The Painter Goblin

The Painter Goblin: Part 1, The Zine

I wrote a new Twitter bot two weekends back; The Painter Goblin:

The Painter Goblin was inspired by a Zine I wrote in a different time, in 2015 for the Christchurch Zine festival, New Zealand.

The Zine itself was inspired by a story I had heard a few weeks earlier from someone who had seen this story on Reddit:

Every time I play the Sims, I start my family with a ‘painting goblin’.

I make him/her morbidly obese with green skin. I make sure to give him the following traits:

* Likes to be alone

* Lives art

* Hates the outdoors

The first thing I do once I have enough money, is build a small room in the basement, send him down there, and then remove the stairs. I set him up in a tiny little area with only an easel, a toilet, a refrigerator, a bed, a shower, and a trash bin.

All he does all day is paint. That’s it. He paints and paints and paints.

Eventually his paintings become very good and worth a lot of money. Every few minutes I go downstairs and sell whatever painting he has finished and then I return to playing the game.

My family always ends up feeling blessed because of their fortune, and they never find out about the horrible secret living beneath their home.

Zines aren’t my thing. But it was a fun thing to do with someone at the time, so this became the idea.

And I hadn’t played the Sims since university in about 2003.

I think I had got the idea in my head that the Sims was dynamically generating images/art as part of this thing the ‘Painter Goblin’ but quickly found out it wasn’t.

And so the zine was borne out of wondering what a computer game might pragmatically produce without developing a whole new art generation engine.

It was also borne out of my own interests around generative art (Data as ArtPrime Numbers); as well as what we can do with digital images and what we can do when we apply digital techniques to physical/digitised art.

Once art escapes the boundaries of its physical condition it is only bound by the laws inside the computer. We can manipulate every aspect of what once was – just ask the fashion magazines!

For the painter goblin I was particularly interested in false colour techniques and reducing the number of colours in an image to create greater contrast between detail hidden in continuous tone. This is a technique I’ve used in the past to identify and demonstrate compression artefacts in lossy compressed images more clearly. I also have to thank a friend, Matt who had asked me to do some work previously in this area, the code from which became quite transferable.

I also think it looks cool.

Picasso: Three Musicians

Van Gogh: Starry Night

Van Gogh: Starry Night

And so a zine was born. And so was the idea for a Twitter bot – a generative bot that can find art, and make something new from it – like the zine – it just took a few years before I had the brain space to think about making it.

The Zine can be found here: