As part of our Collecting The Algorithm series, we’re showcasing how we’ve curated notable algorithms at Curated. Part one was a primer for on-chain generative art. If you’re new to collecting or generative art, we recommend you start there.
Chromie Squiggles are the friendly ambassador of generative art to the world. They are colorful, playful, and approachable.
Originally crafted as the “test print” to showcase the possibilities of on-chain generative art on the Art Blocks platform, the Chromie Squiggle has grown to become the iconic symbol of art on the blockchain.
In this piece, we’ll share how we’ve collected the Chromie Squiggle algorithm at Curated, with a focus on aesthetics, explicit features, implicit traits, and the edges of the algorithm.
Before we dive in, it’s helpful to understand both the Chromie Squiggle and its creator within the historical context of its creation to fully appreciate what makes this collection significant.
Erick Calderon, better known by his pseudonym “Snowfro”, is the creator of the Chromie Squiggle and founder of Art Blocks. His artistic journey began in the physical world, creating art with colorful lights and tiles and operating a boutique tiles company called La Nova Tile.
Erick, an early enthusiast in Bitcoin and Ethereum, discovered the CryptoPunks community in 2017 — a turning point in his life as he became a prolific claimer of Punks. Snowfro became one of the most active participants in the CryptoPunks community. In fact, his provenance can be seen in some of the most desirable CryptoPunks, including #3489, a Zombie in our collection.
CryptoPunks predated the ERC721 standard and were collected through a unique process, whereby the collector could exactly see the piece they were claiming. This led to the pivotal question for Erick: what happens if the smart contract provided a piece at random to the collector? This curiosity would lead to the creation of what would eventually become Art Blocks.
The Chromie Squiggle was originally created in 2018 to demonstrate the potential of on-chain generative art. It was refined and released to the public on November 27th, 2020 with the launch of Art Blocks as Project 0. While initial reception was modest — only 542 were minted on “Day 0” — the Chromie Squiggle has since launched an entire subculture of generative art enthusiasts.
Today, Squiggles sit in museums and art collections around the world. They’re appreciated not just for their simplicity and colorful aesthetics, but also for being the symbol of Art Blocks and the on-chain generative art movement.
The Chromie Squiggle was created as more than just an artistic expression. It was a demonstration of the vast possibilities of long form on-chain generative art. Our curation focuses on embodying that potential — diversity across every “type” of Squiggle, appreciating implicit and community defined traits, and capturing the magic of minting; all while giving preference to pieces with more colors and aesthetic shapes.
Our main collecting focus is to capture visual distinction in color and shape. Three characteristics we examine closely are Type, Color Spread, and Shape.
Within the Curated collection which currently contains 67 Squiggles, we’ve collected beautiful outputs from each of the six Types with a skew towards those that have aesthetically pleasing shapes and low color spreads.
Below is a subset of the outputs we’ve collected across each Type:
Standard (47.8% of our collectionStats for the overall Squiggle collection and our own curation of it are accurate up to 8/29/2023. We’ll update this once all Squiggles have been minted.)
Standard Squiggles range in Color Spread from 5-50. Below Color Spread 5, they become HyperRainbows with a Color Spread of 0.5. This means they will be 10x more colorful than the most colorful normal Squiggle (Color Spread 5). There are currently 128 HyperRainbow Squiggles, spanning every Type. We believe the three most visually iconic HyperRainbow Squiggles are the Bold (7), Pipe (4), and Slinky (13) given their distinctive look within the collection.
Within the Curated collection, there are four HyperRainbow squiggles — three Standard and one Slinky which is one of the most notable pieces across our entire collection.
Within the Spectrum feature, there is Normal (98%), HyperRainbow (1.3%), Full Spectrum (0.4%), and Perfect Spectrum (0.2%). We’ve focused our grail collecting on HyperRainbows as we believe Full and Perfect Spectrums, which are quite rare statistically, look too similar to low Color Spread Squiggles. HyperRainbows are visually distinctive. While our collection does not hold Full or Perfect Spectrums, we do appreciate their place in the Squiggle collection and their collectors.
Chromie Squiggles are Project 0 on Art Blocks. On the day Art Blocks launched (November 27th, 2020), only 542 Squiggles were minted. These first pieces (#0-#541) represent a special moment in the history of on-chain generative art and are called “Day 0” Squiggles by the community.
Squiggle #161 is also special in our collection as it’s the first Squiggle and fourth piece overall to join the Curated collection.
Harmonics are a special “community” trait found in Ribbed Squiggles where the color of the rib perfectly matches one of the preset background colors of Chromie Squiggles. These backgrounds were added as a way to showcase another benefit of digital art: interactivity with the art (viewers can toggle background changes by pressing the space key). The result is a Squiggle that blends into the background.
Harmonics require the rib color to be 0 (black), 25, 50, 75, 100, 125, 150, 175, 200, 225, or 255 (white). Squiggles that have a rib color very close to or exactly white (252+) are considered “Ghosts”. We’ve been lucky to collect a few harmonics — as well as a Ghost — in our collection. Collecting Harmonics are non-obvious as they're an implicit trait that requires checking the precise color values of the rib color which is also not in the metadata.
And finally, although it’s not in our collection, one of our absolute favorite pieces in the entire Chromie Squiggle collection is #5221, a HyperRainbow Ribbed "Ghost" Harmonic owned by Derek Edwards of Collab+Currency. There is nothing else like it in the whole collection.
The historical context of Chromie Squiggles helps us appreciate the significance of the innovative minting experience that Art Blocks brought to generative art.
With 10,000 mints planned from day one, only 9,036 were initially minted before Snowfro turned off public minting on January 16th, 2021. In the two-and-a-half years after, the remaining mints were given out selectively as gifts or for special situations at Snowfro’s discretion. Today, all but the last two Squiggles have been minted. The final Squiggle, #9999, will be minted to LACMA later this year.
There is an indescribable magic in minting a Squiggle and seeing it come through the Art Blocks minter. Our collecting of the Chromie Squiggle algorithm would not be complete without the experience of minting a few pieces for our collection. We’re honored to have gotten the opportunity to mint three Squiggles across 2022 and 2023.
"Snowfro’s Chromie Squiggle has come to symbolize the tight-knit community that has sprung up around a shared passion for collecting generative art. It’s an invitation and all are welcome."
— Kate Hannah of Art Blocks, "For the Love of Squiggles"
To collect the algorithm of Chromie Squiggles is to collect the promise of generative art — spontaneous and delightful outputs that everyone can enjoy. With the minting of the last Squiggle expected to occur by the end of 2023, the Chromie Squiggle in many ways bookends the early era of on-chain generative art.
No collection better captures the zeitgeist of this subculture than the Chromie Squiggle, and no artist better represents it than Snowfro.
Thanks to Snowfro, Derek Edwards, DCinvestor, VonMises, NiftyFifty, Alok Vasudev, and ArtBlocksInvest for reading drafts and shaping our thinking on this piece.