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Drawing - 'Procedure for John'

'Procedure for John'

  • Object:


  • Place of origin:

    United Kingdom (made)

  • Date:

    1973 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Sutcliffe, Alan (maker)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Plotter drawing on paper

  • Credit Line:

    Given by the Computer Arts Society, supported by System Simulation Ltd, London

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    Prints & Drawings Study Room, level E, case CAS, shelf 5

This computer drawing was created by Alan Sutcliffe in 1973, for John Lansdown. Along with George Mallen, both were founding members of the Computer Arts Society, which had been established in 1968. Sutcliffe was the Society's first Chairman, while Lansdown became the Secretary and Mallen was the Treasurer.

In the Society's magazine, Page, Sutcliffe later wrote: "In the early days of the Computer Arts Society, around 1970, there was talk, as there still is, of algorithms that are simple to define, but the outcome of which defies intuition... One that I thought of then is called Skip and Divide... In its original form it applied to the division of a line segment into an increasing number of sections... In 1973 I wanted to give John Lansdown a graphic to mark our years of collaboration in the Computer Arts Society and so made a 2-dimensional version of Skip and Divide". (Page 63,2007, p.8-10)

In this case the program produced rectangles of varying sizes, where the horizontal and vertical lines intersect. However, Sutcliffe was not completely satisfied that he had created a truly 2-dimensional form. He went on to produce a range of increasingly sophisticated 2- and 3-dimensional representations of the Skip and Divide algorithm.

Alan Sutcliffe was born in 1930, and studied mathematics at Bristol University. He worked for International Computers Limited (ICL) for many years. In the late 1960s he collaborated with Peter Zinovieff and Electronic Music Studios. In 1968 Sutcliffe and Zinovieff won a prize for ZASP, a computer-generated musical composition created on an ICL computer and performed at one of the first electronic music concerts held in Britain. Sutcliffe was also one of the contributors to Cybernetic Serendipity, an exhibition at the Institute of Contemporary Arts in 1968. His multimedia work SPASMO was performed at the Queen Elizabeth Hall, London in February 1969, and computer-generated poems for SPASMO were exhibited at the Tendencies 4 exhibition in Zagreb later the same year.

Physical description

Plotter drawing in black ink on white paper, depicting a series of horizontal and vertical intersecting lines within a rectangular frame.

Place of Origin

United Kingdom (made)


1973 (made)


Sutcliffe, Alan (maker)

Materials and Techniques

Plotter drawing on paper

Marks and inscriptions

'Procedure for John Good Friday 1973 Alan Sutcliffe'
Title, date and artist's signature/name, in black ink in lower right.


Height: 26.8 cm, Width: 24.8 cm

Object history note

This plotter drawing by Alan Sutcliffe was acquired as part of the Computer Arts Society collection, donated to the Museum by CAS in 2007. Sutcliffe has explained how he came to produce the graphic for one of CAS's founders, John Lansdown, in 1973. "For several years it hung in the Lansdown's flat, but recent discussions with Dot Lansdown, prompted by the CACHe project, led us to think that the work was lost. So it was a happy surprise at the V&A reception ... to see it on display as part of the CAS collection. My belated and undeliverable thanks to John Lansdown, for putting this small work into the collection. (PAGE 63, 2007, p.10)

The reception was held in the V&A's Prints and Drawings Study Room on 11 May 2007, to mark the acquisition of the CAS material.

Douglas Dodds

Descriptive line

Plotter drawing on paper, 'Procedure for John', by Alan Sutcliffe, 1973.

Bibliographic References (Citation, Note/Abstract, NAL no)

The "Skip and Divide" image is reproduced in the periodical IBM Informatique, no. 13, 1975, p.10.


Paper (fiber product); Ink


Plotter drawing


Computer Art; Drawings


Prints, Drawings & Paintings Collection

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