Pastiche. generatively reimagined photographs

Pastiche is a project that emulates impressionism. Paint is replaced by software, but in many ways the ambition is the same.

Consider an impressionist painter viewing a landscape perhaps a sunrise over water. They hope to transfix some quality of the light flickering on the water. Or perhaps they are attempting to render a subtle shift in mood as the rising sun burns through the shifting fog and begins to saturate the scene. They try and grasp something more than a camera could. Somehow the relatively rapid pace of their times and the fleeting conditions of the light become analogous with the blending of pure colours created by the rapid strokes and dabs of the painters brush.

small monet sunrise

Stand back from the painters finished work and the dabs blend optically to create a realistic ‘impression’ of the original scene. But as you move closer and closer more details emerge. Strokes and dabs become obvious. What once seemed like a single colour becomes many subtle variations. The image is abstracted. Until when a few inches from the canvas – any part of the canvas – something new, something original, something more than the reality of what is there, something illusive becomes apparent.

detail of monet sunrise

It has been 150 years since Monet painted Impression, soleil levant. The pace of life is faster than ever. It feels as though everything is changing. But this remains the same: When we look out at landscapes or close up at everything around us, if we are not lost in the daily grind, some awareness slips in telling us there is something we should know, something more than just what is before our eyes. Something ephemeral. We snap thousands of pictures with our phones or our expensive XLR's but seem unable to capture what is so obviously there.

Pastiche is software that strives, as did the impressionist in their time, to arrest the reality of what we feel into something we can see.

Each image create using Pastiche, begins with a photograph. Photos of scenes that the camera in my hands and to my eye, was incapable of grasping. Pastiche uses programmable tools to analyze the lines and colours in the photo. Based on that analyses Pastiche employees a pallet of algorithms to generates digital stokes with digital brushes. Whereas an impressionist painter might have deliberately applied thousands and thousands of strokes or dabs, Pastiche unknowingly generates millions and millions of iterations.

small beachwalk

The perciption of image and image detail in Pastiche is similar to impressionist painting. But now pixels are involved. If the pixels are too small, missing, or viewed from adistance, the Pastiche image looks quite similar to the original photograph. When all the pixels can be viewed interesting details emerges. Details I hope somehow coalesces the complexity hidden in almost everything we fail to see, with the complexity of our multilayered modern lives.

detail beachwalk

Viewing. all the pixels a how to guide

In Pastiche all of the images generated from the same starting photograph are called a Series, and each individual image in a series is called a Variant

The Filter Series page allows you to sort series according to the subject matter of the original photographs. This page can be accessed from the menu bar, or this nice red button.

Selecting an image on the Filter Series page will lead to the preView Variants page.

On the preView Series page there is a section for each of the Series. Each section has several tabs, one tab for the original photo , and one tab for each of the variants. The tab for the orignial photo also dispalys 4 thumbnails each the detail of a Variant. The tab for each variant shows the full variant image and a preview of that variants detail.

Again you can get to the preView Variants page using the menu, or this cleverly placed button.

On the Filter Series page there are buttons labeled View Seriesand View Variant. Eithor of these buttons loads a page that allows you to view all the variants in the series at the pixel level.

For more about using the magnification tool on the these pages please see the next section

Warning! If you have a limited data plan, a slow internet connection, or are on a device with a width less than 1600pixels please read this

Using the Magnification to view details of a Variant

Because all of the pixels in a Variant can not fit on a screen, magnification is needed so that the essence of a particular variant can be seen.

Pastiche is about detail. If you can't see the detail in a particular Variant, you are simply not seeing what makes that variant unique – and are likely to be surprised, perhaps unpleasantly, by a print.

In a Pastiche Variant the detail is created at the pixel level. So to see the detail, to see what is important about that particular variant, you have to see ALL of the pixels.

My solution to this problem is the Series View page. The original photo (or altered image) and all of its variants are displayed as a 780*520 image on the right of the screen, and in similar sized window just to its left is quick description of the image. Roll over the image on the right and a window on the left becomes a magnified view of the Variant, allowing you to see the details

Each of the Series View pages, shows the orignal photo and all of it's variants on the left side of the page with a quick descriptioin on the right. A magnifier kicks in on a simple roll over of the image on the left, and shows the magnified image on top of the description The amount of magnification can be conrolled by a mouse wheel, or if you are on a touch screen a pinching motion. Be sure to pinch only the small magnifying box.

