The difference is in the background

Passion Tendril Vessel
Early version of Passion Tendril Vessel.

I am always amazed at how what seems like a small change to a working image can transport it out of my “working” file and into my accepting it as a finished artwork. The piece Passion Tendril Vessel came together nice and easy. I had used a new technique to create the contoured edges of the main disk and loved the results. I had to battle a bit with the intensity of the tangle of vines that I used as my base image, but I was happy with the balance of the smooth spaces against the busyness of the vine.

Then I had to place my platter on a background and that’s where the fighting began. I always felt this was a dish of some sort and wanted to show it off like one might do for a fine porcelain plate. I fashioned clips from the vines and tied them into a simple background. It didn’t work the way I had wanted it to. I think I even lost the dish aspect; sometimes I’m too clever for my own good.

Back to the drawing board. After more false starts, I finally created the square themed background and was satisfied. The dark interior of the square helped set off the central motif. The vessel feels nested and safe in its new treasure box.

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Inspiration in the sky

I love spending time with the sky. That’s where the sunsets live. It’s where the stars are. I am always fascinated by rainbows and will stop in my tracks to marvel at their beauty. I sometimes find them in clouds when there is no rain. I even see them circling a slightly misty full moon.

In Surf And Rainbow Clouds, Arching And Uplifting Five I made reflections from a wispy sky and lined them up in formation. I had the sky breach the horizon line here, adding an extra bit of surrealism to the seascape and its rainbow overlay.




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Artist-In-Residence, take two, at the LA Arboretum

"Goji Draco Fabrication" shown with its base image and the reflected foundlings that were used to make the artwork
“Goji Draco Fabrication” shown with its base image and the reflected foundlings that were used to make the artwork. Click the image for an enlargement.

This last weekend at the Los Angeles County Arboretum, they celebrated the official opening to their demonstration garden, Crescent Farm, highlighting steps to create beautiful, bountiful gardens with less water.  To tie into this milestone, I took my inspiration for this artwork from photographs I captured at “the crescent.” The area is abundant with native wildflowers. Additionally, there are interesting garden accents honed from natural materials. I found a mulch of bark laid out in a curved fan pattern. There were pathways lined with lengths of dried bamboo and logs around a tree in a talking circle.

But what really caught my eye was a woven support for an otherwise unkempt plant. What was once a bunch of garden castoffs is now a functional and esthetically pleasing structure. A Dragon Tree provided the material for the weave that now supports a variety of Goji Berry.

The piece I created as Artist-In-Residence at is “Goji Draco Fabrication.” Maybe it would have looked more dragon-like if I had known the source of the brown/orange material. I didn’t learn the identity of the plants until the artwork was complete. Many thanks to the Arboretum staff for helping me identify the subjects of my work.

@LAArboretum  #KarenHochmanBrown #ArtistInResidence #liveart #digitalart #kaleidoscope


My process

Artwork Bird OParadise
Bird Paradise base image
Artmatic demo BOP
Artmatic graphic synthesizer

Every one of my kaleidoscopic artworks starts with a photograph. I’m going to use as an example the piece Bird OParadise. As you might have guessed, the subject is the bird of paradise flower. The sturdy purple and orange blossom shows up against a muted green background. They come together for a natural display of secondary colors. Pay special attention to the blue-violet flower petal speckled in dewdrops emerging from the structural flower’s beak-like sheath or spathe.

I import the base image into a graphic synthesizer program (ArtMatic) for manipulation. The photograph is filtered through a variety of mathematical transformations—stretched, bent and reflected through fractals, polar space and fun-house mirrors. Interesting results are saved as key-frames that can be rendered into large-scale graphic files.

Twelve foundlings for Bird OParadise

The key-framing process allows an image to be animated over time (videos) however, for this series, I only capture the still frames, instructing the software to render the kaleidoscopic reflections. I call the resulting images “foundlings.” I collect the foundlings and tuck them away in a folder, preparing for a digital collage.

Masked foundling

After creating several foundlings, I examine them in large scale—sorting, selecting and sometimes creating more, as the artwork requires. I prepare the selected foundlings in Adobe Photoshop using a technique called masking (think of a digital X-acto with a lot more control). I  gather the masked foundling into layers and manipulate the light and shadow to enhance the illusion of depth in the finished artwork.


