I’ve been painting graffiti under bridges and in abandoned buildings since I was 15. I grew up in San Francisco when street art was booming. Inspired by the colors and aesthetic, I looked for ways to create art and taught myself to paint. I made an effort to meet artists where I lived and discovered online bulletin boards to share photos. As I got older, I discovered the graffiti communities on Flickr. As Tumblr grew, the community moved. As Instagram emerged, the community moved again.
“Gift”, Photo collection from 2010–2012. https://www.flickr.com/photos/horsegoo/albums/72157628284619571/page2
In recent years, I haven’t had the same leeway to paint in public areas. There was a greater cultural acceptance of street art when I lived abroad. Since there was so much demolition, painting on walls was seen as beautification. When I moved back to the US, I started painting on larger canvases and eventually moved toward spray cans and paint brushes.
Kawan’s sunset project. https://sunset-running.tumblr.com/
Based on a project by Kawandeep Virdee, I photoshopped the paintings with motion blur filters and modified the lighting effects. The result was a creative jumping off point for painting a digitally inspired physical painting.
Last year, I started experimenting with how digitally manipulated images could inspire physical paintings. I began creating aesthetically beautiful images by taking classic paintings from the 18th and 19th century and running various photoshop filters over them. I found the color and contrast from these old paintings to be unmatched.
Process for turning classic paintings into beautiful color muses.
I took the digital pieces and used them as the inspiration for painting new pieces. I remixed the classical paintings on a computer and then painted the remixed image.
The Ninth Wave hanging on my wall. http://blog.rememberlenny.com/post/140417243456/inspired-by-ivan-aivazovskys-1817-1900-painting
I continued my interest in graffiti, again taking the digital space as a canvas. I spent a few months building out various software tools that I thought would be useful for graffiti artists.
Eventually, having the large library (read millions) of paintings, I wanted to do something more than just browse them.
Painting based on Ray Collin’s Seascape series painting after digitally manipulating the photo. http://blog.rememberlenny.com/post/140642976601/next-painting-based-on-ray-collins-seascape
I started exploring different techniques around machine learning. I learned about the application of neural networks to do “Style Transfer”. This was the process of analyzing two images for the qualities that make the picture recognizable, then applying those qualities to another picture to “transfer the style”. The color, shapes, contrast, and various image features would be translated from one image and onto another. The most commonly recognized style transfer application is from Van Gogh’s “Starry Night” to any photograph.
Example from a github repository that implements the Artistic Style Transfer algorithm using Torch. https://github.com/jcjohnson/neural-style
Similar to the previous project of painting the digital Sunset images, I processed pictures using the Artistic Style Transfer algorithm and then painted them. Going back to the plethora of graffiti images I had collected, I took images of nature and then processed the style of interesting looking street art. The end result was an aesthetically interesting image that I couldn’t imagine creating from scratch.
Process of creating the Artistic Style Transfer images.
It’s been a few months since I’ve done anything with this technique of mixing images and painting them. I hope that the process depicted above can be a source of inspiration for other programer/painters who enjoy mixing the two practices.
Final version of the digitally inspired painting.
Below are a few examples of combining the street art images with photographs.