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Posts Tagged ‘algorithmic art’

Ambient Recursion Algorithmic Art

Tuesday, April 10th, 2018

Ambient Recursion Algorithmic Art
Ambient Recursion Algorithmic Art cropped version.
Click the image to see the uncropped version.
The original artwork is 30 by 30 inches printed at 300ppi.

What could be the first in a series of algorithmic artworks, Ambient Recursion was created using a programming technique known as recursion. Note that the image above has been cropped to fit the screen. To see the complete artwork, click on the cropped image above. A new window will open revealing the complete artwork. Note that a full size excerpt from the center of the artwork is displayed at the bottom of this post. Once you’ve viewed the uncropped image, it will be clear that while the artwork is strongly symmetrical, it is not perfectly symmetrical. I find that by avoiding perfect symmetry, the image becomes more interesting and aesthetically pleasing.

The programming language I used for this work was the Processing programming language. The most challenging part of writing this Processing program was in getting the recursion to perform as I wanted it to – especially with respect to screen boundary conditions.

Because I used a random factor to determine which sub-functions would be called, which in turn influenced the depth of recursion, I found that much of the drawing was being done off-screen – or so I guessed when viewing the program’s output. To get a handle on just where the drawing was happening, I replaced the drawing commands with print commands that dumped out the x,y coordinates and other supporting parameters for every shape being drawn.

This problem solving tactic proved to be most useful as it led me to reevaluate the entire drawing process. If I could dump the coordinates and associated parameters of every shape to a print file, why not write them to a Java arrayList and then draw using the data stored in the list. While the principal benefit of this approach was in insuring that every rectangle would appear within the canvas, it also provided me with the opportunity and ability to manipulate the relationships between the shapes. This was a true case of serendipity.

The second most challenging aspect was in coming up with a title. Given the nature of the image and the fact that I was listening to a collection of ambient music by Brian Eno while developing and writing the program used to create this artwork, the title Ambient Recursion was a natural choice.

While I have not yet added Ambient Recursion to my gallery of artworks here on Artsnova, I have made it available on Redbubble.

Ambient Recursion Algorithmic Art on Redbubble

Ambient Recursion Samsung Galaxy Smartphone Case


Ambient Recursion full size excerpt Case
A full size excerpt from the center of the artwork.


What is Recursion?

Using the definition from Geeks for Geeks, recursion is:

The process in which a function calls itself directly or indirectly is called recursion and the corresponding function is called as recursive function. Using recursive algorithm, certain problems can be solved quite easily. Examples of such problems are Towers of Hanoi (TOH), Inorder/Preorder/Postorder Tree Traversals, DFS of Graph, etc.

For more about recursion, see the Wikipedia definition for Recursion (computer science)

And remember…

To iterate is human, to recurse divine.
L. Peter Deutsch


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Orbital Decay Interactive Algorithmic Art

Tuesday, January 30th, 2018

Orbital Decay Interactive Algorithmic Art
Orbital Decay Interactive Algorithmic Art on Redbubble

Orbital Decay is a work of algorithmic art I created last night and is 25 by 25 inches when printed at 300ppi (pixels per inch). To create this art I used an interactive algorithmic art program I finished writing yesterday. Traditionally algorithmic art was defined as art created by a largely deterministic, algorithmic process using parameters to control the process. Complicating the matter of categorization has been the introduction of that category of digital art known as generative art – which has substantial overlap with the algorithmic art category with respect to how the art is created from a computational perspective. In fact it has been argued that algorithmic art is a subset of generative art – even though the former precedes the later. Wikipedia has this to say on the subject:

Algorithmic art, also known as computer-generated art, is a subset of generative art (generated by an autonomous system) and is related to systems art (influenced by systems theory). Fractal art is an example of algorithmic art. Source: Wikipedia entry for algorithmic art

Why Algorithmic and not Generative?

So why have I categorized Orbital Decay as a work of interactive algorithmic art and not as a work of generative art? That’s a good question because this work does qualify as a work of generative art. However as I am the artist I get to decide what I want to call it – although I could argue that to label this art as generative would be equally appropriate.

You will note I have added the qualifier interactive to the algorithmic label. I did this because the creation of this artwork did require direct interaction from me. Unlike traditional algorithmic art programs which can be driven entirely by parameters and parametric settings (an autonomous system), this program as written could not create anything without the artist’s direct input throughout the creation process.

Orbital Decay is available as wall art and as illustration on a variety of products offered by Redbubble. Clicking either the link button or the image below will take you to the Orbital Decay Redbubble product page.

