Thursday, January 26, 2012

New News

Well, it appears our Computational Art class was featured in a Centre News story, which you can read right here.   If you're a visitor coming from there, welcome!

This blog, "Artful Computing", is the main course blog, which I posted various updates to throughout the three-week term... but you may find it even more interesting to check out some of the students' own blogs, which are featured on the sidebar at right.

Regarding a few of the pieces mentioned in the news story:

If you have any questions, please feel free to email me: forrest.stonedahl<at>


Dr. Forrest Stonedahl
Assistant Professor of Computer Science and Mathematics
Centre College

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Fin, finis, finale...

I am pleased to report that the "Computational Art Fair" was a great success.  The students showed off a variety of unique/interesting projects that they had pulled together in only a little over a week.  Some of them were quite impressive.  Attendance was also good -- I didn't count, but I would estimate that around 40 guests came throughout the event, along with a photographer & a writer from the college's communications office.

I'm afraid these photos don't do the artworks justice at all, but here are a few pictures nonetheless!

Anyway, I hope you enjoyed following along a whirlwind tour of Computational Art, and glimpses into the CSC 271 course here at Centre College.  I'll be signing off blogging (for the present anyway), and going back to teach some more traditional courses (Algorithms, and Discrete Mathematics) for the Spring term...

Monday, January 23, 2012


This was the last day of regular class, but the final presentations and Computational Art Fair/Exhibition is tomorrow!  If you're in the area (i.e. Danville), come to the Ewen Room in the Campus Center between 12:00 and 1:30 p.m. tomorrow (Tuesday, January 24).  The students have been working very hard, and I expect the quality of their projects will reflect that...

During class today I showed off a potpourri of remaining topics or neat projects relating to computational art.  So here's a collection of bookmarks to browse through, for your entertainment/enlightenment:

Friday, January 20, 2012

Computational Music, Sound, and Poetry

This morning we had our second guest speaker, Dr. Timothy Polashek, of Transylvania University.  Dr. Polashek is a computer music specialist and composer of electro-acoustic, instrumental, and vocal music.  He discussed several of his projects, including fixed-media videomusic works, interactive and algorithmic music works, multimedia installations, and computer generated poetry.  He frequently writes his own computer programs to produce aspects of his works, and he demonstrated examples for us in the C++, Max/MSP/Jitter, and Csound computer languages.

Dr. Polashek also directed the STUDIO 300 Festival in Lexington last September, which had an impressive array of digital art and music works and performances.  Keep your eyes out for the 2012 edition of this fascinating event!

In the afternoon, we finished our last round of "art critiques", giving peer feedback on final project progress.  Now it's just a rush to the finish, at the final Computational Art Fair/Exhibition next Tuesday.  The students are working hard on their final projects, and I anticipate great things being accomplished over the next 3 days...

Thursday, January 19, 2012

L-systems, computer-aided oragami, and computational clothing

A nasty technological hiccup (the classroom projector not working) prevented us from having student pair presentations this morning, so we had studio/lab work time instead.  The projector was fixed before the afternoon session, so we were able to enjoy presentations on the beauty of L-systems (Lindenmayer systems), and computational paper folding (oragami/kiragami/polyhedral nets) (e.g., JavaGami),  and wearable computing/fashion (e.g., work by Leah Buechley's research group)...

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Theater, Music, Dance, and deceiving your eyes

Today we had group presentation on computation and robotics in theater (see, e.g., Death and the Powers), as well as physical robotic music and dance (e.g., this automated wonder from Intel, based on the rather famous 2004 "Pipe Dream" animation by Animusic).

an autostereoscope

This afternoon I showed the class an antique stereoscope, and discussed the mechanism behind autostereograms, which was popularized by the Magic Eye (TM) book series.  Fun stuff!
An abstract autostereogram created using NetLogo, by having the "butterfly" agents start at the left hand side of the screen and move forward differentially depending on their y-coordinate.  You may have to view the original size image to get the 3D effect to happen...

