Category Archives: Art

Using computers to better understand art

How do humans interpret and understand art? The nature of artistic style, seemingly abstract and intuitive, is the subject of ongoing debate within art history and the philosophy of art.

When we talk about paintings, artistic style can refer to image features like the brushstrokes, contour and distribution of colors that painters employ, often implicitly, to construct their works. An artist’s style helps convey meaning and intent, and affects the aesthetic experience a user has when interacting with that artwork. Style also helps us identify and sometimes categorize their work, often placing it in the context of a specific period or place.

A new field of research aims to deepen, and even quantify, our understanding of this intangible quality. Inherently interdisciplinary, visual stylometry uses computational and statistical methods to calculate and compare these underlying image features in ways humans never could before. Instead of relying only on what our senses perceive, we can use these mathematical techniques to discover novel insights into artists and artworks.

A new way to see paintings

Quantifying artistic style can help us trace the cultural history of art as schools and artists influence each other through time, as well as authenticate unknown artworks or suspected forgeries and even attribute works that could be by more than one artist to a best matching artist. It can also show us how an artist’s style and approach changes over the course of a career.

Computer analysis of even previously well-studied images can yield new relationships that aren’t necessarily apparent to people, such as Gaugin’s printmaking methods. In fact, these techniques could actually help us discover how humans perceive artworks.

Art scholars believe that a strong indicator of an artist’s style is the use of color and how it varies across the different parts of a painting. Digital tools can aid this analysis.

For example, we can start by digitizing a sample artwork, such as Albert Bierstadt’s “The Morteratsch Glacier, Upper Engadine Valley, Pontresina,” 1885, from the Brooklyn Museum.

‘The Morteratsch Glacier, Upper Engadine Valley, Pontresina, by
Albert Bierstadt, 1895.


Scanning the image breaks it down into individual pixels with numeric values for how much red, green and blue is in each tiny section of the painting. Calculating the difference in those values between each pixel and the others near it, throughout the painting, shows us how these tonal features vary across the work. We can then represent those values graphically, giving us another view of the painting:

Output of a discrete tonal measure analysis.
Author provided

This can help us start to categorize the style of an artist as using greater or fewer textural components, for example. When we did this as part of an analysis of many paintings in the Impressionist and Hudson River schools, our system could sort each painting by school based on its tonal distribution.

We might wonder if the background of a painting more strongly reflects the artist’s style. We can extract that section alone and examine its specific tonal features:

Output of foreground/background extraction.
Author provided

Then we could compare analyses, for example, of the painting as a whole against only its background or foreground. From our data on Impressionist and Hudson River paintings, our system was able to identify individual artists – and it did so better when examining foregrounds and backgrounds separately, rather than when analyzing whole paintings.

Sharing the ability to analyze art

Despite the effectiveness of these sorts of computational techniques at discerning artistic style, they are relatively rarely used by scholars of the humanities. Often that’s because researchers and students don’t have the requisite computer programming and machine-learning skills. Until recently, artists and art historians without those skills, and who did not have access to computer scientists, simply had to do without these methods to help them analyze their collections.

Our team, consisting of experts in computer science, the philosophy of art and cognitive science, is developing a digital image analysis tool for studying paintings in this new way. This tool, called Workflows for Analysis of Images and Visual Stylometry (WAIVS), will allow students and researchers in many disciplines, even those without significant computer skills, to analyze works of art for research, as well as for art appreciation.

WAIVS, built upon the Wings workflow system, allows users to construct analyses in the same way they would draw a flowchart. For instance, to compare the tonal analyses of the whole painting and the background alone, as described above, a scholar need not create complex computer software, but rather would just create this design of the process:

Scientific workflow for discrete tonal measure analysis.
Author provided

The diagram is actually a computer program, so once the user designs the workflow, they can simply click a button to conduct the analysis. WAIVS includes not just discrete tonal analysis but other image-analysis algorithms, including the latest computer vision and artistic style algorithms.

Another example: neural algorithm of artistic style

Recent work by Leon Gatys and others at the University of Tübingen, Germany, has demonstrated the use of deep learning techniques and technology to create images in the style of the great masters like Van Gogh and Picasso.

