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All posts for the month January, 2011

*WARNING: containts geek-speak, geek-muggles scroll to bottom for a quick peek at video* 

Sometimes I find it hard to know how one of my lanterns is going to look just from the flat image of one of the tiles.  The way the tiles meet creates a kaleidoscoping effect that can make certain patterns look really nice and others not so exciting.  Building the lanterns takes a lot of work, and so I’ve usually always settled for the “first draft” from the image.  However, I’m interested in making the overall asthetic more … I could say “holistic”, creating more  connection between the various tiles.

For some time I had been dreaming of a way to use Processing (a multi-media computer programing language) to create interactive 3D models of my lanterns.   It is probably possible to do this, but I had a feeling that rendering 60 or more hi-resolution images in 3D in realtime might not be within my computing power, one of the things that kept this idea on the back-burner.

I tend to be one to always push my work into new realms, and now that I had finally settled on a construction method for my lanterns, I needed a new challenge, so I decided to take up this 3D modeling idea.  Instead of trying to do it by code, I realized that Blender was the perfect tool for my ideas. Not only did it have a user interface to (hopefully) simplify my project, it also had an interface by which to program models and animation in Python, so it seemed the best of both worlds.  Having rendered videos as opposed to processor-intensive applications also appealed to me because of my recent interest in providing VJing resources.

Looking into the Python API, I realized that I would have to understand how the software worked before writing programs to generate my fractally decorated polyhedra.  My efforts to find algorithms to generate polyhedra like the Great Stellated Dodecahedron had failed anyway, and I was a bit puzzled as to how I would do it from scratch.  Luckily I found some good ol’ VRML files from George Hart’s website.  I am a great admirer of his work, and now I was more directly benefiting from it.

Although the models imported with ease, their “faces” were not the same triangles that my tile images were, as I indicated in my blenderartists.org forum post, where I also wrote about my own solution to the problem.  I then had to tediously assign a projection to each new face I had created.  I had fun doing the math of how to rotate the figures at just the right angles so that each edge would line up with the grid.  It all seemed worth it when I realized that not only could I project images onto the faces, I could also project VIDEOS onto them.   I had also been dreaming of projecting animated “fractal flames” (as seen on Electric Sheep screensaver) onto the faces of polyhedra, so now I need only learn the process of animating in Apophysis to make this a reality.  For now, here is a little test render of some SpaceCraft CGI animation

   

The time following the Winter Solstice, or the “New Year” if you wish, is a great time to look forward to aspirations we have for our next round on the seasonal wheel, but also, to look at what we have achieved.  I would like to take the time to focus on the latter, particularly, to explain the process I’ve been through with my craft.  Particularly, I will focus on how I have created polyhedral models over time. 

Perhaps I did this in school some time, but the first polyhedral model I can recall creating was rather recently, it was a cube from this image on the right (click to visit DeviantArt upload of the image).  The caption reads

Here is a foldable of a “Magic Cube”, which can also be physically constructed using 27 dice. I found this trick in a book entitled “Mathemagic” by Martin Gardner. He quotes “the sum of any row, column, main diagonal (upper left to lower right), or off-diagonal around all four lateral faces is always 42″. The meaning of life revealed !

This is one of the simplest polyhedrons to construct… I’m surprised that I hadn’t encountered it in grade school….I do have some memory of mini-marshmallows and toothpicks… to vague to describe though.

That was before I even conceived of making polyhedra canvas’ for digital art.  Before I began working with 3D shapes, I was writing software to develop geometrically defined 2D vector graphics images.  I even developed my own set of libraries to help me generate .svg vector graphics files from  computer algorithms I had written …. geeeek !  Those programs don’t actually work any more because they depended on another piece of software that doesn’t work any more.  However, the algorithms are still inside the play-svg project on SourceForge and I’ve started to convert them into programs that work inside of the Processing graphics environment (see “My OpenProcessing account” link on right for examples). 

