Blog: [Blog Home] [Archives] [Search] [Contact]

Archive for the ‘Art and Artists’ Category

Video: The Liquified Paintings of Claude Monet

Monday, July 7th, 2014

Liquified Paintings of Claude Monet
The Liquified Paintings of Claude Monet Video

Since setting up an account on YouTube towards the end of last year, I confess to not having been active on that platform. I created the account for the purpose of publishing several video portfolios to promote my art. The plan was to create a video for each area of artistic creation I am working in. I created exactly one portfolio video and that was for my portrait art. That was my first attempt at making a video and you can see it here: Portrait Art Video. If you’re interested in the story of how I went about making that video, read Portrait Art Video Project.

The experience of creating that video got me interested in creating some original animations of my own. Since that time I’ve only posted two videos exploring animation. One I dubbed the Swimming Eye Art Video. The other was a crude quickie experiment in animating an image – Sailing A Stormy Sea Video.

For this new video I wanted to create something that would feature the art of the great impressionist painter Claude Monet. I have recently been experimenting with vector fields and their utility as an algorithmic means of creating flowing brush strokes. It occurred to me that I could use this technique to create a series of liquified paintings that would evolve. And that’s how The Liquified Paintings of Claude Monet video was born. And here it is.

The video captures the evolution of six separate paintings and the transition from one to the next. For me it is the transition between paintings that is visually the most interesting. One thing you may have noticed is the very slow evolution of the first painting. It is no coincidence that this first painting is the darkest of the six paintings. You see I tied the speed of evolution to the overall brightness of the image.

Given that these paintings have been "liquified", I deliberately chose artworks by Monet that featured water, be it a pond, a stream, a river, or the ocean. Following are image stills from the video and the name of the Monet painting that was used as the color source at that point during the video.

Claude Monet Impression, Soleil Levant
Claude Monet – Impression, Soleil Levant

Claude Monet The Argenteuil Bridge
Claude Monet – The Argenteuil Bridge

Claude Monet Morning By The Sea
Claude Monet – Morning By The Sea

Claude Monet Autumn On The Seine At Argenteuil
Claude Monet – Autumn On The Seine At Argenteuil

Claude Monet Poplars At The Epte
Claude Monet – Poplars At The Epte

Claude Monet Water Lilies
Claude Monet – Water Lilies

The most time consuming aspect of this project was writing the program that produced the video stills. In all I used 3272 image stills (not counting the title and trailer images) to create this video.

Graphics Software Used

I created this video using several different software packages. The liquified/animated images used to construct the video were created with a program I wrote using the Processing creative coding platform which is a framework built on Java. As a programming language, Processing is easily the best language for non-programmers interested in creative coding projects. To stitch the individual images together into a video, I used the DOS command line utility FFMPEG. To create my title and trailer images I used Adobe Photoshop CS4. Note that my workflow would have consisted entirely of "free" software if I had used GIMP (GNU Image Manipulation Program) to create these two images. For the soundtrack file, I used Audacity to edit the mp3 sound file.The soundtrack music is Laideronnette Imperatrice Des Pagodes by Maurice Ravel. Finally to assemble everything I used Microsoft’s Windows Live Movie Maker which came bundled with Windows 7.

In Conclusion

If you would like to know more about Claude Monet, you may want to read this biography of Claude Monet. If you are of a technical bent, there is this Wikipedia entry for vector fields which served as the painting foundation upon which my Processing program was built. And while I don’t often add new videos, you may want to follow me on YouTube.

I’ll close with a couple of noteworthy quotes.

When you go out to paint, try to forget what objects you have before you – a tree, house, a field….Merely think, here is a little square of blue, here an oblong of pink, here a streak of yellow, and paint it just as it looks to you, the exact color and shape, until it gives your own naive impression of the scene before you. – Claude Monet

A preliminary drawing for a wallpaper pattern is more highly finished than this seascape. – French art critic Louis Leroy in 1874 commenting on Monet’s Impression, Sunrise

Bookmark it:  Stumble It  Bookmark this on Delicious  Digg This  Technorati  Reddit Tweet It

Portrait Art Video Project

Friday, September 20th, 2013

Portrait Art Video
Portrait Art Video

Last week I wrote about making and posting my first video to YouTube
in Learning YouTube and Movie Maker. Earlier this week I posted my second video – The Digital Portrait Art of Jim Plaxco – a promotional video for my portrait art.

Let me tell you about the process I used to create this video. First I knew that I wanted the video to be not much longer than two minutes. Next I estimated how long I wanted each artwork to be displayed in the video. These two pieces of information told me exactly how many of my artworks I could use for the video.

