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Archive for the ‘Digital Art’ Category

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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Generative Artworks: Hades to Oblivion

Friday, March 24th, 2017

A Cool Day in Hell Generative Art Landscape
A Cool Day in Hell Generative Art Landscape

One of the negatives with respect to digital art is that the concept of an original does not apply as it does with traditional art. With traditional art the original is the physical media to which physical paint has been applied and there will be only one. With digital art the concept of a physical original does not apply because of the nature of digital files, which are basically infinitely reproducible. What has long been viewed as a shortcoming does offer digital artists at least one unique capability.

Because the original artwork is a digital file that can be duplicated, it is possible to use that digital canvas as the foundation for the creation of other derivative artworks. One piece I recently completed is A Cool Day in Hell which had as its original working title Dante’s Inferno.

In creating this artwork, I used one of the generative painting programs I’d designed. The program could be characterized as the Adobe Photoshop Paintbrush Engine on steroids. With one set of parameters, I can entrust the program to do the entire painting by itself. This would be similar to the filter features of Adobe Photoshop or the auto-paint feature of Corel Painter. With another set of parameters, the program functions very much like the paintbrushes in Photoshop and Painter when placed under the artist’s control. The most interesting set of parameters are those that blend program autonomy with some degree of artist interaction. It was this third option that I used to create this particular artwork.

It was only after adding this art to my portfolio on Redbubble that I decided to take that artwork and use it as the starting point for another artwork. I decided to use the same generative painting program that I had used for the original piece. This derivative artwork, titled Passage to Oblivion, does bear a resemblance to the original on which it is based.

Passage to Oblivion Generative Landscape Painting
Passage to Oblivion Generative Landscape Painting

While similar, the two have different color temperatures, textural feel, tone and contrast. Compositionally, the large, open, somewhat mountainous subterranean landscape of A Cool Day in Hell is transformed into a claustrophobic feeling of being inside an eerie underground cave.

To see either of these two artworks on Redbubble, simply click the appropriate image above and the Redbubble page will open in a new tab on your browser. It’s particularly interesting to see how these two artworks look when applied to apparel.

Passage to Oblivion on Redbubble Apparel

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My Social Media Holiday

Friday, November 4th, 2016

Digital Art Prints website screenshot
Coming Soon
Digital Art Prints website screenshot

My use of social media has always been erratic because it has never been a high priority for me. That does not mean that I don’t have accounts on many platforms – I do. A number of the accounts I set up are simply for learning about that platform’s features and usability – an area of professional interest for me.

To improve my knowledge of social media, I’ve read articles, books, and taken online classes. I’ve even taught classes for artists and photographs on how to use social media. But knowing and doing are two separate things. Let me provide an example. I attended an online seminar on how to be successful at Twitter. The key take away from this class, other than the completely generic advice to post great tweets was that the teacher spent three hours a day every day engaging on Twitter. For me, that is far too high a price to pay just to be popular on Twitter. Personally, I don’t spend three hours a year using Twitter.

My periods of absence from social media are driven by two key factors. First is the availability of time. Second is the variety of platforms I have accounts on. The more accounts you have, the less time you can devote to any one of them and skipping out on one makes it easier to skip out on the others.

Social Media Platforms

The main social media platforms I have accounts on and on which I am actually at all active are:

I have left off this list the many niche social networks I am on as well as sharing platforms like Tumblr and FLickr. And of course there are the more-than-a-handful of social media platforms that have gone out of business.

It has now been several months since I have engaged on any of my social media accounts. What happened? The most striking of my absences is from Linkedin – which was in large part driven by Linkedin’s own actions – two in particular. First they made a number of platform changes that were particularly harmful to members who managed groups. In trying to make the platform more mobile-friendly, Linkedin eliminated a number of usability features. Fortunately there was a strong user backlash and Linkedin eventually restored many of those features. The second was driven by the fact that I stopped receiving group updates from Linkedin. I reported the problem to Linkedin and their response was to basically say "yeah, we made some changes to the platform and a small number of our users were adversely impacted. But because it’s a small number, it’s not a priority for us to fix it." What is small for them was critical for me. That sort of customer service led me from using Linkedin on a daily basis to being only an occasional visitor and that in light of the fact that Linkedin had a couple years ago wanted me to promote the fact that I was in the top one percent of profiles on Linkedin!

