The Science of Art

Recently, we put the call out for new regular contributors, and what a response we got! We’ve got some fantastic new pieces coming from our new Rubies across a range of topics, and we can’t wait to share them with you!

In the first of our round of introductions is Penny, our brand new technology writer. She’s a Sydney-based graphic designer in the gaming industry, who also has a passion for movies and photography. We’re stoked to have her on board, so please give her a warm welcome!

I am what I describe as a ‘non-geek geekette’. I’m kind of a nerd only by exposure, like when something cool does fall in to my lap, and I go ‘cray cray’.

Regardless of my allegiance to the tech world though, I am still guilty of a terrible thing.

I bag out computer geeks.

I mean, I am considered one myself, but I am no Sheldon Cooper.

I am the first to avoid going into a store if the nerd:normal ratio is out of whack because well, I don’t like BO. I also distinctly remember in high school having the chance to achieve a UAI score by taking biology, or to ditch the university stream and take up Photography. ‘Screw science and the nerds who take it,’ I told myself. ‘Give me a camera! I am an artiste!’

Well, I’ve been put into my place

Two weeks ago, the Sydney Opera House held their 3rd Annual GRAPHIC Festival, billed as ‘a weekend of graphic storytelling, animation and music’.

I had grand expectations of being surrounded and inspired by hipsters wanting to ‘explore the world around them through the medium of film and animation’. I knew they were hipsters, I fairly judged them by their outfits and cool hats of course, but there was someone else… Another breed that was distinctly identified by their smell…

It took me a while, but soon I was recalling hours spent scouring stinky Electronics Boutique stores for cheap Playstation games with my brothers. The smell was that of the computer nerd.

Now that isn’t fair. I actually never encountered any bad body odour at the Opera House, but the computer geeks were certainly there in force.

I should have known that the Pixar event, hosted by the one and awesome Lee Unkrich, and the Animal Logic event the following day would bring out the technically-inspired youths of Sydney. I mean, these two companies are solely responsible for changing the movie industry forever. From Toy Story and The Matrix, everyone in the industry has been trying to out-do them. It really hasn’t happened though; these two companies are still ahead by a mile.

Pixar has undoubtedly mastered the art of story telling, creating captivating characters that it’s near impossible to imagine existing in any form outside a computer. The refinement, the technique, the characterisation: I just wanted to write my own script and convince Pixar to take it, just so I could point to the big screen and say ‘That’s mine!’

But then they showed me something I never imagined could exist.

Someone, most likely a smelly computer nerd from Electronics Boutique, created a program that grew Scottish foliage for Pixar’s latest film Brave. That’s right, grew… on a computer. Grass, moss, leaves and flowers digitally grown for their digital medieval Scotland. They designed a program (or plug-in if you know what I’m talking about) called ‘Wonder Moss’, to only grow certain plants in certain places. For example, it made sure clover only grew in the darker, ‘damper’ areas of the nature scenes. Then, to top it off, they made it so that some foliage would age. They made plants start to die as well.

They made the computer understand biology to create art.

For anyone, that is amazing in itself; but I am here to eat my words even more. I have dabbled in wanting to program before. By that, I mean I have done the Introduction chapter to about three or four programming tutorials online, but have never been inspired to go further.


Try this exercise and you’ll understand. I want you to follow my instructions to see the same thing I see, especially if you don’t know anything about programming.

  1. Open up Notepad on your computer, or any word processor. Make sure it is a blank page.
  2. Now grow clover.

Nothing? Exactly. But someone can do that!

As a person with a creative background, it makes me appreciate the people who allow my creativity to flourish into something I can actually see. I am no real ‘techy’, though I do enjoy games and their technical quality. I enjoy watching behind-the-scenes doco’s of Lord Of The Rings and go mad when Game Of Thrones or The Walking Dead is available to downlo- I mean, to watch. With The Big Bang Theory and Breaking Bad bringing the era of the nerd to full cool fruition, I can’t wait to see what the nerds of the world create next, so that I can push my creative boundaries even more.

Together, we can celebrate the digital nerd age from both sides of the fence: the nerd side and the artiste side!

Are you interested in learning to code? Try poking your nose around Code Academy. Don’t let that empty page scare you; give it a go!



Filed under Buttons & Screens

2 responses to “The Science of Art

  1. Thank goodness for the nerds of the world. Yesterday I heard on the radio that banks will soon have voice recognition over the phone – no more passwords needed, they will be able to tell it’s you by your voice and you can do your phone banking. It all sounded really technical to me and I tuned out until the guy who developed it said that when you phone your mum and say “Hi, it’s me”, she always knows who it is. So he developed a program that could replicate that. I thought that was cute. Not sure why anyone would do phone banking these days when you can use an app on your phone, but still cute.

  2. Toni-Maree Fuller

    The other day I tried to create a simple vector graphic to use as a logo. Lets just say I didn’t get what I was after. So hats off to artiste nerds also.

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