On Friday, April 1st we’re hosting the opening reception in the SprATX gallery for artist Jake Jordan’s solo exhibit, “Two Plotter Projects :: An Exploration of Space and Time”

‘The pieces explore how we perceive information through space and time. The visual aesthetics employed throughout both of the pen plotted series in this presentation are inspired by vintage geophysical calculations, geological maps and the idiosyncrasies of the HP 7475A Plotter.

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Vintage pen plotters allow the creation of pen drawings that appear mechanically perfect, with a handmade quality. This combination of physical and digital qualities provides a warm, almost tactile means for visualizing data. The plotter used here is now 32 years older than the computers used to make calculations and process data show in all the pieces presented here’.


SprATX: Who are you, where did you come from, and how did you get here?

Jake Jordan: My name is Jake Jordan. I grew up in Lawrence, Kansas and then went off to college in Chicago. After finishing up school in Chicago, I came down to Austin to pursue a Ph.D. in Geosciences at UT.


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SprATX: What is geoscience?

Jake Jordan: Geoscience is the study of Earth and the processes that have shaped it throughout time! Really, it’s the study of all of the cool things that the planet does: Earthquakes, Volcanoes, Tsunamis and other excellent plot devices for disaster movies. You ever notice that geologists and geoscientists are heroes in tons of action movies? Well, I noticed…

SprATX: Describe yourself in three words.

Jake Jordan: Bad at laundry



SprATX: Tell us a little about your upcoming show, “Two Plotter Projects, an Exploration of Space and Time”.

Jake Jordan: The first thing I’d like to say about my show is this: If you are reading this post, you should come to the show! Aside from (hopefully) interesting art, there will be beer, wine and one of my favorite local bands, Brazilian Space Program.

The exhibition is comprised of two separate projects. The first project “magma” shows summarizes some computer models that I made through my recent studies. These drawings show representations of time-dependent models (models that evolve through time according to some math), and are depictions of various deep-earth processes (hence the name “magma”). My goal is more than just try to show people what I study: I hope that these drawings demonstrate the structure and beauty behind some of the mathematical theories that have been developed to study all kinds of topics.


The second project is a series of homemade basketball cards hot off the pen plotter called “small forwards”. Essentially, this project happened because I like basketball…A lot.

Actually, I became intrigued with “cards” when I was working my first ever plotter collection during this past year’s EAST tour. EAST, being in October, coincided with the World Series. Through some of the more tedious parts of putting together my plots, I found myself listening to baseball or even half watching it on TV as I worked (or quitting work to watch). Then I started thinking about what it was like to have cards as a kid. I had basketball cards and baseball cards, I knew kids who had football cards. There were Magic cards and Pokémon cards. I even knew this girl who had Lisa Frank cards AND football cards in the same binder, which is pretty cool thinking back…


Anyways, I think that a lot of us had cards of some kind as kids and thought I’d make little 2.5 by 3.5 inch prints. By the way, 2.5 by 3.5 is the official size of cards everywhere. I handed out little card versions of prints at my show and I thought that people really responded to the hand-held, fun-sized art. I don’t know if there is something innately nostalgic about cards, but people sure seemed to have fun holding them. I even saw some people comparing and trading their different card-sized prints, which made me happy.

After that experience, I thought that I ought to make some more “card-sized” drawings. After deciding to make cards, I chose basketball as my subject because I like basketball…A lot. (Actually, I’m watching basketball right now. The Golden State Warriors are beating the Washington Wizards 100 to 89.)

“Small forwards” is a series of “maps” that I created from shot statistics of small forwards from each NBA team throughout the 2014-2015 NBA season. Here, I was looking to create a basketball card that captures part of the essence of a player’s decision making on the court. Differences between players’ styles and abilities are apparent from comparing cards.

SprATX: How do your pieces ‘explore how we perceive information through space and time’?

Jake Jordan: Each series depicts information over a given time interval in a different way.

In “magma,” theoretical models are drawn in one dimension—that is each line represents a spatial model (imagine waves on a string). The time evolution of the model is shown in the up direction. In other words, each line represents values the same points in space along the line and the viewer can see the evolution of the line by following it up the page.

