Creativity and Passion Reacquainted – Tech Meets Art
Yamen O’Donnell – Rediscovering Creativity
For a bit over a decade, I chased a career in tech, learning to use, test, and build complicated software and digital tools. But the stress of investing years into the dreams of others without an opportunity to contribute as a designer myself, combined with some personal tragedy left me incredibly bitter and severely depressed. When the world got the darkest for me, I gave up on everything and moved out of the city to find some space. Seeing my retreat from the world, a couple loyal friends refused to let me disappear, and coached me through a long, dark summer of facing down my demons. After one particularly transformative night, my mind re-awoke. The towering walls of anxiety and trauma I’d built up crumbled, and I found all of my missing creativity and passion waiting eagerly to be reacquainted.
I recognized immediately that I needed a creative outlet to capture the seemingly unending flow of new thoughts and ideas. I wanted to make art and share it with the world, but my skills are all geared towards technical manipulation and complex planning. I followed a trail from my college years, and found a perfect fit in fractal art. With the help of the generous and welcoming fractal community, I took up the craft and I’ve spent the last year exploring the wide world of generative art. I love working with fractal renders, because they allow me to find a sweet spot between chaos and artistic intent. Every design I create is a puzzle with rich complexity, and requires careful, tedious manipulation of rather abstract mathematical concepts, but the result is something that has a distinctly human appeal. Twisting patterns, internal consistency, and bizarre symmetries seem to resonate with something deep in the visual processing parts of our brain, and the abstract nature leaves a lot of room to explore color, shading and composition. Since interpreting fractals is often like picking shapes out of clouds, it even leaves me room to attach fun, quirky short stories and poems to each piece I produce. This lets me tell stories without the overhead of novel production, and find ways to pass the cultural lessons I’ve learned on in a subversive way.
Fractal art was the start, but as I’ve learned the tools I’m constantly exposed to other chaotic, procedural, and generative artistic processes, and I’m constantly exploring new ways to coax intriguing art out of computers and machines. My recent focus has been using neural network “style transfers” to create artistic renditions of fractal base images. As this technology matures, we are quickly approaching an age where computers can produce an incredible variety of art essentially on demand, but right now in 2019, the tech is still young and imperfect. The results fascinate me, because in so many ways they emulate human techniques, but on close inspection they are full of impossible, bizarre, and quite distinct signs of automation. Tuning the neural network to produce interesting renders can take a lot of patient trial and error, but it’s hard to beat the feeling of co-operative achievement I get when I coach out a great result.
I do not know yet if art and design will become a career or simply a hobby, but for now I’m pouring everything I have into it to see what I can wring out, and watching myself grow with a satisfaction and drive that I honestly thought had died long ago. Making art has made me a radically better person, and I hope with all of my heart to use my art and stories to make the world a radically better place.
Find out more at Complicated Reality website