SO, what is creativity?  It's a concept i try to work through on pretty much a daily basis.  

And i certainly think it has relevance to anyone involved in any creative endeavor.  Although at that point we've already reached the level of misnomer, defining a concept by referencing itself.  Like the notion in artificial intelligence research of the homunculus, which could be thought of as intelligence being defined by a little person inside the brain pulling the strings who has another little person inside it's brain, etc. So once you get to the point of defining a phenomena at the level of the homunculus you're completely missing the point, or at least not explaining anything.

So again, what is creativity?  Obviously as an artist you'd like to tap into it.  To be perceived as being creative.  Hopefully to be driven by the spark of creativity and the energy it gives you as you explore it, which i personally think is a much better place to be coming from than just the desire to be perceived as creative.

Is creativity necessary to create art?  i wonder. I think my reflex answer would be 'of course it is'.  But maybe that's my perceived bias.  maybe that notion is totally off base.

Thomas Edison is quoted as saying 'genius is one percent inspiration and ninety-nine percent perspiration'.  There's also a hilarious quote from J.G. Bennett on Robert Fripp's 'Exposure' album that goes something like 'having a bad disposition is no obstacle to work'.  I think both of these disparate references by masters of their individual craft are pointing out something very similar. Maybe the focus on the 'magic' of creativity is missing the point.  The real point is putting in the time, putting in enough time and energy into your particular craft to make something interesting happen.  And at the end of the day we call that creativity.  And attribute the results to our resident imagined creative homunculus that lives somewhere within us in some hidden place.

Now i'm probably a little unusual because i ask this 'what is creativity' question wearing several different hats.  I'm interested in the notion of tapping into creativity from the standpoint of creating visual imagery.  It's something i like to do.  Hopefully i get better at it over time.

But i'm also interested in building machines or software programs that are creative in themselves.  Studio Artist can be viewed through many different lens, but one of them is the notion of exploring artificial creativity.  Studio Artist is a giant sand box that allows for exploration of all kinds of notions of visual intelligence, visual and artistic representation, etc.  Some people get excited about this whole concept.  Other people get highly offended. Even physically angry in some extreme cases.

So a mechanistic explanation or model of creativity is of huge interest to me.  Because in order to build a creative machine or software system you have to get down to working with mechanistic descriptions at some level to do anything. Otherwise it's just all discussion of philosophy.

Now we could argue all day about whether Studio Artist is capable of creative or intelligent behavior.  It has passed the Turing test, we've submitted artwork generated by pressing the action button to art contests curated by human judges and won prizes.  I certainly have my own opinions about what works well, what doesn't, what needs more research,  what we don't understand, etc. That whole topic is probably better suited for another discussion thread if anyone is interested.

What got me initially started on this whole creativity philosophical discussion this morning was some reflection on a technique that seems to underlie a lot of my personal brushes with creativity.  It involves the notion of recombination. Taking some piece of information, or technique, that was designed to do some very specific thing, and then twisting it around and using it in a totally different way.

So at least for me, i think that this approach to working is something that underlies most of the creative work i've done over the years. Both technical and artistic.  

Even the core ideas embedded in Studio Artist are really a manifestation of this particular approach.  Studio Artist takes well developed practices and ideas from music synthesis and auto software and re-conceptualizes them  in the context of digital art and computer image generation.  All of the visual intelligence computational modeling living inside of Studio Artist is based on pre-existing research in cognitive neuroscience, it's just being taken and used in a very different context then it was originally intended to be used in.

Another key component of why i think Studio Artist succeeds is related to the notion of synchronicity. By this i mean the sum of the parts in some combined entity being more than the individual component pieces added together. When Studio Artist really succeeds artistically i think the notion of underlying synchronicity is a key component in that success. So perhaps this is another notion of defining creativity i need to think through more. And perhaps it's a bridge between mechanistic descriptions of creative systems and the notion that some people have that none of this phenomena can ever be modeled or doing so misses the whole point of it.  But keep in mind, if you're building software at some point you have to get concrete in your descriptions and analysis or you'll never get anything accomplished.  

