Small Colorful Things


Is there such a thing as Higher Art? Is there such a thing as Lower Art? Does an “expert” evaluation of an artwork, or an entire art form in general, mean anything beyond simply being one person’s vote for or against a type of art?

Are there standards by which artwork can be measured or scored? Is good art just a matter of opinion?

I think about these things because I just naturally like to evaluate and compare art (whatever that is…) and such critical thinking naturally leads me to criticize my own opinions and to wonder if they have any substance to them or are just “mine” and purely subjective.


Also …other people like to evaluate and compare my art.

It doesn’t happen very often. Usually it occurs soon after I’ve expressed an opinion about someone else’s artwork. But what do we make of these “counter-evaluations” which are so very different to our own view of our work?

Back in university, I took a course on the history of science and we studied the development of scientific theories to explain things like light, electricity and the orbits of planets. It was quite interesting to see how each new piece of research influenced the developing theories of what light was — that is, the nature of light.


Although I haven’t studied art theory or aesthetics and that philosophical stuff in a serious way, I’m of the opinion that the nature of art is either not fully understood or at least not fully understood by most people because art and what it is seems to still be so hard to explain. I’d say that “Art” is an experience. That’s the fundamental aspect to it. The “experience” can be quite complex (which is what confuses the comparisons of artworks and art forms) but we should focus on that rather than the visual work which should be regarded as the source of the experience which is perceived and interpreted, but never really “seen” objectively.

Thomas Kincade’s tiny houses with glowing windows and candyland backgrounds make me sick.

Am I really nothing more than the Thomas Kincade of my own tiny little world?

Image Notes
A Tierazon fractal India Inked, uscomic.8bf-ed, illustrator.8bf, although I can’t remember the exact sequence. The other variations were chopped in XnView’s native chopping filter.

September 10, 2008



It’s odd how simple algorithms can be tweaked and twisted into producing complex images. That’s what makes algorithmic creativity so exciting — you never know what you will discover and how effortless — or how much fun — it will be. (If you have Fyre, you can open up any of these four images in the program and play with them since the parameter settings are embedded in the image file.)

I made all four of these in Fyre using the square instead of circular setting. Squares don’t seem to have the same potential as circles, but they have the advantage of imitating human constuctions. Here, they appear to be apartment buildings on a bright sunny day.

The black and white, monochrome, limitation doesn’t seem to be much of a limit at all.


I hear there’s great plans to add many more algorithms to Fyre once the developers get some time to do it, but I’ve found this single one, Peter de Jong maps (I think), have a great deal of versatility. How many paint brushes do you need? Maybe you just need to focus more on the single one you have.

There’s always the gauntlet of photoshop filters if you find things are getting dull.

What kind of buildings are these? They’re not impossible constructions. But they’re not really practical ones either. Maybe someday an architect will reveal to the world that his award winning condo design was actually taken from an image made in Fyre?

I’ve seen that day. And now you’ve seen it too.

September 10, 2008

X-Ray Tales

Image Notes
The usual ghostscape, shatterscape creation; An image, multicrystal.8bf-ed, mirror-mirrored and then Extractor 1-ed. The second image is just a negative of the first — the old invert trick works well in black and white. Like an X-ray, it reveals things you could never have imagined and perhaps would never want to imagine. I don’t know why it seems to suggest horror themes. I guess the black and white style (they’re actually only two-color images, one-bit or something) suggest gothic things. I find those gothic horror themes rather cliche and prefer to come up with something more sci-fi-ish. Perhaps that’s just my preferred cliche…

September 8, 2008

When I told NASA I had a formula

Image Notes
Made in Capow before I learned how to turn off the perimeter guidelines that made everything look like it was in a swimming pool, contruction site, crime scene — or a baking pan.

September 4, 2008

Savage Enthusiasm

Over the very few years I’ve been involved in Computer Art I’ve come to recognize two groups of people: Us and Them.

