Lloyd Sumner


Lloyd Sumner in front of a plotting machine.

Born 1943 in Hillsville, VA)(USA.
Died 1996

Lloyd Sumner was an early computer artist in the USA, the first, perhaps, to try and make a living from the graphic works he made the computer to realise. He was represented at the Cybernetic Serendipity show (London 1968) as well as the Tendencies 5 (Zagreb 1969).

His booklet Computer Art and Human Response appeared as a private publication in 1968. It was another step in his decision to commercialise his art. In that book, he calls computers he was working with, “his friends”,

His works are characterized by smooth curves, moiré patterns, symmetry and evenly spaced lines. Randomness does not play an important role, most works are carefully calculated, nothing is left to chance. Comparing his oeuvre of geometric and, at times, figurative line-based shapes with other productions of the time, it stands out for a simple, searching, at times almost childishly naive style.

He had access to computer hardware while working at the Computer Science Center at the University of Virginia. There he found a plotting machine of which no one seemed to know how to use. So he acquainted himself with it, and was soon producing computer art.

Sumner said about computer art in general:

“The computer artist is a reactor, not an innovator. He is an artist with a tool not a programmer with luck.”

Programming languages/software used: ALGOL

1943 Born as youngest of 13 siblings.
1959 Orphaned at age of 16.
1962 Enters University of Virginia.
1964 Part time job at Computer Science Center at University of Virginia, has access to a Burroughs B5500 computer and a plotter, begins experimenting with computer drawings.
after 1964 Begins to enter art shows, first at Charlottesville, VA, businesses and the University.
Spring 1967 Graduates in (Mechanical) engineering science, major in mathematics, minor in arts at the University of Virginia, Engineering School.
1969 Makes a living by selling his computer art by catalog.
1971-75 As a passionate cyclist, he undertakes a tour around the world. It is documented in a book, The long ride.


Lloyd Sumner in front of a plotting machine.