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Frogs, Dice, and the Art of Computer Game Design

This morning we had an invited speaker (Pang Hartman, Centre class of '97) come present to us about her work (as co-owner, Vice President, and Creative Director)  at FrogDice, a small indie computer game development company based out of Lexington, Kentucky.  She gave an interesting talk, emphasizing some of the benefits of a liberal arts education for game designers.

In the afternoon, I demonstrated the use of the "qtj" (QuickTime for Java) NetLogo extension, and how it can be used to incorporate webcam input into your art piece (on Windows & Mac only, unfortunately).  Then we settled in for some studio time, with students working independently on their final projects.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Final Project Proposals & Group Presentations

Today we had small group discussions with students peer-reviewing each others' final project proposals. 

We also had the first two group (pair) presentations on special topics, which were the Processing language, and the Unity & Lumion game/rendering engines.

I'm afraid I have no new visuals to include in today's post...

Friday, January 13, 2012

Snowflakes & 2D movies

Today Centre student Everett Boyer gave a short guest lecture to our class, describing his joint research work with Chris Robinson and Dr. James Kelly about the formation of snowflakes -- a topic that combines art and science through the beauty of nature.

Image courtesy of Everett Boyer

We also talked about:
  • How to export 2D movies from NetLogo, and transcode them into a reasonable format/codec using lqt_transcode (from Ubuntu's quicktime-utils package), and a bash script I wrote that uses ffmpeg and x264. 
  • How to do simple generative/algorithmic music using NetLogo's sound extension.
  • Final projects & upcoming group presentations on special topics...
P.S. I also stumbled across this charming piece about lawyers, computer scientists, and IP copyright law...

    Thursday, January 12, 2012

    Tripping fields...

    Today our class took a field trip to see three museums in downtown Louisville:  the 21C Museum, the Kentucky Museum of Art and Craft, and the Louisville Science Center museum.  From my perspective, an enjoyable time was had by all.  (But then again, my students are all fairly polite, so they might not have told me if they didn't enjoy it...)

    We saw red penguins (but unfortunately no purple cows)...

    and I played with interactive computer art/poetry...

    and spelled out CENTRE with translucent oversized LEGO bricks...

    Wednesday, January 11, 2012


    Today was a fun day in class -- I brought in a small Praxinoscope that I had purchased, and talked about how animations are made up of individual frames.  I found a marvelous resource about the pre-history of cinema, which I highly recommend to everyone.  Be sure not to miss the contributions of Leonardo Da Vinci, as well as all of the crazy contraptions of the 1800s (there's a Zoetrope and a Thaumatrope, as well as a Praxinoscope, you see...)

    Then we whipped out the cameras, tripods, and modeling clay, to do some good old fashioned "claymation" in groups.  I know at least one of the groups posted their claymation creation to their blog, and hopefully the others will as well.

    In addition, I discussed how to create movies of 3D scenes using raytracing to take individual snapshots, and then compile them all together into a video.  Here's an example video, ray-tracing an evolving scene from NetLogo's Flocking 3D Alternate model.

    In case I haven't mentioned it recently, my strong affections for POV-Ray have not dimmed...

    That's all for now, since we have to be off bright and early tomorrow for our museum field trip day.

    Tuesday, January 10, 2012

    A traced ray of sunshine

    To start things off, we discussed/critiqued a couple of 3D designs students had been working on, including Ivy / Green Molecule and Blue-Hued Pyramid of Spheres.

    Next,  I demonstrated another technique for making self-similar fractal images using scaling and translating of bitmaps - note quite the Droste effect, but related.  Here's an example involving a photo of Princess Gabrielle, a Siamese cat I have the pleasure of close acquaintance with.

    Can you find the Sierpinski Triangle lurking somewhere in there?

    For the majority of the day, though, we moved on to discuss ray tracing, POV-Ray, and generating ray-traced images from NetLogo.  Here's an example of image-mapping the same photo used above onto several simple shapes, rendered with POV-Ray.

    And another test image, the scene created with NetLogo, and rendered with POV-Ray.  The composition is rather random, I admit, but it shows off several ray-tracing features, including transparency, specular highlights, reflection, shadow, texture mapping, and using a "sky sphere" for background imagery. 