The Portrait Virus Mutations project i recently undertook is what has me currently mulling over this whole notion of 'what is creativity'. Like many projects of this nature, starting it has ended up leading me in whole new directions i would not have initially conceived of if i hadn't started down that particular path. I'll be posting more information on those developments as they unfold. 

And i'm also getting some really interesting feedback from other Studio Artist users about how the notion of stack filtering relates to their own work that i hope to post more details on soon.  If you have your own thoughts on this feel free to contact me directly or post something here on the forum

So, i hope you find some of this discussion relevant to your own work. I'm certainly interested in other people's thoughts on this notion of 'what is creativity'. 

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John

I love Studio Artist, you know that, but as far as artificial intelligence goes it has to be somewhere in the level of bacteria. It can randomly mutate on its own, but there is no "learning" function. Any decisions and volition involved always come from the user. The program does not even have the ability to (self) choose mutation via "competitive evolution" The MSG has evolution but the user must choose the "winner."

Now we have talked in the past about adding learning functions. I think it would be great to add some AI functions that would allow the program to learn styles and techniques, either through mimicry(user input) or from observation (scanning of works and intuiting a style). Even adding a parameter system to the Evolver so that the program could self score the results would be a huge step up the ladder.

None of that speaks directly to your question of what is creativity. Summarizing the dictionary offers some guidance: Creativity is the ability to generate innovative ideas and manifest them from thought into reality.

For me personally I have always viewed the intelligence part of creativity in terms of orders of intelligence. without getting into too much extraneous detail I will offer that a second order intelligence can understand things that are explained or observed and cross pollinate concepts from one field of learning to another. I consider myself to be in this order and the recombining of concepts or the use of information from one field into another is a great part of whatever creative success I have enjoyed.

A first order intelligence can imagine the world/universe in terms not yet apparent to others and have that imagination manifest itself as reality. For example Newton, or Einstein. Before the thought experiments of Einstein Gravity was a law, and thought of as a force. After being shown a new vision of reality we can understand that gravity is a distortion of the fabric of space-time, or quite possibly the natural outcome/consequence of thermodynamics but not a force of its own.

The first order intelligence then is a true "creative" force the manifestations of this type of creativity change "reality" for the rest of us. In art Paul Cezanne fits in this category for me. There are a few others. But to really change the way the world is seen is a rare and special gift. Perhaps someday a computer program will accomplish this in its own right, but I feel we are a long way off yet..

I have elsewhere described SA not only as a great tool, but a potential partner in the creative process. Thinking about this statement in the context of your post, I believe that SA is a fantastic partner in the act of manifesting an innovation from thought to reality because it allows the user should they decide to do so, to allow randomness into the innovation process, and then in the "manifestation" process allowing the program to assist in the control of the minutiae allows the user to focus on the meta concept in a way that frees the mind.


As an complete Post Script: bacteria and fungus have both created works of Art that reside in collections of major world art museums. Not sure that qualifies them on the Turing test, but it might offer some insight to curators understanding of creativity.
The visual intelligence component of Studio Artist has more to do with using models of visual representation based on cognitive neuroscience of how imagery is broken down and computationally processed in the visual system of the brain to drive models of visually intelligent paint path synthesis and visually intelligent image processing. So when i refer to visual intelligence built into Studio Artist that's what i'm talking about.

Studio Artist was the first graphics program to incorporate visual modeling, and still is the only graphics program i'm aware of to utilize it like we do.

I'm fascinated by the relationship between how visual imagery is processed and represented in the visual cortex and tricks and techniques artist's use for generating visual representation in their work. If you think about that a little it shouldn't really be a surprise. So Studio Artist is a kind of computational sand box that allows you to explore some of those relationships.

