Apps for creativity in the public domain

The Metropolitan Museum of Art recently made all of its images of public-domain artwork available for free and with unrestricted use. The Met Director Thomas P. Campbell said:

Increasing access to the Museum’s collection and scholarship serves the interests and needs of our 21st-century audiences by offering new resources for creativity, knowledge, and ideas.”

To date, on this blog we’ve relied heavily on public domain images and recordings to demonstrate the stories we like to tell. As well as making excellent content accessible, public domain sources provide potential for creativity. We experimented with apps to investigate whether software can help you apply your creativity to the public domain. Here’s what happened...

We started by picking one main source of inspiration from the Met library. This painting was made by the Italian painter Giovanni Boldini in 1873 and we love the flowing style and energy to his work.

First we used an app called iColorama. It is a great app that provides the user with hundreds of ways to manipulate images. Here we have used a digital brush to smudge, splatter and blur the original brush strokes.

The second app we used is Matter. It allows you to create three-dimensional shapes and objects that blend in with existing photos. You have full control over the surface of each shape, and in this case we chose a mirrored surface to reflect the image below. You can even assign the shape to an audio track, creating simple animated pulses that bring movement to your images.

Researching into what else was happening at the date of the painting showed that in 1873, Brahms, Bruckner and Giuseppe Verdi all published compositions that year, but since the painter Boldini was Italian, the Verdi String Quartet that was published in 1873 seemed to be the nicest fit.

By pure luck we were able to find a public domain recording from the magnificent Musopen website. We manipulated this audio by using Paulstretch to lengthen the music by 10 times. Then in Logic Pro we split it into 50 chunks, and rearranged them at random.

Linking this audio into the Matter app, leads to a fusion of a new image and audio.

Without the joys of public domain, none of this would have been possible. What do you think? Did you feel that it was it a brutal destruction of two beautiful works, or something intriguing and unique, inspired by existing masterpieces? Or just weird? Let us know!