06 Feb 2013

Generative Art

I had a hard time choosing which topic I should do for my assignment. Information visualization seems more approachable to me, but I’ve decided to go for generative art since I’ve never really done anything like that before.

Concept: Thalassophobia

In my initial concept, I Wondered if it’s possible to create something abstract that provokes the feeling of thalassophobia and giant sea creatures with generative art.

The abstract art could be made out of dynamic dark blue/green/grey colors blobs or blurry particles, which will move very slowly across the screen. I’m also thinking to combine this with dark ambient music to create suspense, and if possible project this in a cave projection system. This all sounds very interesting to me, but I have no idea to be honest where to start yet since I’ve never done any kind of artsy (abstract) visualization before. This could be challenging…


Creating generative art is tougher then I thought. It’s quite difficult to find good tutorials online, explaining the fundamentals and guide you through the process. I went through several books and finally got my hands on Matt Pearson’s “Generative Art: A practical guide using processing“. This is truly an amazing book. It helped me to understand various types of generative art. But even with the basic knowledge, I felt clueless on where to start. I ended up tweaking a lot of the examples, trying to combine different sketches, but I didn’t like any of the results. The deadline is getting closer and closer, and I’ll need to prioritize and make decisions based on time, knowledge and capability to code something artsy. In the end, I modified my initial concept and I experimented with some code.

Eye of Cthulhu

I threw away the idea of adding dynamic colors and motion, and went for black and white and static rotation instead. I made minor tweaks to Matt Pearson’s Sutcliffe Pentagons code and played with the variables to create various effects. For the ambiance and suspense, I was able to find an audio track from Svartsinn & Gydja – Terrenum Corpus which worked very well with the generated visualizations. Also, I was able to get permission to use the cave projection system at the ETC, but I haven’t tried projecting my visualizations yet (will try that Monday).

As for the art, it uses the Sutcliffe Pentagons algorithm, but I’m using 32 sides instead of 5 sides and it projects fractals to the outside. I added 2 to 4 additional Sutcliffe Pentagons next to each other, varied the radius, strutFactor with perlin noise to create the effects below.

The results are quite cool, but I’m not completely satisfied with the overall goal. It feels like I should do more or be more bold in the experimentation, but again I felt stuck during my development process. As a post-mortem, I think I was a bit too ambitious coming in this project with zero knowledge for creating generative art. I would need to take more time to gain more experience, develop stronger coding and math skills for future artwork.