The specific deep learning approach, called convolutional neural networks, learns to separate the content of a painting from its style. The content of a painting consists of objects, shapes and their arrangements but usually does not depend upon the use of colors, textures and other aspects of artistic style.

A painting’s style, extracted in this manner, cannot be viewed on its own: it is purely mathematical in nature. But it can be visualized by applying the extracted style to the content of another painting or photo, making an image by one artist look like it’s by someone else.

Our group has incorporated these techniques into WAIVS and, as we add more cutting-edge algorithms, art scholars will be able to apply the latest research to their analyses, using our simple workflows. For example, we were able to use WAIVS to recreate the Bierstadt painting in other artists’ styles:

The Bierstadt painting in the styles of, clockwise from upper left, Van Gogh, Munch, Kahlo, Picasso, Matisse and Escher.
Author provided

Connecting disciplines

Eventually, we intend to incorporate WAIVS within a Beam+ telepresence system to allow people to virtually visit real-world museum displays. People around the world could not only view the art but also be able to run our digital analyses. It would dramatically expand public and scholarly access to this new method of contemplating art, and open new avenues for teaching and research.

Our hope is that WAIVS will not only improve access of humanities researchers to computerized tools, but also promote technological literacy and data analysis skills among humanities students. In addition, we expect it to introduce science students to research in art and the humanities, to explore the nature of artistic style and its role in our understanding of artwork. We also hope it will help researchers in cognitive science understand how viewers perceptually categorize, recognize and otherwise engage with art.

The Conversation

Ricky J. Sethi, Assistant Professor of Computer Science, Fitchburg State University

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Looking for art in artificial intelligence

Algorithms help us to choose which films to watch, which music to stream and which literature to read. But what if algorithms went beyond their jobs as mediators of human culture and started to create culture themselves?

In 1950 English mathematician and computer scientist Alan Turing published a paper, “Computing Machinery and Intelligence,” which starts off by proposing a thought experiment that he called the “Imitation Game.” In one room is a human “interrogator” and in another room a man and a woman. The goal of the game is for the interrogator to figure out which of the unknown hidden interlocutors is the man and which is the woman. This is to be accomplished by asking a sequence of questions with responses communicated either by a third party or typed out and sent back. “Winning” the Imitation Game means getting the identification right on the first shot.

Alan Turing.
Stephen Kettle sculpture; photo by Jon Callas, CC BY

Turing then modifies the game by replacing one interlocutor with a computer, and asks whether a computer will be able to converse sufficiently well that the interrogator cannot tell the difference between it and the human. This version of the Imitation Game has come to be known as the “Turing Test.”

Turing’s simple, but powerful, thought experiment gives a very general framework for testing many different aspects of the human-machine boundary, of which conversation is but a single example.

On May 18 at Dartmouth, we will explore a different area of intelligence, taking up the question of distinguishing machine-generated art. Specifically, in our “Turing Tests in the Creative Arts,” we ask if machines are capable of generating sonnets, short stories, or dance music that is indistinguishable from human-generated works, though perhaps not yet so advanced as Shakespeare, O. Henry or Daft Punk.

Conducting the tests

The dance music competition (“Algorhythms”) requires participants to construct an enjoyable (fun, cool, rad, choose your favorite modifier for having an excellent time on the dance floor) dance set from a predefined library of dance music. In this case the initial random “seed” is a single track from the database. The software package should be able to use this as inspiration to create a 15-minute set, mixing and modifying choices from the library, which includes standard annotations of more than 20 features, such as genre, tempo (bpm), beat locations, chroma (pitch) and brightness (timbre).

Can a computer write a better sonnet than this man?
Martin Droeshout (1623)

In what might seem a stiffer challenge, the sonnet and short story competitions (“PoeTix” and “DigiLit,” respectively) require participants to submit self-contained software packages that upon the “seed” or input of a (common) noun phrase (such as “dog” or “cheese grater”) are able to generate the desired literary output. Moreover, the code should ideally be able to generate an infinite number of different works from a single given prompt.

To perform the test, we will screen the computer-made entries to eliminate obvious machine-made creations. We’ll mix human-generated work with the rest, and ask a panel of judges to say whether they think each entry is human- or machine-generated. For the dance music competition, scoring will be left to a group of students, dancing to both human- and machine-generated music sets. A “winning” entry will be one that is statistically indistinguishable from the human-generated work.