Orbital Decay Interactive Algorithmic Art on Redbubble

Orbital Decay Art on Womens Tee Shirts
Orbital Decay Art on Women’s Tee Shirts

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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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What’s New? Latoocarfians and Talks

Saturday, April 11th, 2015

latoocarfian chaotic function
A Latoocarfian chaotic function

After a long hiatus, I’ve finally published new content to my Artsnova Digital Art Gallery web site. Frankly, I’ve been busy with other projects and updating my Artsnova web site got pushed down the queue. (Note that this blog is actually separate from the web site.) In addition to agreeing to manage the Enterprise in Space Orbiter Design Contest last fall, I undertook an even larger project – designing and launching my own photography web site at Jim Plaxco Photography. Still in my queue of to-do items is converting this blog into a design that is mobile-device friendly – moving up the queue as a consequence of Google’s soon to be updated search ranking algorithm which will push non-mobile-friendly sites further down the search engine results page.

I’ve also been busy working on an algorithmic art book project. To date I have created approximately 40 plus illustrations for the book. My target for the total number of illustrations is in the 60 to 80 range – with the final count depending upon how the extra illustrations will impact the book’s final cost and price. This will be what I hope is the first in a series of books on different forms of computer art.

Two additions I made were two new art presentations: The Beauty of Algorithmic Art and Designing Algorithmic Art: From Concept to Realization. Both of these talks draw heavily on the work I am doing on my algorithmic art book. I will be giving one, possibly both, of these talks at a regional MENSA convention this fall.

I’ve also added a new computer art tutorial – Latoocarfian Chaotic Function Tutorial. This tutorial explains some of the function’s math while providing the source code for a Processing programming language implementation. This is a beginner’s level tutorial and will hopefully encourage someone to more seriously consider this avenue of artistic creation.

In exploring these Latoocarfian chaotic functions I decided to create an expanded variation for the creation of additional art for my book project. One example is A Day In The Life Of A Latoocarfian – so titled as I had the program that was creating this particular artwork run for one full day on a separate dedicated computer.

This week I was also working on an interactive generative painting program which is now basically complete and which I will be writing about in my next blog post.

In closing, I am still collecting input for my digital art and photography newsletter. If you would like to provide input, then please take part in the short, brief survey available at Artsnova Digital Art and Photography Newsletter Survey

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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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New Algorithmic Art and a Processing Tutorial

Monday, January 30th, 2012

Aftermath Digital Painting
Aftermath Digital Painting, 32 x 16 inches

All in all this has been a very good day. It started too early when my alarm went off at 6:00am. While fixing my son’s lunch, I hit upon the following limerick, a testament to having gotten too little sleep (I didn’t go to bed till after 1:00am):

My alarm goes off at six o’clock
It always comes as quite a shock
There in bed I wish to lay
But I have to rise and face the day
Gee I hope I don’t get artist’s block

Seeing my son off to school and with coffee in hand I settled in at the computer. I began by putting the finishing touches on the web pages for my series of five works of algorithmic art titled Cubic Disarray. Fortunately most of the work was done for me by a program I wrote to fill in a skeleton art gallery web page with the relevant data from a control file. This program also produces the XML entries for my sitemap.xml and newsfeed.xml files. The five works in the Cubic Disarray series are:

Cubic Disarray: Division algorithmic art
Cubic Disarray:

Cubic Disarray: Bisection algorithmic art
Cubic Disarray:

Cubic Disarray: Impending Unity algorithmic art
Cubic Disarray:
Impending Unity

Cubic Disarray: Point of Radiance algorithmic art
Cubic Disarray:
Point of Radiance

Cubic Disarray: Turbulence algorithmic art
Cubic Disarray:

When I decided yesterday that I was going to add these to my web site and make them available for purchase, I knew that I wanted to give credit to Georg Nees, whose work Schotter was the inspiration for my series. My idea quickly snowballed out of control. My first impulse was to just give a line of credit on each page. My next impulse was to create a web page dedicated to Schotter (German for gravel). I then decided to write a program using Processing that would recreate Schotter. Once I had the program written, it seemed only natural to turn it into a tutorial.

This morning I finished work on the tutorial and published it, along with the Cubic Disarray series to my web site. Included in the tutorial are a side by side comparison of Nees’ original Schotter and the Processing recreation. If you are a Processing user or are just curious to learn about algorithmic art, then check out my Georg Nees, Processing, and a Schotter Tutorial

In other good news I heard from an art gallery in Chicago today that is interested in my art. Hopefully we’ll be a good match for each other. Right now some of my space art is being exhibited and is available for purchase from Paper Crown Gallery located in Arlington Heights.

Lastly and best of all I completed two digital paintings today. Now one of these, titled City Lights, I started today and finished today. The other painting, titled Aftermath, I only finished today. Believe it or not I actually began this piece in April 2009 and last worked on it in April 2009. For almost three years this piece sat collecting electronic dust before I quite by accident rediscovered it earlier today. At 16 x 32 inches, Aftermath is one of my larger pieces and I have used it to illustrate this post.

So today was definitely a day without artist’s block. But who knows what tomorrow holds.

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