There are over 21 million pixels in each of the Variants! A typical 1080p of Full HD monitor can only show you just over 2 million pixels at a time. The high end Macbook Pro 15” 3rd generation, can only show you just over 5 million pixels at a time.

Why the Name. Pastiche

Pastiche is an interesting word.

A pastiche is a work of visual art, literature, theatre, or music that imitates the style or character of the work of one or more other artists. Unlike parody, pastiche celebrates, rather than mocks, the work it imitates.
The word pastiche is a French cognate of the Italian noun pasticcio, which is a pate or pie-filling mixed from diverse ingredients.
Metaphorically, pastiche and pasticcio describe works that are either composed by several authors, or that incorporate stylistic elements of other artists' work. Pastiche is an example of eclecticism in art.

Embarrassingly the first time I heard the word was in a university level aesthetics course. I had know idea what the word meant. But kept on blathering hoping my pretense would go undetected. I was thinking “past” with the suffix “ish”, “pastish” kind of like the past as in foolish or childish.

Using another standard ploy to hide ignorance, I ask fellow student for the correct spelling. When I finally looked 'pastice' up (back when people used dictionaries) I thought maybe the suffix “iche” was some antique from of ‘ech’ and the word was “pastech” a distasteful take on the past.

I decided I wasn’t too far off with either misunderstandings, especially given the disdain with which it was used in class to describe some 'modern' art that i happened to really like. I have savoured the word ever since.

Pastiche the word seems especially appropriate for a piece of software that was created, pate like, from blended bits of other peoples code to create software that attempts to re-imagine photographs in a manner that celebrates concepts similar to those the impressionists were after.

The Series View pages  why they are needed and how to use

Printing a Variant  and why ppi is important

If a Variant is to be printed ppi - pixels per inch, needs to be understood. There is a balance between the amount of detail that can be seen and how big the print is, and that comes down to ppi.

Most printers suggest 300 ppi as 'photographic quality'. Presumably they mean equivalent in quality to good old fashion analog photo prints, or the quality of images in a typical magazine. But the amount of detail you see, and therefore the ppi you want for a print is very dependent on the expected viewing distance.

ppi is a measure of size. 1000 pixel wide image displayed at 500ppi results in a 2” image, and the same 1000 pixel image at 100ppi would result in a 10” image. Viewing the two images from 10 inches and then from 10 feet would create to very different perceptions. At 10 inches, the 2” image would be quite clear, but at 10 feet you would likely be unable to perceive much detail. Viewing the 10” image at 10” you would likely be able to perceive individual pixels, whereas at 10 feet the details of the image would still be clear.

With Pastiche Variants, if the detail is to be perceived need to be printed fairly large. Any of the Variants printed at 300ppi would result in an image roughly 18" by 12". Anything smaller than means that the details will not be perceptible even with your nose in the print. If printed at 100ppi a full image is 56" by 37". Even at a viewing distance of 20” you would be unlikely to notice individual pixels. But there is nothing wrong with being able to see actual pixels, at 50ppi a full size variant would be just over 9 feet wide, and you would likely be able to finally see the pixels viewing from 20”.

So a print of a full Variant, should never be smaller than 18” wide. But there is really no big limit, just depends on your viewing distance.

However it is not necessary to print a full Variant. Some of the more desirable images are just parts of the image. The unpredictability of the generated strokes means that some small corner of the full image may contain an interesting bit to print – at any size you want.

Pro Printers and DPI one last thing

DPI stands for dots per inch. Not to be confused with PPI pixels per inch. PPI is used to adjust the size of the print. The bigger the PPI the smaller the print will be, the smaller the PPI the bigger the print will be.

Modern professional printers print many ‘dots’ for each pixel. So a 1200dpi printer uses 1200 dots of ink in every inch. If you were printing a 300ppi image, then every pixel would be made up of 16 dots of ink. This allows the printer to do a better job of creating color and smoothing transitions between pixels.