The competitions are open to any and all comers. To date, entrants include academics as well as nonacademics. As best we can tell, no companies have officially thrown their hats into the ring. This is somewhat of a surprise to us, as in the literary realm companies are already springing up around machine generation of more formulaic kinds of “literature,” such as earnings reports and sports summaries, and there is of course a good deal of AI automation around streaming music playlists, most famously Pandora.

Judging the differences

Evaluation of the entries will not be entirely straightforward. Even in the initial Imitation Game, the question was whether conversing with men and women over time would reveal their gender differences. (It’s striking that this question was posed by a closeted gay man.) The Turing Test, similarly, asks whether the machine’s conversation reveals its lack of humanity not in any single interaction but in many over time.

It’s also worth considering the context of the test/game. Is the probability of winning the Imitation Game independent of time, culture and social class? Arguably, as we in the West approach a time of more fluid definitions of gender, that original Imitation Game would be more difficult to win. Similarly, what of the Turing Test? In the 21st century, our communications are increasingly with machines (whether we like it or not). Texting and messaging have dramatically changed the form and expectations of our communications. For example, abbreviations, misspellings and dropped words are now almost the norm. The same considerations apply to art forms as well.

Who is the artist?

Who is the creator – human or machine? Or both?
Hands image via

Thinking about art forms leads naturally to another question: who is the artist? Is the person who writes the computer code that creates sonnets a poet? Is the programmer of an algorithm to generate short stories a writer? Is the coder of a music-mixing machine a DJ?

Where is the divide between the artist and the computational assistant and how does the drawing of this line affect the classification of the output? The sonnet form was constructed as a high-level algorithm for creative work – though one that’s executed by humans. Today, when the Microsoft Office Assistant “corrects” your grammar or “questions” your word choice and you adapt to it (either happily or out of sheer laziness), is the creative work still “yours” or is it now a human-machine collaborative work?

We’re looking forward to seeing what our programming artists submit. Regardless of their performance on “the test,” their body of work will continue to expand the horizon of creativity and machine-human coevolution.

The Conversation

Michael Casey, James Wright Professor of Music, Professor of Computer Science, Dartmouth College and Daniel N. Rockmore, Professor, Department of Mathematics, Computational Science, and Computer Science, Dartmouth College

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

This Graffiti Artist Dissects Animals On City Walls

This graffiti artist named Nychos dissects animals all over city walls — through his art, of course.

Graffiti art is some of the most interesting art when done well. The artists typically put so much of themselves into one giant piece on a wall and, if the mural isn’t commissioned, run the risk of losing it forever if the building owner decides to paint over it. Case in point, the famous 5 Points Graffiti Mecca in NYC was one of the most culturally diverse landmarks of the city, and when it got painted over, hearts around the world were broken.

Luckily, graffiti artists are resilient, and Nychos is no exception. From their website:

Blending themes of morbid corporeality with the colorful, hyper-loony aesthetic descended from comics and cartoons, Nychos has developed a unique style that performs with powerhouse effect whether on the street or in the gallery.

In Nychos’ world, Spongebob has a skeleton, people live inside rabbits and there is always something wicked underneath. Pumped up on the visual adrenaline of comics, heavy metal and graffiti, Nychos’ work reflects the immense energy and technical focus necessary to produce work on the massive scale he has reached on the streets.

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A Dozen Questions with Clay Yount, Creator of Hamlet’s Danish

Temporal Advertising

Check out more of Hamlet’s Danish by Clay Yount at:

Where do you live? Where are you from?

I’m a Virginian, born and raised. Born in Appalachia, and raised in a small town in Northern Virginia called Warrenton. I went to college at the University of Virginia, and I’m currently living in Fairfax County, Virginia.

What is your educational background?

My educational background is a hodgepodge of arts and sciences with a focus on languages. In high school I took lots of French and Latin, and in college, I took a bunch of Japanese language courses. Later I got into web development, which turned out to be a lot like learning a language, and made that my career.


Check out more of Hamlet’s Danish by Clay Yount at:

When did Hamlet’s Danish start?

