The Water Calligraphy Tricycle

Many westerners visiting or living in China may observe the art of “water calligraphy” and some may even try to imitate it. However, media artist [Nicholas Hanna] decided to take a totally new approach and make his own water painting machine.

Someone less creative would have devised some imitation of a human, but [Nicholas] decided to totally rethink the process in the form of a tricycle.  Using 16 PC-controlled water solenoids, this tricycle is turned into a sort of moving dot matrix printer. It doesn’t have the same sort of grace that the traditional Chinese art does, but it’s quite a bit faster, so if you want to get your message out, this might have some practical applications.

The post doesn’t go into the electronics, but the video after the break includes some close-ups and video of [Nicholas] assembling the device. If you happen to be in china, his tricycle is part of an event for “Beijing Design Week” at the Northern Electric Relay Factory until October 3rd.


  1. Curtis says:

    Wish I knew what he was writing. Cool toy though good work.

  2. medix says:

    Reminds me of the street graffiti bike a few years back that was confiscated in NYC. I wonder if this guy would get the same treatment?

    Pretty sweet mod..

  3. Grovenstien says:

    That’s the benefit of using water its non permanent. Im loving these water printers they work in a very similar way to water screens

  4. Colby Boles says:

    My friend and I made a pair of 32 valve water printers like this that were tow-behind bike trailers at Burning Man. You entered text and graphics in various fonts using a palm pilot on the bike. The rapid evaporation there made the text extremely temporary! We though of doing burning text with alcohol but there were too many small leaks to be sure it would be safe.

  5. Keith says:

    Cool … but it is really more dot matrix than calligraphy, yes?

  6. augustoyeung says:

    it is
    “civilized people”
    “civilized city”
    something like that

  7. Andy Goth says:

    The lens used to take the headline photo is absolutely incredible. What’s the focal length? 12mm?

  8. thedinuka says:

    Did you ever stop to think that you’d be insulting those who do it the “old fashioned” way ?

  9. Tom says:

    @thedinuka I think it would be very unlikely they’d be insulted and regardless if they were thats there problem, he isn’t being rude or taking the mic. What he is doing is finding his own way to take part and using skills which require equally as much time to learn as they would to do their calligraphy.

    I think they would be fine with it.

  10. steve says:

    In a way it is probably missing the point of caligraphy. But a nice example of West vs East.

  11. hacky says:

    the part of the film where the guy sets up his bike is actually played backwards…

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