Spotlight is my latest generative art project, to be released February 22nd, 2022, on Art Blocks Playground.
Inspired by observing projections of light through a glass cup, Spotlight is an abstract exploration of how light interacts with various shapes and forms in 2D space. It has a strong focus on texture and the use of real world physics as generative rules.
Check out the 50 test mints here.
Behind the Scenes
Spotlight begins by arranging a series of shapes on the screen. Each shape has its own color and boundaries. Shapes range from perfect polygons with equal sides and angles, to differential growth blobs with endless folds and curves (more on that below). These shapes are not drawn, but you may display their outlines at any time by pressing ‘d’ in the live view. For example, here is what test mint #47 looks like with only the outlines drawn, and after rendering
Next, 3000 photons spawn and begin traveling across the canvas with set velocity and heading. Once a photon collides with a shapes edge, it has a two options: reflect or refract. Reflection causes the photon to bounce off of the edge of the shape, while refraction allows the photon to pass through. Both events change the photons heading using real world mathematical equations of reflection and refraction. This was an exciting aspect for me, as my educational background is in physics engineering.
As a photon moves, it traces its path by periodically placing small circles. The color of these circles depends on the color of the shape the photon last interacted with. Spotlight is best viewed live to experience this painting of light. Each output begins as a dynamic showcase of scattering photons, slowly revealing the structure of shapes beneath. With each frame, the artwork smoothly transitions to a static display of the complete history of every photons path. Press ‘s’ at any point during the render to save a snapshot of the canvas.
Spotlight has a strong focus on creating texture using only one drawn element: small circles. There are no hard edges or solid fills defining shapes, only the history of light as it moves through the canvas. This technique generates beautiful gradients and layers, and creating the illusion of depth, shadows, and highlights.
Note that there are checks that prevent circles from being placed directly on top of other circles (in most circumstances). This means that each output does have an approximate max number of circles placed, though it may take a while to reach this value. When viewing the artwork in live view, the circle count is tracked in the tabs title. Between 3 and 4 million circles is an average number to consider an output fully rendered.
Spotlight is best viewed in extra high resolution to really capture these aspects. This artworks is meant to be viewed both in full view and cropped view, focusing on specific areas that catch your eye.
Spotlight contains 3 color palettes from previous projects (Asteroid, Fog, & Kyra), as well as 7 new and 1 generative palette. Some palettes were created by hand selecting colors, while others were put together using samples from pictures. For example, the colors in ‘Wingtip Sunrise’ was sampled from a picture I took during a 5am flight home from the Art Blocks meetup in Marfa, TX.
Generative palette ‘Chroma Leak’ is a grayscale palette that samples one color randomly from the other palettes.
Differential growth is a simulation that I’ve been playing with since December 2020. The term is used in biology to describe how certain systems in plant life work, i.e. how matter grows, fills space, and maintains its structure. An obvious example in nature is a cabbage. Cut a cabbage in half through its center, and you’ll find layers of curving, folding leaves, filling the space and maintaining their form. See this image grabbed from a google search:
This idea has been used before by other artists, notably by Anders Hoff, who first introduced me to the idea here. I used his description of a differential line to develop my own system of differential growth. Here’s one of my first posts showing off this working system (Instagram link) and a more recent experiment:
This is a technique I’ve been somewhat obsessed with since I found it, and I’ve very excited to be bringing it into a larger scale project. Watch for Spotlight mints with ‘Form: Differential Growth’ which include these beautiful shapes. Here is mint #0 of the project, showcasing this feature
And one of my favorite outputs from testing
I couldn’t have made this project without the help from other artists and resources. A huge thanks to Daniel Shiffman for his many videos on creative coding, from who I’ve learned so much from. Specifically, this project utilizes a quad-tree data storage system, which I learnt directly from his video here.
Spotlight also uses a pseudo random number generator created by Piter Pasma, a fantastic gen artist friend who has helped and inspired me in almost every project I’ve made, including this one.
Finally I want to thank Aaron Penne for always offering advice and support, the genartclub for being a constant anchor and place of comfort, all the collectors supporting artists and changing lives, and the team at Art Blocks for making all this possible.