In The Mod
Position: Pixel Pusher
What drew is doing with his Color Analytics project is really cool. We hear from him about In The Mod (ITM) and his expriences with color.
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CL: First will you give us a little history about who Dr. Woohoo is and if he is really a Doctor?
The Serious Part
In 1993, this incredible woman, Kira Sowanick, encouraged me to go to the Getty Museum with her in LA. Or did I invite myself? It's been such a long time, it's probably the latter. LOL. So here I was standing right in front of a Van Gogh painting. With no glass or ropes between the painting and myself, I was able to see the depth of the brush strokes and paint on the canvas. And then it happened... the sun flowers began to move. I wasn't drunk. I wasn't trippin'. But they were moving. That moment resonated so deeply with my emotions, I knew Van Gogh was tapped into something I probably would never understand, but I appreciated it. The same thing happened later with the tone of Sinead O'Connor's voice and with Flannery O'Connor and how she painted with clusters of words. So the question was, what do these different mediums have in relation to each other and how can I systematically evoke emotions using the fundamental properties. I went back to school to study every field that related to evoking emotions - physics in relation to light and color, psychology, sociology, film making and story telling... so you see the analytical side of my mind woke up and has been relentless ever since. LOL. In one way or another, everything I do ties back to these 3 moments with a serious analytical perspective.
The Fun Part
The name Woohoo actually was coined by the perpetual motion machine, Greg Kiernan formerly of :30 Second Street in Albuquerque. Late one night, my buddy Brad Wolfley and I were playing around with the new monitor control panel on a mac. I did something wrong and we heard the infamous car crashing sound as the Mac crashed. With clients coming in at 8 am the next morning from New York, the pressure was on. We finally fixed it... about 5 minutes before they walked in and after an all nighter. LOL.
By noon that day, we were delirious. Brad pulled out the accordion, I reached for the video library cart and I pushed him through the post-production house around all of the toys on the floor. There was plenty of tears from laughing so hard and there was Greg. With his trademark subtle grin, shook his head as he laughed and called us the Woohoo Brothers.
As for the 'Doctor', that was simply inspired by Dr. Seuss. I like to joke around that the first book my mother bought me was a Dr. Seuss book and the first book my pOps bought me was 'One-to-One Marketing' by Peppers and Rogers.
I've found that the laughter and joking around with my friends and coworkers is directly related to the euphoric feeling of creating something. The creative process, as opposed to the analytic process, is something I could not live without because it makes me feel soooooo incredible. But the real magic, at least for me, happens when I can combine these two worlds together. In The Mod: Color Analytics is a perfect example of this fusion.
CL: You've got some very impressive work and obviously I'm especially interested in In the Mod: Color Analytics... What inspired this?
Dr. Woohoo: I was in the process of developing brushes.paints.stencils. - which is a combination of 3 separate applications dedicated to emulating natural media but with the ability to give each paint drop the ability to independently move about on a virtual canvas - and I hit a creative roadblock. In the real world, when I'm painting, I can quickly mix my colors together in order to create my color palettes, but on the computer it's a completely different story. We have these palettes to work with and all of our colors are neatly arranged in a matrix of little swatches. It's very organized and very unlike how I prefer to mix my colors. The time it takes to create a beautiful palette was creatively constrictive.
One day I was studying a painting by Georgia O'Keeffe and I began to move closer and closer to it. Standing next to it, my minds eye laid a grid on top of it, with each cell of the grid the size of a tiny dot. Looking down the length and height of the painting, I quickly understood that there were millions of color instances on this painting and to make sense of it would be a huge task. My mind melted, and all of the colors fell onto the floor around me. What a mess! LOL.
The following day, I was sketching out the color palette window for brushes.paints.stencils.(BPS). There's a technique that I like to apply in situations like this to see where it will take me - I like to personify the objects that I'm dealing with. So I imagined making each color swatch in the palette a person and asking the questions that naturally arise: do the people (swatches) know each other? are they friends? how old are they? how old will they live? It's really about the relationships between (in)animate objects. As I began to think about this, it reminded me that this was the same technique that I used on a project that I worked on for Taylormade-Adidas Golf.
For that project I created the online version of the Intelligent Fitting System (IFS), which essentially was an Expert System for matching up the perfect club for your golf game using some pretty sexy math. The relationships for this project was between the different parts of the club to each other, to the golfer, to the location, etc. How does this relate to the swatches and the color palettes? IFS was a multiple choice questionnaire, where each answer, question and cluster of questions had weighted values that were compared to years worth of previous results of professional golfers that were contained in a knowledge base. So I knew the evolution of color palettes, in my mind, needed a similar knowledge base of expert paintings. With this knowledge base, I would have quick access to an incredible amount of (in)famous paintings, solving part of my problem of accessing beautiful color palettes.
