In December 2021 I produced a piece for fxhash called Triangles. Intended to be a slow, meditative piece, Triangles split the canvas into squares, then rendered slowly-changing triangles to each square. The colours and orientations of the triangles changed over time. I gave it an edition of sixty-four, priced it at one tez, and it became my first piece on fxhash to mint out. All the copies went within a very short space of time, and, of course, I was pleased.
Totally pleased? Well, very nearly… there was one small design decision I made that I'd avoid in future: whilst almost everything about the piece is based on the fxhash formula for generating the same random parameters, I allowed the colour scheme to be truly random. The triangle positions, the fading, the orientation, the gaps and borders: all completely reproduced, but the palette itself felt like it needed variation. At the time, it seemed right; now, it seems like cheating.
Luckily, fxhash has a new variations feature, so the battle with that particular design decision has long gone… it's predictably stochastic all the way with Memorabilia.
Inspiration 1: Triangles. I wanted to follow-up Triangles with something similar, retaining ideas I liked but adding a new feel, and new features.
Inspiration 2: Swimming Pools - that pattern as tiles are refracted through water. David Hockney's pool paintings were an inspiration, and the underwater effect from the early Tomb Raider games.
Inspiration 3: Soft Cell. “I like little bits of glassware; Ashtrays with inscriptions; Plastic things on pencils; Bits of mass production.” We all like a memory, to show we've been there. Thanks for the name, Marc and Dave!
So here are my thoughts—the ridiculous idea of collecting a photograph of the bottom of the swimming pool of every place you've visited: a glimpse of precious tiles through distorting water; the sunlight reflecting off a decorative surface.
Sample renders from Triangle.
Paper Pool 14 — David Hockney.
Water in Tomb Raider II.
I wanted to follow-up Triangles with something similar, retaining ideas I liked but adding a new feel, and new features.
Chosen at the start, carefully curated, and used to form background, overlay, texture and text forms.
Naming pieces procedurally can be a lot of fun, and I wanted the names to reflect imaginary locations, imaginary times, and also the colour scheme.
Texture and depth
Processing tends to produce flat, precise layers of colour, but can easily be subverted to produce nuanced, textured regions.
An end point
Triangles moved and changed forever. Memorabilia was to have an end point, a completed render that could be exported, like a Polaroid photograph.
Offering 128 mints would provide the opportunity to offer rare features to, say, 5% of cases. Increasing the number of mints would afford more, but would devalue the piece. Perhaps some of these features will never be minted, but there's the surprise.
The Basic Process
Memorabilia is about a grid of varying sizes. In fact, I generate one extra line of dots on the right and bottom, as I want the edges of the grid to remain fairly predictable. The other dots move and shift as the piece is generated, like light refracting through the water of a pool.
These shifting points form increasingly-distorted quadrilaterals, and the piece is there; time takes its effect on the initial starting positions and a new configuration of shapes is formed.
Start with a grid
Move each point using controlled noise.
Render each quadrilateral.
So, whilst the basic process is that of distorting a grid, there is much more to the procedure. Variation is key on fxhash; if I'm expecting people to mint over a hundred different versions of a piece there needs to be sufficient variation between pieces to make this worthwhile.
Colour is taken from a curated pool of palettes, formed with the help of the splendid website Coolors. Bravely ignoring my colourblindness, I've named each palette, and with a bit of luck my naming and the hues might match in some way. The titles are also chosen to facilitate piece-naming, as a bit of generative wordplay is always fun.
Piece Length is measured in frames. Memorabilia has a defined end point, building up from an undistorted state to a finished piece. At this point animation ceases, and no further changes take place. Some pieces are longer, some pieces shorter—this length affects the level of distortion that can take place.
Distortion is also affected by two variables controlling, in the best Outer Limits tradition, the horizontal and the vertical. The greater effect on distortion comes from the length of the piece, but these two values can, if large enough, override the effects of a shorter piece, or dampen the excitability of a longer generation.
Texture is applied at certain points during the process, fading into view as the animation proceeds. There are two basic types of texture, one based on the name of the piece, overlaid in a larger font, and one based on a noise gradient. Rotation and other variations are added to the textures, so there are considerable options for variation.
Pattern was added late in the development process. I'd begun with the idea of quadrilaterals, but the possibility of using half-quadrilaterals (or triangles, I suppose…) occurred to me. Too close to the Triangles piece, perhaps, but no—a completely different feel comes out. There's a rare form where two triangles are allowed to cross, producing quadrilaterals with an x-shape across them, and occasionally a kind of chevron will form where the colours chosen happen to co-incide.
The name of the piece is something I rather enjoy: procedurally generating strange-sounding phrases. Each piece has a name, place and date that reflects its colour palette. Neon Divergence, September 1985 may be followed by Evening Reverie, Midwinter 1973.
Rare features include removing parts of the render, increasing the strength of some aspects of the render, and in an extreme case completely avoiding any rendering of the quadrilaterals.
Twenty-eight colour palettes, sporting exciting and individual names.
Evening Cloudscape, Summer 1987
Misted Autumn Gyre, November 2032
Goldfish Pond Tangram, Spring 1964
Meadow Study, New Year 2021