Fathom presentation

I connected with Fathom Information Design during the Eyeo festival and they invited me to give a presentation during their Friday social hour in mid-July about my work and its connection to infovis and computational artmaking. I drew up a slideshow about my recent forays into Processing and how they relate to the “Organic Algorithm” series I’ve been developing.
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Handwritten “algorithm” for generating a hand-drawn map

 

Organic Algorithm Animation
Procedurally-created hand-drawn map process

 

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Map of a local pub

 

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Visual notes from Eyeo during a presentation by Ben Fry, co-creator of Processing and head of Fathom

 

The best part of the presentation was that while I was presenting on my visual notes, I was getting visualized myself! Attending employee Rachel Harris drew an amazing map of what I’d talked about; see more of her work on her Instagram here.
Rachel Harris

Macrame stone-wrapping

I’ve always wanted to find a good way to secure and exhibit an object for jewelry. Wire-wrapping was interesting but often clunky and attention-taking. But after a tip from an exhibitor I met at a show in Cambridge, I started exploring macrame techniques. Most of those were too clunky as well, but when I figured out the general concept I was able to develop a more delicate technique that worked for my projects.

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The stones are from my collection; I’ve picked them up on beaches here in New England as well as Long Island and North Carolina.

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On the last trip to North Carolina I also started playing with agglomerating stones together. The process is time-consuming but I’m enjoying how it’s coming out.

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One idea I’ve been playing with is to put them together in a larger necklace form, but there’s also other directions this could go as well.

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Style transfer maps

I had a great time at the recent Machine Learning for Artists hack day at Bocoup. I didn’t actually accomplish much myself—I generally resorted to drawing in my sketchbook—but I learned a lot from the projects presented, and was fascinated to see my drawings applied as style transfer, a project K. Adam White and Kawandeep Virdee among others took on during the event. New drawings of mine were created without my having to do anything! It was magical.
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We ended up with this…
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by combining these two

Style transfer is a machine learning process whereby a content image gets transformed using the style of a source image. If you’ve seen the Google Deep Dream project, with its hallucinatory puppyslugs in pop colors, it’s related to that.
 Google Maps transformed by my abstract map art

More recently, the Prisma app has been super popular for Instagram posts and uses a similar technology—it gives you a range of artworks that you can use to transform the style of your photos. When I gave it an image of my map art, it even added extra roads to it:
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Using this local style transfer process is like being able to transform a photo Prisma-style into ANY type of artwork. So of course I got mappified :)
I’m excited to see what else can be done with this process, and especially if it’ll affect my drawing in any way. I’m already thinking about doing a fractal drawing process where I make progressively bigger drawings with the aid of these machine-hallucinated map details. Stay tuned!

EYEO Festival visual notes

I recently attended Eyeo Festival for the second time, in early June. This time, instead of my separate sketch and written journals, I took notes all in my multimedia sketchbook. This meant that for almost every talk I attended, I ended up with at least one page full of important quotes and memorable visuals. Some highlights:
01 alexis lloyd
Alexis Lloyd on the history of robots and androids in our culture and our relationship to them. The video of her talk is up here!
02 tega brain
Tega Brain on her amazing IoT-type art projects she called “post-scary media arts”. She’s an inspiration. View the talk here.
03 patricio gonzalez vivo
Patricio Gonzalez Vivo on synchronicity and his AMAZING projects. Check out the talk here.
04 ben fry
Ben Fry, head of Fathom Information Design and co-creator of the fundamental computational drawing tool Processing, telling it like it is about “data visualization… and its hip cousin, “data-vis!””. See the whole talk here.
05 gene kogan
Gene Kogan presented so much fascinating info about style transfer and machine learning that I literally wrote off the page. He’s the only presenter I had to use more than one page for. Somehow I still managed to get some visual representations of his slides in too! They help me remember the presentation since I’m mostly visual. And since the video isn’t up on the eyeo channel yet—soon?
I’m not sure if you can tell yet, but Eyeo was -extremely- inspirational. I’m in love with all the projects here, and I’m so glad I have my notes to remind me what I want to strive for. I’ve already had a hand in some style transfer experiments using my maps—keep an eye out for a post on that soon!

