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In the last post I alluded to the fact that what I was creating for Artomatic was going to be a little bit more holistic and effect focused than in the recent past. This year, I’d like to get into blending media, rather than focusing on it.

I’m still mulling over what I want to say about the whole thing, but tonight I’d like to offer a prelude by way of a small technical glimpse into the core of the piece.

Essentially, I’ve been wanting to work on the idea of self for some time. The Second Life work had addressed some of that, but -primarily- from a perspective that was fairly extreme and lacked a lot of emotional resonance (not least with me).

So this year, I’m going to be mixing up my newfound interest in photography with some traditional sketching technique, adding a dash of emotional investment, and finally tying it together with some custom computer scripting.

It’s this last component I want to talk about. There are a lot of “themes” Im starting to address with this piece (later post) which made me feel like I needed to use some sort of mosaic. Initially, I thought I was going to do a self-portrait of myself….composed the very same self portrait. This would constitute the anchor concept of the piece.

The image was originally supposed to look something like this (right image is zoomed in on the left eye where you can see the main image is composed of many copies of itself)

But how does one go about creating this kind of mosaic? Doing it by hand would take so long I’d never finish!!!

Maybe there are programs “on the internet” that will do it? Maybe (it turns out there -sortof- are), but what’s the fun in that?

Instead, I decided to write my own program to do it. This has a lot to do with the fact that computers are a huge part of who I am and writing code to help me generate a self-portrait struck a chord with me

I had played around with the Python scripting language back in my NetSec days (for rapidly setting up data analysis) and while I had never been particularly proficient in Python and it had been some years since I’d worked with it, I -had- enjoyed it’s way of dealing with the world of bits and bytes. it seemed like a great language to try this out in.

So, I grabbed my new Macbook (heh. Microsoft forced me into -that- with Vista) – which had python already on it – and sat down to write a self-referential mosaic generator. Away we go!
Hrm. Or not. How does one actually go about editing images with a scripting language often used in web pages? It beat me! I’d never done it before. In any language.

More Hrm’s. Google kindly suggested I give the Python Imaging Library a try, so I checked out the tutorial online. “Wow. This might be doable”, I thought to myself. This looks like a really simple library.

And it was….the code below took about 3 days to write starting from “Uh, how do for/next loops work in Python again?”. So while it’s not a LONG program and it’s NOT elegant, and it CAN be done a lot better, it does the trick.

In fact, not only does it do the trick, but the code now lets you specify which image to use to recreate the base image of the mosaic. (And the concept of the art piece has followed with that, Im now using two self-portraits.)

The program I wrote is a little different from web-clients for Mosaic creation I’ve seen. Those go and grab images (often at random) from a repository and create a mosaic of another image out of them based on which filler-images already best-fit which piece of the base image. The filler images, themselves, arent altered.

In my code, the user specifies one filler image and one base image. The code then goes through and checks tone averages and alters the filler image to fit into a given section of the base image. If the filler’s average tone is higher than the current section of the base image being converted, the program darkens the filler image and then pastes it in.

The ultimate effect resulted in this image created from one base self-portrait and one (different) filler self-portrait (Click it so see the smaller faces):

The code which produces this image  can be found here:

Please be kind…it really isn’t pretty yet and I know it :)

Finally, a snapshot of what it looked like put together at Artomatic:


It’s that time of year again! Artomatic is coming up soon! Wait what? Didn’t we just do this last year? It’s hard to believe but it’s true. DC’s mammoth do-it-your-way art event is with us again and far earlier than expected. At last year’s Artomatic, 500 or so artists graced a run down office building in Crystal City, Arlington, Virginia. This year, 1000 artists are taking over a not-yet-used office building in NE DC right next to the New York Ave Redline Metro stop. And yes, that’s 1,000, 1k, one thousand artists – twice as many as last year. And, unlike last year’s rat-maze (which was fun, but not conducive to finding art), the spaces are much more wide open and visible

Obviously, if I’m posting about it here I must have some interest in it, and I do. Not only am I showing, but my wife Paivi will be there as well. This will be her first art show of any kind and she’ll have some pretty damn cool photographs on display that she put together just for Artomatic. Angela and she (intentionally) grabbed spaces next to each other and are both across from my own space on the 8th floor (come see us!). Angela will be showing (unless she changes her mind) a collection of her more surreal, dreamlike photographs. I’m really a big fan of those and am looking forward to seeing them at the show.