Ha, ha. Just joking.

Or maybe not. First, there are “enthusiasts”: people who get involved with Computer Art because they find it exciting. The enthusiasts (no capital, enthusiasts don’t have labels) are simply enthusiastic, of the raw, uncomplicated kind, and give little thought to how that enthusiasm is viewed or analyzed by outsiders. They have no concern for labels because they feel their work speaks for, and explains itself. They will probably accept any opinion of their work as valid because they don’t really care.

The other group is the “artist”. They like Computer Art too, but they’re enthusiasm is complicated (tormented?) by their thoughts of who they are and who people say they are. On the positive side, their mental turmoil can sometimes lead to theoretical insights (dark night of the artistic soul – type). But those sorts of things are only of benefit to other tormented artists and not the enthusiasts.

I think I’ve shared both perspectives over the years — at times more one than the other — but I think, deep down, (sounds artist-like, doesn’t it?) I’m an enthusiast and feel that if people are confused about what art is and feel that cold, bloodless, computer creations are of doubtful artistic merit…

Image Notes
Made in Capow. The second image is a negative of the first.

September 2, 2008

Cellular Automata Pollockus

(Above) Made in Capow with the usual settings of 2D wave or heat, and the 3D view settings of Sheet, colored lines, med. res., and none of those science class guidelines that are drawn by default (Capow is an extremely nerdy program).

Pollock had his drip paintings, I have my “click” paintings.

One interesting comment on this new digital medium is that unlike the traditional canvas and paint, digital works are intangible and therefore unpossessible. You can’t really own an “original” digital work although you could own a numbered print of it.

Unlike traditional printmaking however, there’s no plate to destroy after making the limited edition number of copies which through its destruction creates the conditions of scarcity and makes each print copy special and ownable. The digital file is the printing plate, so to speak, and can be easily copied itself. Unlimited and costless copying is part of the digital medium.

This is good for the viewer and for the distribution and dissemination of artwork, which in the long term all that really matters. It becomes a problem for artists or 3rd parties who want to make money off the artwork today because the traditional sale of the original artwork isn’t possible, and the strategy of limited edition prints used in printmaking aren’t possible either without somehow destroying or locking up the digital file.

It is possible though to display a low resolution file (eg. 600x400px) on a computer screen for the purpose of displaying the artwork on the internet while keeping private the high resolution file necessary to produce a quality print (eg. 6000x4000px). That still doesn’t answer the objections of the potential art collector who wants to “own” the image, as that would require a single printing and destruction of the digital file — a rather extreme action, but possible in the case of commissioned work (although it’s analogous to destroying the negative from a great photograph).

I think this “un-ownable” aspect to digital art is a minor drawback considering the great advantages it gains from ease of distribution and reproduction that come with the digital medium. People who want to cash in on digital art (i.e. starving artists) will just have to go back to the old art forms or get a job doing something useful. The old cash cow is gone.

August 27, 2008

Creative Dithering

Dithering can have creative effects. Although dithering is intended to be a way of reducing the number of colors in an image while minimizing the loss of quality, or minimizing the change to the appearance of the image (by using a pattern of dots mixed together to simulate extra colors), it can also provide a creative effect when used in extreme and heavy-handed ways for which it was never intended.

I’ve often used the dithering effect (called the reduce colors option) in Irfanview to make images that appear to be made of sand. Normally this sort of extreme dithering effect is unwanted (dithering aims to be unnoticeable) but like many things in computer art, new styles can come from very unexpected features and it’s what the effect does rather than what it was intended for, that’s important.

(First Image) This is the raw image from Sterlingware before any processing has taken place.

(Second Image) Here I’ve India Inked the image using the Bubbles pattern and Queen color setting. If I apply a normal amount of dithering as shown here, I keep the subtle gradients with only a minor appearance of a pattern and can reduce the file size to make it more bandwidth and storage space friendly. This color reduction is from True Color (24-bit, I think) to 256 (8-bit?) with the dotty Floyd-Steinberg pattern.

