Interactive 3D Fluid-Jet Painting

An interactive digital system that allows users to create abstract paintings in the style of Jackson Pollock. Users can analyze the fractal properties of the images they create and compare them to those known to exist in Pollock's own paintings.

Enhanced Life
This project implements a painting interface using the DiamondTouch Table developed at Mitsubishi Electric Research Laboratories (MERL). The table provides a large projection surface that multiple users can touch to control programs.

To create a tool that both engages and informs the artistic process.

The system has two components: a one-dimensional model used to determine the width of the jet, and a 3D model that tracks the motion of the jet. Each model influences the other, and together they form a convincing approximation of fluid-jet motion that is both stable and computationally inexpensive. The system uses a different mathematical model for each factor. For the transmission of fluid along the fluid-jet axis, it uses the Navier-Stokes equation in cylindrical coordinates. To model the free motion of a 3Dfluid jet, it applies fluid forces to discretized points along the fluid-jet axis line. These two models exchange parameters at each time step. When the jet hits a solid surface, an implicit function in two dimensions is used to propagate fluid patterns. When the jet hits the canvas, it leaves behind a smooth trail of paint, which is calculated and maintained using implicit surfaces.

In the late 1940s, the American painter Jackson Pollock developed a style of painting in which he unrolled a large canvas across the floor of his barn and dripped, drizzled, and poured household paint on it. His technique generated a sensation among critics accustomed to traditional brush strokes, who thought Pollock's work was purely accidental, but he denied such claims. "I can control the flow of the paint," Pollock contended. "There is no accident."

Recent mathematical analysis indicates that the fluid-jet patterns of Pollock's painting may be related to fractal structure. The paintings contain self-similar patterns that contribute to the aesthetic quality of the work. This may suggest a correlation between the statistical properties of some abstract art and its aesthetic value. While computers can calculate these properties explicitly, humans may only be able to recognize them subconsciously. As Pollock's painting style matured, the fractal dimension of his images increased.

Interactive 3D Fluid-Jet Painting includes an evaluation tool that calculates the fractal dimensions of a user's painting. Unlike real-world paintings, this digital system makes users aware of fractal properties interactively, and they can easily compare the fractal characteristics of each individual's work.

Emerging Technologies Sketch

Sangwon Lee
Northwestern University
s-lee21 (at)

Bruce Gooch
Sven Olsen
Northwestern University