I know from past experience Jean is going to jump all over me for my use of the term visual representation or perception, so please bear with us for the point of this discussion, we're referring to what you might consider physics as opposed to aesthetics or knowing. The physics of how images are computationally processed in the brain, the physics of how marks are laid down on paper to build up imagery. End of story. What you get into when you refer to perception and letting go is a whole different thing, a fascinating topic, but a different one than what we are talking about here, which is really about computational plumbing

In general you are right that 'learning' is a component of what could be considered necessary for intelligent systems that is currently missing from Studio Artist. Actually, that's not totally true, since the version i use here is somewhat different from the release version (unless i'm running tests for the latest release), and my version does have lots of new experimental stuff in it including an evolving understanding of objects in the world (like faces for example). Through yet more sophisticated visual modeling incorporated under the hood. That particular processing is based on learning algorithms, and we could in principal open up the learning component for more general use.

Of course doing that in a way that's useable for a typical general user is an interesting challenge, especially from a user interface standpoint. Some people have a hard time building a movie brush, teaching them to train a neural net and then build presets from that could be a challenge.

We've talked before about the notion of Studio Artist understanding more about the world and the components of it in particular images as being something that could be very powerful. That's all stuff that is being worked on behind the scenes, so perhaps at some point in the future we might get closer to your definition of artificial intelligence.


Your comment about having evolutionary processes like the MSG evolution have the ability to self choose winners is a great one. It's a feature i've wanted to add for awhile now. But i'm going to take exception to one component of what you said. Which was the comment 'any decisions and volition involved always comes from the user'. Because i think you still want that to be true even if the aesthetic decisions are being made automatically by some visual analysis algorithm.

One of the huge features and strengths of Studio Artist is that the user is in the loop. Even with things like 'intelligent-assisted drawing'. The program is making decisions but the artist is influencing those decisions by how they hold and manipulate a wacom pen while drawing. Even with pure press the button auto drawing, you need to tell it when to stop. And with version 4, you have a lot of freedom to manipulate controls in real time as the auto painting progresses.

Jack Nack actually made a big point recently in his blog of poking fun at the notion of automatic quality inference (here's another one to laugh at).

The camera that tells you what to take pictures of is particularly hilarious in my opinion. Because i used to spend vast amounts of spare time out walking through San Francisco taking the most absurd photos possible (at least absurd in the conventional sense of what these kinds of systems are trying to analyze via subject matter or composition or what is considered interesting and proper by them). So the 'smart' camera would not have let me take any of my pictures, which were images of bizarre microscopic components of the urban environment which are infinitely interesting taken out of context or considered as textural sources.

If there's anything i've learned in the business of building software for people to pursue personal expression, be it visual or musical, it's that you need to drop any expectation of personal taste from the range of processing effects and features you make available to people. One person's most hideous image ever is another's cherished best picture ever. The design of tools for creative expression do enough to influence the direction of the art created with them as it is without building in those kinds of generic decisions about quality, or trying to define that in some standardized way. (there's that creativity word again)

So the ability to personalize any aesthetic learning feature like that would be a key to it's success in my opinion.

There are 2 exceptions to this rule i can think of. Something that eliminates primarily solid color or low contrast MSG presets from evolution passes would probably be quite useful, so there might be some generic automatic quality analysis we could do that would be useful (at least for most people) in the context of improving the MSG evolution editor.

And the mythical 'make my photo good' button does in fact actually exist, it's been in Studio Artist since version 1. It's called the Image Compressor, and used judiciously it does indeed make the photo good.



AARON has and continues to get a ton of press associated with being an artificial intelligence system for generating art. But it really has the same limitations as Studio Artist based on your initial analysis. There's no real learning built into the system, other than what was hard coded by the author. So if Ray Kurzweil can state that AARON utilizes artificial intelligence to create original paintings, then i think Studio Artist can potentially carry that same label, at least according to his definition of AI.

I do think AARON is a very interesting study into the nature of artistic representation (there's that word again, forgive me Jean). And Harold Cohen's life long work associated with developing AARON is certainly a big inspiration to me.

