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The computer algorithm that mimics Bob Ross

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The Joy of Coding

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kynd watercolor
kynd watercolor

Is there a formula for creating beautiful art? Japanese artist Kenichi Yoneda (better known as Kynd) is searching for it. Yoneda has been exploring algorithm-based art over the past few months, using open-source frameworks to create visual performances.

A huge fan of TV artist Bob Ross, who for years created pieces of art for The Joy of Painting, Yoneda is fascinated by the way the artist would "almost automatically finish his pieces every 30 minutes," and set out to replicate Ross' work with code. It's been quite a challenge. He quickly mastered the way colors bleed and run into each other, but making that appear like it was happening on paper proved far trickier. Yoneda studied the way that watercolors dry and fix to the canvas or paper, and looked at the methods other digital artists (such as Harold Cohen and Erik Natzke) utilized to overcome similar hurdles. The trick, Yoneda tells us, is to make the medium invisible, so the viewer stops being amazed by the process and can focus on the art itself. He believes he now has the formula for creating watercolors.

There's still work to be done, though. Yoneda notes that all he's done so far is create the "paint," but he's yet to find the perfect "painter" to make use of his digital palette. He's looking to explore that by digitally emulating the work of artists like Van Gogh and Richter, and wants to work on algorithms that can automatically generate a painting based on a given theme or style. Yoneda also hopes to create a fully automated program that can paint a digital watercolor by taking input from a webcam, google image search, or video.