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Archive for the ‘Algorithmic Art’ Category

The Pursuit of Creative Coding Failures

Sunday, October 15th, 2017

Linear Moon Lunar Representation artwork on Redbubble
Linear Moon Lunar Representation artwork on Redbubble

I write this as a creative coder dismayed by my own lack of foresight in keeping a record of some recent coding failures. It was only a week ago that I wrote an article about glitch art – Glitch Art or Not Glitch Art. You would think that with having just written about deliberately capitalizing on failure that I would be more attentive to my own coding failures. But alas no.

I’ve used the artwork titled Linear Moon shown above to illustrate this story. I created this art using a brand new program I had just finished writing. I knew that I’d written a similar program in the past but did not have the patience to go looking for it (yes, my hard drives are just that cluttered – even with files being organized by directory). Instead I decided that starting fresh would be the best way to go.

My early versions of this new program featured some mathematical logic mistakes with respect to what I wanted to accomplish. If I had been wiser I would have kept these mistakes for later evaluation with respect to their artistic merit. But no, I was in hot pursuit of the right program – the program that would generate a picture that matched the one in my head. It was only when my internal visualization of what I wanted to achieve matched what I saw on the screen that I ceased twiddling with my code and began experimenting with different parameter values to create Linear Moon.

Abstract From Line Segments Algorithmic Art Fail
Abstract From Line Segments Algorithmic Art Fail

The good and the bad about every run of the program was that the final step always wrote its results to a file so I had a visual record of every failed image. The good was in being able to go back and look over these image fails. The bad was in seeing that a number of them had artistic value and knowing that I had failed to keep a copy of the version of the program that produced that image. One example of an early failure is Abstract From Line Segments shown above and created from a painted version of The Beatles Abbey Road album cover art.

In contrast, the correct version of that same input image is shown below and accurately reflects the look I was going for. Between the two images were a number of program variations where I experimented with my program’s math and logic. These variations produced a range of visual results.

Beatles Abbey Road Album Cover Art Successful Algorithmic Interpretation
A successful interpretation of a painting of The Beatles Abbey Road album cover art

After the challenge of successfully creating the linear/line segment effect that I wanted, adding a coloring option was fairly straight forward. The only challenges associated with adding color were those of sampling and manipulation. An example of an initial color experiment is shown below using a portrait of SpaceX CEO Elon Musk.

Elon Musk Algorithmic Portrait
Elon Musk Algorithmic Portrait, color version

There is one big difference between a program that works correctly and a program that leads to erroneous results: it is quite easy to recreate a program that works correctly but exceedingly difficult to recreate a specific set of errors.

My advice to all creative coders out there is this: slow down a little bit, take a look at your failures, and ask yourself “is this an error worth keeping?”

About Linear Moon Algorithmic Art

Linear Moon is the first work of art I’ve formally created using my new program. The original is 30 by 30 inches printed at 300 ppi (pixels per inch). To provide a better idea of what the image looks like at actual size, below is an excerpt that features Tycho Crater. Note that its size on your device screen will vary due to the different pixel densities of different screens.

Tycho Crater detail from Linear Moon Algorithmic Art
Tycho Crater actual size detail from Linear Moon Algorithmic Art

While I have not yet added Linear Moon to my web site, I have made it available as merchandise on Redbubble

Linear Moon artwork on Redbubble

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Ad Blockers and My Art Title Generator

Saturday, July 15th, 2017

Automatic Art Title Generator

A few days ago I added an Art Title Generator to my web site. I did so as a consequence of having writer’s block on coming up with a title for a generative artwork I had created at the beginning of the week. I wrote the Python program for the generator using word dictionaries I had created for a Haiku generator I had written using Java. I added it to my web site and promoted it via some of my social media accounts.

I was surprised when I heard from a couple of people who said that it was not working. Surprised because this is a Python program running on the server and delivering to the user a complete web page with the generated artwork title clearly visible. I couldn’t imagine why these folks were not seeing the title – but were seeing the rest of the generated page.