One of the things we're looking at for version 5 is improving the ability to abstract original imagery without it necessarily being based on a source photo. AARON is very different from Studio Artist in that there is no concept of a source photo. There's a database of internal rules for constructing objects in an imaginary scene, and based on random decisions a random representational scene is created. In the artistic style that Harold Cohen has encoded within those rules buried in the program. That's what i mean by it being an amazing life long study into the nature of artistic representation, by representation i mean Harold Cohen's personal vision of how to build representational components of imagery in a painting. The whole point of AARON is that it paints like Harold would paint. But again, there's no learning built into the system. All of the rules or techniques regarding representation for various objects are hard coded.

Margaret Boden has written several book on the notion of creativity and artificial intelligence, and AARON is mentioned extensively in several of them.


I don't know that i put too much stock in the Turing test to be honest. But Studio Artist does pass it, at least from the standpoint of the human observers looking at the output of the system and making decisions based on it when compared to other output generated by humans. Of course there's no question/answer thing going on in this kind of Turin test.

And of course if the people making the decisions knew that a machine made the art they might evaluate it totally differently.

Is that same picture more creative if someone painted it by hand? As opposed to pressing the action button.
Creativity is what happens when one no longer knows what to do, but does it anyway.
Too much emphasis is placed on control and "know-how," the real thing is of a different order.
John Cage talking to Philip Guston: "When you are in your studio, you are there with your thoughts, with your friends' and your enemies'. As you start working, and if you are lucky, they start leaving, one by one. If you continue to work, and if you are very lucky, even you leave."
The problem with the power of the tools we now have, Studio Artist being amongst the best of those, is that when we hit that sense of emptiness, that moment of no longer knowing what to do, instead of staying with it, we almost always succumb to throwing yet another preset/filter/plug-in/special effect at the experience, thus missing a chance to "know better."
Can Artificial Intelligence experience despair, and learn from it?
Do androids dream of electric sheep?

Jean, you made my day with the following quote:
Creativity is what happens when one no longer knows what to do, but does it anyway.
John,
In all my years of painting/drawing, that's probably the most important thing I have learned.
And that was at the core of what I was "teaching" as well.
During the second Visual Marathon held at the School of Visual Art in NY, I was delighted to hear Cecile Starr say something almost identical when she talked about the pioneers of abstract/experimental animation (she knew quite a few of them personally): "Those people did not know what they were doing, but they did it anyway."
In practical terms, this requires a big shift in the way one works: we are trained to look-understand-do. This "working without knowing" requires we look-do-understand (maybe).
This is also at the heart of what we were talking about during my NY days, not "how to do whatever," but how to set up/create conditions by which "accidents" could happen.
This also applies to working perceptually: we cannot come close to drawing what we see if we try to understand "how it looks" before we draw it. We are too limited by our cultural conditioning to see reliably that way, we need to "see without knowing" and draw accordingly, "to cater to the appearing as it appears" (Husserl).
And to draw accordingly means we have to be able to look and do, without editing what may happen by a pseud-understanding which is always coming after the initial "pre-doxic" experience.
To rain the conversation back in to my original question about 'what is creativity'. It seems like you are taking the position of perspiration vs magical inspiration as being the essential component of what creativity is really all about? ie doing the work until something indeed does work.
It's not either/or, it may take a lot of work (perspiration) to finally be in tune with inspiration.
At other times, it may take a lot of work to follow up on a hint provided by inspiration.
In fact, the duality inspiration-perspiration could be yet another aspect of the basic duality/dilemma of "Where is it?" - "Aha! There it is!"
But really, the bottom of it all is this: we do not know what we are doing, we do not know what reality is, we do not know what/who we are.
The choice is therefore between a few approaches: either we acknowledge our not-knowing and work accordingly, to make it visible and/or probe into it, or we fudge, we pretend we do know, we (vainly try) to cover that "not-knowing" up, and add to the (our) confusion.
I'll rephrase my "definition" of creativity this way: "Creativity manifest itself in (as) the way in which we perform when we no longer know what to do."
Accumulating knowledge in order to protect ourselves against that encounter is similar to accumulating wealth in the hope of protecting oneself against death.
As a Zen teacher once said: "You want to paint the perfect painting? That's easy! Make yourself perfect and 'just' paint naturally!"
John,

