Chromodynamics

Boy has it been a long time since I last posted here… It’s so easy to fall out of the habit of blogging, and its difficult to get started again once you’ve stopped.

The end of my summer was quite eventful, with trips to Transformus [North Carolina’s Regional Burn] and Burning Man. I brought Sandtrap to both event, and both times I left the event inspired and even more driven to create.

Lots of projects that I’ve been working on [on and off, as always], but the biggest project [and subsequently the one I’m the most excited about] is something I’m calling Chromodynamics.

A video is worth a thousand words [or at least 24 frames per second]:


Demo of acrylic paints with LED light

The idea is to use LEDs to make paint appear to change color. The secret is this:

When we see color, what we’re really looking at is the light that are reflected off of an object. Objects can either absorb, reflect, or, in the case of transparent objects, transmit light. So when a leaf looks green, that’s because it is absorbing light of all colors [wavelengths] except green, which it is reflecting outwards [where your eyes can see it]. Things that are white are really a mixture of many colors of light, and things that are black are absorbing all light coming towards them [think about a black hole].

So, what happens if we shine light at a leaf that contains every color EXCEPT green? The leaf absorbs all of those other colors… and looks black! Because there is no green light for it to reflect. And if an object normally reflects blue and red light [so it looks purple], and you only shine red light on it — suddenly the object looks bright red and has no blue in it! You can see how this effect works with a variety of paints in the video above — those are 48 different colors of acrylic paint from a variety pack I purchased at Blick.

LED light allows fairly precise control of colors, because LEDs are fairly monochromatic [they contain only a narrow distribution of wavelengths; in other words, they are only a single color rather than a mixture]. With LED lighting, I can cause the ambient lighting on a painting to fade from red to blue to green and back to red again, while hitting a number of colors in between [orange, yellow, cyan, purple, etc.].

So my project is this: I want to create an interactive, visually immersive environment for participants to interact with this effect. A room where everything is saturated with colored light, and participants are free to paint on all of the surfaces, to create their own art that changes with the ambient lighting in the room.

A secondary goal is to recruit local artists [who are much more skilled with the brush and canvas than I am] to explore the effect intentionally. I think that there is a lot of potential to use this effect to create images that appear to move with time — making paintings much more dynamic and giving them an almost video-like quality. I’m interested to see what a talented painter could do with this medium.

My friend Rachel Boyce is collaborating with me on this project [she helped me create the demo above], and we’re currently applying for several art grants to fund this endeavor. Many of the grant givers we’ve spoken to have expressed interest in this, so it looks like this project has some life to it already. We’ve also received some interest in local festivals/events that would like to host the art produced if we get grants for it; hopefully that will help our case. We are documenting our collaborative effort at http://stringeth.me/chrom; however, I’ll still keep frequent updates here as well.

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~ by asymptoticdesign on 24 September, 2011.

One Response to “Chromodynamics”

  1. […] An excellent description of the project, on Nathan’s blog […]

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