My next step was to create the individual jpegs that would be used to create the video. I used Adobe Bridge to select the art that I wanted to use for the video. I then used Adobe Photoshop’s Image Processor (Adobe Bridge -> Tools -> Photoshop -> Image Processor) and the Resize to Fit option to create uniformly sized jpegs. I then created a title slide and a credits slide for the video, again using Adobe Photoshop.

Next was to bring all the jpegs into Windows Live Movie Maker. It was at this point that I sorted the pictures into the order I wanted. Once I had finished ordering the portraits in Movie Maker, I next applied a transition effect to each image. I tried to apply effects that I felt would work nicely for the artwork being transitioned from and to. Lastly I adjusted the display time settings associated with each image. Since I wanted to use a uniform display time for all the artwork in the show, I used Ctrl-A to select all the images and then used the Edit feature to set a uniform display time. I then individually selected the opening title slide and closing credits slide to give them a longer display time. At this point the visual portion of the video was complete. I exported the video and then watched it to decide if the timing and transitions were all to my satisfaction. To watch the movie I used my video player of choice – VLC Media Player

Adding sound to my video

At this point I had a silent movie. Now that I knew the movie’s final length (2:37), I had to locate suitable music of at least that duration. While I could have looped a shorter audio to fill out the video, I wanted to avoid that. Regarding music, there are several web sites that offer music under the creative commons license. Even though I limited my search to creative commons licenses that allow for commercial use (non-commercial licenses dominate) just to be 100% safe, I was still able to find a nice selection of music.

A note to those interested in using music with a creative commons license – it is important that you follow the creative commons licensing terms. The musicians are providing something for nothing except an acknowledgment in the work you produce. You know – that thing artists hate to hear — "can I use your art for free – you’ll get good exposure." These musicians have said yes so be sure to give them their proper credit in your video.

I found a very nice selection of music on music web site. One song I found particularly appropriate was Big (Astronaut Mix) by Dave Howes. Big (Astronaut Mix) was a little bit longer than my video so I turned to Audacity. Audacity is excellent, free, open source, audio editing software. Being able to use Audacity to edit the soundtrack was wonderfully simple. There were only two things I had to do in Audacity. The first was to crop the soundtrack’s length to exactly match the length of my video. The second was to apply a fade effect to the end of the soundtrack so that the audio would fade out in the final seconds of the video.

With a soundtrack ready to go, I reopened my Movie Maker project, imported the mp3 file, and once again exported the video. It was just that simple.

With my video completed, it was time to turn to YouTube. While the video upload was in progress, I gave the YouTube entry for the video an appropriate title: The Digital Portrait Art of Jim Plaxco and an appropriate description:

A video presentation of digital portrait art created by Jim Plaxco. For details and a list of the art used, see

Soundtrack: Big (Astronaut Mix) by Dave Howes,

Also, rather than use one of YouTube’s random frame choices for the video’s thumbnail, I went with the custom thumbnail option and selected the jpeg of my video’s title slide.

I must confess that the entire project was rather a stress-free, enjoyable exercise. If you are an artist and have contemplated creating your own video to promote your art, what are you waiting for? The tools are free and the time investment in creating a video similar to mine is not bad at all.

Watch the video
The Digital Portrait Art of Jim Plaxco Video

Bookmark it:  Stumble It  Bookmark this on Delicious  Digg This  Technorati  Reddit Tweet It

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

Please enable JavaScript to obtain my email address.

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.

Bookmark it:  Stumble It  Bookmark this on Delicious  Digg This  Technorati  Reddit Tweet It

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.

Bookmark it:  Stumble It  Bookmark this on Delicious  Digg This  Technorati  Reddit Tweet It

Duckon, Party Lines, Art Exhibit

Sunday, July 7th, 2013

Masters of Lightning Super Happy Fun Cage
Masters of Lightning zapping the bejesus out of Duckers in their Super Happy Fun Cage

Here it is – my week in review. The four noteworthy events for last week were:

  • my participation in the Duckon Science Fiction Convention
  • setting up a display of my art
  • modifying my Party Lines Processing.js program
  • writing a new image painting program

Duckon Science Fiction Convention

First there was the Duckon Science Fiction Convention last weekend. I did a total of 6 hours of programming – 3 panels and 3 presentations. I attended very little programming myself as most of the panels I wanted to see were scheduled at the same time as one of my talks or panels (I think I must be at the top of Murphy’s Who Do I Want to Annoy Today list). There was a good panel on self-publishing that I was able to attend. I also made sure to attend the Masters of Lightning event featuring their amazing singing tesla coils. I can think of no cooler way to make electronic music than with miniature bolts of lightning.

