How it all started
10 Years ago a beep appeared in my head. A combination of playing loud music and working too much ended up in tinnitus. During the summer 2020 my tinnitus increased and became chronic. I made a magnetic scan of my head and they found something close to my ear. Acoustic Neuroma, a tumour that affects hearing among other things.
For a few weeks I thought I was going to die. I had to reconsider my life and decided to spend more time exploring my own ideas.
Through life I been having the following two abstract ideas in my head:
- Thinking about thinking
- Building a virtual brain
The purpose is not to solve this ideas in any way, it’s more like nutrition for ideas. It’s my starting point.
During December 2020 I started to explore an idea about connections. A lot of things are built around nodes and how they relate to each other. Like friendship. The solar system. Or our cells. From micro to macro. We connect through friendship.
Instead of seeing nodes as the important part in the network, I wanted to shift the mindset and celebrate its connections. Do you really exist if no one knows you exist?
I called the project Gravity. I started to code. Visually it didn’t look any good. But I iterated the process and refined the code. I named each iteration with a number. 12 iterations later I had a code that surprised me. Gravity 12 was born.
How does it work? Let’s think about nodes as planets. The gravity increasing with the size of the planet and the strength decrease exponentially by the distance. The algorithm places nodes with different magnitudes and colors on the canvas. Together they build up a gravity field. A pencil is dropped on the canvas and is affected by the forces. The pencil moves through the force field and draws millions of lines. When the pencil hits a planet it changes its color.
Nodes could also have a charge, a dynamic value that decreases when a line interacts with them and increases when inactive. This can make the gravitation change and also turn it into negative values. These dynamics balance the forces and set the field to different states.
Nodes also have a charge parameter, a dynamic value that decrease when a line interact with it and increase when inactive. This can make the gravitation change and also turning into negative values. This dynamic balances the forces and sets the field in different states.
By tweaking a set of parameters, different states can be achieved and result in different visual expressions – I call these states themes.
A theme is where a parameter set is stable. You get a visual expression that is similar every time. A theme consists of the following parameters: amount of nodes, node magnitude, node start position area, node charge range, palette, colormix, time to live and kind of framing.
When it comes to generative art you need to be able to regenerate the visual output. You need to control the randomness. This is done by using a random seed. By using different random seeds you get variations within a theme. It is like a fingerprint, every output becomes unique.
Gravity 12 was the first working version and is the foundation of all subsequent versions.
To summarize, Theme describes the parameter set used, seed is a random seed and version is the gravity version used.
The project started out without any specific goal. In January 2021 NFTs just started to take off and I started to research about it. I opened an account on OpenSea and uploaded my first artwork. I got an offer almost instantly. I didn’t know how to sell it. In some way I listed it for free and by accident I gave it away! Since then I have released about 125 artworks on OpenSea.
After a while people from the NFT community started to direct me to Artblocks. The infrastructure for Artblocks overwhelmed me. Suddenly, everything I had done since the day I started coding 35 years ago became meaningful. I applied to the platform and 3 months later I was approved.
The original code was written in Processing. The rendering time for an artwork was a couple of minutes and I also had to develop the output in Photoshop including some color correction. I had to rewrite the code in p5.js which in the beginning was pretty straight forward. One challenge was to lower the rendering times. I decided to simplify the code a bit to make it work. This means the Artblock release is actually a subset of the Gravity 12 algorithm. I decided to go for one theme and make variation through randomisation of the parameters from the blockchain hash string.
Another challenge was to get the colors right without any post production. The artwork is built up by thousands of thin lines and by tweaking the amount of lines, transparence and blend modes I found a way to make the colors pop in a similar way as my previous work.
The Art Blocks collection was released the 4th of July, 2021 containing 512 artworks which sold out in 3 minutes and 22 seconds.
Modes, shapes and colors
The variations are grouped in two background modes, four shapes and seven color modes. There is a bright and a dark background mode.
The shape could be a circle or a square. Or it can fill up the whole canvas where some also have a thin border.
There are seven color modes. Monotone, duotone, tritone, quadtone and multitone. There is also a monochrome version and finally a legacy palette referring to the previous releases.
Finally there are three additional parameters affecting the magnetic field. Gravity defines the strength of the field, density the amount of nodes and mass the difference in mass between the nodes.
If you want to explore the different variations have a look at rarity.guide.
The evolution of Gravity
Over time the algorithm has evolved into new versions. Starting at version 12 and up to 16. They build upon each other but they all have their own expression. It’s an evolution of the code. You can explore all collections at:
As I write this, it has been a year since I found out about my acoustic neuroma. I now have a hearing aid that helps me tremendously (I can listen to music directly into it!). It also does not seem to grow that much, which means that I will probably be able to keep my hearing for a long time to come. I’m very grateful for having the possibility to make art. It makes life much easier and gives me peace.
1st of October 2021