The Alchemy of Alchemy
After months of trudging through the literal and metaphorical polar snowdrifts of tundra-ized Minnesota, surviving on naught but boxelder bug corpses and the occasional “natural lemon sno-cone”, I have returned to blogdom: icicled beard steaming as I thaw upon your welcome mat, encrusted hat in hand and really ready for cocoa. In short, it’s been really snowy and I haven’t posted anything for too long.
But I stir from my electronic lethargy to sing a song of praise for a computer program that has given me some joy. I need to share with Internetland my love for the open-source digital drawing program Alchemy! I’m going to try to describe it, but it really needs to be toyed with to be appreciated. Instead of being straight-up drawing, painting or photo-editing software, Alchemy (created by really cleverly artistic people) is more of an output randomizer, taking your original drawing movements (from, say, mouse or wacom tablet) and assigning a BUNCH of different randomization options to make unexpected things happen, like amplifying even the tiniest pen jiggles to make a crazy, unpredictable shape or making your pen tip drag around repeated, gravity-affected ribbons. You can mirror it down the middle for symmetry and choose different fill styles. You can even make your stroke size and shape vary with ambient sound from your PC’s microphone!
But my favorite feature is the ability draw with “pull shapes”, or stamps randomly pulled from a user-controlled library of clip-art, like mechanical shapes or skeletal structures (you can import your own libraries to use instead of the default ones, too). What that amounts to is freeform designs that are meant to suggest form and structure that you yourself would have never come up with. It’s an idea generator! Here’s an example:
Yay! A big weird bug (reminiscent of Motherbrain from Super Metroid…)!!! Awesome, huh? My brain would have never thunk up such a configuration of anatomical weirdness. Here’s a quick example of the effect which amplifies your pen strokes wackily:
I basically just wiggled the pen a little in the center and it blossomed out into crazy sine waves, leaving me with the lovely blue dragon-y guy, sans that wierd little antenna on top. Finally, here are a bunch of mirrored pull-shape examples for you to play Psychoanalyst with. (If this helps you get through some tough emotional issues, let me know.) Make sure you check out the Alchemy homepage (and the forums, too) to see galleries of other peoples’ stuff, ’cause people are doing some CRAZY AWESOME junk with it.