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Robert Howsare, a third-year graduate student studying printmaking poses with artwork created by his turntable drawing machine he designed at his studio in Building 13 at The Ridges. A video featuring the contraption dubbed "The Drawing Apparatus" went viral on the site Vimeo. (Erin Corneiliussen | Multimedia Editor)

Turning the Tables on Art

It only took two turntables, some clothespins and a few pieces of wood for Robert Howsare’s video to draw more than half a million views online.

The clip shows a machine Howsare calls “The Drawing Apparatus” in action, as the counteracting forces of the turntables drag a marker across a blank piece of paper, creating an unpredictable asymmetrical shape.

When the video went viral on the video-sharing site Vimeo, Howsare was shocked.

“It’s pretty amazing that it went viral,” Howsare said. “I didn’t expect it at all. It’s really cool and I am totally flattered.”

Howsare, a graduate student at Ohio University studying printmaking, dabbles in other art forms during his spare time, often using materials lying around the house.

“It’s striking how he manipulates technology,” said Crystal Brown, a third-year graduate student studying sculpture and expanded practice.

When creating the apparatus in November, Howsare said he considered temporality and time, adding that some of his inspiration came from the nature of puddles.

“I was interested in how crystals grow over time, and I was also intrigued by the reticulation where a puddle dries up and leaves rings,” he said. “The thing about those is they seem unpredictable and there are a lot of outlying variables, so it doesn’t seem like a direct reflection of time passing.”

The unpredictable nature of the drawings comes from the circular motion of the turntables, which act as the driving power.

Two wooden arms that are attached grasp a marker, and all the user has to do is turn the machine on, Howsare said.

“My favorite part about the drawing apparatus is its unpredictability,” said Don Adleta, an OU professor of design. “It is almost like beauty of the happy accident, and it can have a variety of ‘voices’ coming from it.”

Adleta added Howsare’s work with moiré images and research on multiples helped him create the apparatus. Although the turntables now serve as a method of creating art, they are still functioning record players.

“With the drawing apparatus, you have something that makes beautiful elegant drawings, but at the end of the day you can take the arms off and listen to records,” Howsare said.

Some, such as Brown, consider the device “striking.”

“His piece is strong and is able to reach people on multiple levels,” Brown said. “I think it appeals to so many people because it’s interesting-looking, tangible, and you can understand how it is working and see how it’s working.”

Howsare said he plans to make some tweaks to the apparatus.

“I feel like it’s still an ongoing, in-process piece. There is so much possibility and potential with it,” he said. “I look forward to revisiting it and tweaking it and introducing new variables like increasing the scale of the drawing and other things like that.”


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