Contemporary artist and educator who spends his time programming, drawing, and building tools to enable future artists. He’s also the co-founder of Whistlegraph, a performance group popularizing an art style by the same name. One more thing, Jeffrey loves to dance.
Throughout his career, artist Jeffrey Alan Scudder has used technology to create art that lives in the liminal space between the digital world and the real world. While modern technology can sometimes feel overwhelming or even confusing, Jeffrey’s work is playful and accessible. Over the years, he’s created projects using both web2 and web3 platforms.
One of Jeffrey’s current project, Whistlegraph, was created in a cabin in Ashland, Oregon during the pandemic with creative partners Camille Klein and Alex Freundlich. A Whistlegraph is a wholly unique creative medium that combines painting, music, poetry, and storytelling. While drawing a Whistlegraph, each mark is directly tied to a music note or syllable. This creates a “score” that could be replicated in the future.
TikTok has proved to be an ideal platform for this new creative medium. Over the past few years, Whistlegraph has racked up 2.3 million TikTok followers. Each Whistlegraph has a sense of fun and whimsy, but they often evoke deeper feelings and emotions as well. Jeffrey has also used the Whistlegraph medium to reflect on broader topics like technology, education, and art as a whole.
“Digital images are going to stick around longer than our physical images.”
The Whistlegraph medium is designed to evolve over time. Jeffrey, Klein, and Freudlich have recently created the Longest Whistlegraph Ever as a commission for Rhizome, which debuted at the New Museum in 2022. Through TikTok livestreams, Jeffrey interacts directly with his audience, showing them how to create their own Whistlegraphs.
The evolving nature of the Whistlegraph medium is reflective of Jeffrey’s own career path. Prior to founding Whistlegraph, Jeffrey gained notoriety through his Radical Digital Painting project. Radical Digital Paintings are a collection of 200 paintings created over the course of five years. The paintings served as a personal diary and reflect on daily events and important relationships in Jeffrey’s life. They also focus on the ways that traditional painting and digital art intersect.
For this project, Jeffrey was inspired by the work of the artist Goodiepal and their Radical Computer Music. Jeffrey presents Radical Digital Paintings as part of a performance and has toured around the world presenting his work. Prior to the pandemic, Jeffrey was touring Denmark with Goodiepal and was looking for a creative medium that would offer more flexibility - which is where Whistlegraph was born.
Jeffrey continues to sell his Radical Digital Paintings as NFTs. Jeffrey’s early works, in particular, evoke a unique sense of nostalgia for technology gone by that has been appealing to many buyers. Sales from these NFTs have given Jeffrey the financial freedom to work on a variety of other projects.
Jeffrey will return to his digital roots with his next project, the Aesthetic Computer. This is a computer designed entirely for play and creation, two important themes throughout Jeffrey’s work. The project will likely include a Whistlegraph creator as well as games and musical tools. The Aesthetic Computer will give users the ability to create their own manual generative art and challenge them to think about computers and technology in a new light.
Freaky Flowers is an exploration of play created by Jeffrey Scudder using his computing environment, aesthetic.computer in which each flower blooms into a more dynamic and thrilling version of itself– ostensibly, ‘freaking out.’ Each Freaky Flower is unique and contain hidden messages, scattered with whimsical commentary reflective of Scudder’s perspective on art, and the collection itself contains a hidden puzzle — the first person to solve it will access the elusive Token 0.
Exploring the creative process in VR
Jeffrey’s love of play is front and center in his Wild collection, Freaky Flowers. The collection combines his unique and energetic hand-drawn art to create an immersive experience. “I believe that computing interfaces should be designed to fulfill the human spirit,” says Jeffrey. “I create art in order to fund and sustain this mission, and also to express my inner feelings, which otherwise come out so rarely.”
