9 Questions with a Professional Coder - art_code_love
by Tim Combs | May 23, 2020
Schools and media often make it seem like the average coder works at a small startup when this is not necessarily the case. This series profiles coders who come from art and enterprise and startups and indie shops and teaching, asking them about their path into coding, why they love it, and how they continue to learn and grow in their profession.
This is a profile of art_code_love, who works as a game developer, and whose Twitter feed shares lots of cool work from artists working with code.
Is coding your primary career and what did you do before coding?
Yes it is. I jumped into web development right after high school, when there was only HTML to work with, but in between that and my current work I had several graphic design / illustration jobs.
How did you get into coding and how did you learn the skills to use code on a professional level?
I played with code on a really basic level as a little kid; my dad started learning to program when I was about 7 and it looked like so much fun to write instructions that made funny things happen on screen that I wanted to do it too. I didn’t really learn coding in depth until university however, when I took computer science courses as part of my degree. That gave me a solid technical and conceptual grounding for what I do now, although the specific languages I’ve used on the job have all been self-taught, mostly by starting with small ideas and following tutorials and googling a lot.
Where do you live and what is the development scene like where you work?
I live in Toronto, Canada. The job market is good and the scenes that I’m most involved in (game development and art coding) are fantastic; there are lots of events and meetups where coders can meet to show our work, teach/learn, support each other or just hang out. Shout out to Inter/Access and Toronto Media Arts Centre, just two organizations that have been especially helpful to me.
Do you work for an organization/company/yourself, what does the organization do?
The company I work for makes children’s TV shows, and I work in their Interactive department making web and mobile games for the kids who watch our shows. There are a lot of dinosaurs and robots, science and math.
What is your title and what do you do day-to-day as a coder?
Game Developer. Depending on what phase a project is in, I could be brainstorming game ideas, designing the program architecture, researching new tools, or down in the nitty-gritty of implementing the design, squashing bugs and swearing a lot.
I also play with generative art code in my spare time, making twitter bots, fractal animations and live coded visuals.
How do you keep up with technology trends and what are you studying right now?
Twitter is wonderful for seeing what other people are making and what they are using to make it. There’s no time to ‘keep up’ in terms of actually learning anything that isn’t directly needed for some project I want to make. Fortunately there are always a bunch of projects I want to make. I’m currently learning Max for a live coding toolset I’m working on, and experimenting with building experiences for VR.
What do you like to do for fun?
When I’m not glued to social media, I love to paint (on canvas, or, recently, in VR), take long walks exploring the city, dance, read, and talk with friends and strangers.
What tips would you like to give new coders?
Maybe you’re more organized than I am, but one of my biggest challenges is guessing how long something is going to take. With rare pleasant exceptions, it seems like everything takes much longer than I think it will. The best ways I’ve found to deal with this are:
a) to always start as small as possible. I focus on a 'minimum viable' project and then when I get that working, I can go ahead and expand it (if my attention hasn’t already wandered to the next exciting thing).
b) it helps me a lot to break down everything I’m trying to do into sub-tasks before I start. This way I learn early on what cloudy areas there are in my plan that I haven’t figured out yet, and so I know I’ll need to do more research there. As new sub-tasks pop up while working, I add them to the list. It feels great to check little things off and get a visceral sense of progress as I see bigger and bigger chunks of the overall project falling into place, and it stops me from getting overwhelmed by the complexity of the whole undertaking.
Do you have favorite resources, creators or projects you would like to share?
The short (cheating) answer is: follow @art_code_love on Twitter! That’s where I curate a near-constant stream of works in progress from my favourite artistic coders as well as from beginners just dipping their toes into generative art. Most people you’ll get to know there are also incredibly generous with sharing how they achieved their effects, often even linking to their source code.