Inside-Out Gallery: “Roots of Innovation in Somerville”

The theme for this year’s ArtBeat festival in Davis Square is “Roots”, and Artisan’s Asylum was asked to do a thematic installation for the gallery space in the windows of the CVS in Davis Square to be on during the festival. We decided on a theme of “Roots of industry in Somerville”, showing examples of work currently made by Asylum members as well as images of industry historically in Somerville. My main contribution, aside from coordination, was to create a huge collaborative map that took up the entire back of one window.
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Hubbub workshop

Last month I taught an imaginary mapmaking workshop as part of Hubbub, a children’s book festival produced by Boston Book Festival.
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There was a real range of ages, small children and older children as well as the adults with them, and I tried to come up with something that might have some interest for everyone—and be executable within an hour.
I first asked participants to draw some thumbnails. I like teaching thumbnailing (which I remember learning for both high school art and college-level animation classes!) because it helps people get their ideas on paper without resorting to being precious or finicky about it.
Then we chose from those thumbnails to work on a larger drawing. This is the way that I do pretty much everything—I sketch out visual ideas or conceptual algorithms for a piece starting at the smallest scale and continue to develop it as I scale up. The initial concept is usually pretty fully-formed already, so the critical part is to get it down as soon as possible.
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I’m always really impressed with what people draw. Even if they themselves aren’t proud, it’s always fascinating to me to see where people take my instruction and what they bring to it. Everyone has such different ways to map!

Art Seen: LIC Open Studios

I visited LIC Open Studios at the end of last month and saw a significant amount of work that really resonated with me aesthetically. Some highlights:

Alexis Duque (website)

I’m of course a fan of the super dense city drawing style; I was also really intrigued by the way he translated it onto carved sculptural works as well. I’m definitely considering trying out something like that.

Kathy Ferguson (website)

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I’ve seen her work at previous open studios; this year she was demonstrating gel plate printing, which she uses to get the different textures that she collages together onto her works.

Kyoko Takei (website)

I’ve also seen her work before but it continues to be fascinating; it’s so delicate and intriguing.

Marjorie Van Cura

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Very interesting markmaking on clear film–another project I’ve been hoping to try…

Overall it was a particularly inspiring event, and I’m looking forward to working on some new projects out of these ideas!

 

 

NACHMO Dance Collaboration

Over the past month I’ve been working on a collaboration that’s totally new to me—pairing painting with live improvisational dance.

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Photo from final performance at the Dance Complex

I was approached by a pair of dancers creating a work for a NACHMO (National Choreography Month) presentation in Cambridge because they sensed some overlaps between our approaches. I spent some time in rehearsal with them talking about the process of drawing compared to dancing, and there were a lot more similarities than I would have guessed!

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The challenges in this collaboration were fascinating. Every time I came across some difficulty there was an interesting question about what made it difficult, so we had a lot of great philosophical talks.

One of the recurring themes was the fact that both dance and drawing are time-based (as in, they both occur over time)—but it’s only in dance where that’s a given; in drawing the time-based process is hidden behind the final work.

We also struggled to create a process which had feedback in both directions. For the first few rehearsals I was just experimenting with ways to document the dancers as they moved across the floor, or in the different angles of their bodies.

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Glyphs responding to dancer movements

We gradually came up with some options for the dancers to work off of what I created as well. This led to some interesting moments in rehearsal where I was aware that a dancer I was documenting was echoing my drawing, creating a short-term positive feedback loop.

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Last Saturday was the final performance. I had just gotten in from 1.5 weeks in London and had not heard the music or seen the final versions of the scores (rules/patterns for the dances) that the dancers had come up with, and we’d never rehearsed under the kind of conditions in the performance space. But the experience of drawing in tandem with movement was just as exciting despite the changes. I found myself feeling bad for the audience: no one, probably not even the dancers, has as complete a view of the work as I do. It really is about movement in the moment, and I was both creating and experiencing that performance in full.

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Performance drawing (left) next to rehearsal drawings

Art Seen: Governor’s Island

Some highlights from the recent Governors Island Art Fair in New York:

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I’m a huge fan of works that take advantage of the architectural setting. The installations are all in decaying governors’ quarters on the island, and the best ones really meld with and play off of their surroundings.

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There’s some beautiful outdoor installations as well:

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And the beautiful day and gorgeous views definitely don’t detract :) 20150905-IMG_4002 20150905-IMG_4018