I took out the turbulence filters, because they shouldn’t have been there in the first place (at least not the way I had them). Instead, I’m planning to build a tool that makes it easy to apply filters to SVG elements. It’ll be more generally useful, since the SVG input won’t have to have come from Cirque.
Manually placing circles is partway done. (Placing them works; editing and deleting them is next on the list.)
I’m also refactoring to clean things up and to make the imperative code more functional where I can.
As schoolwork starts to wind down, I’m finally starting to make progress on the creativity tools and HCI explorations I talked about back in September. This week I’ve also realized that graphical tools for art and design are what I want to focus most on. (I do still intend to explore textual interfaces, but they’re on the backburner for now.)
In the spirit of working in public, then, Cirque is a small WIP web app I’m building for making patterns via circle packing:
This is very much a rough initial MVP. You can tweak some settings, generate new patterns using a simple circle-packing algorithm, and export SVG (with the turbulence/displacement filters enabled by default), but that’s it. Some of the features I’m planning to build next:
Replace the settings text box with, you know, good UI (I’m also excited to explore color picker design here)
Add the ability to manually place both circles and anticircles (so artists are able to create intentional negative space)
Add a way to programmatically set the circle colors (probably via something like shaders, so you could say all circles smaller than a certain size get one color and the rest get another, or circle color is dependent on position or something else)
New artwork: Peace, Be Still. I dialed up the SVG turbulence filters to get the effect on the left. Also used the erode operator throughout (with the feMorphology filter primitive). I couldn’t get Inkscape to show the lines with the filters applied, though, so I ended up screenshotting the piece via QuickLook and then upscaling in Photoshop (hacky, but hopefully not too obvious).
For a while I’ve wanted to explore using black and white for my art. Tell Me the Stories of Jesus was the initial step in that direction, but these latest four pieces are more like what I envisioned (a little more like ink on paper, to some degree). I’m looking forward to doing more work in this style.
I used the same circle packing technique to generate the circles, constraining them this time to be inside a larger circle. Initially I was going to have the tree visible as that larger circle — dark on a light background — but it ended up looking better to me with just the small white circles. (After that I used SVG filters and Inkscape and Photoshop as usual.)
It’s (in my opinion) a much better execution of Before the World Was, which used a quick DrawBot script that didn’t pay much attention to placement.
This time, working off the Generative Artistry circle packing tutorial, I wrote a Python script that places all the circles so there’s no overlap, then outputs an SVG with the turbulence/displacement filters I wrote about not too long ago.
For comparison (original on the left):
I also went with a slightly less saturated background in this new version, and I put a little bit of texture on the circles themselves to make it feel slightly more painterly.
Brief backstory: when I’m doing my minimalist religious art, I usually sketch an idea out first by hand or in Paper on my phone, then mock them up in Illustrator to iterate on the concept. Once it’s satisfactory, I move to execution, either painting the piece in Procreate or using some of the brushes in Illustrator to get a more organic look. And finally I texture the image in Photoshop.
A couple months ago I got interested in exploring alternatives to Illustrator and Photoshop for both execution and texturing processes. And me being me, I wanted to try doing it in code, just to see what it was like. (Some things are easier in code, though I don’t know how often that would actually be the case with these.)
Note: this is still very much a WIP, and who knows if I’ll end up using any of it or not. But here’s the current state of things.
After reading somewhere that SVG has turbulence and displacement filters, I realized I could potentially use those for the execution part of the process, to distress the edges enough to make things more interesting. (And hopefully to be less repetitious than the Illustrator brushes I use.)
I put together an initial test using a few different settings, and it turned out a bit better than I expected. A sample of the code:
The background rectangle, the red figure, and the white figure all have different turbulence and displacement values. The red figure uses two sets of turbulence and displacement filters, which worked out fairly well, I think.
I used Inkscape render it out to a high-res PNG, since Illustrator wasn’t able to handle the filters. Eventually, if I keep going down this path, I’d hopefully be able to find a command-line tool that can do the rendering. (Maybe Inkscape has a headless option.)
Overall, this path seems promising. I don’t know that I’d use it all the time, but for certain things it may be handy. I still need to look into sane ways to round corners, and it seems that the other filters (dilation/erosion, convolution, etc.) may be helpful, too.
I’ve begun writing a Python script called Grain for texturing the final art image. The goal here is to see if I can streamline the process at all, and to see if this idea even works. Grain takes as input a text-based input file that looks like this:
Each block is a layer. Grain starts with the bottom layer (the executed base image) and goes up from there, adding each layer on top with the specified blending mode and opacity.
The :pattern roughdots command would generate procedural dots (not implemented yet), and the textures# bit in the :image command calls is a shortcut to my folder with texture photos.
So far, the results are disappointing. While the layering does currently work, it isn’t yet producing anything remotely publishable. I think there might be some discrepancies between blending modes in pyvips and in Photoshop. Hard to tell.
And, less importantly, it’s a little slow — partially from using high-res images, partially from Python. If the idea ends up working, I’ll most likely port this to Rust or Go, and probably also have scale things down for the exploration phase of texturing (with a final high-res export at the end).
I’ll keep tinkering with it from time to time and we’ll see how it goes.