(Third Image) Oh no. This is too much. I’ve gone too far. Instead of that huge wack-load palette of 256 colors, I’ve strangled it down to only 16 and done away entirely with any dithering pattern and chosen to use only solid color areas (no mixing or “no dithering”). The result (this time) is a nice silkscreened or blotchy watercolored effect.

You know; I guess that wasn’t really dithering at all, strictly speaking. But I still consider it part of the same process of color reduction effects even if it’s really a complete lack of dithering and is actually the opposite effect of separating colors not mixing them. Incidently, the no dithering option produces a file size that is usually significantly smaller when saved as a png or gif, as these formats specialize in compressing image areas composed of solid lumps rather than gradients. But if you’ve got a high-speed broadband cable or DSL internet connection, you don’t really need to care about file size, I suppose. I guess it’s just a habit I picked up in my dialup days.

August 25, 2008

Opus Extractimus

I think the fertile places of computer art, are ones where graphic recombination takes place. Here, I’ve taken a Sterlingware fractal which I think is interesting enough on it’s own because it has such a wide variety of detail and applied a simple combination of effects that combines the talents of each one.

To take such an image and apply the Extractor 1 filter by Mario Klingemann will undoubtably produce interesting results because the Extractor filter will render the already interesting image in various ways.

(Above) The original image made in Sterlingware (squaravan04.loo)

(Above) Filtered with Overlap 4

(Above) Further filtered with Mirror, Mirror

(Above) Further filtered with Extractor 1. The first BW image in this posting comes from the same image as this one, just using different settings. Some images, if they turn out really good, can produce several intriguing and quite different “extractions”.

I then decided to use a combination of filters that has been shown to be very creative; Overlap 4 by Andrew Buckle and then various settings of the Extractor filter. Overlap 4 filter turns things 45 degrees and overlaps the rotated and original image producing something new with a lot of subtle shades that add further complexity to the mix which the Extractor will take advantage of. If you use a square image then the result will be symmetrical, otherwise you’ll end up with something on a 45 degree angle which only something like Mirror, Mirror (or a similar filter) will compensate for.

The colors are the original ones from Sterlingware and I think it shows how sophisticated Sterlingware can render images, particularly in this Sine Trap 4 render setting.

You could try this with any sort of image that has subtle gradients like a high res photo. A fractal image is convenient because the raw image is an uncompressed bitmap. Otherwise you’d see all sorts of ragged squares if you used a low res jpg.

The process is creative. There’s no end to the interesting scenes that this combination of filters will produce. It magnifies the graphic potential of a fairly simple program like Sterlingware to the point where it becomes a well of imagery that will never go dry.

August 24, 2008

The Story of Land

You don’t have to read between the lines to know the story of land.
The outline says enough.
The outline says it louder.

There are no details in the story of land.
No footprints, no fires.
No voice except the wind.

It is a place of sharp sunlight and cavernous shadow.
Simple and sufficient to tell the story of land.

Image Notes
Made in Capow using one of the 2D “worlds” with the Sheet, Lines, Low Resolution, 3D view settings.

August 23, 2008

Positive and Negative

Something I learned quite quickly when I first started playing with computer graphics (it’s just a hobby, nothing serious) by making millions of seamless tiles in “The” Gimp was always invert an image to see what it looks like.

For starters, it’s really easy, and for finishers, it often has a powerful transformational effect which can turn straw into gold or what is already gold into something even goldlier. You never know really how it’s going to look in the negative and it just takes a mouse click.

The way I look at it is: If the negative looks worse than the positive, then inverting the positive may look much better if what you’re already looking at is actually the negative of the positive. Computer art shows you things like that. You bet.

Image Notes
Made in Capow using the 2D Heat or Wave “world” and the Sheet, Colored Lines, Medium Resolution with the guidelines turned off, 3D view settings.

August 22, 2008