I am assuming you are looking more or less into tapping the mechanics of communication. What does a "creative" person do to communicate (effectively) differently (individually) or merely the same way as most people communicate... "Creativity" as a disembodied entity sounds a little vague.
How a persons creativity relates to art and visuals as communication sounds more like it...

Could SA create "ART"?
Well - really art being a subset of communication - that is more or less like saying - could a rock communicate "art".
Rocks may well be communicating... But people have yet to tap into what they might be saying. Mistaking an overlaid (human) interpretation of what rocks might be "saying" is essentially a call back to people communicating.

I remember the brouhaha that surrounded the discovery that computers "dream".
That something is going on - even when a user is not asking for an action. Would we care particularly - if a computer is dreaming? if it didnt relate to us?

Would we want to pay attention to a machine (a rock) spitting out "art" to us?
For how long - before we miss some average Jo(sephine) talking to us (Art-ing at us) about things we have in common.
The littlest human interaction seems far more interesting.
I would look for rich - highly inclusive, messing around by "the man behind the curtain" - as evidence of the man... More interesting than the level of activity of the machine.

Areas that intrigue me still:
How the blind "visualize" - imagine things visually.
I stayed for a while with a man who worked with the blind - he was a sculptor:
http://www.nytimes.com/1996/01/12/arts/robert-amendola-instructor-t...
He loved to discuss at length what happens when the eyes are not behaving as they typically do. How we "visualize"...

How an eyes degree of acuity affects our interpretation of things seen.
My eyesight is terrible. A hawks eyes can see far objects many times clearer than a human...

Edge detection: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Edge_detection
Not so much the math as the idea behind this - that things overlaying things are interpreted in interesting ways.

The psychology of shape recognition/interpretation. Like hard edge shape = danger(emotions) Soft edge shapes = emotions soothed.
Amorphous vs. hard edged...

Kinetics... Grand sweeping gestures say something different than minute gestures. I think there was some discussion here about gesture and feedback.
The action of the body - and what it produces is an area with a lot of personal potential... Combining body motion with its visual reflections.

Again this all makes me think of the man behind the curtain. We look at the manifestation... But knowing it is a manifestation of "somebody" makes it lastingly interesting.

I could see mining the mechanics of communication having rich potential. The automated spitting out of things that look like meaningful things by SA or any machine can be fun... Figuring out uses for it is what we artists are all about - creatively.
If you could elaborate at all on Robert's comments about his take on 'visualization' I'd be curious to know more about it. I have read that the visual areas of blind people are still quite active, but get taken over by other sensory input.

There's also been a lot of psychology work on the phenomena of 'blind sight'. Which basically involves people who have some kind of damage to area V1 of the visual cortex, making them technically blind. They are indeed blind in the sense that they have no perception of visual consciousness. But when run through a battery of test where they are shown objects or scenes and have to make guesses about what is in them they perform at a level much higher than random chance, so in some sense they are seeing. they just aren't consciously aware of it. There's a back route visual connection from the eye to the higher level visual cortex areas that circumvents area V1 and could be thought of as a part of the old 'reptile brain' that still resides under the hood of the more modern brain. And the thought is that the visual signals are being communicated that way to the visual cortex areas involved in sensory perception. It has a lot of implications for people who are trying to study and model the concept of what is conscious thought, since it provides a window into how damage to a specific part of the brain can eliminate the phenomena of consciousness (visual consciousness in this particular case).