Summary: time is up! (You’re not out of time, it’s a direction)

For the series “small forwards,” I aggregated all of the information for thirty different basketball player’s shots taken over the course of the entire previous NBA season. Then, I smoothed the data and plotted the information associated with made and missed shots as topographic maps on top of an image of a basketball court. This allows the viewer to see the shooting habits of each player depicted throughout the entire course of the season in one visual summary.

Each series employs a different method visualizing information through time: “magma” shows the dynamic changes in scientific simulations, whereas “small forwards” summarizes information through time.


SprATX: Describe your art in three words.

Jake Jordan: Tons of information

SprATX: What exactly is a vintage plotter? Where did you get it? (Also talk about how it will be at the show for people to see in person)

Jake Jordan: When I was visiting a friend in New York a few years back, he showed me a 1984 Hewitt Packard 7475A pen plotter. This device is essentially little robotic hand on a rail that holds a pen and moves back and forth while paper moves beneath the pen on rollers. There is a miniature carousel that can hold up to six pens located at the edge of area where the pen draws on the paper. My friend explained to me that these machines were essentially high-end desktop printers for engineers, architects and business-man types (anyone who needed professional looking computer graphics) back before the advent of inkjet style printers etc. We didn’t know how to control it with a computer, but we did figure out how to turn it on and get it to run in “demo-mode.”

Pen Plotter in Action!!
More Plotting!!

The links above shows the full 1984 graphical might of the pen plotter by plotting bar charts and pie charts in a face melting 6 colors! I know that this might sound underwhelming, but I was transfixed. Here was a machine–that for all its other shortcomings–could draw pictures that look hand made and computer precise simultaneously. (Also, it is pretty mesmerizing to watch the little mechanical pen carousel spin around. Another-also, I think that the pen plotting process looks like a poorly designed robot give a piece of paper a subpar tattoo)

A few weeks later I found a similar HP 7475A plotter from 1984 on eBay shortly thereafter and vowed to purchase at any cost (I think it ended up being like 64 dollars.) After some repairs and learning some hpgl (Hewitt Packard graphics language), a delightfully obsolete computer plotting tool, I was making my first plots.

I’ll be bringing the plotter into my opening at SprATX on Friday, April first from 7-9pm. I hope whoever is out there reading this can come check it out. I will make some plots in the shop that do not involve bar graphs! Maybe you’ll get hooked too!

SprATX: What inspires you to create these unique pieces of art?

Jake Jordan: Dreams of fame and glory.

Nah…Just kidding. I wanted to come up with a fun way to visualize some of the stuff I was doing throughout the course of my PhD and share those pictures with people who might not otherwise express much interest in geosciences. It’s been a challenging and rewarding exercise to talk to smart people all over town about drawings that are based on my research and tools used in quantitative research.

The stylistic inspiration for all of these pieces comes from old computer graphics and maps. The magma drawings are my artistic homage to some scientists from the 80’s that I really admire. In another vein, I’ve always enjoyed maps and I wanted to draw some. However, the atlas is drawn and known pretty well, so I just mapped the statistics of basketball players. It makes sense to do. At least to me it made sense to do.

SprATX: Who are your favorite artists? ​

Jake Jordan: My parents,Mary Anne Jordan and Luke Jordan obviously! They both teach art at University of Kansas!

Other than that, there is an artist by the name of Charles Ray (not Ray Charles) who made one of my all time favorite pieces of art. This guy found a dead log in the woods out in Northern California. He made a 3D silicone model of the rotting tree and then carved a brand-new dead log out of oak with a master woodworker in Japan.


As for my favorite local artists, I’ve seen some pretty impressive paintings by a guy called Alex Diamond. Very interesting watercolor work sir!

SprATX: Describe your dream project

Jake Jordan: In the future I’d like to do more work with real-time data. What I mean by that is I’d like to draw data as it is actually generated. For example, I’ve been thinking about making some drawings from buoys that track ocean tides in real time. Another thing I’ve always wanted to do is collaborate with some computer scientists and/or musicians to make some data or model driven music. I’ve toyed with a few ideas before and made some pretty strange sounds.

SprATX: What are your plans post graduation? ​

Jake Jordan: Are you trying to stress me out!?! I’m not sure yet, but thankfully graduation is a little over than a year away. I have a few pretty good ideas, but if they don’t work out I can always be a barista again!




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