The first step of In The Mod (ITM) was to take the millions of color instances in a painting and reduce them to a manageable palette of ~500 colors. Statistical analysis was perfect for this purpose, but I needed to massage the methods to work within the multi-dimensional world of color. As the palette analysis app evolved, for every problem I solved, new questions would arise and through shear determination and curiosity, I continued to follow it in whatever direction it wanted to take me. The interesting thing about this process, that is allowing the application to lead me in the direction it wants to go in. And it definitely is confident with where it wants to go. LOL.
For instance, after I reduced the palettes down to a manageable number, I was still simply writing them out as numbers. I had no visual reference to verify their accuracy. I would import/parse and build a color palette window within BPS and sometimes the colors would be off. So the results suggested that I needed to add a data visualization tool to the palette analysis tool. Because the color palettes were stored in a knowledge base - a mySQL database - it was a natural progression to create and share these palettes with the community via In The Mod.
CL: Where do you see it going?
Dr. Woohoo: You know, it's funny, I consider ITM to be a baby and I want to watch it and participate with it as it grows older. As I mentioned above, it does have a mind of its own, but with that said, there are a few things I would like to do to help it along. Building the library of Color Analytic classes in Flash 8 was a very gratifying and educational process. But because I only have a finite amount of energy in this life, I need to take advantage of and add to libraries of code that are much more advanced then what I have developed so far... so this is taking me back to MatLab. MatLab, which stands for Matrix Laboratory, is used mainly by Electrical Engineers and Computer Scientists for performing 'computationally intensive tasks faster than traditional programming languages such as C, C++ and Fortran.' So in the next version of ITM, the accuracy of the results will be enhanced, there will be new ways to visualize the information and further exploration between the relationships of (in)animate objects. It's also very important for me to get ITM to the point where it can generate not several hundred palettes, but an infinite amount of palettes, but using the same principals of color palette creation that the masters used!
CL: I find the marriage of technology and colour very interesting as you are bring something very specific and calculated together with something extremely subjective and abstract. How do you see the relationship? And in the relationship who do you think wears the pants?
Dr. Woohoo: The relationship is critical. It is Romeo and Juliet. They are intertwined and without one, the other could not survive. Right now, the technology might have the upper hand, but in the near future, it could be more balanced if the colors generated new works of art or inspired artists to create new paintings using these palettes.
CL: Like with most technology it often allows us to do more of something, easier and faster... but not always better... How do you see the emerging technologies like what you have employed with In The Mod educating and informing people?
Dr. Woohoo: There are so many relationships and hidden secrets within the paintings that color analysis can reveal. For instance, look at the results of Mark Rothko's paintings. The diamonds represent the weighted mean (the weighted average) color for each each painting. They are linked together in chronological order. The colors are plotted along the x-axis based on hue, along the top 1/2 of the y-axis based on brightness - if brightness trumps saturation - and along the bottom 1/2 of the y-axis based on saturation. So as we go in chronological order from painting to painting, we notice that Rothko's palettes become darker and desaturated as we get closer to the end of his life. During the last 3 years of his life, he was extremely depressed before he committed suicide and I believe the palettes parallel his emotional state. Which brings up the question, does the emotional or physiological state of the artist effect the color palettes of their choice. It remains to be explored, but my hunch is, there will be other great examples of this.
This also taps into the idea of the migration patterns of color palettes within genres. Can we plot the arc and life span of genres based on the palettes the artists within that movement are using? I believe so, but it requires more investigation. There is some great work being done by people like the Physicist Richard Taylor, who uses fractal analysis to determine the patterns and authenticity in and of Jackson Pollock paintings.
There are so many secrets hidden in color palettes and so little time... LOL.
CL: You've presented at a few conferences on color. When it comes to the Q&A portion of the presentation and or after it is done... what do you find people asking about the most?
Dr. Woohoo: Can you add [insert artist name or painting] to ITM?
Can you add my work to ITM?
Will you allow other people to post their artwork to be analyzed?
CL: And considering some of these conferences were in Asia compared to here in the states... do you find the questions different? Are your answers different?
Dr. Woohoo: That's a great question. Culture does influence how and even if questions are asked. I believe it's difficult to generalize a culture, but I was under the impression that in Singapore and to a certain degree in Seoul, people are proud of who they are and of their families and are very conscientious about not disgracing themselves or their family. So the questions were intelligent and very well thought out, to the point where it would not embarrass them in public. There is also the language barrier and I'm sure some of the details were lost in translation.
There is also the demographics of the audience that I believe influence the type of questions asked. What the interests of the audience members are, how the conference was marketed and who is putting on the conference will also influence the questions. For instance, in Albuquerque, New Mexico, because of the national laboratories, Intel and the University, the brain trust is very rich on the analytic side, so I do get a lot of questions and comments about the relationship between ITM and satellite imagery analysis.
CL: What is your favourite colour of the moment?
CL: And your favourite palette?
CL: Thanks Drew! What a great bit of info and insight into your projects. Keep us posted on how things at ITM progress.