The last example was what inspired me to start building 3D model art.  After creating it, I thought to myself, hey, if I made a cube out of this, it would be like a hypercube, a 4-dimensional cube (square:cube::cube:hypercube).  Take a look:

I entitled such a model a “paradox box” because “when you’re looking on the outside of the box, you’re also looking…. inside of a box.” The first model was constructed out of thick solid cardboard squares with printed images glued onto them. I hot-glued all of the edges together…it was a pretty messy attempt at SpaceCrafting to say the least.

I recently adapted the paradox box script to OpenProcessing to create the following video:

I went on to construct the Platonic Solids using the images I generated with my scripts here:

For the dodecahedron…

for the tetrahedron…

for the icosahedron…


for the octahedron…

and for the hexahedron (cube)…

all available in their native .svg format in the recesses of my DeviantArt account.

Shortly after constructing this, I found out about the Lumiere Ottawa event and thought it would be great if I could make lanterns out of these designs.  This is where I first had the idea of creating a polyhedral frame and attaching printed paper faces onto this frame .  I cut bamboo skewers painted with black india ink and taped them together using hockey tape to create wireframe 3D models.  I then printed and cut out the images above and hot-glued them onto the frame.  Each one was about the size of an orange.  To light them, I stuck a dollar store led reading light inside each one.  It was too late to make a submission to be one of the featured artists (and perhaps I wasn’t ready) so I offered to exhibit voluntarily.  I hung the shapes from a coat rack, making a mobile out of  them.  I had learned that Plato ascribed the 5 Platonic Solids to the 5 elements, so I put each element’s representation in its corresponding compass direction (according to the Western mystery tradition).  The next year I applied as an artist to the festival and was accepted for a grant to build a larger, better-lit version of the same mobile (with some minor tweaks to  the images) for the festival.  It got rained on and subsequently fell apart.

After my first exhibition at Lumiere, I felt unsatisfied with the rough edges in my craft, so I went back to that old method I used in that magic cube, developing methods of automating the process of generating decorated “polyhedral nets”, single images that can be folded up into 3D shapes.  I wrote plugins for The GIMP to enable me to generate tilings of an image that could be folded into each of the platonic solids and wrote instructions on how to do this on instructables.com

Any way you look at it... a star !My next major project was the decoration of Umi Cafe in Ottawa.  Some of my friends were founding members of this co-op business, who did a lot to promote arts and culture community, so I decided to volunteer my SpaceCrafting skills to create some sculptures to bring a playful ambiance to what became for a while like a second home to me.  I wanted to make bigger structures, so I had to go back to using frames for most of them.  However, I realized that with a thicker paper I could create a Great Dodecahedron without using the skewers as seen to the right.  The other pieces I produced for Umi Cafe:

Chilly Doily StarEarthship AscentionMmmm, Dodecahedral StelationsBuck 60 ImpressionsPlatonic Solids Lighly Manifested

The first 4 models were build using the bamboo skewer method.  For the first 3 models listed, instead of building a frame of the whole shape, I build component pyramids that were held together by pipe cleaners or wire attached to each corner of each pyramid.  I tried to clean up the corners of the shapes by taping them with electrical tape but it didn’t look so nice, as it started to peel away as you can see in the picture.  Some of these shapes still remain in Umi Cafe to this day… the hockey tape came away from the bamboo for some of them after a couple years though.

Developing these shapes was rather time-consuming, so I set about finding more efficient building methods for them.  I found that I could create the component pyramids by printing a foldable arrangement of tiles onto a heavy cardstock, and to my surprise, still got some light to pass through it.  I then glued wire or pipe cleaners into the corners of each pyramid, twisting them together to connect each corner.  I was able to avoid the trouble of doing that last tedious task by using what are called “binder clips” to hold tabbed edges together.  However, for the last pyramid, I would have to use magnets or pipe cleaners to fully enclose the structure.

This was the method that took me full force into the summer festival scene this summer (my Past features page indicates where this work/play took me).  Many of these paper models were destroyed in places where they were subject to rain; even though I attempted to waterproof them will spray arcrylic and painted-on arcrylic gel, they turned to mush when they got wet.  It was a great opportunity for me to acknowledge the Buddhist teachings on impermanence, and employed the principles of spiritual alchemy to make the best of what might have seemed like a tragedy, as you can see here:

I later made party hats out of this smashing addition to my costume.

