Mesmerizing, right? This artist will inspire you to make GIFs, too

If Connor Bell can make amazing digital art over a cup of coffee, so can you. This week's Exhibitionist in Residence is out to inspire.

Discover the work of this week's Exhibitionist in Residence, Connor Bell

Strangely fascinating? If the answer is yes, then Connor Bell has done his job. (Courtesy of the artist)

It's a morning routine that'll make you dizzy, but for the last two years, Connor Bell has started the day by creating the labyrinthine loops and impossibly undulating textures that you'll find on this week's episode of Exhibitionists.

"It's a great exercise, like something I can do over morning coffee," says Bell, a multidisciplinary artist who generates GIFs by programming code.

I'm trained as a programmer, but over time, I realized I'm actually an artist.- Connor Bell, artist

It's a hand-made approach that's unusual among digital artists, he says.(It's more common to create a GIF with the assistance of specialized software.) But Bell launched this daily routine while finishing a computer science degree at Dalhousie, and that's when this Nova Scotia native discovered a new way of seeing his skill set.

"I'm trained as a programmer, but over time, I realized I'm actually an artist," says Bell with a laugh.

Discovering creators who were also generating imagery with code was a breakthrough, he says. "The complexity of the art that can be generated from people's code really fascinated me, so over time, I learned how to do that and started making tools to help and empower people to make art."

To do that point, the 25-year-old posts GIF-making lessons on his blog, and he's also developed apps for those seeking more instant gratification. Take this one, called "Glitch Wizard." Upload any picture and it'll instantly scramble it in rainbow colours, ready to be shared as a still or GIF.

Whatever the means, Bell's M.O. is to create visuals that are fascinating, that are satisfying. (He's recently moved to Montreal to pursue his artistic career full time.) And when he sits down to his morning challenge, he's out to create something that would be impossible in real life. "Almost like an Escher-type confusion of space and time," he says.

But ultimately, Bell says he makes art because he wants to inspire people. 

"Maybe a music artist will picture their song being looped in the background," he says. Or maybe you'll learn to make GIFs yourself.

"I hope to inspire just a wide spectrum. Anyone. From people who are just like, 'This is cool, I'm going think about this later today,' to people who say, 'I'm going to actually use this, some element of this.'"

Check out some of Connor Bell's work.

Watch Exhibitionists online or on Friday nights at 12:30am (1am NT) on CBC Television.


Leah Collins

Senior Writer

Since 2015, Leah Collins has been senior writer at CBC Arts, covering Canadian visual art and digital culture in addition to producing CBC Arts’ weekly newsletter (Hi, Art!), which was nominated for a Digital Publishing Award in 2021. A graduate of Toronto Metropolitan University's journalism school (formerly Ryerson), Leah covered music and celebrity for Postmedia before arriving at CBC.


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