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Archive for August, 2013

Barrington Cultural Arts Center Internet Class for Artists and Photographers

Thursday, August 29th, 2013

Building an Online Presence: The Internet for Artists and Photographers Class
Building an Online Presence: The Internet for Artists and Photographers Class

On September 21, the Barrington Cultural Arts Center will be hosting my seminar on Building an Online Presence: The Internet for Artists and Photographers. My presentation covers a broad array of issues facing the artist and/or photographer who is looking to either create their initial presence on the Internet or to improve their existing presence. Topics I cover include:

  • planning your online strategy
  • identifying a web site solution
  • blogging for your art
  • using social media to promote yourself
  • using SEO to improve your search engine ranking
  • strategies and alternatives for online selling
  • options for email marketing
  • advertising online
  • understanding web analytics

The formal length of the class is one hour. However past offerings of this class have run as long as 2 hours as I encourage the audience to both ask questions and participate in discussions during the course of my talk. While the class is supposed to last one hour, it will run as long as it takes to insure that attendees have their questions answered – or until they kick us out of the theater.

If you have general questions about course content, please feel free to post your question in the form of a comment below. If you have questions about registration, location, or the Barrington Cultural Arts Center, please contact the Barrington Cultural Arts Center.

Class Registration for Building an Online Presence: The Internet for Artists and Photographers

Registration for this class is required. It is also worth noting that seating is limited. The class fee is $15 for Barrington Cultural Arts Center members and $20 for non-members. The class will be held on Saturday September 21 and will begin at 2:00pm. The class will be held at:

The Garlands Of Barrington – Theater At The Garlands
1000 Garlands Lane, Barrington, IL 60010

contact Doris Kucik by phone (847-561-6211) or email

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Resource Links

About Barrington Cultural Arts Center

The Barrington Cultural Arts Center provides a physical space for artists to perform and teach their craft at their Ice House Mall Gallery and Art Center, located at 200 Applebe Street in Barrington, IL. The BCAC hopes to collaborate on public art offerings (i.e. murals, painted benches, plays). Gallery opportunities are available to members.

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OpenSCAD, 3D Objects, and 3D Printing

Tuesday, August 20th, 2013

OpenSCAD 3D Object as Art
OpenSCAD 3D Object as Art

I recently joined the Workshop 88#1 Google group after attending one of their meetings. In going through some of the group discussions, I came across one regarding 3D printing and the choice of software that people made in order to create 3D objects for printing. One of the software selections mentioned was OpenSCAD, an open source product that I have been aware of but never used.

The software is described on the OpenSCAD web site as follows:

OpenSCAD is software for creating solid 3D CAD models. It is free software and available for Linux/UNIX, Windows and Mac OS X. Unlike most free software for creating 3D models (such as Blender) it does not focus on the artistic aspects of 3D modelling but instead on the CAD aspects.

OpenSCAD is not an interactive modeller. Instead it is something like a 3D-compiler that reads in a script file that describes the object and renders the 3D model from this script file.

The power, and weakness, of OpenSCAD is its use of a programming language (script file) to build models. This is in contrast to a traditional 3D modeling program digital artists use, like Lightwave, that supports an interactive mouse-driven style of object creation.

The OpenSCAD user interface is pretty straight forward. Of course that is because the work of creating 3D objects is done via coding. One of the most common complaint about traditional 3D programs is the complexity of the user interface – which makes sense when you consider the variety and complexity of the operations users are performing interactively.

With OpenSCAD, I was able to create simple 3D objects fairly quickly by getting a handle on the scripting language’s syntax. In fact I have illustrated this article using a 3D model I created. The object is composed exclusively of cylinders on which I executed a series of translations and rotations. I should point out that for the illustration of the model I used a Photoshop adjustment layer to alter the hue of the image as rendered in OpenSCAD and used a Photoshop layer style to add a drop shadow to the image.

