1024 Lemons is was a small, citrusy generative art project bound for the public domain.

Lemon 1 Lemon 2 Lemon 3 Lemon 4 Lemon 5 Lemon 6 Lemon 7 Lemon 8

1024 Lemons is was the first in a series of generative art projects trying to explore non-standard ways of funding creative work. It was made by a Matthew Howell and released on May 3rd, 2022.

It was completed May 3rd, 2023. All 1024 lemons were released into the public domain and $16 was donated to NSC.

Buy a Print

As of May 3rd, 2023, the original 1024 Lemons art prints are no longer available.

A new 1024 Lemons art print is available. The new prints feature an improved algorithm and 1024 new, unique lemon illustrations.

The new prints are part of a collection of generative citrus, featuring 4,096 unique fruit illustrations (along with the lemons, there are limes, oranges, and pomelos).

Archived Description

Below, find the original 1024 Lemons project page, archived here for transparency, describing how it worked and its goals.

How It Works

  1. I wrote a piece of code that generated 1024 small, unique lemon illustrations
  2. 1024 art prints, comprised of those illustrations, are available for purchase
  3. Each time a print is sold, one lemon illustration is released into public domain

1. The Illustrations

Each lemon illustration was generated by an algorithm written for this project.

The lemons are all unique, varying in size and shape, while maintaining their essential lemon-ness. This set was chosen from dozens of others that were generated.

Read more about generating the art

The code is written in JavaScript and uses the wonderful SVG.js to build its shape primitives. For a web developer, this is a really pleasant way to work with generative art. The instant code-save-refresh feedback loop feels great and when the piece is finished, the SVG images are "exported" by simply copying the page source into a document with an .svg extension.

The algorithm isn't particularly complex. It's about 200 lines of lines code that work something like this:

  1. Create a randomly sized ellipse for the lemon body
  2. Create a randomly sized and rotated ellipses for each end of the lemon
  3. Check that this lemon is unique, using the size, shape, and rotation values from the three shape primitives
  4. If the lemon is a duplicate, discard it and generate a new lemon
  5. If the lemon is unique, group and position those three shapes
  6. Add a yellow fill color to the group
  7. Position the finished lemon on a square, 32x32 grid
  8. Add this lemon's unique identifier to our list of lemons
  9. Repeat until we have 1024, unique lemons

None of the randomization is truly random, all of the values were selected within certain ranges that were found through exploration. Eventually, the code began to produce lemons that were sufficiently lemon-like and felt part of a set.

2. The Prints

Each 11"x14" art print contains the same set of 1024 lemons, arranged in a 32x32 grid in the center of the paper.

These are Giclée prints on a substantial, 308gsm, cotton rag paper. The paper has a matte finish and a lovely, subtle texture.

Buy a Print for $44

Read more about making the prints

The generated SVGs were imported into Affinity Designer, where the finishing and layout work was done. Notably, the lemon shape groups were combined and borders were added to give the shapes more definition.

7 printed proofs were ordered from 4 different printers (including a great local print shop in Philadelphia). After some deliberation, one of the proofs from Prodigi was selected for its color accuracy, beautiful paper, and on-demand flexibility.

Read more about the physical prints
308gsm Hahnemühle Photo Rag →
matte, subtle texture
recycled cardboard tube
Prodigi →
Read about the $44 price

The prints cost $44 and ship for free in US. Here's a quick breakdown of how each of those dollars are spent.

$13 (Prodigi)
$5.50 (USPS)
Payment Processing:
$1.58 (Stripe)
Carbon Capture Donation:
$1.92 (Stripe Climate)
NSC Donation:
$4 (NSC)
Total Cost:
Artist Profit:
OK, cool? But, I'm not paying $44

Fair enough, if you'd still like to support the project there are a handful of other discount codes available.

Use the discount code NOPRINT and release a lemon for $25. Your purchase will still support the charities and artist, just without a physical print.

Use the discount code 7DOLLARLEMON and release a lemon for $7. Your purchase will still support the charities, without a physical print or artist support.

And if financial support just isn't realistic, email me and we'll release a lemon for free in your name.

You can read a bit more about the funding model and these discount tiers.

1024 Lemons art print preview
View larger preview →

3. The Public Domain

Each time a print is sold, one lemon illustration is released into public domain.

Lemon 0001 is available to view, download, and use. To view all of the lemon releases, visit the public lemons.

Read more about the public domain

What is the public domain? The public domain (sometimes referred to as the commons) is comprised of "all creative work to which no exclusive intellectual property rights apply."

All creative works in the public domain are free for anyone to use for any purpose. They can be downloaded, printed, adapted, remixed, altered, changed, or used in any way. Putting creative work into public domain (the commons) adds to an ever growing catalog of human culture that we can all build upon.

Read more about relicensing the lemon illustrations

The illustrations will be released into the public domain using the Creative Commons CC0 license. After re-licensing the illustration, it will be available to anyone in the world to use in any way.


What happens after all of the prints are sold?

What a lovely question. First, I will be surprised and my heart will be full!

If and when all of the prints are sold, the code that generated the lemons will be open-sourced along with the print image. Everyone will be free to print their own or adapt it into something new.

What happens if no one buys these prints?

Fair question!

This project will run for one year and end in May, 2023. Any illustrations that haven't been released, will be released into the public domain at that time.

The code that generated the lemons will also be open-sourced along with the print image. Everyone will be free to print their own or adapt it into something new.

How are buyers being acknowledged?

This is a fun part! Anyone who purchases a print will be given the option of being publicly acknowledged for contributing an illustration to the public domain.

Each person will be thanked on the public lemons page. Also on Twitter!

How are the donations happening?

The carbon capture donation is done at time of each purchase through Stripe Climate.

The donation to NSC will be done when the project completes, the receipt will be posted on this website.

Are there any non-financial ways that I can support this?

Sure! Sharing this project page (reasonable.work/1024-lemons) with others who might want to support it is always appreciated.

Another way to support the project is to make something with the public illustrations. Using the art is supporting the project.

Why give away the art?

You can read more about the funding model for this project, which I'm calling unlocking common use. The core idea here is: could supporting artists create abundance, rather than scarcity, and distribute benefits to more people?

Is this an NFT?

It is not.

Please don't purchase an NFT that claims to be "selling ownership" of these lemons: these lemons will be free.

And though I would prefer that no one use this art to make NFTs, I realize that I cannot stop anyone from doing just that. I trust you, fellow human, to not toss public domain art onto the blockchain.