Hamlet’s Danish started in April of 2014.

Any other art or comics people can find from you online?

In college, I drew a couple strips for the school newspaper, and from 2004-2012 I did a comic called Rob and Elliot with my brother, Hampton Yount, as the writer. He’s a stand up comedian/writer and ridiculously funny. I have the archives for that comic up on my site.

Your characters make really appropriate facial expressions. How hard is that to do?

Well, it’s much easier now than when I started. I used to draw boring same-y faces a lot. I had a handful of expressions that I would overuse and it was something about my art that bugged me, so I made a conscious effort to practice it. I still have to check myself to make sure I’m not relying on repetitive easy expressions. Drawing a comic is kind of like planning and acting out a scene. I tend to make the face I’m drawing as I’m drawing it, which must look pretty ridiculous.

Killer App

Check out more of Hamlet’s Danish by Clay Yount at:

What inspires the way your characters look?

The characters change from week to week, so there’s not really a unifying look. I’ll also change up my style between cartoony and realistic based on the script, or just how I’m feeling that week. I’ll spend lots of time researching images for inspiration on posture or clothing, especially on the historical comics.

I also really like your dialogue and wide range of subjects that always have a nod to history, gaming and science.
You don’t seem to mind taking a shot at conventional wisdom. Do you have any political or social agenda behind the project?

My only agenda is to make the funniest comics I can. My views on science, culture, history, and politics will seep into that, for sure, but I’m not trying to use my comics as a platform for anything other than comedy. In general, I’m a big history buff and a huge fan of science, so those topics tend to crop up a lot. The only thing I try and stay away from is pop culture or meme jokes. They date quickly and I don’t make comics fast enough for it.

How long does it take you to get a one page comic like that done?

Toilet Paper

Check out more of Hamlet’s Danish by Clay Yount at:

Anywhere from 6-10 hours. Sometimes more. It’s about 30% writing and lettering, 40% pencilling, 10% inking and 20% coloring.

What medium are you using? Is it all created digitally?

It’s all digital. I use Manga Studio 5 for the whole thing. I’m really into tech and made the switch to tablet drawing in 2002. I haven’t looked back since. I currently use a Cintiq, which is a great piece of hardware.

How much money does this project make you? Do you have a day job?

Non Branded Flying Disc

Check out more of Hamlet’s Danish by Clay Yount at:

It doesn’t make a lot, but that’s on me. I have a great day job as a web designer/developer, so I haven’t really felt the need to work to monetize the comic. I don’t have a store because I dread order fulfillment, and I removed all ads from my site because they weren’t earning much, and I didn’t like how they looked. Monetizing is something I know I need to work on, but I’m making baby steps right now. I plan to have a store later this year, and I’m attending a few conventions where I’ll have books printed. Right now, my main focus is expanding my audience.

What has the response been like? How much feedback do you get and what’s it like?

My audience is still relatively small, so I only get a modest amount of feedback, but when I do, it’s been overwhelmingly positive. Every once in a while, I’ll make it to the front page of Reddit or Imgur or something and that definitely gives you a nice ego boost :).

Do you have any upcoming work?

Right now, I’m just plugging away at Hamlet’s Danish and trying to maintain a work/life balance with a new baby. Occasionally I’ll work on a side project, like a piece of art or a short story comic, and I’ll post it on my site’s blog. My most recent side project was making a free Squarespace template for webcomic artists. The only upcoming thing right now is getting ready for a convention and printing some books for it.

Check out more of Hamlet’s Danish by Clay Yount at:

Super Hero

Check out more of Hamlet’s Danish by Clay Yount at:


Jonathan Howard
Jonathan is a freelance writer living in Brooklyn, NY

Ring with Arabic inscriptions found in Viking burial

Ancient stories of Viking expeditions to Middle Easter lands may have had at least a few grains of truth, according to archaeologists analyzing a 9th century Swedish grave in which a ring bearing Islamic inscriptions was found.

The ring bears a pink-violet colored stone with an inscription that can be transliterated as “for Allah” or “to Allah.” The silver ring had been excavated some time ago, during an elaborate archaeological dig in what was once the Viking trading post Birka between the years 1872-1895. The cite is roughly 15.5 miles west of Stockholm.