Masters of Lightning burning CDs at Duckcon Science Fiction Convention
The Masters of Lightning and their novel way of burning CDs.

In addition to making music, these masters also zapped willing con-goers (I myself am a past victim). And it wasn’t just con-goers who got zapped with their lightning – so did a selection of CDs. There was one difference though: the CDs did not survive the ordeal.

I had decided not to participate in the con’s art show this year. I did attend the artist’s reception which unfortunately was poorly attended. It seemed to me that this year’s art show was a fair bit smaller than past shows. Hopefully they’ll be able to turn that around in the future. I am also of the opinion that the decision to have the art programming track take place in the same room as the art show was a mistake. While it was a good idea to try and attract traffic to both the art show and the art programming by having them in the same room, it was a bad idea logistically due to the distractions of noise and traffic.

Although I had to miss the Duckon Masquerade (scheduling conflict), I was able to get several photos later that evening of the very lovely Ariela who was dressed in Steampunk fashion. My idea is to use one or more of these photos as the basis for a portrait.

To see what programming I participated in, see my post Duckon Science Fiction Convention Programming

Art Exhibited at Woodfield Chicago Northwest Convention Bureau

FortyTwo Million Pixel Shark exhibited42 Million Pixel Shark

On Monday I installed three of my artworks at the Woodfield Chicago Northwest Convention Bureau where they will be on display through October 7 2013.

This exhibit is a part of the Northwest Cultural Council Corporate Art Gallery program of which I am a participating artist.

The three works of art I am exhibiting are:

Party Lines Processing.js Program

Last Sunday night I published my Party Lines program – created as an assignment for the Creative Programming for Digital Media & Mobile Apps Coursera class. It subsequently dawned on me that my program had a problem for mobile users – the program required keyboard input. My remedy was to create a new version that used a GUI widget for input rather than the keyboard. It’s a pretty simple program that has the user interacting with a particle system to draw lines. The volume of the associated music is tied to the acceleration of the particles in the system. Note that I included sound as that was one of the requirements for this project.
Check it out: Party Lines Processing.js Sketch
Clever folks will know how to access the program’s source code if they want to see exactly what is going on under the covers.

Test Painter Program

Shark – a test of my painting program

Keeping with the shark theme, I wrote a new image painting program during the week and the shark you see above is one example of its painting possibilities. Just as Photoshop has multiple brushes for users to choose from, so does this program – although for the illustration I used only one of the brushes. I have yet to decide if I will continue to develop this program.

And there you have it. Another week behind me and an unknown but limited number to go.

Bookmark it:  Stumble It  Bookmark this on Delicious  Digg This  Technorati  Reddit Tweet It

Northwest Cultural Council Artists’ Reception

Sunday, June 23rd, 2013

Artist Reception Arlington Green West Wing
Artist Reception Arlington Green – west wing

Yesterday I attended a Northwest Cultural Council Artists’ Reception at the Arlington Green Executive Center in Arlington Heights IL. The site is one of the locations that participates in the Northwest Cultural Council’s Corporate Gallery program. I should point out that I am one of the artists participating in this program and will have a new exhibition opening in a week at the Greater Woodfield Chicago Northwest Convention Bureau in Schaumburg IL.

Artist Reception Arlington Green
Artist Reception Arlington Green

This artist’s reception was hosted for the one artist and two photographers whose work is now on display at Arlington Green. The artist is Barbara Burt of Warrenville IL who is a paper artist. The two photographers are Jennifer Styrsky of La Grange Park IL and Gary Swiontek of Arlington Heights IL.

As I looked through the art and photographs exhibited I was looking for ideas. Something that would give me a creative "ah-ha". While I very much enjoyed many of the works being exhibited, I unfortunately did not have the "ah-ha" moment that I was looking for.

Artist Reception Arlington Green East Wing
Artist Reception Arlington Green – east wing

I spent some time indulging in the free food and drink and speaking with the three artists/photographers. I also spoke with Kathy Umlauf, the executive director of the Northwest Cultural Council. Sensing that my son was getting antsy (I had exercised parental power in making him come along with me), I cut my stay short and we headed off on the next leg of our journey – a visit to the local Barnes and Noble to catch up on news of the art world.

Bookmark it:  Stumble It  Bookmark this on Delicious  Digg This  Technorati  Reddit Tweet It