Impossible.

I went to my son’s computer and used his browser (Chrome) to view the page. And what I saw was no title. It just wasn’t there – which was impossible. I did a view source to take a look at the code that was received by his browser – and the title was there – right where it was supposed to be. So why wasn’t it visible?

And why did the art title display in my Chrome browser but not my son’s? Then it occurred to me. I asked my son if he was using an ad blocker. He said yes. Looking at my CSS, I had used a CSS class that I had named "contentad" and used it to display quotations about art at the bottom of quite a few of my web pages. The only explanation for the invisibility of the generated art titles was that an ad blocker was looking at the name of the CSS class and saying to itself "oh, this is an advertisement so I’ll hide it from the viewer."

To test my theory, I renamed the CSS class and then updated the 102 html files on my site that used it – as well as the Python program. I went back to my son’s browser and voila – there was the art title in full view – no longer hidden by the ad blocker plugin.

To read more about my art title generator and generate a title for yourself, you can proceed to the introductory page Automatic Art Title Generator. Or if you are the impatient sort and want to see an art title right now, load the Art Title Generator.

Here’s hoping that you enjoy the algorithmically generated artwork titles.

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Euclidean Chaos Abstract Algorithmic Art

Monday, November 28th, 2016

Euclidean Chaos Abstract Algorithmic Art
Euclidean Chaos Abstract Algorithmic Art

Euclidean Chaos artwork on Redbubble

Euclidean Chaos artwork on CRATED

One of the projects I undertook over the Thanksgiving holidays was to create a new series of abstract algorithmic artworks. The first of these artworks that I’ve made available on Redbubble and Crated is the piece Euclidean Chaos.

The Euclidean in the title is a reference to Euclidean geometry. Euclidean geometry is a mathematical system described by the Greek mathematician Euclid in his textbook on geometry titled simply Elements, written sometime around 300 B.C. The fundamental "space" in Euclidean geometry is the plane. The chaotic aspect of Euclidean Chaos is, what is visually, a countless number of intersecting planes which constitute the artwork.

My analogy for this artwork is the cosmological concept of the multiverse or parallel universes – a system wherein there exists an infinity of non-interacting universes, each unaware of the other’s existence.

I hope you like Euclidean Chaos and will visit its pages on Redbubble and Crated (by clicking the buttons above) to see the variety of art product offerings available for this artwork.

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Computational Synthesis Generative Algorithmic Art

Tuesday, June 28th, 2016

Computational Synthesis Generative Algorithmic Art
Computational Synthesis Generative Algorithmic Art

Computational Synthesis is a work of digital art I completed a few days ago which combines elements of algorithmic art and generative art with continual input from the artist. At the time I created this work I had no idea what to title the piece. In creating this artwork, I did have a clear idea visually and aesthetically of what I wanted to create but had given no thought to a title. After completing the piece, I turned to social media. I posted the artwork in a few places and asked for suggestions as to a title. Some suggested titles were:

  • Abstract Structure
  • Digital City
  • Discreet Time
  • Constructor Theory
  • Shifting Perspectives
  • Cityscape, Sky View
  • Aerial View Of Cyberscape
  • Monolith Metastasis
  • Fragmentation

While I did not use any of these titles, I do owe a thanks to the people who suggested them as they served as input to my thought process. Giving a title to a work of art can lead the observer in a certain direction when they are viewing the artwork. In choosing a title, I had to determine how well the title fit with what I was trying to say artistically. And therein lay my chief problem in coming up with a title.

I finally decided on Computational Synthesis as the title. Typically when one thinks of computational creativity, it is more in terms of the "machine" itself being the creator with the source of its creativity being within the framework of its design. In the case of this artwork, the computational component refers to my use of computational methods to produce a particular aesthetic style while synthesis points to the fact that I, the artist, was an equal partner in the creative process.