So what have I done with the time I gained by ignoring my social media accounts?

Reading is FUNdamental

Two principle areas occupied my reading time. One area was for pleasure and knowledge. The other area was for professional development. Yes, its true, following are books I read for pleasure and knowledge:

  • Business
    • Making It In America – A 12 Point Plan for Growing Your Business and Keeping Jobs At Home by John Bassett and Ellis Henican
    • Good Profit: How Creating Value for Others Built One of the World’s Most Successful Companies by Charles G. Koch
  • Space Development
    • The Business of Space: The Next Frontier of International Competition by L Brennan et al
    • Realizing Tomorrow: The Path to Private Spaceflight by Chris Dubbs
    • Crowded Orbits: Conflict and Cooperation in Space by James Clay Moltz
    • Law and Regulation of Commercial Mining of Minerals in Outer Space by Ricky Lee
    • The Twenty-First Century Commercial Space Imperative – SpringerBriefs in Space Development by Anthony Young

The books I read for professional development dealt with computing: specifically web design and programming.

Web Design

Earlier this year I decided to dig into learning the Bootstrap framework for responsive web design. I had already converted by own sites to mobile-friendly designs using the general principles of responsive web design – but I wanted to learn Bootstrap. My first tangible product was to convert the
Chicago Society for Space Studies website to a mobile friendly design using Bootstrap. Having learned Bootstrap to an acceptable level of proficiency, I was able to design and code and implement the new site in a single weekend.

I am still learning Bootstrap and am close to releasing a new web site – Digital Art Prints which will feature some of the artwork and photography that I offer for sale on a few of the POD (Print On Demand) services I have accounts with.

Python Programming

For some time I’ve been wanting to learn the Python programming language in order to create scripts for GIMP and possibly Blender. What finally pushed me over the edge was the decision to create a new web site (Digital Art Prints) and to use a Python program to construct the web pages from a database I maintain for all my art and photography. My first actual productive use of Python was to create an auto-mailer program for email distribution for Chicago Society for Space Studies. I also have a couple of other projects in mind for interactive website queries.

Presentations

I give a number of talks over the course of a year. These talks tend to fall into four distinct categories. As a NASA JPL Solar System Ambassador, I give talks about planetary science and planetary exploration – the most recent of which was about the New Horizons mission to Pluto. As President of the Chicago Society for Space Studies, I give talks that focus on space business, space development, and space policy. For more about this, see my Chicago Society for Space Studies Speakers Bureau page. As an artist, I give talks on a number of digital art subjects and on various aspects of web use for art marketing. You can see a full list on my lectures and presentations page.

My last presentation was last Saturday (for details see Space Art Program At Elmhurst Art Museum). My next presentation will be this coming Monday for the Nineteenth Century Club and Charitable Association on the topic Globalization of the Solar System – a presentation that asks the question can the economic and technological principles that make globalization possible here on Earth work for a human civilization that is spread across the solar system?

I also completed work on a new presentation titled The Impact of Space Policy on Space Settlement and am working on a presentation about the history of lunar art and another on Earth imaging and remote sensing.

Digital Art Prints website

As I mentioned, I’ve been working on a new web site – digital-art-prints.com where I will have a portfolio of art and photography that I have made available on certain POD (Print On Demand) sites, like Redbubble and Crated for example. The design of the site, which is built using the Bootstrap framework, is complete. I’m not using a CMS (WordPress for example) for the site but am instead working on a Python program that will take the information I have for each artwork and use that information to automatically build the site’s web pages and image gallery. This will allow me to swap out web page designs very easily. I have also written a program using the Processing programming language to automatically generate all the images that the web site will need. Stay tuned as I hope to have the site up before the end of November – assuming no more computer problems.

And What About Social Media?

I certainly expect to return soon to the world of social media but probably not until after I have rolled out my Digital Art Prints website, which is my number two priority at the moment. My number one priority is putting together the next issue of Spacewatch – the quarterly e-newsletter of the Chicago Society for Space Studies.

In the event that I don’t have any more blog posts before Thanksgiving, here is wishing everyone a happy and hearty Thanksgiving.

