If you’ve seen my previous posts, you’ll know that 2021 hasn’t gone the way I’d hoped or expected. As such, I’m calling time on my challenge to make 100 things this year. Instead, I’ve decided to set up a new blog over at jacdoeseverything.com, where I’ll post about my latest creative projects and experiments. Will you join me there?
Hello, treasured readers of this blog! I have not forgotten about writing here; far from it.
I’ve not posted for a while because I’m dealing with a family emergency that’s been ongoing since March. It’s taking up all of my free time, and I just don’t have the energy or spare hours at the moment to do anything creative. It’s the longest I’ve gone for ages without spending time in my music studio, and it feels really weird to be this out of practice. I’m even starting to lose the guitar calluses on my finger tips! I also missed the whole of NaPoWriMo, which was a shame because I’d specifically marked it in my calendar for April.
Anyway, nevermind! There’s important work for me to do right now. I’ll get back to creative things as soon as I can.
I think it’s time to tell you about the rabbit hole I fell down this week.
As you might know if you’ve seen some of my other blog posts (e.g. here and here), I’ve been playing around recently with low poly art, having found a tutorial on YouTube. As someone who doesn’t really think of themselves as an artist, but is quite handy with a computer, this seemed like a nice, easy way in – I just pick a nice photo to work from, click around for a bit, fill in some polygons and – hey presto! Look, I made art!
Except…did I? I mean, it’s kind of formulaic, isn’t it, all that clicking around? Isn’t art meant to be all about passion and inspiration – cutting off your own ear, taking naps with heavy keys in your hand to access a hypnagogic state etc.? Surely a machine could do that clicking just as well as me? What artistic input do I even have here, anyway?
To answer this question, I thought I’d write a bit of code that would let me compare my efforts with those of a machine. Allow me introduce you to my model for this test: Floss, the border collie:
The quickest part of the process to automate seemed to be the colouring-in part, where I select the fill colour for each polygon by sampling the pixels in the underlying photo. I’d often thought that my sampling was a bit random, and I sometimes caught an area of the polygon that wasn’t representative of the overall colour. So for starters, I figured I’d write code that simply averaged all of the pixels underneath each polygon.
The results? Well, the human took this round fairly conclusively, I think. My manually-filled effort is on the left, and the code-generated image is on the right:
Averaging the pixels didn’t give great results (with hindsight that should maybe have been obvious). Increasing the contrast of the colours helped a bit (below), but there’s just a clarity missing from these code-filled images:
I’ll probably take this a bit further and tweak the code to pick out the dominant colour, rather than the average colour. Or maybe to consider just the pixels near the centre of the polygon, and ignore the outer parts. Plus there’s the whole fun of triangulation algorithms – generating the polygons to start with!
But – for now, at least – my little human brain did a better job than I originally gave it credit for, and I formally declare my efforts to be ART.
I’ve had a productive first week of FAWM (February Album Writing Month). Three new songs written and demo-ed, all of which I’m pretty pleased with, plus three new library instrumental tracks sketched out.
Based on the evidence so far, I seem to be going for maximum whimsy this year.
I’m pleased with my haul so far! I’ll probably need to woah up a bit next week while I work on recording those instrumentals, but it’s nice to get a few songs under my belt first.
I’m pretty pleased with my creative efforts this month, and I’ve learned a bunch of new things along the way. If I count all of the above items individually, that’s 25 creations for the month of January. So now I am wondering…
HAVE I MADE THE RULES OF THIS GAME TOO EASY?
See, this is why relaxing is a struggle for me – nothing is ever enough! Well, I guess I can worry about what to do next once I’ve made it to 100.
Oh – and about the T-shirt designs; I’ve not been posting them all here, because this blog is supposed to be a record of a creative challenge, not a glorified advert for a Redbubble store. And also because there’s only so much low poly art anybody wants to see. But I’ll share just one more for now, because it’s my favourite so far. This is called Home brew:
Speaking of making beer, that reminds me – that’s another thing I want to try at some point…
February Album Writing Month – or FAWM, as it’s known to devotees – is a songwriting challenge where participants aim to write 14 new songs during the 28 days of February.† People from all over the world come together online to make music, encourage each other and collaborate in one giant, month-long fiesta.
If, by the end of February, you’ve made it to the target of 14 songs, then great; bask in the glow of your achievements! If you write just one or two songs during February – also great! You’ve made something new that would otherwise never have existed, and that’s worth celebrating. Especially if you managed to do it around a day job/child care/a stressful pandemic!
FAWM is the most supportive and least competitive community I’ve ever found on the internet, and honestly it’s a joy to be a part of. I stumbled across it by accident a decade ago and I’ve been hooked ever since.
FAWM is almost certainly the reason this blog exists, too. Before I started taking part, finishing a song was A Really Big Thing for me. If I was lucky, I might finish 5 songs per year. But somehow, in my first FAWM, I wrote 17 of them. And that kind of killed the old way of doing things for evermore. Thanks to FAWM, I discovered the power of a good creative challenge to get me rolling!
So expect to see some FAWM-related updates here next month as I dive in to the 2021 edition. And if you’re curious, hit the link above and come join us! It’s free to take part, you can participate as much or as little as you like, and frankly – it’s awesome.
Seems I lied about not doing any more low poly art. This chap just popped out:
He still took me a while, but not as long as the sheep. There was an initial burst of an idea – playing around with arrangements for the chillies etc – followed by quite a long period of fairly mindless clicking. More productive than watching TV though, I guess. (Probably more chance of RSI as well, though.)
Also – chili or chilli? Apparently “chili” is the preferred spelling in the US, while “chilli” is more common in the UK. I’d never even noticed that before!
I don’t know what possessed me. [A strange challenge, perhaps, involving making 100 creative things this year and blogging about them?]
Last night I sat down for half an hour before bed with a sketchpad and some pencils, which is something I remember doing on only one other occasion, about 10 years ago. To my surprise, after a bit of tinkering in Inkscape, this little guy popped out:
Oh! He’s kind of fun, I thought. The next day he got himself some buddies:
Not exactly what I was intending to make this week, but OK!
I enjoyed these so much that I decided to make a Redbubble page and stick them up there. I think I’ll order myself a t-shirt or two so I can strut around feeling like the best-dressed kid in town. (Plus you never know – there might be someone else out there with a sense of humour as childish as mine and a credit card within reach.)
I’ve never used Redbubble before, but I think my favourite part of using the site might be how excited their models look about wearing my stuff. Look at these guys! I think I made their day! I bet mine is their favourite T-shirt they’ve ever modelled!
By the way – I don’t want to worry you, but after this week I’ve decided that I am now officially an artist. And I have ordered a set of 72 watercolour pencils with which to demonstrate my mastery. (Hopefully I can figure out the correct end to draw with.)
Hello! Just popping up briefly to share my first song demo of 2021.
I’m a member of a songwriting group on Facebook called GYAWS (Get Your Ass Writing Songs). Every week there’s a new songwriting prompt, intended to spark ideas. Usually the prompt is something relatively sensible and open to interpretation – something that can potentially be taken in multiple directions. This week the prompt was “friends”.
I therefore took this prompt and…wrote a song about vampire cornflakes:
I mean, who among us has never wondered whether their breakfast secretly wants to kill them?
I don’t yet know what the prompt for next week will be, but I can feel a song coming on about people-sized squirrels.
Thankfully, those lovely GYAWS people haven’t kicked me out of the group. (Yet.)
Thanks to my buddy Stewart for the title suggestion on this one!