Simulated Landscape Painting From Simulated Landscapes.


Now and again I throw Alien Skin's "Snap Art" photoshop filter at screen-grabs of computer generated images. I'm not quite sure why, I think it may be instinct (I've done it before [deleted flickr image] with World of Warcraft [deleted flickr image] and with a Digital/Physical Flip-Flop).

The Snap Art filter is designed to make a photograph look like it was hand painted, their website says:

"Snap Art turns your photograph into a beautiful work of art that looks completely handmade. Improved realism in version 3 keeps your subject natural and recognizable. The result is a finished piece worthy of printing on canvas and hanging in a gallery. Using Snap Art just requires a creative idea, not hand-eye coordination or technical training."

Yeah, sod all that technical training and learning how to paint when you can just push a button, replacing what used to be (and yes I know, still is) a highly technical skill with an algorithm. And it's a pretty damn fine algorithm too, you get swirls of paint in roughly all the right places.

It makes it feel as though the artist rocked up to some spot, set up an easel and got painting. It's faking a real artist in a real place doing real painting.

Which is why I feel that if the process is "fake" and the painting is fake (and the artist is fake) then maybe the location should be fake too.


I like the little artefacts of fakeness, the on-screen controls of the compass, feedback tab, options and copyright notice. That the algorithm sets about "painting" them with the same aplomb as it does a tree or a cloud.

But then that means we can play in different ways. All these images are from screen grabs of the website, which is using Nokia 3D maps. It's technology sampling the real world, digitising it, then representing it back in a realistic as possible fashion. But it's not always very good at it, trees seem to cause it problems, turning into weird green blobs bulging up from sidewalks. There's also the downloading process, it displays low resolution textures and models before higher-res versions pop into existence.

I took the screen shot below before the system had managed to load in blocks of Toronto, squares of buildings missing instead just bland stretched patches of map tiles in their place...

Pointy tower

...these are paintings of a fiction of a fiction.

The purple "lake" in the background of Milan where again the models of the buildings haven't loaded in. The square infront of the cathedral and the building in the bottom right hand corner have only half of their higher resolution textures loaded in. The back-half of the cathedral is still the low-poly version of the model while the front-half has streamed some extra ones in already.


Computers painting synthetic landscapes.

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