I created this artwork using an evolved version of a program I created and wrote about in Artistic Creativity and the Evolution of an Idea. For comparison, take a look at a previous artwork I created using an earlier version of this program:

Android Vision Generative Algorithmic Art on Redbubble

Following are links to the open edition version of Computational Synthesis on Redbubble and Crated, as well as a link to my contact page if you are interested in the availability of the limited edition print version of this artwork.

Computational Synthesis artwork on Redbubble

Computational Synthesis artwork on CRATED

Contact Jim Plaxco about Limited Edition Print availability

In closing, the question I ask myself is am I satisfied with the state of the program I used to create this artwork or do I want to continue to explore evolutionary pathways? I have no answer at the moment but ultimately that answer may well depend on whether or not I have a Eureka moment.

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Algorithmic Abstract Art Orientation

Tuesday, October 20th, 2015

Tunnel Vision Algorithmic Abstract Art
Tunnel Vision Algorithmic Abstract Art

Over the last several days I’ve created a number of new works of algorithmic art. One of these pieces is Tunnel Vision – shown above. After creating this particular artwork I began to wonder if the orientation I had used in its creation would actually be the orientation that other people would find to be the most aesthetically appealing. To get an idea of what that answer might be I posted the image below to several art groups and asked people to identify which of the four orientations they found to be the most aesthetically pleasing.

abstract algorithmic art orientation choices
The Four Artwork Orientation Choices

While early voting had A as the overwhelming preference, by the time voting was effectively over, D had emerged as a close runner up. With respect to the two portrait oriented choices, I find it easy to see why D was clearly preferred to C as that’s the choice that I find more aesthetically pleasing. With respect to the two landscape oriented choices, option A was clearly preferred over option B. Again I agree.

Abstract Art Orientation Survey Results
Abstract Art Orientation Survey Results

Taking a step back, you can see in the survey results that there is almost a 50-50 split between people selecting a landscape orientation versus a portrait orientation. So the real challenge is choosing between options A and D with the core question being does this artwork work better as a portrait-oriented artwork or as a landscape-oriented artwork? Given the symmetry of this piece, I think the answer to this question is really one of personal taste.

Creating Tunnel Vision

In creating Tunnel Vision, I was working with a program that is a descendant of a very simple spirograph program I had written for a class I taught on using Processing to create digital spirographs and harmonographs. The image below is an example of the type of output that original spirograph program created.

Original spirograph program output
Original spirograph program output

Over a period of time I gradually enhanced and expanded that program along several separate aesthetic lines of evolution. Tunnel Vision is the result of one of those evolutionary lines.

And My Aesthetic Vote Is…

When I created Tunnel Vision, I did so with the orientation of the canvas corresponding to option A. And it was with that landscape orientation in mind that I modified various parameters to create a work that satisfied my personal aesthetic. Fortunately for me the survey results served as a confirmation of the creative choices I had made.

Open Edition Prints

Open edition prints of Tunnel Vision are available from the following art print sites:

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Blurb vs Lulu to Publish an Art Book

Tuesday, June 2nd, 2015

Illustrations for Jim Plaxco's Algorithmic Art Book
Illustrations for my algorithmic art book

Earlier this year I made the decision to publish a book of algorithmic art. Algorithmic art was my introduction to the world of computer art – which is also known as digital art and/or new media art – depending on who you ask.

My first challenge was to decide how the book would be organized. My next challenge was to identify what and how much algorithmic art would be included in the book. My third challenge was to write the supporting text for the book.

The answer to the question of how to organize the book came quite quickly. A general introduction followed by sections which would each feature a particular style of my algorithmic art.

Choosing the art for the book was also fairly straight forward. Given my shortcomings in not taking the time to add newly created art to my web site, I choose 76 algorithmic artworks that I had not published to my web site. In all honesty, for me the satisfaction is in the process of creating art and not in the marketing of art.

The difficult part with respect to selecting art was in dealing with the question of how many pages of illustrations did I want my book to contain. Why? Because the number of pages directly impacts the book’s manufacturing cost and consequently the list price for the buyer.