As for myself, Artomatic did approach me to ask about another Second Life installation, but – as much as I would like to – my job/habitation situation (maybe more on that later) is really preventing me from investing a lot of time elsewhere for long periods of time. But, as sad as that might be, it leaves me free to do something a little different.

Over the past year, my friendship with Angela and Paivi’s newfound love for old, cool cameras (and her subsequent lusty relationship with photography in general) has resulted in a complete alteration in my approach to art. Rather than drawing, I’ve taken up the banner of the camera as well (as should be obvious from this blog and my flickr stream).

But there’s more to it than that. I enjoy a lot about photography in and of itself – I get a great deal of personal satisfaction from it – but unfortunately, it will never be “my art”. As an artdc-er not-so-nicely pointed out (I’m looking at you starvingartistdc!), most of what I’ve done in the art the past few years (installations and Second Life excepted) hasn’t been….art. Instead, I’ve considered almost everything I’ve done since my return to doing creative things for fun (specifically the Joy Division piece in Chicago circa 2001) to be technical training. In order to be able to express myself, I couldn’t be getting hung up on details of execution. It would distract me too much. I can recall very few instances where I’ve set out to create art for art’s sake for a long time.

Recently, however (and getting back to the point), I’ve felt like I’ve reached a stage where I can -start- looking again at the art of the work. I’m in a place where I might be able to combine the expressiveness of my teenage years with the technical restraint and maturity I’ve gained since Chicago. I’m not saying I’m any good or you will like my work, only that the mental and emotional viewpoint I maintain on my own work has changed.

This is the opportunity that Artomatic presents to me this year and which I hope to take advantage of.

Everyone, come to check out my new work and see the rest of the great art this year at Artomatic.

It’ll be a circus! Come, have fun!


Updated Mon, 04/21/2008 – 10:49pm

For immediate release: March 19, 2008

Artomatic media contact: Marina Reiter, 202-271-4748
NoMa BID media contact: Leslie Braunstein, 703-234-7762

Up to 1,000 artists and 50,000 visitors expected in D.C.’s most exciting new neighborhood

The NoMa (north of Massachusetts Avenue) Business Improvement District (BID) will host this year’s Artomatic, the Washington, D.C. area’s homegrown art extravaganza. From May 9 through June 15, 2008, up to 1,000 local and regional artists will exhibit their works on eight floors of the Capitol Plaza 1 building, located at 1st and M Streets, N.E., just one block from the New York Avenue Metro station.

Held regularly since 1999, Artomatic transforms an unfinished indoor space into an exciting and incredibly diverse arts event that is free and open to the public. In addition to displays and sales by hundreds of artists, the event features free musical, dance, and theater performances; holiday celebrations; films; educational presentations; and much more.

This year’s Artomatic, occupying 200,000 square feet at Capitol Plaza 1, will be the largest to date. Designed by renowned architect Shalom Baranes and owned by an affiliate of The Polinger Company, Capitol Plaza 1 offers 293,000 rentable square feet of Class A office space, with dramatic Capitol and city views from the upper floors.

“We are thrilled to partner with Artomatic in an event that will bring tens of thousands of people to NoMa,” said Elizabeth Price, president of the NoMa BID. “It is a great opportunity to showcase the transformation that is underway in NoMa and infuse it with the energy and creativity of the artistic community.”

“Artomatic has come back to its roots in D.C. with our largest event ever,” said George Koch, Chair of Artomatic. “We are excited about our partnership with the NoMa BID and their help in bringing this new space to our attention. Artomatic 2008 will have an abundance of exhibit and performance space that will be open to all — from recognized artists to undiscovered talents.”


About the NoMa BID:
NoMa is an emerging mixed-use neighborhood north of the U.S. Capitol and Union Station in Washington, D.C. Private developers have invested almost $2 billion in 2007–2008 alone, with plans to develop more than 20 million square feet of office, residential, hotel, and retail space in the 35-block area covered by the NoMa BID over the next 10 years. For more information about the BID, including an interactive development map, see the BID Web site at

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