Oliver Sacks's writings are filled with these kinds of stories, people who have very specific brain damage that makes them lose some aspect of consciousness. There's one in particular of a famous artist who had damage to area V4 of his brain which made him no longer able to perceive color. As you might imagine, his subsequent artwork underwent dramatic changes because of this.

You comment about eye acuity was also interesting. I've read some analysis of Monet's later work that implies it looks the way it does because he was losing hi s eye sight, as opposed to being some specific stylistic variation in painting he was implementing. He was in fact just painting what he was seeing, which was a blurry world due to lose of visual acuity in his vision.


The kinetics comment is interesting. i have thought about trying to add computational modeling based on components of the brain related to the execution of visual motion. So the derivation of brush paths would be influenced by that modeling as well as modeling visual perception. There is someone i met at a conference several years ago who also had a fasciation with Harold Cohen's work who tried something like this from the standpoint of building a computation system that would emulate children's drawing styles.

The way to build up kinetics in Studio Artist is through judicial usage of the procedural randomization options when designing auto-drawing paint presets. So it's being clever about faking it computationally as opposed to trying to accurately model hand - eye interaction at the level of neural modeling.

There's this notion in some introductory books on 'how to draw' that get into the notion of kinetic sketching where your eye stays on the subject and never goes onto the paper while you're drawing. I've always felt that physical studies of saccadic movement of the eye when observing a scene kind of looked like that kind of sketch. You can build paint presets in Studio Artist to simulate that kind of kinetics pretty easily.

But the notion of the kinetics of the sketch emulating the movement in a scene or video even is an interesting one. I'll have to think about that some more. I think you could use temporal image operations to extract motion from a video sequence and then use that image in a layer as a modulator in the paint synthesizer via the bus modulation option to build a kinetic sketch.

So perhaps there we have a real working example of 'creativity' in action. How could we build a kinetic sketch. Again, for me personally the process seems to involve reusing bits of knowledge i already possess and placing them in a new context. So both the process of combination of elements in new ways, but also re-contexturalizing concepts so that they are used in situations or for problems they were not initially intended.


I know the concept of 'artificial creativity' is an alien one for some people. But it's definitely something i'm interested in. Both from the standpoint of building better software tools, and from the standpoint of trying to develop 'techniques' i can personally use to be more creative in my daily life.

My problem with most definitions of creativity is that they end up sounding like that concept of the homunculus that keep coming up in the field of artificial intelligence. So in this reuse of the homunculus concept creativity would be describing creativity as the process of being creative. You can be more ornate about how you say this, but if this ends up being the definition you haven't really said anything, or learned anything about creativity itself.

Creativity seems to be something anybody who hangs out here on the forum or who is involved in creating visual art wrestles with every day. So trying to get a handle on what exactly we mean by the term should certainly be of interest to people.


Human interaction is certainly interesting. But i don't really know if it's really necessary for the creation of compelling artwork. At least not at the level of the process of creation. Look at the grand canyon, it's beauty is stunning, no human intervention was involved in it's creation. Now at the level of the viewing or analysis or interpretation of artwork, human interaction is the whole point. What kind of effect does it have on the human viewer?

Now will machines or software algorithms be able to model that analysis. I personally think that a lot of interesting work can be done in that area, but we certainly have a long way to go. Witness my laughing about the camera that tells you how interesting the picture is you are about to take elsewhere in this post.


Building an electronic circuit to do some kind of operation, like making a transistor radio, or an amplifier, or whatever could certainly be described as being an act of creativity. Computer algorithms based on evolutionary algorithms can do this kind of thing quite well. Even better than humans in some situations. At some level the way they work is all about trying out a lot of ideas over time, seeing which ones work, throwing away the ones that don't and keeping the ones that do, working with the notion of recombination of ideas, perhaps in new contexts (there's that principal i keep bring up again).

So there's no magical knowledge or intelligence in this kind of system. There's some kind of way of evaluating results as being good or bad, and the ability to try out lots of new variations over time. Is the system intelligent? Is it creative? It certainly gets the job done.


