created the Kandinsky3 images with dbCinema, a graphic synthesizer and langu(im)age processor I'm writing in Adobe Director. In dbCinema, you create and configure one or more simultaneous 'brushes'. And assign each brush a concept, in the form either of a search string or a local directory of images. If the concept is a search string, dbCinema downloads images from the net somehow related to the concept (via a Google and Yahoo image search) and uses those images as 'paint' sort of like a music synthesizer can use samples of other music in the creation of new work. The samples can be as big or small as you like, and many other properties are also configurable. A musican typically plays several 'notes' or samples per second; dbCinema typically renders dozens of ' brush strokes' per second. A music synthesizer can use samples from many instruments at once; dbCinema lets you use many images at once in a compositional activity that produces a painterly movie and screenshots of the movie.

dbCinema is a langu(im)age processor in that you type stuff into it and that language is processed into a set of images somehow related to what you type in.

The concept for the brushes in Kandinsky3 was a search string: "Kandinsky". The Kandinsky3 images use some of the paintings of Wassily Kandinsky, amazing Russian abstract painter of the early twentieth century, as what the dbCinema brushes use as 'paint'. As well as other images somehow associated with "Kandinsky" via a Google+Yahoo image search.

The text in Kandinsky3 is from Kandinsky's 1919 book Concerning the Spiritual in Art [1] which is available online through the Gutenberg project. Kandinsky had some interesting ideas about art. About colour and forms. And their relations. He was involved in Theosophy, a kind of (Platonistic, concerning forms) spirituality in which art was important. I expect it was a matter of the ideas of Theosophy more or less dovetailing with his views. In any case, Kandinsky’s philosophy of art is resonant today for algorithmic artists. Because he looks at basic shapes and their “spiritual values”. Like triangles, circles, lines, and so forth. And of course his art highlights his concern with basic shapes and with colours.

Algorithmic artists have frequent occassion to deal with basic shapes because those are the shapes visual computer art is made out of also. Moreso than in drawing, say. When we draw, we can easily draw a thingie that is of no basic shape other than squiggly thingies. But the fundamental shapes you deal with as a programmer artist do not really include thingies. They are things like lines, rectangles, ovals, points, polygons, and Bezier equations. It takes some work to get to the thingie stage.

Additionally, Kandinsky was very involved in a kind of synthesis of arts, as are algorithmic artists, typically. He took his cue from music, and wrote about this. If you look at his work, you see that although it is abstract, there’s something going on with ideas of harmony and composition. It’s a kind of musical approach to colour and form. He was interested in how different shapes and colours make us feel, and drew on musical analogies rather a lot.

I've included the quoted Kandinsky text at the bottom of this page [2].

The shapes of the brushes in Kandinsky3 are SWF Flash animations. So the brushes are a bit like stamps. Each frame in a dbCinema 'movie', the brush stamps out a graphic in the shape of the current frame of a SWF Flash animation. But the image inside the shape is part of a Wassily Kandinsky painting. Every few seconds, the brush uses a different Kandinsky painting as 'paint'.

Each brush has two types of motion. The nib is a Flash animation so, of course, it can move, but, also, the animation itself is moved around the screen by dbCinema. Each brush has a configurable geometry, which is the path dbCinema uses to move the animation around the screen.

The situation is sort of like a type of art I made in school in grade three. We made paintings and then covered them with black wax. Then we took a pencil and scratched away parts of the wax to reveal a bit of the underlying painting. But in dbCinema, the underlying (Kandinsky) painting changes every few seconds. And we're not using pencils to scratch away the wax but SWF Flash animations.

Many of the SWF Flash animations used—you can view the animations via links to the left—have shapes related to the shapes in the Kandinsky paintings. Kandinsky paintings have circles, semi-circles, triangles, squares, grids, lines, curved lines, parabolas, and other simple geometric shapes in them. That is mostly the type of shape I used in the SWF Flash animations. I only realized this relation between the shapes of the SWF Flash animations and the shapes Kandinsky often draws when I was making the thumbnail images on the index page. Well duh.

Kandinsky's paintings are, in part, about painting. Of course, all paintings are, to some extent, about painting. Just like all poems are, to some extent, about poetry. Kandinsky puts paintings of paintbrushes in there sometimes. And other art tools. And the simple geometric shapes he draws/paints are also sort of tools of the trade. Basic tools of the trade, basic shapes. Like circles, parabolas, ellipses, grids, simple curved lines, and so on. They also are basic tools in creating visual art with computers, whether the work is abstract or otherwise [2].

To the left are links to the SWF Flash animations I used. Most of these were created specially for this sequence of dbCinema images (the first images I've made with the dbCinema Flash brush), but some of the SWF Flash animations are ones I created earlier for earlier work not related to dbCinema.

One of the things I want to do is increase the stylistic range of which dbCinema is capable. Adding the Flash brush does that quite a bit. Because not only can you use whatever underlying images you like via a Google+Yahoo image search (or use your own images), but the shape of the brush can be whatever you like. The motion of the brush is partly determined by the Flash animation's motion, but also by the geometry of the brush. I am also adding brush geometries as I go along.

As well as other types of brushes. For instance a bitmap brush would be nice. So you could use any bitmap you like as a brush.