    Tonight the students will be creating self-similar/fractal 3D shapes, which they will then render with ray tracing.  So keep an eye out for some neat imagery, which will surely be appearing on the student blogs soon!

    Monday, January 9, 2012

    Dada, Close, Photomosaics, and Fractals

    We covered a lot of ground today, starting with demoing students' artistic computer games (some more plainly art-centered than others).
    Then we followed up on the weekend reading assignment of Tristan Tzara's "How to Make a Dadaist Poem", by using a Python script I tossed together to do the modern equivalent.  Just for fun, here's the poem we created out of the first part of my previous blog post... (it helps if you read it in an overly dramatic voice).


    air as
    you certainly
    require class performing
    inspiration from yesterday
    instance count interaction
    these about for algorithm by walkers
    and art
    sand a art talked some
    not algorithmic
    in computer bit may they art unplugged in

    driven of wind computational generative might a

    an they book computational
    my and take amazing

    Next we moved on to discuss Photoshop (or Gimp) style image filters, and the manipulation of pixels.  I demonstrated how to implement a couple interesting image filters in NetLogo.  For example, at right is a "watery" filter effect rendered on the photo of a certain computer science professor I happen to know.

    This segued into a discussion of photorealism and the work of Chuck Close, and how it was inspirational for the development of photomosaics (which should probably have a "TM" placed after it, courtesy of Robert Silvers...)

    We then went on to create ShapeMosaics, where a photo was created out of a large number of colored shapes... like this butterfly of butterflies below.

    If you can't see the smaller butterflies, click on the picture to enlarge it.

    And finally, we talked a little about recursion and fractal art, and generated a few recursive trees...

    Saturday, January 7, 2012

    Computational art unplugged

    Yesterday in class we talked a bit about how algorithmic/generative/computational art may not necessarily require a "computer".  For instance, you might take inspiration from these amazing wind walkers... they are performing an algorithm of some kind, driven by their interaction with air and sand.  And they certainly count as "art" in my book.

    We also did an exercise where students had to make up (and write down) rules for coloring in a sheet of graph paper with colored pencils.  After doing this for a while, they had to trade sheets with a classmate, and see whether they could (using just the written rules) figure out what grid square to color next (and what color to put there).  Are the rules underspecified?  Is English ambiguous?  And how easy would it be to encode these rules in a computer?  During the afternoon, several students tried to do just this, while others worked on creating an art piece that had certain restrictions on which language elements they must (and couldn't) use to create it.  We also spent some time fighting with Shapeways, which apparently doesn't appreciate uploading 3D models consisting of fairly large numbers of spheres?

    Color transformation of a lightning image...

    I also demoed how to import bitmap images into NetLogo, and manipulate them...

    Thursday, January 5, 2012

    Another Dimension of Art

    The third, to be precise.  Today we started to explore 3D generative art using NetLogo 3D, and also generating 3D scene files with a VRML output extension.  Depending on student interest, we may very well "print" a few of them at Shapeways.  Here's a simple scene I threw together as an example during class.

    Wednesday, January 4, 2012

    Particle System Particulars

    Today was fraught with unexpected technological snafus (including Blogger's inexplicable buggy failure to let Google Apps users, including Centre Students, upload images to their blogs).  Nonetheless, some interesting ideas were still explored.  We talked about cinema, particles systems special effects, simulated fluid mechanics, and learned more features of the NetLogo language, including how to use "patches" to grow algae-like textures...

    Tuesday, January 3, 2012

    First day

    In class today, we talked about Arabic numerals, Mohammed ibn-Musa al-Khowarizmi, algorithms, John Cage and some other early examples of generative art , and we watched this neat 7 minute documentary...

    We also played with turtles and circles for a while using NetLogo, which we will be using extensively in this course.

    But I'm sure you can find more interesting images if you browse to the students' blogs listed on the right...

    Monday, January 2, 2012

    Happy New Year!

    (Artist: Forrest Stonedahl. Created with POV-Ray and the NetLogo Fireworks 3D model, with public domain Hubble space telescope imagery in the background.)