I'm trying to wrestle with a lot of these ideas as we plan out what is going to be attempted to be built for Studio Artist 5. We do want to try to break some new boundaries, hopefully expanding the programs creativity as well as expanding the users.
Below is an excerpt from part #5 of my six Notes from the Underground published a few years ago by Animation World Magazine.

My version is here, AWN's is here

Not only are my versions unedited, they still contain all of the original illustrations (including many QT movies) which were mangled a bit by AWN when it migrated its magazines to new servers a while ago.

Beginning of excerpt:
Annie Dillard found some fabulous material in a book called "Space and Sight," by Marius Von Senden.

That book gives detailed accounts of how people who were blind from birth reacted to their newly acquired sight (through the removal of cataracts by surgery). These reactions showed unmistakably how much "seeing" is an acquired faculty, not an inherent one.

Dillard integrated those stories in an excellent book called "Pilgrim at Tinker Creek," the account of a journey that I wish would be more common amongst aspiring artists, and to which art schools should definitely "submit" their students ("Know Thyself").

One of the major points she makes is that "seeing is very much a matter of verbalization," which is exactly what I have been talking about in my previous articles.

If we don't have a name for "it," a name by which to differentiate "it" from the context, we can't see "it." (This does not mean we don't see anything, far from that!)

In fact, even that context/ground from which we differentiate "it" via verbalization is itself constituted by our world view, a world view which is no less rooted in our distinct culture as is the "figure" itself.

Even "space" is an utterly meaningless concept (note: a "concept!") for people who have not yet acquired this culturally induced way of seeing.

Indeed, they have no notion of "near" and "far" in their newly acquired visual world. "Distance" too, is a meaningless concept! ("A patient had no idea of depth, confusing it with roundness.")

Nor do they have a notion of "size," itself being also a meaningless concept.

"Shape" is another meaningless concept: a patient cannot distinguish -visually- between a cube and a sphere, but will instantly identify them "correctly" as soon as he is allowed to feel them with his hands and tongue.

As for the "realism" of photos, a newly sighted girl who saw some for the first time said something like: "Why do they have all those dark patches all over them?"

Someone explained to her that those were not dark patches, that they were shadows. And the explanation went on to say that shadows were one of the ways by which we know that things have shape.

The girl answered: "But things do look flat, they look flat with dark patches!"

(I am certain that many a painter will immediately relate to this as experientially true.)

"Pilgrim at Tinker Creek" is full of amazing examples like these, and Annie Dillard manages very well to bring those "freak" experiences into the context of our "normal" life.

What she manages to do is to show that the experiences of those people who discover sight well after birth are loaded with teachings that can (if we make the effort to learn) show us how dull our habitual vision is.
Jean,

You are pointing out the "educational" process of using an untrained sense to make sense of an extant world. The world we are all educated over time to interact with. I am assuming these people were slowly "educated" to relate what they saw to concepts that they could use to anticipate the extant world and communicate to others.

I wonder if there is something in there that could be culled out as tools of perception for John to build on.

Philosophically - I would ask - if we take ourselves on a backward journey toward un-learning - what would the end result be? To what end?

The practitioners of an "empty mind" mental activity (meditation) are looking to (theoretically when they finally bottom out at "nothing") receive (openly) the emanations of... "God", The One... something... Somebody... "Empty mind" leads to opening up to communicating with the other. To communication.
And so back up the ladder of the sense. “Before enlightenment; chop wood, carry water. After enlightenment; chop wood, carry water.”