[1]   Kandinsky's essay Concerning the Spiritual in Art, is notable for its geometrical spiritualism.

Here is the Kandinsky text quoted in Kandinsky3:


And so at different points along the road are the different arts, saying what they are best able to say, and in the language which is peculiarly their own. Despite, or perhaps thanks to, the differences between them, there has never been a time when the arts approached each other more nearly than they do today, in this later phase of spiritual development.

In each manifestation is the seed of a striving towards the abstract, the non-material. Consciously or unconsciously they are obeying Socrates' command—Know thyself. Consciously or unconsciously artists are studying and proving their material, setting in the balance the spiritual value of those elements, with which it is their several privilege to work.

And the natural result of this striving is that the various arts are drawing together. They are finding in Music the best teacher. With few exceptions music has been for some centuries the art which has devoted itself not to the reproduction of natural phenomena, but rather to the expression of the artist's soul, in musical sound.

A painter, who finds no satisfaction in mere representation, however artistic, in his longing to express his inner life, cannot but envy the ease with which music, the most non-material of the arts today, achieves this end. He naturally seeks to apply the methods of music to his own art. And from this results that modern desire for rhythm in painting, for mathematical, abstract construction, for repeated notes of colour, for setting colour in motion.

This borrowing of method by one art from another, can only be truly successful when the application of the borrowed methods is not superficial but fundamental. One art must learn first how another uses its methods, so that the methods may afterwards be applied to the borrower's art from the beginning, and suitably. The artist must not forget that in him lies the power of true application of every method, but that that power must be developed.

In manipulation of form music can achieve results which are beyond the reach of painting. On the other hand, painting is ahead of music in several particulars. Music, for example, has at its disposal duration of time; while painting can present to the spectator the whole content of its message at one moment. Music, which is outwardly unfettered by nature, needs no definite form for its expression.

Painting today is almost exclusively concerned with the reproduction of natural forms and phenomena. Her business is now to test her strength and methods, to know herself as music has done for a long time, and then to use her powers to a truly artistic end.

And so the arts are encroaching one upon another, and from a proper use of this encroachment will rise the art that is truly monumental. Every man who steeps himself in the spiritual possibilities of his art is a valuable helper in the building of the spiritual pyramid which will some day reach to heaven.


Painting has two weapons at her disposal:

1. Colour. 2. Form.

Form can stand alone as representing an object (either real or otherwise) or as a purely abstract limit to a space or a surface.

Colour cannot stand alone; it cannot dispense with boundaries of some kind. A never-ending extent of red can only be seen in the mind; when the word red is heard, the colour is evoked without definite boundaries. If such are necessary they have deliberately to be imagined. But such red, as is seen by the mind and not by the eye, exercises at once a definite and an indefinite impression on the soul, and produces spiritual harmony. I say "indefinite," because in itself it has no suggestion of warmth or cold, such attributes having to be imagined for it afterwards, as modifications of the original "redness." I say "definite," because the spiritual harmony exists without any need for such subsequent attributes of warmth or cold. An analogous case is the sound of a trumpet which one hears when the word "trumpet" is pronounced. This sound is audible to the soul, without the distinctive character of a trumpet heard in the open air or in a room, played alone or with other instruments, in the hands of a postilion, a huntsman, a soldier, or a professional musician.

But when red is presented in a material form (as in painting) it must possess (1) some definite shade of the many shades of red that exist and (2) a limited surface, divided off from the other colours, which are undoubtedly there. The first of these conditions (the subjective) is affected by the second (the objective), for the neighbouring colours affect the shade of red.

This essential connection between colour and form brings us to the question of the influences of form on colour. Form alone, even though totally abstract and geometrical, has a power of inner suggestion. A triangle (without the accessory consideration of its being acute-or obtuse-angled or equilateral) has a spiritual value of its own. In connection with other forms, this value may be somewhat modified, but remains in quality the same. The case is similar with a circle, a square, or any conceivable geometrical figure. As above, with the red, we have here a subjective substance in an objective shell.

The mutual influence of form and colour now becomes clear. A yellow triangle, a blue circle, a green square, or a green triangle, a yellow circle, a blue square—all these are different and have different spiritual values.

It is evident that many colours are hampered and even nullified in effect by many forms. On the whole, keen colours are well suited by sharp forms (e.g., a yellow triangle), and soft, deep colours by round forms (e.g., a blue circle). But it must be remembered that an unsuitable combination of form and colour is not necessarily discordant, but may, with manipulation, show the way to fresh possibilities of harmony.

Since colours and forms are well-nigh innumerable, their combination and their influences are likewise unending. The material is inexhaustible.

Form, in the narrow sense, is nothing but the separating line between surfaces of colour. That is its outer meaning. But it has also an inner meaning, of varying intensity, and, properly speaking, FORM IS THE OUTWARD EXPRESSION OF THIS INNER MEANING. To use once more the metaphor of the piano—the artist is the hand which, by playing on this or that key (i.e., form), affects the human soul in this or that way. SO IT IS EVIDENT THAT FORM-HARMONY MUST REST ONLY ON A CORRESPONDING VIBRATION OF THE HUMAN SOUL; AND THIS IS A SECOND GUIDING PRINCIPLE OF THE INNER NEED.

dbCinema interface

Click to visit