Gratitude to the organizers of OM reunion project for their dedication to creating a non-commercial, community-funded intentional gathering.  I’m grateful their funding of the material costs for my works there, and being so accepting of their short-lived nature.  I hope to bring an even stronger presence of pure love and clear light to the festival scene this year, emphasizing the importance of healing and spiritual empowerment.  With their well-organized kitchen, healing tent and workshop board, I feel the necessary structures are in place to do so.  As I party in the name of the Yogic tradition (OMing), I feel it is important to ask myself:  am I truly embodying these forms in more modern expressions, or am I just paying lip-service to them while denying their fundamental principles ?

The next party I attended, Shaman Tales, was not able to offer me any funds for materials, but did put me on the guest list in exchange for making one lantern for the chill stage, gratitude to that.  The kitchen setup there was great, I loved having it next to the chill stage so I could enjoy music while eating.  I also really enjoyed the music and incredible deco scene on the beach stage, truly mind-blowing !  I was really excited to see on the bill a focus on healing, workshops, and ceremony, but unfortunately this aspect of the festival went to the wayside.  I recall no schedule for workshops, no organizational structure to facilitate healing at the healing tent (i.e. OM schedules healers that can be booked in sessions), no massage tables or altars in the healing tent, nor any observed activity there (other than sleeping).  The main organizers reported that the local native ceremonies were canceled at the last minute. I felt a lack of spiritual clarity on the part of the organizers had a relation to all of their failed attempts in bringing the more healing aspects of the festival to light.  The priority here seem to be dark-psytrance, while the deco efforts that brought the light-bubbly feeling to the beach went totally unrewarded from what I have gathered.  If Shaman Tales is to carry on this year under than name, I hope they will address the shortcomings I point out.

Next I attended Space Gathering, which managed to attract a significant crowd from the more distant parts of Ontario (namely Toronto) as well as even more old friends from Ottawa where I used to live.  I was very close to not going to Space Gathering due to confusion from the broken English dialogue with the more Francophone collaborators (sorry for not stickin’ with the Francais) and uncertainty of ride, but the sage seemed to urge me on.  When I arrived a day early I still had a lot of work to do, and I ended up working into the first day of the festival to get my stuff built, sooo many hours :-S.  Setup was frustrating for me at times because I didn’t bring enough wire (hard to know how much needed and work within limited $ means) and found it difficult to get the help I needed i.e. an extension chord for my biggest lamp, which went unlit the whole time.  As well, the lantern in the Temple fell apart, which was hard to not take to heart. 
I was really thankful to encounter many workshops on yoga and meditation, etc. going on in that space.  The site for this festival is so beautiful !  Unfortunately I encountered some of the more darker aspects of the party scene here as well… beyond the usual pretas of drug abuse usually present on the electronic music scene.  Namely, the organizers’ broken agreements with regards to paying DJs and artists.  In the end, a great motivation for prayers regarding peace and the understanding of karma.

OpenMind festival was a truly grand way to round out the year of deco-fication on the dance festival scene.  Everyone I’ve ever talked to has confirmed my experience that the core organizer of this festival and director of TrancePlants is a very “solid” person to deal with.  I like TrancePlants approach to partying which seems to say: “if you’re going to use mind altering substance at a party, why not try legal, plant-based, ethically harvested ones”.  For years now, TrancePlants have been setting up a booth a festivals, where they offer responsibly a huge variety of beverages for health, energy, and entheogenic journeying.  The dedication to healing at this festival was pretty amazing, there was a whole village of healers who set up shop offering free treatments to participants.  Unfortunately, here I was also struggling with my deco deep into the first night and second day of dancing; my obsessive pursuit of my deco goals played a role in me missing a chance for healing treatments that happened in the earlier part of the festival, a big reality check for me.  There were also many ceremonies opening, closing and amidst the festival.  My favorite was the shadow dance ceremony, where I found myself almost uncontrollably mimicing the gestures of the dancers behind the screen at the back of the audience.  I loved how headliner Fluting Grooves managed to play 3 sets, all fitting appropriately to their relative position in time/space.  Not to be missed this year !