I do own Adobe Photoshop Extended. Photoshop Extended is the version of Photoshop that supports working in 3D with 3D objects. OpenSCAD saves 3D objects in the STL (Standard Tessellation Language – for more see the Wikipedia STL entry) format. Unfortunately STL is not a 3D format that Photoshop Extended CS4 recognizes. Also unfortunately the selection of 3D file formats that CS4 supports is extremely limited. Surprisingly neither the CS5 or CS6 upgrades have added support for any additional 3D file types. That means that if I want to work with the 3D objects created by OpenSCAD, I will either have to use software other than Photoshop or I will have to use an intermediary program to convert the STL file into one of the very few formats Photoshop recognizes. My preference is to not use Photoshop.

Will I Use OpenSCAD?

There are a plethora of 3D programs available today. Some, like OpenSCAD, are designed for the CAD market. Most aren’t. However, the explosion of 3D printing has generated new interest in CAD programs – especially within the hacker and maker community. For my part, I expect that I will continue to explore OpenSCAD and will attempt to find opportunities to make use of it. I must confess that I do find the programmatic nature of the 3D object creation process appealing.

Note #1: Workshop 88

Workshop 88 hackerspace in Glen Ellyn
Workshop 88 hackerspace in Glen Ellyn

Located in Glen Ellyn IL, Workshop 88 is a hackerspace – also referred to as a makerspace. On their web site, Workshop 88 is described as being focused on science, technology, mechanics, culture and the digital arts and offering a space where people with diverse backgrounds can socialize, collaborate and learn. For more, see the Workshop 88 web site. While my principle interest in investigating the group is to potentially teach a Processing class for them, my secondary interest is in learning more about 3D printing. Given that they have a 3D printer and I don’t, this provides an excellent opportunity to learn more about that aspect of digital creativity.


If you are interested in learning more about OpenSCAD and 3D model making, you may want to check out the following.

On the subject of models, I’ll leave you with a quote from John von Neumann: The sciences do not try to explain, they hardly even try to interpret, they mainly make models. By a model is meant a mathematical construct which, with the addition of certain verbal interpretations, describes observed phenomena. The justification of such a mathematical construct is solely and precisely that it is expected to work.

I’ll close by recommending that if you are interested in creating 3D models then give OpenSCAD a try – it’s free so you’ve got nothing to lose.

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Paper + Salt Solution + Electricity = Art

Tuesday, August 6th, 2013

Paper + Salt Solution + Electricity = Art
Paper+Salt Solution+Electricity=Art

I was at Musecon this last weekend – both as an attendee and as a presenter. For more, see Musecon 2013 Creatives Convention. One of the programs I attended was Stand Back, I’m Going To Try Science! taught by Todd Johnson. One of the demonstrations Todd gave was of brushing a salt water solution on matboard in a path that connected two electrodes. He then turned on the electricity and the audience watched as a fractal-like path was burned into the paper by the electric current. Todd was able to exercise some control over the process by adjusting the amount of current being delivered and by using water to cool down hot spots. I found the pattern and coloring this process created to be fascinating. The photograph used to illustrate this article (above) is of one of Todd’s creations. Todd is perhaps best known for using a particle accelerator to zap acrylic blocks with millions of volts of electricity and then freeing the trapped electrons thus creating Lichtenberg figures.

As I watched Todd creating these fascinating figures it occurred to me to try and create an algorithmic art version of what I was seeing. The solution that immediately came to mind was to use a diffusion limited aggregation (DLA) algorithm. Diffusion Limited Aggregation (DLA) is an algorithm for the simulation of the formation of structures by particles that are diffusing (moving) in some medium, in this case the medium being the surface of a virtual canvas. Such algorithms can be simple or complex. For example, in a more sophisticated DLA algorithm the particles can be made to interact with one another as they move. With respect to the medium, gravity and/or currents can be introduced to further influence the particle’s behavior. The rules by which particles create structure can also be defined in various ways with the precise nature of the resulting structure being governed by the full interplay of the system’s rules and parameters.

I used the Processing programming language to implement my idea. The basic operation of the program allowed for:

  • the creation and destruction of particles;
  • variable opacity for the structure with opacity determined by the number of times a point was "hit" by a particle;
  • the ability for the user to create particle emitters to inject new particles into the system and to control where those particles appear;
  • the ability to globally modify particle velocity (note that velocity is a vector having both speed and direction);
  • the ability for the user to create seeding points for the structure by drawing with the mouse.

