Open Art: San Jose
“San Jose” is the first work available for download at the Open Content section of my site. The download includes discarded work as extras.
Click here to go there.

It’s in SVG format and licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike license.

Require Attribution, Allow Commercial, Share
I will be licensing most of my art back catalogue and new work under a Creative Commons license. For obvious reasons I will not license work that is derived from found images. I will also not license work that is not easily edited or sampled, or commissioned work if requested not to. I will provide graphic units, palettes and preparatory work as well as finished work where possible (I’ve been watching a lot of Disney DVDs recently as well as always having enjoyed sketchbooks).

I’m doing this to solve problems of production and distribution that I have always faced with my work, and because I believe that it is culturally worthwhile, indeed that it is the only way for art of any cultural value to go.

The License I’m considering is “Require Attribution, Allow Commercial, Share And Share Alike”. Coincidentally I believe this to be the closest to the GPL.

“Require Attribution” because this adds value for me in terms of publicity, contact and feedback.

“Allow Commercial” because this allows other people to get direct value from the work as well. By not precluding any use of the work, commercial or otherwise, this may encourage use of the work, encourage distribution (adding value by Require Attribution), and encourage derived work (ensuring that the value grows).

“Share And Share Alike” because this is what I would like from other people’s work. I’d love to be able to download, photograph, sketch or copy people’s work, take the idea and run with it (“plussing” to use a Disney term) without the yawn-inducing politics of appropriation. As more and more people start plussing thanks to open art, more and more work will be created that builds on the work of others, growing value rather than extracting it by stunting or duplicating forgotten art from a generation ago.

Minara is “Emacs for graphics”, a programmable vector graphics program editor written using libArt, libSDL and librep. Read that again slowly. 🙂 This is that “tinker under the hood, write your own tools” environment you’ve always heard about.

Minara is a program that can render graphics descriptions, and allows the user to modify those descriptions using scripts in the *same* language. The descriptions and the modifications are all written in a very simple data format / programming language which interfaces with the graphics and UI engine. This enables artists, researchers, reprographics operators, brand designers and many other groups to create generative, dynamic, generic and/or shareable artwork in a format that can easily be converted to standards such as EPS, SVG or Flash.

Most graphics formats are already programming languages or contain programmable elements (PostScript, SVG, Flash). The only major non-programmable graphics format is PDF, which was intentionally designed as a static subset of PostScript. Most graphics programs are scriptable. Editors such as Illustrator and iDraw have scripting languages. But these are in a different language from the graphics description language, and with varying access to the underlying data structures. There’s nothing that is code all the way down or that can be freely extended or modified by user scripting.

An environment that allows the user to write graphics code, generative code, analysis code and processing code all in the same language using the same tools within an illustration program with open code, open APIs and no barriers between content and process will enable greater creativity (and productivity).

A common data format that allows dynamic, generic or richly described content and that doesn’t suck will allow archive-quality (“bitfast”) graphics to be exchanged in open content projects and corporate workflows.

Who and When?
Me to start with, then anyone else who’s interested. At some point in the future.

Opening Art
Digging through my archives I found an unfinished license drafted for an abandoned project from 2001 which I present here for your amusement. It’s inspired by the BSD and OGL licenses. IANAL so don’t try to actually use it – you wouldn’t try to use heart transplant instructions written by an artist would you? 🙂

The Open Artwork License V1.0 (Draft)


The following text is Copyright © 2001 Open Arts.

Copyright © <years> by <copyright holders>

The moral right of the author(s) has been asserted.

The author(s) represent that the Artwork is their original creation and/or that they have sufficient rights to grant the rights conveyed by this license.

You are hereby granted a free, perpetual, non-exclusive, worldwide license to display, reproduce, distribute, incorporate into larger works, create derivative works from, and/or sell copies of the Artwork, and to permit persons to whom the Artwork is furnished to do so, subject to the following conditions:

The above copyright and moral rights notices and this permission notice shall be displayed and distributed with all copies or substantial portions of the Artwork.
The Artwork, or elements of the Artwork, covered by the license shall be clearly identified.

If any provision of this license is held to be unenforcable, such provision shall be reformed only to the extent necessary to make it enforcable.