Examples  of a reduced full size image, and an actual pixel size detail image

Below are two images taken from the preView Variants page of the Skyline Series. Both images are 780*520 pixels (as are all the preview images). The ppi of what you are seeing is dependent in part on your display, and in part on what the browser may or may not be doing to adapt. To estimate the ppi you are actually viewing measure the width of the preview image in inches and divide that number into 780. For example if the images measures 3" on your screen, you would be seeing roughly 780/3 = 260ppi.

This image is the full image (5616*3744 pixels) reduced to 780*520 pixels. The software that did this reduction had to drop lots of detail. The same sort of detail loss occurs when any image that has more pixels than can be printed. Printing the full 5616 wide image 6 inches wide at 300ppi would mean that just over 2/3 of the pixels need to be dropped.

wave with alot of white flow lines

This image is 780*520 pixels selected from the full image. So actual pixels are shown, none have been added, and none have been dropped. If it was to be printed 6 inches wide at 300ppi, some pixels would have to be added, some would be repeated. To get an idea of what that might look like printed, zoom in until the image is 6 inches wide on your display.

wave with alot of white flow lines

JPG compression  just to confuse the issue

All of the images on this site are jpg files. They have all been compressed. In their uncompressed state, the full images generated by Pastiche are 60MB. For this web-site they have been compressed to between .5Mb and and 1.5Mb. So there is considerable loss in 'quality'. If you zoomed in on the detail image above you might have noticed artifacting on either side of a dark line, or squarish blobs of colour in the background. This sort of distortion is a result of the jpg compression.

If any of the images was to be "professionally" printed an uncompressed (or more accurately an appropriately compressed) file would be used. The artifacting would not be present

Warning  about data size

If you have a data plan be warned that each of the time you click View Series or View Variant you are probably downloading between .5MB and 1MB. Not a lot by today’s standards, but I believe in warning about these things.
Because there is a lot of data some of the pages may take a long time to actually load. Please be patient. If the magnification image is not showing up, give it some time.

History  a brief reminder of what got done when

I can never remember what I did or how long it took, so I take notes. I find it useful to be able to go back and remind myself how much time I spent (wasted?) on puzzels that I got wrapped up in, that I really was not all that interested in. So I am considering putting my notes here in a nice preatty form. We'll see.

A Manual  of sorts

Soon to come - maybe.

Each time I have for some reason not played with Pastiche for a few months I have to spend a few days trying to remember how to use the interface. Probably says something about my interface design. So last time that happened I made notes on how the interface works. Some day I will maybe perhaps put those notes in here. Might be of interest to someone, certainly will be to me.

Why  make Pastiche in the first place

Soon to come - maybe.

To avoid being bored? Because I wanted to be able to do what it does, and couldn't find a tool? Some day I will explain myself. Or if I am trying to generate a little revenue - "The Artists Statement"

How  Pastiche works and where it is going

Soon to come - maybe.

Every time I go to change the code, I realize I can not remember how it works. I know from 'documenting' my code that that level of detail is too low. So perhaps someday I will figure it out again and make notes on how it works from the top down.

There are several things I hope to eventually get around to. First I need to speed it up (or buy a much faster computer).

I want to make movies - not just images. And I want to be able to have movies (or real time video) as input)

I want to be able to connect Pastiche to SCAT, so the movies have audio. Or more acurately the audio has visuals

Then connect it to real time input devices and get to "perform"

Improve and expand on the 'generative' parts of the code

Some Graphs just because

Don't really have much to say here, just wanted to use the bar graph stuff. Not that that means anything, just looks like something.

Components of Pastiche

Pastiche .

  • Code75%
  • Photography25%
  • Photoshop10%
  • Finished Projects10%

Work Process  just to have the spinny icons

Step 1


Take a picture of something that can't be captured with a picture

Step 2


Processing the photograph with Topaz and Photoshop to bring out some feature of interest

Step 3


Run the file through Pastiche. Push buttons turn knobs, wait, repeat.

Step 4

Alter again

Minor adjustments to color and contrast using Topaz Filters

Step 5

Perhaps Print or Post or put to pasture

To print the file or not. That is the question.