To answer the question of how many pages it is necessary to take a step back. While I was assembling the book I was also looking in to the question of how I would go about getting the book published. The three options available to me were the traditional publishing route, the traditional self-publishing route, and the newer POD (print-on-demand) electronic publishing route.

For purposes of this discussion, let’s just say that I’ve chosen the electronic POD publishing route. My three finalists in this category were Amazon’s CreateSpace, Blurb, and Lulu. I quickly ruled out CreateSpace as it is not well suited for the publishing of art and/or photography books. That left me with Blurb and Lulu.

Ignoring all other considerations for the moment, I’m going to look only at book production costs. It is the production costs that are going to have the main impact on my book’s affordability. Given that I’ve narrowed my choice of publishers down to Blurb or Lulu, it’s time to look at the base cost of a photo book on each platform.

Impacting cost are size, cover, and paper options. With respect to size and format, my options are:

BLURB Photo Book Sizes
Format Size in Inches
Small Square 7 x 7
Standard Portrait 8 x 10
Standard Landscape 10 x 8
Large Format Landscape 13 x 11
Large Square 12 x 12
LULU Photo Book Sizes
Format Size in Inches
Square 8.5 x 8.5
Landscape 9 x 7
Large Landscape 12.75 x 10.75
Portrait 8.5 x 11

Question: was it a conscious or unconscious decision that led Blurb and Lulu to insure that neither would offer photo books of the same physical dimensions?

Here is where I came to the question of cost. I’m going to accept the default options for each publisher without really knowing whether or not the quality of the two publisher’s defaults are really equal.

From Blurb, I like the large landscape hardback format with a page size of 13 x 11 and 100# paper quality. But look at the book’s base cost by page count!

  • the cost for a 20 page photo book is $69.86
  • the cost for a 60 page photo book is $93.86
  • the cost for a 80 page photo book is $105.86

And since I would like to be able to make some money on the sale of each book, my markup will be an add-on to the base cost. Ouch.

These high manufacturing costs present artists and photographers with a real dilemma. We would like to pack more art and photography into our books in order to provide the buyer with depth and diversity. However, pushing against that is the cost of publication. I would really like to be able to offer a book that is at least 80 pages long but with the cost of such a book being over $100, how many people could afford to buy it?

Taking a look at Lulu, their equivalent book is the 12.75 x 10.75 casewrap hardcover also with 100# paper quality. Pricing for this book would be:

  • the cost for a 20 page photo book is $44.39
  • the cost for a 60 page photo book is $68.39
  • the cost for a 80 page photo book is $80.39

While cheaper than Blurb, it is still not what I deem affordable. If I was willing to downgrade on quality, I could go with Lulu’s 9 x 7 landscape paperback which also has a lower quality paper (80#). If I do that, the costs become:

  • the cost for a 20 page photo book is $12.59
  • the cost for a 60 page photo book is $28.59
  • the cost for a 80 page photo book is $36.59

This is affordable but I’ve also gone with a lower quality book. If I want quality, the only way to get the total cost down is to cut the number of pages in the book. Of course there’s a hidden cost there. Using the Blurb large landscape hardcover as an example, the 20 page version has a total cost of $69.86 but a per page cost of 3.49 – whereas the 80 page version, whose total cost is $105.86, costs only 1.32 per page. So while cutting pages lowers the book’s total cost, it also increases the cost per page – which makes perfect sense if you stop to think about it. And just for perspective, if I show up at the local copy shop and want to make a two-sided color photocopy on generic copier paper, that will cost me over a dollar per page.

These costs demonstrate the basic problem of publishing with electronic PODs – they just don’t have the same economies of scale that you get with traditional publishing and printing. If I went the traditional self-publishing route I could purchase an inventory of books with the equivalent or better quality than my Blurb preference for perhaps 1/10 the cost per book. However that would require that I buy an entire run of books – which means a very large up-front expense on my part. Also, I would then have to take on the added responsibility of distribution – a task I have no expertise at.

So what do to? I’ll provide updates here as I make progress towards reaching a final decision.

Reference Links

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