Open Artworks may publish updated versions of this license. You may use any version of this license with any Artwork originally distributed under any version of this license.

You may not market or advertise the artwork using the name of any copyright holder unless you have written permission from the copyright holder to do so.


Successful Open Source Art
Successful open source software projects tackle well-defined tasks
with a sense of shared purpose, good acceptance criteria and good
public rewards. Open source art projects need to be the same. Just
setting up a CVS server or studio and letting people walk in won’t get
anywhere (although such resources will be needed). A show theme, a
mural/installation/public art call or other focus is what is
required. And a good firewall to prevent trolls sabotaging the work.

A good example of a small but practical open source design
project is the SVG Flag repository.

SVG Flag Repository article

The flags are actually in the public domain. An equivalent artistic
project might be a library of motifs or graphical elements. Perhaps
colour schemes, compositions or compositional elements, images to be
modified or sampled. Set a theme each month and let people vote for
the best.

Themes for the Linux desktop projects are open source, and are the
contemporary equivalent of religious art or of still lifes. Religious
art because they are icons of faith (work). Still lifes
because they are objects of regard and show absent wealth
(information). This, rather than the backward “art museums need
something to fill them” of gallery art is the art of the future, but
its Sistine Chapel Ceiling is some way off yet.

Underlying Aesthetic (Dis)Order
Looking at the image generators in the History Of Computing section of
the Science Museum I was struck by how un-artistic the regular
patterns and well defined forms of harmonic analysers and geometric
pens now look. Their artisticness has gone the way of the string
Concorde’s. That regular, predictable structure would once have been
the underlying aesthetic of an ordered world. Now you need something
messier to look like a competent reflection of the (dis)order of

This changed worldview is what is reflected in generativity’s
obsession with randomness. Randomness is a way of choosing things as
surely as linear progression is, but it is a way that now seems more
naturalistic. Randomness is generativity’s perspective: if you’re
going to do it a different way you’re departing from the norm.

But randomness is a mid-20th-century reflection, one that very soon
may look as mannered as the output of a “Spirograph”. It was a
reaction to a set of social conditions that have not held for some
time. And imposing order on randmoness, finding patterns in the noise,
is a connoseurish and distracting activity to impose on the
viewer. More contemporary choice and noise functions are needed, ones
that give the viewer something more interesting to see and to do.

Snapshot Generativity
“Frieze” ran an article on “Lomography” some time ago, concluding that
however designerish “Lomo” photographers may feel they’re being they
are still producing Lomo-aesthetic images (see for why). But this is true of any
fixed-focus or special-effect camera, from the Box Brownie through
1950s corrective-lens-and-filter cameras, “Polaroids”, 110s,
lenticular print cameras, fixed-lens digital cameras and Lomo’s
multi-lens or coloured-flash cameras. Lomo just try to make it a

There’s a name for the self-similar photography of the tourist and the
partygoer: The Snapshot Aesthetic. Partly due to the
would-be-photographer trying to realise pre-existent image models,
partly because of the constraints of the media, things always seem to
come out a certain way in snapshots.

The Snapshot Aesthetic casts its shadows from the platonic realm into
the real world like a brand or a religion, actualised by anyone
without an SLR. It is therefore generative, an engine with input,
output and an aesthetic transformation between the two. Describing The
Snapshot Aesthetic in this way is not an after-the-fact switch of
description and prescription – snapshots are still being taken and are
most likely becoming more like snapshots as time goes on.

This may seem a strangely destructive generativity, one that limits
the space of images rather than extending it. But this is true of any
aesthetic – an aesthetic is a set of constraints on production. The
imposition of constraints limits, but it also directs and
focusses. Infinite choice would take infinite time and have infinitely
dissipate meaning so constraining the choice space is good. Art
without constraints is not possible, but art without knowledge of its
constraints is kitsch.

The camera is meant to be an objective recorder of optical fact (stop laughing at the back). So the thought of a camera that alters the scene that it is to capture, for example by changing the colour of the light in the scene (and I mean really changing it) seems the opposite of what a camera is meant to be:

This sort of aesthetic intervention seems somehow generative, in that the technology processes the input to create something new, but it’s a real-world generativity, a generativity before the fact. I want a camera that projects halftones…