Finally, for the Lumiere Ottawa festival this year, I was determined to make lanterns that were totally waterproof.  I had tried earlier in the summer to laminate lanterns with contact paper, a suggestion for a cheap waterproofing method I had found online.  However, the contact paper did not improve the rigidity of the paper, water still managed to leak inside of it, and the hot glue did not stick to it well, resulting in the “crash-landing” at Space Gathering.

Since I was given a significant budget for Lumiere, I decided that real lamination was the way forward.  3 mil lamination on regular grade xerox paper prints proved to both improve rigidity of the structures and make itself foldable.  Because I didn’t have a laminator at the time, I resorted to using my most generous friend Miles’ (of Renegade Apparel) T-Shirt hot-stamper.  While it didn’t look as clean as a properly laminated paper, the irregularities were hardly noticeable from a distance at night with back-lighting.  My lanterns proved to withstand the test of intense wind and rain at Lumiere 2010, which unfortunately took out a lot of the candle-lit paper lanterns and caused a premature ending of the festival; the closing ceremonies were canned due to a lack of audience.   Regardless, I think the setup of the festival was more magical than ever, as it offered a clear path of progression through the various states of being involved in death and rebirth as described in spiritual traditions.  I really honour the new artistic director Scott Florence’s work to bring a healthy degree of order to the usual higgledy-piggledy flow of the festival; having a head-lining show also facilitated this.

For this festival, I had researched the possibility of printing onto “backlight material” used in signage, but that proved to be extremely expensive.  More recently I have found that by switching from standard xerographic paper to photo paper, I was able to remove the splotchiness that results from light passing through irregularities in the density of normal paper. 

At Lumiere, I decided to test the viability of using velcro to attach component pyramids together.  I found it worked very nicely for the Cube-Octahedron figure, though it was a bit expensive.  Since then, I’ve switched to a cheaper Uline brand “Hook and Loop tape” but I later discovered that the glue on it is not strong enough to hold the top edges, which must support the weight of all the remaining pyramids, so now I must staple the velcro to the lamination.  This method breaks the water-barrier of the lamination, but for normal household use, one only needs water and tear resistance.  Using SpaceCrafts for permanent outdoor use is inadvisable, because it will result in the prints fading rapidly.  In giving up on making my comissioned pieces totally waterproof, I have been able to remove a tedious step from the process of making my lanterns.  Before I was cutting out the paper shapes, then laminating them, then cutting out the laminate, ensuring what is called “encapsulation”.  I can still do this voluntarily for outdoor events, but its barely worth my time to make these lanterns at their going price if I have to cut around all the component shapes twice.

Posting a couple of things on etsy did not prove to rope in the internet crowd, helping me to realize that while etsy might offer an easy way to start an online store, it wasn’t necessarily helping me reach my target audience.  The last 3 deco gigs I’ve done have been the source of customers for me; I see its the personal touch that really counts ! 

And now for a gratuitous outpouring of gratitude !  Thank you for listening reader.  Thank you SpaceCraft fans, you have shared your enthusiasm well, may I pay it forward many-fold in remembrance of the dedication to service. Great thanks to those who have chosen to commission me as an artist, and thanks to the promoters who have given me the exposure which enabled these exchanges.  Gratitude for Miles of Renegade Apparel for letting me use his shop for silkscreening, paper chopping, for lending me a laminator and ordering my laminator supplies.  Thanks to Alypsis essential oils shop for giving me amazingly affordable rates on color prints, accepting me into their business like I was family.  And thank you parents for loving me even when you thought my toils are a waste of time, and brother for your understanding kinship.  Mrs. Lambrinos, thank you for being like a second mom when I came into Ottawa, giving me the space to complete my craft and expressing such intense enthusiasm.   And to my birth mom for coming to support my efforts, giving me a paper cutter, nice ruler, and most importantly the constructive criticism I need.  

This year will likely prove a great blossoming period for my artistic endeavours, however, the magical principle “TO KEEP SILENCE” has me holding my tongue with regards to my specific intentions for this year ;-P  May you enjoy the mystery of this existence !

“IX-nay on the ermit-hay ?  Nahhh, just balance and integration !”