It had been recovered from the base of a rectangular wooden coffin, found alongside elaborate jewelry, brooches and the tattered remains of clothes. The body had deteriorated entirely, but the possessions left behind suggested that it was a woman who had been buried, somewhere near the year 850 A.D.

The ring had been cataloged in the Swedish History Museum of Stockholm as “a signet ring consisting of gilded silver set with an amethyst inscribed with the word “Allah” in Arabic Kufic writing.”

Just recently, the object became the focus of interest for an international team of researchers, led by the biophysicist Sebastian Wärmländer from Stockholm University.

“It’s the only ring with an Arabic inscription found in Scandinavia. We have a few other Arabic-style rings, but without inscriptions,” Wärmländer said to Discovery News.

The Vikings covered considerable territory in what has long been (sometimes perhaps unfairly) referred to as Europe’s Dark Ages. In addition to conquering Great Britain and establishing cities such as Kiev in Ukraine and Dublin in Ireland, they also led many expeditions to the New World and traded with the natives, although they seldom dared to go much further than the beaches for fear of confrontations. By the ninth century, Islam had a considerable empire in the Middle East that would probably also be attractive for the Vikings.

Reviewing the piece with a scanning electron microscope, Warmlander’s team realized that the description left by the museum wasn’t fully accurate.

“Our analysis shows that the studied ring consists of a high quality (94.5 percent) non-gilded silver alloy, set with a stone of colored soda-lime glass with an Arabic inscription reading some version of the word Allah,” concluded Wärmländer and colleagues in the journal Scanning.

Although they established that the stone was not made of amethyst, as long presumed, it wasn’t necessarily a composite of lower value.

“Colored glass was an exotic material in Viking Age Scandinavia,” Wärmländer said. It would not be until the higher Middle Ages that it became abundant, with the advent of cathedrals. At the time, amethyst was also highly prized in medieval Europe, attributed to have many properties – including warding off hangovers and drunkenness. When large mines of it were found in Brazil in the 17th century, its value shriveled considerably.

A cloer look revealed that the ring of colored glass wad been engraved with a message in early Kufic characters, ones that were consistent with the ninth century grave at Birka.

The inscription reads literally as “il-la-lah,” which means “For/To Allah.” However, there are alternative interpretations to what the engraving might indicate. The letters could be transliterated as “INs…LLH” which would mean “Inshallah” (God-willing).

“Most likely, we will never know the exact meaning behind the inscription, or where and why it was done,” the researchers wrote.

“For the present investigation, it is enough to note that its Arabic-Islamic nature clearly links the ring and the stone to the cultural sphere of the Caliphate,” they added.

Perhaps the most intriguing discovery is that despite the circumstances and age in which the ring was exhumed, its body remains in mint condition.

“On this ring the filing marks are still present on the metal surface. This shows the jewel has never been much used, and indicates that it did not have many owners,” Wärmländer said.

This would hearken back to the ring’s own history. While many may have thought it was simply some stolen piece that was pawned and traded, buried with someone who was never anywhere near the Middle East, it seems that its destination of Birka was hardly accidental. There is little evidence that the ring was passed along to many people.

“Instead, it must have passed from the Islamic silversmith who made it to the woman buried at Birka with few, if any, owners in between,” Wärmländer said.

“Perhaps the woman herself was from the Islamic world, or perhaps a Swedish Viking got the ring, by trade or robbery, while visiting the Islamic Caliphate,” Warmlander continued.

Whatever the case, the researchers have concluded that this ring is concrete evidence of interaction between the Vikings and the Islamic empire.

“The Viking Sagas and Chronicles tell us of Viking expeditions to the Black and Caspian Seas, and beyond, but we don’t know what is fact and what is fiction in these stories,” Wärmländer said.

“The mint condition of the ring corroborates ancient tales about direct contacts between Viking Age Scandinavia and the Islamic world,” he said.

It could certainly be a sign that these cultures saw more of each other than we once believed.

James Sullivan
James Sullivan is the assistant editor of Brain World Magazine and a contributor to Truth Is Cool and OMNI Reboot. He can usually be found on TVTropes or RationalWiki when not exploiting life and science stories for another blog article.