Not a bad ambition. To be enlightened... And bring the light to ART.
If "the real" is a construct, does it not behoove us to see how it is we construct ("constitute") it?
I posit that this is precisely what Art is about, "Art is what makes us see."
"To make the visible visible."
Of course, with the invasion of the conceptual agenda (way easier to teach and "measure," hence its predominance in schools and the gallery world), the experiential aspect of Art has been shoved to the side (but it ain't dead, by far!).
Art as a testimony of what it means to be alive, Art as snippets of human experience, Art as that which reveals the universal in the particular.
To quote Cézanne: "Art is a religion. Its aim is the elevation of thought"
and "He who does not have a taste for the absolute is satisfied with tranquil mediocrity."
As for the practitioners of an "empty mind," I know not what you are talking about. It seems to me to be far more valuable to (try to) "see" mind as it is, than to try to "empty" it while not knowing its true nature.
And if there is a "before" and an "after" enlightenment, is it not up to those who have known enlightenment to tell us what the differences are, if any?
But even then, for the rest of us, that would be mere speculation: how could we comprehend something we have not experienced?
Can we bring light to light?
One of my best friends, a French philosopher by the name of José Huertas-Jourda, used to tell his students to "trust their darkness!"
And Jung said: "One does not become enlightened by imagining figures of light, but by making darkness conscious."
To me, all that is beautifully and meaningfully summed up in Husserl's "to cater to the appearing as it appears."
Perception is at work all the time, "the appearing" is as much (my perception of) this computer screen in front of me as it is (my perception of) my recollection of an event or my (perception of) my anticipation of "whatever."
"The visible" is therefore not "just" what hits my eyes, it is any object of consciousness.
There is a fundamental process in perception which is yet to be implemented in any tool I have used, the constant switching between the two poles our consciousness experiences constantly: "Where is it?" - "Aha! There it is!"
So far, tools are locked in one mode or the other ("flux-reclaiming" or "stasis-reclaiming").
I dream of a tool that would enable the user to switch mode, in that very tool, when he/she notices that his/her mode has changed.
To put it differently: "from the outside in" and "from the center out."
That would make for a "higher level" of AI, it seems to me, much closer to how "our" mind really works, than the mechanistic model that has been used so far.

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Jean Detheux posted a video

21. Var 20 from Jean Detheux on Vimeo.

21. Var 20

21 Variation 20 This is the 21st part of the Goldberg Variations, a music - images dialogue in 32 movements between Elisabetta Guglielmin (harpsichord) and Jean Detheux (images). At first, the 32 videos will be posted on Vimeo, one at a time (Aria…
2 hours ago
Adrion T. Kelley posted a discussion

Matching colors from Source Image to .png's from Mosaic Image Folder

Attached are:Exported Image = GirlWithClasses_Soda.jpgPaint Synthesizer Preset = Alpha_PNG_TSP_Untouched_Orient_Modulation_6Mosaic Image Folder = Stuff.zipI want to replace certain colors from my GirlWithGlasses.jpg source image with certain .png's from my Mosaic Image Folder:Source Image skin color = Yellow Fanta soda canSource Image hair color = Orange Fanta soda canSource Image clothing color = Purple Fanta soda canSource Image glasses and pupils = = Black Coke soda canSource Image lips =…See More
3 hours ago
rs3d replied to rs3d's discussion AutoPaint Frame Continuity / Fixed Random Seed
"Excellent, thank you for pointing me into the right direction!"
11 hours ago
Synthetik Software replied to rs3d's discussion AutoPaint Frame Continuity / Fixed Random Seed
"Reset Generator is what you were looking for in the Path Start control panel.  It's an editable parameter of it's own, not an option in the Generator. If you turn it on, then a random seed parameter you can set for it becomes…"
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rs3d updated their profile
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rs3d posted a discussion

AutoPaint Frame Continuity / Fixed Random Seed

What would be necessary to to make AutoPaint strokes look more consistent from frame to frame in an animation? (Or even when re-drawing the same frame for that matter?)A fixed random seed for Auto Paint would help probably. I checked out different types of "Path Start / Generator", but I could not find the right option.The best would be if that random seed can be animated, so it's possible to have more continuous strokes and more flickering ones.A hint would be very much appreciated, thanks a…See More
yesterday
Paul Perlow commented on Bernard Bunner's photo
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MSG Abstract7 / ArtCam

"That is a great direction. I like it too."
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