Freaky Flowers was made entirely in Jeffrey’s computing environment, aesthetic.computer
, using his spatial drawing software, “Wand”. The project marks Jeffrey’s return to programming after focusing heavily on his Whistlegraph
project over the past few years. He finds that drawing and creating images comes naturally, while programming is more challenging. When creating Freaky Flowers, Jeffrey was heavily inspired by the creative process itself, always searching for the right tools to bring his vision to life.
“I try to do the most difficult things in my life because I believe those things will advance my field as a whole,” says Jeffrey. “As a painter who learned to program, my journey has been one of sacrificing the joy of endlessly drawing with ease for the pain of advancing the tools of my trade.” These tools have evolved throughout Jeffrey’s career - for Freaky Flowers, he turned to the Meta Quest to create in mixed reality.
At first glance, each Freaky Flower appears to be a small, colorful squiggle, taking inspiration from Snofro’s iconic “Chromie Squiggle'' collection. However, the images quickly bloom into something more dynamic and thrilling as Jeffrey “freaks out.” The result is an engaging piece that takes audiences into Jeffrey’s earnest exploration of play while simultaneously exploring the timely “internet aesthetic” familiar to many in our digital culture.
Each Freaky Flower was recorded at Jeffrey’s home in Ashland, Oregon over a coffee-fueled few days. Once his “Wand” software program was complete, Jeffrey switched back and forth between the Meta Quest Pro and Quest 2 so that he could keep drawing continuously without having to stop and wait for the device to charge.
Viewers will be able to watch the entire Freaky Flowers collection continuously for an ambient experience, starting from token 0. The pieces are viewable in VR through the browser, and this immersive capability means that collectors will be able to view each Freaky Flower from almost any visual angle.
Some of the Freaky Flower pieces contain messages directly from Jeffrey himself, which reflect the mission of aesthetic.computer. These messages give each piece a personal touch and give collectors a closer look at Jeffrey’s perspective on art. The lighthearted approach to this work is also visible in the collection’s rarity traits, which range from “Basic” to “Dead” to “Master UWU” to “Zebra”, just to name a few. One such token is particularly unique, the “Ultimate Squiggle Destroyer”, which is “guaranteed to destroy any Chromie Squiggle in any future auction.” It’s this exact sense of humor and wit that delights us endlessly.
Freaky Flowers was crafted with preservation in mind - each piece is a standard untextured triangular mesh intended to hold up to changes in spatial computing technology. The recordings can be played back at different rates, allowing each collector to experience the piece at their own speed. Collectors can also take stills or save the mesh file, and the pieces have the potential to be reinterpreted in future software editions. Additionally, collectors will be able to view Freaky Flowers in their browsers directly on aesthetic.computer.
There is also a hidden puzzle layer to Freaky Flowers that challenges collectors to search for a hidden seed phrase. Whoever finds the seed phrase first will access the elusive Token 0. The “Clue” attribute is an easy doorway to the puzzle. This further encourages viewers to examine concepts of play, fun, and creativity in the framework of contemporary technology. These are concepts that Jeffrey has explored throughout his work in the past woven into this new NFT collection.
The idea for the collection came suddenly to him in the shower, after writing tool code for several weeks. The drawings were done continuously, pulling from decades of drawing and painting experience that Jeffrey has. To stay motivated, he created a “hacked psycho-somatic reward system” using food, local coffee, THC, and plenty of fresh water from his charcoal Berkey filter. He also used music to get into character and set the tone for his creations. Some of the artists on Jeffrey’s creative playlist include Brian and Roger Eno, Lemon Demon, Yung Goth, and Megabyte, as well as the PC Music compilations.
Freaky Flowers is Jeffrey’s first series designed especially for the web3 space, but he plans to continue expanding his practice for new audiences. He also plans to use Freaky Flowers as part of his next Y Combinator application as he furthers his exploration of technology, art, and play. “The computer has always fascinated me because if you are willing to do something incredibly difficult, [like] learning to code well, then you gain a type of power as an artist that in my opinion puts you into an entirely new plane of aesthetic understanding and agency.”