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New Landscape Art: Coastal Cliffs At Sunset

Thursday, July 7th, 2016

Coastal Cliffs At Sunset Landscape Abstract Art
Coastal Cliffs At Sunset Landscape Abstract Art

Coastal Cliffs At Sunset is my newest work of digital art – which I completed on the Fourth of July. Stylistically I’m not sure how I would categorize this art. Clearly it is not representational art. It’s not really abstract art though it features abstraction. It’s not cubist either though it uses elements of cubism. Nor is it surreal – although in creating this artwork I employed some surrealism.

The creation of this artwork came on the heels of my creation of Stepping Through Time using a new workflow and algorithmic processing technique I developed. In fact the process that I used to create Coastal Cliffs At Sunset is very similar to the process I used to create Stepping Through Time – which you can see on either Redbubble or CRATED.

For background information about this process and workflow, see my article Creating Stepping Through Time Abstract Art, which also discusses pixel sorting, glitch art, and databending.

Currently the open edition version of Coastal Cliffs At Sunset is available for purchase on both Redbubble and CRATED. Follow the links below to see what’s available.

Coastal Cliffs At Sunset Landscape artwork on Redbubble
Coastal Cliffs At Sunset Landscape artwork on CRATED
Contact Jim Plaxco about Limited Edition Print availability


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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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Creative Coding Software Tools: Processing, openFrameworks, Cinder

Thursday, April 14th, 2016

Creative Coding Software Tools:
Creative Coding Software Tools: Processing, openFrameworks, Cinder

In my previous blog post, Fresh Brewed Coffee Digital Art, I made mention of the fact that I create my digital art using software of my own design and that for those digital artists interested in pursuing this aspect of digital art creation, there were some alternative tools available. In that post I mentioned Processing, openFrameworks, and Cinder. I would like to take this opportunity to say a little more about each of these three options.

Processing

Starting with Processing, this is a framework and programming language that is built on top of Java, an object-oriented programming language. Like Java, Processing is free and available on a variety of platforms. Personally I use Processing on both Windows 7 and Ubuntu Linux. Because the Processing programming language was created for artists and musicians with little or no programming background, beginners can quickly be up, running, and creating with this wonderfully flexible software tool. The flexibility of Processing as an environment for creative coding is expanded by the abundance of third party libraries that have been made available. It is also the most flexible tool in terms of the variety of platforms it works with. I have taken advantage of the ability to write Processing sketches for the web using the Javascript version of Processing (Processing.js) as well as for creating Android apps and for interacting with the Arduino (see The Arduino Starter Kit – Official Kit from Arduino with 170-page Arduino Projects Book). For those new to programming and creative coding, Processing is my number one recommendation.

Processing Resources

The main Processing web sites are:

Following are three books on Processing that I recommend and own. There are a number of other books on Processing that are also quite good. Please be aware that Processing is now on version 3 and version 2 is still widely used but do avoid any book that was written for version 1 of Processing.

openFrameworks

Like Processing, openFrameworks is also free and available on multiple platforms. In fact I even had the opportunity to write some openFrameworks programs on a Raspberry Pi (see CanaKit Raspberry Pi 3 Ultimate Starter Kit – 32 GB Edition) that was running the Raspbian operating system. The primary difference between Processing and openFrameworks is that whereas Processing is a framework that sits on top of the Java programming language, openFrameworks sits on top of the C++ programming language. Personally I find openFrameworks to be somewhat more challenging than Processing, particularly with respect to the use of off-frame buffers in conjunction with OpenGL. And by challenging, I am speaking in terms of the number of lines of code I must write in order to achieve some objective.

openFrameworks Resources

The main web sites for openFrameworks are:

There are not nearly as many books about openFrameworks as there are about Processing but the two that are most worthwhile are:

If you are searching on Amazon for books about Processing and/or openFrameworks, you may come across the book Programming Interactivity: A Designer’s Guide to Processing, Arduino, and openFrameworks by Joshua Noble. My advise is do not buy this book. It is quite out of date and the source code for the examples never was made available.

Cinder

Cinder is a third creative coding platform and, like openFrameworks, relies on the C++ programming language. I have no personal experience with Cinder but I will say that when I was investigating openFrameworks vs Cinder as a creative coding toolset for the C++ environment, openFrameworks won out.

Cinder Resources

The main Cinder web sites are:

There are even fewer books about Cinder than there are about openFrameworks. Two books you will find on Amazon are:

I hope you’ve found this information useful. I also hope that, even if you are not a digital artist or musician or programmer, you check one or more of these creative coding toolsets because you never know – you just might have a knack for creative coding.

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