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.
We ended up with this…
gift01-coaster01 map223 blocks of blocks web
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:
wood-panel crop wood-panel filter
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!

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.


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!

nachmosketch001     nachmosketch006

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.

nachmosketch005    nachmosketch003


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.


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.



Performance drawing (left) next to rehearsal drawings