Carbon3D’s CLIP: Faster than Any Other 3D Printing System – and Cooler Looking!

A picture is worth a thousand words with CLIP 3D’s laser-cured liquid printing.

3D printing is one of the best up and coming tech fields to follow. CLIP 3D Printing is the fastest device to date. Designers and engineers are starting to rely on 3D printing to stay competitive but the process is far from streamlined. Companies like Carbon3D are ahead of the pack with the coolest looking printing process that just happens to also be faster than anyone else out there. By rethinking the way the resin is cured, Carbon3D got their newest printer to produce 25-100 times faster than any other resin printing techniques, as of early 2015. It’s like they just couldn’t decide between fast an beautiful.

Peep the video at the bottom of this article~! broke the story, announcing Carbon3D’s Continuous Liquid Interface Production technique. CLIP built off of the most innovative ideas that have already been done with 3D printing  by utilizing photosensitive resin and an incredibly precise laser to cure the liquid into a solid from the bottom of a clear pan. Inspired by techniques which print and cure layer-by-layer, CLIP instead uses it’s laser to cure in conjunction with oxygen which inhibits the curing process allowing for variable ratios of viscosity. This allows the printer to print in 3 dimensions simultaneously.


You can see the liquid from the top in the promotional media but the action happens underneath the pool. The transparent window that holds the pool of liquid “ink” is also oxygen-permeable. This allows controlled amounts of oxygen and laser light to hit the bottom of the liquid layer.  Carbon3D  explains the process can leave uncured spots on the bottom layer as little as a few dozen microns thick. As the oxygenated areas of the resin are decided, the laser cures the unoxygenated areas, leaving a layer of solid that is attached to the layer above. This amazing GIF speaks for itself. DAYUM:

Carbon 3D has managed to keep a proprietary amount of this technique secret while still nailing down $41 million in funding from venture capital firms. It’s almost like they 3D printed themselves from liquid into the solid competitive start-up they are today.

As the fastest guys on the scene Carbon3D are the hottest new guys. The slow production speed is one of the biggest reasons 3D printing hasn’t become the manufacturing norm and CLIP printing is expected to change that moving forward from early 2015. is watching this fascinating development on the edge of our 3D printed seats.

Jonathan Howard
Jonathan is a freelance writer living in Brooklyn, NY

An Interview With 3D Printed Food Artist Chloe Rutzerveld

Chloé shines in this interview about the future of food design and her upcoming year, including SXSW and developing 3D-printed prototypes into a culinary reality.

Eindhoven University of Technology Graduate, Chloé Rutzerveld, designed a food I don’t quite know how to categorize. I first saw pictures of her most recent work, Edible Growth, last week and immediately wrote to her. Her Edible Growth concept involves a bunch of hot topics in current scientific thought but the pictures don’t put the technology first – they just look great. In fact the pictures are currently the point of the project. There are tons of details that need to be worked out, and Rutzerveld is spending the upcoming year getting the funding, awareness and support to develop this project into a realistic restaurant menu item. 3d printing technology is a frontier she is willing to jump way into. Read more about Edible Growth on Rutzerveld’s website.

Chloé answered a ton of questions below


The current concept art looks great. What was the initial idea behind these great looking confections?

The shape of the edible developed and changed throughout the design process, influenced by development in the technological and biotechnological parts of the project. For example, at first, I made drawings of Edible Growth in which the entire ball was filled with wholes. Which doesn’t make sense because cresses and mushrooms don’t grow down, only up 😉

3d printed food

Chloé’s initial, all-plastic design showed plants and mushrooms growing in all directions but the final design with real food had to accommodate gravity with a modified design.

Also, when the product is printed, you see straight lines, showing the technology part.. when the product matures these straight technological lines become invisible by the organic growth of the product. Showing the collaboration between technology and nature. Technology in this project is merely used as a means to enhance natural processes like photosynthesis and fermentation.

Chloe RutzerveldWhat inspired you? 

My skepticism towards printing food and the urge to find some way to use this new technology to create healthy, natural food with good a good taste and structure in which the printer would add something to the product, as well as the environment.

3d printen

A 3d printer arranges dough for the first step of an edible growth prototype.

