October 25, 2007
The Blind Sketchmaker - Lecture Notes

The lecture notes for my talk "The Blind Sketchmaker - exploring generative and evolutionary art with Flash" are now available on lectures.quasimondo.com. The AIR tools I demoed - Image Analyzer, Art Critque and Sketchmaker are not available yet. The visuals evolved by Sketchmaker can be seen in this flickr set.

Many people have asked me where in China I had the images painted in oil on canvas that were created by Sketchmaker - the company is called Promising Arts & Crafts - please send my greetings to Mr Weigang Tan in case you want something painted.

As you know from my talk the ugly world of earnest Art is all about bullshitting, networking, being noticed and sometimes simply being the first with a clever idea. So just for the archive: having limited editions of my digital artworks handpainted in China - at least you know now where you heard that concept first. So if you are an aspiring artist without ideas of your own - forget it. This one is gone - don't even think about copying it.

If you are interested in acquiring one of the limited edition paintings - feel free to contact me: mario {at} quasimondo.com

Posted at October 25, 2007 02:10 PM | Further reading
Comments

Hi Mario - this project is great. Congratulations. I believe this sort of work strikes at the heart of what makes Flash/ActionScript a great medium to be involved in - a space in which form meets function... sometimes, quite literally!

I was wondering what the secret is behind generating print quality renders? Are you just using huge stage dimensions and tiling results together?

Posted by: Michael on October 26, 2007 06:26 AM

Thanks! Well the secret is that there is no secret. I don't generate print quality renders. I use the amazing interpolation quality of the human hand and eye to get the big "prints" from my small digital sketches by having them painted manually.

Posted by: Mario Klingemann on October 26, 2007 10:39 AM

Hey Mario,

Usually I really enjoy the elegant and innovative programming on your blog, but found this post pretty off the mark. I'm not going to backup the art world, which as you said can get pretty cynical and business oriented. But the practice of mass-production of oil paintings in China has been pretty widespread for a while now, centring around Dafen, which kicks out millions a year, produced by underpaid 'artists' working 12 hour shifts.
http://window.org.nz/2007/10/pixels-to-paint-outsourcing-image.html
As usual, cutting edge work with Flash, but couldn't let some of the issues here go by.

Posted by: Luke on October 30, 2007 09:18 AM

Thank you very much for the comment Luke!

I'm not entirely sure if I understand you correctly. Do you want to express that having paintings painted in China is nothing new or that it is morally questionable?

As for the novelty factor - well of course, having your Mona Lisa or your family portrait copied in oil in China is happening since many years. Though I haven't read about fine artists using the opportunities of globalization to outsource their work to a country where labour costs are cheap but talent is abundant (of course artists have "outsourced" their work in the past, but in that case it was not called "Sweatshop" but "The Factory")

And if I'm not mistaken this "Just another Painting Site" mentioned in the article is just two weeks old and is dealing with exaclty one painting. But hey - at least they know how to do their PR.

As for the question of morality of doing this - thank you for noticing it, because that is the whole point about this. Of course it is immoral and questionable, but anyone who owns an iPod, designer vinyl toys or computer accessories please throw the first stone.

Posted by: Mario Klingemann on October 30, 2007 12:08 PM

Hi Mario,

Nothing new, morally questionable? Both actually. This article is more in depth (http://www.spiegel.de/international/0,1518,433134,00.html).

If by the Factory you're referring to Andy Warhol's pop art collective studio, then that's a very different situation - volunteers, friends etc contributing their art skills. If you're referring to mass production in first world nations, then the conditions and the pay are vastly different.

Lastly, not quite sure how using cheap offshore labour is the 'whole point' of conducting a Flash workshop on generative art. Are you expecting listeners to duplicate the same process? Although it's a fascinating topic that deserves a lot more workshops, I have problems with the execution.

Cheers

Posted by: Luke on November 1, 2007 12:48 AM

@luke
cmon, give mario a break. he's been doing generative arts for quite some time, and it's not his fault his talent isn't being acknowledged in certain art circles.

its only fair and square if he outsources the things needed to give him a head start. i don't doubt that, giving enough time and patitience mario could do oil too, but thats not what he is about.

also, its quite a cheap shot of you to call making oil copies of fresh digital artwork "cheap labour", don't you think?
Or have you been to Dafen and can compare it to rest of Shenzen? Or even Essen?

Posted by: velcrome on November 2, 2007 03:21 AM

@velcrome

OK, don't want to get into a flame war or anything approach that over this, so will finish with this comment.

As I mentioned, I really respect Mario. He's always pushing the boundaries of Flash, figuring out workarounds and being very innovative.

I haven't been to Dafen, and am taking reporting on other sites at face value, which seems reputable enough.

I guess my point is that I don't think it is a 'cheap shot' to call the work cheap labour, rather its the reality. I have no doubt the artists in Dafen and other Chinese companies have real talent, but when you're cranking out 30 paintings a day on a 12 hour shift, the product matters less than the process. I couldn't care less if art is treated as an assembly line product. I do care that painting factories aren't far from being sweatshops.

Again, a difficult topic, and as Mario said, one that has a lot of hypocrisy involved, but I still wanted to bring it up.

Posted by: Luke on November 2, 2007 05:34 AM

I had never heard of the paintings made in Dafen. Crazy... tons of people creating oil versions of whatever you want done... how is the quality? Can you get single editions done? I'm very curious about this.

Posted by: Chad on December 13, 2007 10:20 PM

Thanks for the informative post. It helped me a lot. May the Force be with you.

Posted by: Esther Gordon on July 16, 2010 12:42 PM
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