. Flee the area by running away from the source of danger if you can safely do so. If this is not possible, shelter in place by securing classroom or lab doors and windows, closing blinds, and turning off room lights. Lie on the floor out of sight and away from windows and doors. Place cell phones or pagers on vibrate so that you can receive messages quietly. Wait for further instructions.

Course description

This course will provide an in-depth introduction to several useful free/open-source digital tools for artists and the conceptual fundamentals to make the most of them. Specifically, the class will cover interactive programming using the Processing environment, and 3D content creation using Blender. The Processing environment enables artists to create interactive installations, programmatic and data-driven visual design, and graphical programs, while serving as an introduction to the basics of computer programming. The Blender 3D suite enables artists to create 3D models, textures, animation, and a wide range of simulations and effects. It can be used to create game or movie assets, visual effects, assets for 3D printing, and many other types of content. Both of the tools are free and available on all common platforms.

The course will be composed of hands-on tutorial-style instruction and less structured work time. Students will create a completed project using the tools of their choice by the end of the course. No computer experience is required or expected.

Goals of the class

By the end of this course, students will

  • Learn basic coding concepts within the Java-based Processing environment.
  • Gain and understanding of how to incorporate interactive components into their own artwork.
  • Become familiar with a variety of 3D modeling techniques.
  • Learn the basics of how computers are used to produce graphics and animation.
  • Acquire a cursory knowledge of a broad variety of topics in computer graphics.
  • Become familiar with several powerful and freely available tools for creating digital art.

Textbook & required materials

For processing, we'll be using Learning Processing, by Daniel Shiffman

I'll provide materials for Blender.


Week Date Topic Reading Homework
1 5/15 Introduction, Processing,
Interactive programming
2 5/22 Loops and conditionals,
Physical computing with Arduino
3 5/29 Introduction to Blender
4 6/5
5 6/12
6 6/19


Grades in the course are based on the following components:

  • 25% Attendance & participation in class activities and tutorials
  • 25% Weekly & bi-weekly technical exercises
  • 15% Midterm written assignment
  • 35% Independent final project

Online resources


The official Processing website is where you can download processing, follow tutorials, see sample projects, and read the API (manual).

OpenProcessing is a place where people can share Processing sketches. Go here to be inspired and to see other people's code in action.


The official Blender website is where you can download Blender and find many other resources and links for learning and getting involved.

The BlenderArtists forum is a fantastic resource for getting community help with Blender. Get your questions answered by experts here.

BlenderNation is a news site for the Blender community. Keep up with new tutorials, features, and more here.