Once you had the idea, how long did it take you to produce the prototypes and pastries we can see in the photos?

At first I made a lot of drawings and prototypes form clay. After that I started using nylon 3d-printed structures. When I gained more knowledge about 3d printing and the material composition inside the structure, the design of the product changed along with that. The mushrooms and cress inside the prototypes, as well as the savory pie dough is just a visualization, the final product might be totally different. It’s mend as inspiration and showing that we should think beyond printing sugar, chocolate and dough if we want to use this technology to create future ‘food’.

The prototyping process took about 2 months I think.. and multiple museums asked if they could exhibited it, I made non-food, food products that would last longer.


What are you doing for a living? 

Haha great question, because as you probably understand, media attention is great but does not help me pay my bills unfortunately 😉 But it does make it easier to get assignments for the development of workshops, dinners etc.

Basically at this point, I give lectures, presentations, and organize events and dinners. One upcoming event I’m organizing is about my new project called “Digestive Food”. I will not say too much about it, but I’ll update my website soon;)

To have a more stable income, I started working for the Next Nature Network in February, to organize the Next Nature Fellow program! Next Nature explores the technosphere and the co-evolving relationship with technology

Edible GrowthHow did you find the project so far?

Well I personally think it looks beautiful and I’m quite proud that so many people are inspired and fascinated by it! It would be great if such a product would come on the market.

I wonder what the pastry and edible soil are made of. Can you talk about the ingredients? 

I don’t call it edible soil, but a breeding ground. Because everything must be edible (like a fully edible eco-system) we experimented with a lot of different materials. But in the end, we found that agar-agar is a very suitable breeding ground on which also certain species of fungi and cress (like the velvet-paw and watercress for example) can grow very easily within a few days without growing moldy!


Agar-agar breeding ground turned out to be the right mix of versatility and food-safe materials to make Edible Growth go from plastic prototype to edible reality.

How do you feel about copyright and patented ideas?

I am not very interested in that part.. of course it’s good to get credits for the idea and the photo’s but I will not buy a patent. I don’t have the knowledge or employees to develop this concept into a reel product. So I actually hope someone steels the idea and starts developing it further :)! I’m often asked by big tech-companies or chefs if I wanted an investment to develop it… but to be honest.. I’ve many other ideas and things I would like to do.

Edible prototype  - Copy

Do  you have secret ingredients?

Haha not in the product, but in my work it would be passion, creativity and a pinch of excessive work ethos 😉

What types of foods have you experimented with?

For Edible Growth? A dozen of cresses, and other seeds, dried fruits and vegetables for the breeding ground, agar-agar, gelatins, some spores..

But for my other projects also with mice, muskrat, organ meat, molecular enzymes etc.


Who have you been working with? 

Waag Society (Open Wetlab, Amsterdam), Next Nature (Amsterdam), TNO (Eindhoven & Zeist), Eurest at the High Tech Campus (Eindhoven)

What is your studio environment like? 

I actually still live in a huge student-home which I share with 9 other people. But because I almost graduated one year ago I will need to move out. So I work a lot at home, in my 16m2 room, in the big-ass kitchen downstairs,  if I have appointments somewhere I afterwards work in a café or restaurant with wi-fi, or at flex work places, my parents house.. I’m very flexible and can work almost everywhere 🙂 Practical work I’ll do mostly at home obviously.

But I am looking for a nice studio in Eindhoven, that’s easier to receive guests or people from companies.

 What steps need to happen before we start seeing 3D printed food become commercially available? Development of software, hardware and material composition.

I noticed on your website you have other projects in the works. What are you doing currently? What are your upcoming plans and goals for 2015? 

Next week I’ll go to SXSW. In the summer I’m going to Matthew Kenney Culinary academy to learn more practical and theoretical things about food (and secretly just because I absolutely love to learn about plating and menu planing). I’m developing this event I told you about for the Museum Boerhaave in Leiden and the E&R platform. And when I return from Maine, I actually want to set up a temporary pop-up restaurant at the Ketelhuisplein during the Dutch Design Week 2015 about a social or cultural food issue.

Thanks again, Chloé~! This was fun!!!

Jonathan Howard
Jonathan is a freelance writer living in Brooklyn, NY