The picture below is the first image created after completing program debugging – which surprisingly was less of a hair-pulling experience than I expected it to be. Note that I used Adobe Photoshop to add a layer style that added a border stroke, a drop shadow, and a color overlay to enhance the appearance of the structure.

Diffusion Limited Aggregation algorithmic art example
Diffusion Limited Aggregation algorithmic art example

As you can see, the structure created using my DLA algorithm is much more bushy than the structure created by Todd. One key difference between our two methods is that Todd’s creation process builds structure from the inside-out while the DLA process I used builds structure from the outside-in.

To see other examples of images created using diffusion limited aggregation, I suggest doing an image search using the term "diffusion limited aggregation". You will see a high degree of sameness to images created using this technique.

And the algorithm’s future…

I’m uncertain at this point as to what further development work I will do on this program. There are algorithmic alternatives to the diffusion limited aggregation approach I used. There are also many modifications I could make to my DLA implementation that would alter its behavior.

In closing I’ll leave you with this thought. Speaking as a programmer it is said that Ideas are cheap. Code isn’t. Speaking as a digital artist I can say Code is cheap. Ideas aren’t. The truth of either statement really depends on your perspective.

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Musecon 2013 Creatives Convention

Friday, August 2nd, 2013

Musecon: August 2-4 2013 at the Westin Chicago Northwest in Itasca, IL

Later today I’ll be leaving home to attend Musecon 3 which is being held at the Westin Chicago Northwest in Itasca, IL. If you are not familiar with Musecon, it is a weekend-long convention of classes and hands-on workshops for artists, musicians, inventors, gadgeteers, makers, tinkerers, and creative people of all ages. Areas of programming include:

  • Basic electronic tinkering
  • Knitting, Crochet
  • Leatherworking
  • Chain Maille
  • Music, music and more music
  • Using Software
  • Paperwork
  • Beading & Jewelry
  • Working with Electroluminescent (EL) wire
  • Drama and Improvisation
  • Paint war-gaming miniatures
  • Stained Glass
  • Dancing – Swing and Khaleeji (belly)
  • Vocal workshops
  • Costuming & sewing
  • LEGOs! (for grownups too!)

Musecon has quite an eclectic line up of classes and workshops, a few of which are:

  • Build a 10″ Singing Tesla Coil Stanford
  • Build a Catapult
  • Bodhran Basics
  • Build a Blinkie
  • Irish Language 101
  • Loom Knitting
  • Belly Dance for Fun & Fitness
  • Electric Bikes Discussion
  • Lyric Writing

For my part, the programming I will most likely be attending is:

  • Arduino Programming
  • 3D Printing Discussion
  • Hacker-spaces & Maker-spaces
  • Hardbound Journal Making
  • Stand Back, I’m Going To Try Science! (taught by friend Todd Johnson)
  • Blitzkrieg recording
  • Tesla Coil Q&A
  • Working with EL Wire (or in the same time slot Throwing Up With Style – it’s not what you think – it’s a juggling class)
  • Todd and Bill Provide Endless Amusement featuring friends Bill Higgins and Todd Johnson and the book Endless Amusement, published in 1820 and containing 400 scientific demonstrations, experiments, tricks, and projects.
  • Photography: Posing & Lighting taught by photography masters Richard France and Ken Beach who happen to be scheduled at the same time as Elements of Scotch Tasting. I wonder what would happen if the two were combined into a single class? Would Richard or Ken still trust me with their cameras?

My own contribution to the weekend will be teaching the class Internet Strategies for Artists & Photographers which is basically my seminar Building an Online Presence: The Internet for Artists and Photographers which explores a variety of topics including how to create an online presence, using social media, online selling, and email marketing. Note that I will be teaching this class in September for the Barrington Cultural Arts Center in Barrington IL (details to follow).

It is not too late to attend Musecon – you can register at the door. For details, see the Musecon web site.

I’ll close with a quote on creativity from Scott Adams who wrote in his book The Dilbert Principle:

Creativity is allowing yourself to make mistakes. Art is knowing which ones to keep.

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