Where did it all begin? Part 2 – My first piece in the series

I was working on Judaic Art but had hit a roadblock. I wanted to have my designs custom printed on silk to make into prayer shawls (tallit). The results were beautiful, but the cost was too high to make them profitable. I was frustrated and needed another artistic outlet.

In January of 2011, I attended an inspirational seminar, Matrix Energetics. And while I did not become a practitioner like my brother, it did lead me to begin my series of photography-based kaleidoscopic artwork. When I got home, I created the first piece, Magnolia Pod-me Hum. The base image is a magnolia pod from a tree in my garden. It was placed there by my landscape designer as his gift to me and as a reminder of his business, Mother Magnolia.

Base image for Magnolia Pod-me Hum

I was looking though the various experimentations I had done with U&I Software’s Artmatic, a modular graphics synthesizer that I enjoyed fiddling with. I found an example I made from a piece of beach rock marked with holes. It was a simple reflection without any further manipulation. But it gave me the spark to play around with the idea of incorporating photographs into the six-pointed stars I had been creating in Artmatic and manipulating in Photoshop.

Holey Beach Rock
Holey Beach Rock

An idea was born. I used the Artmatic parameter tree (see blog post, Where did it all begin? Part 1) from Holey Beach Rock as my starter point. I made many variations on the theme with the photograph of my magnolia pod as the source. I took the resulting renders and imported them into Photoshop to be masked, shaded and layered. I decided the result needed a little something extra so I put in little versions of the magnolia pod and some dots. I can’t remember why I decided to try dots, but they seemed to work and added an extra something. The result was Magnolia Pod-me Hum–the first of what would become a series in excess of eighty pieces and still growing.

In the beginning, I set myself up with some rules, kind of like an assignment. I alway said that I work best under assignment. This time it didn’t come from the outside. My pieces would be made from a single photograph. They would be six-sided symmetry. They would have dots. I made eleven pieces like that until I created Rose Frills In Four which is titled such because I used a four-sided symmetry. Then with twelve pieces in the series, I made my second calendar.

Next time, I’ll talk about the process a bit.




Where did it all begin? Part 1 – The Software

Many people ask me how I started this series of kaleidoscopic artworks. There is no short answer, but I’ll try to address it here. As to my background, you can read about it in my About Page. But briefly, I love kaleidoscopes, geometry and unusual plant forms. My background in graphic design got me well versed in image based software. For example, I was using Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator from their inception.

My curiosity led me to some pretty amazing programs that modify images by applying advanced mathematics to alter their original structure or to generate images from scratch. These programs go way beyond fractals. The ones I rely on most are Synthetik Studio Artist and U&I Software’s Artmatic Designer, with the latter being the one mainly used in my kaleidoscopes. I have another, completely different body of work that was created using Studio Artist, but I not going to talk about that at this time.

When I purchased Artmatic in 1999, I spent a lot of time working with fractals. The program has a randomize button that is useful when learning the software. There are hundreds of parameters (tiles) that can be strung together in different structures, or trees. There is no limit on the number of tiles that can be placed in the tree. Each tile has one to four sliders that can be adjusted. So using the random button and pre-designed trees are good jumping-off points.

Magen David – Jewel Tones

It wasn’t until 2005 that I came across the small corner of the program that worked with center-based mirrors. I was working with Judaic themes at the time and I experimented a lot with six-pointed symmetry to relate to the Magen David star that has been adopted as a symbol of the faith. These artworks were created entirely inside the computer. I wasn’t yet using photographs for the source. In 2010, I had enough of these images that I decided to put together my first calendar. This means that in six years, I had created only 12 pieces like this, or enough for me to consider them a series.

It was in early 2011 that I began using my photographs to create the stars. I had already been using Photoshop to alter what Artmatic generated–cutting up several images, layering and weaving them together to make new artworks. As an example, the piece shown here, Magen David – Jewel Tones, is made from four variations of the same Artmatic tree, each with different surface decoration. When I discovered what using photographs did for my art, I ran forward with the idea and never looked back.

At the moment, my series of photographic based, kaleidoscopic artwork numbers in excess of eighty. Next, I’ll discuss the very first one.