Painting, data and music

I felt like I was in over my head taking this traditional painting course at OCAD. Fortunately, our instructor has a more open definition of painting.

I’d spent a lot of time learning a Mendelssohn song on the piano, practicing it again and again to focus on each layer of information in the sheet music (notes, volume, pedal, etc.) I thought it would be simple to translate the sheet music into a data set on excel. It ended up being more complicated. How do you put right hand and left hand notes in the same table when there are different amounts of each? How do you show markings that refer to groups of notes or that occur in the spaces between notes?

In Processing, I took data from:

  • pedal markings
  • note pitch
  • note length
  • volume (eg.: mp, p, f)

and turned them into:

  • line continuity
  • line curve
  • line length
  • line thickness and colour

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(An early test)

Instead of creating a line graph to represent music, the program “paints” a line one segment at a time, and the line curves and twists according to the relationship between each note and its predecessors. To me, this method of showing the data is more representative of the way we listen to music.  We usually don’t have perfect pitch, so we use the relationship between one note and the next to understand what’s being played. We pay attention to this relative pitch as much as we pay attention to the global pitch.

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This image is generated from one line of music, divided into the melody and the harmony. The shapes remind me a little of photographs of microscopic organisms.

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I adjusted the code to be able to include more accurate information. In both, you can see that when the line curves very smoothly, notes are progressively going up or down. Repeating patterns in the music can be see in through patterns in the line.

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The chunky line above on the left is something I generated after having figured out how to choose notes that would create interesting shapes in the line. It does not use data from a real piece of music.

It may be interesting to use a keyboard and generate these graphics in real time to see how someone might improvise when they have this added visual feedback.




The first day of figure painting was intimidating. I hadn’t had the freedom to take any art courses earlier, and I was walking into a class full of third years in Drawing and Painting, Illustration or General Art. Digital Futures is more about tech, design and sometimes business. Throughout the course, I worked on my painting and traditional art skills which helped me to use more colour in my digital work.

Figure Study
Colour Experimentation
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I’m happy I took the course. I’m certain I gained a new lens in which to see colour. I’m also more ok with the feeling of “what am I doing here?” because I know it can lead to growth.

Card Operas – Card Game

My first project in the Digital Futures fall Atelier is a game called Card Operas.

The finished game

Card Operas is a card game where four or more players act as characters in a soap opera. In order to gain Reputation, players join to tell stories based on the cards they have, attempting to accuse and defend themselves of often ridiculous crimes.

The prompt

In more detail…

The game consists of Character cards and smaller “experience” cards. Character cards are partly a platform on which players can build their own stories- they have small details about the character which players can incorporate into their accusations or defences. The other purpose of these cards is to keep track of Reputation, which is represented by dots on the side of a card.

A character card

Players are dealt hands of 5 of the small cards, which include Accusation cards, Motivation cards and Evidence cards. Any of these can be used to make a story more believable, and the amount of cards used on either side of an Accusation case contribute to which side will win the case.

While there is only one Accuser and one Accused, other characters can add to the story using their own cards. By doing so, they will risk losing a smaller amount of Reputation, but can also gain Reputation depending on whether they supported the winning or losing character of an Accusation case.


Every player gets a chance to add to a case as well as do their own Accusations. The first player to get nine Reputation points will win.


Card Operas is a fairly social game and is intended for groups of friends or even strangers. While with friends, the game might spiral off into drollery, it also endeavours to create a friendly environment where people who might not necessarily know each other that well can bond through a shared imaginative and creative experience. No knowledge about soap operas is required. The narrative of the game is created according to the players’ own knowledge bases and imaginations.


Play testing

During the week we had to work on the project, I conducted three play testing sessions to test the game at various stages of it’s development. The game evolved greatly, but what was common between the sessions was that it was really easy for players to come up with ridiculous stories and create an environment of joviality.

The paper prototype


A predicament in making this game was choosing the best rules. During development, the rules changed a lot, so it was difficult to figure out what exact kind of cards I needed to put the time into making. I wanted story telling to become the main element of the game- an actual part of gameplay where you needed to try to tell the best story you could with the cards that you had in order to win. This was a pretty big challenge because the only way (at least in this age) to really judge the convincingness of a story is to get other people’s opinions. However, the other players are biased judges, especially with the dynamic of accusations being such an offensive act. Therefore, the game morphed and was no longer about telling the best story, but about quick improvisation. If a player can quickly tie the subject matter of their cards into the story that is being created, they will have more influence over how the game plays out.

I worked in a team of one for this project and drew the cards using a Wacom tablet as well as ink and watercolour. My first play testers were Sabaa Bismil and Eva Plesnik. The game was also played by various fellow second year Digital Futures students/instructors during the Thursday play testing session.

An accusation in play

Going further

Making the game, I’ve become excited about its possibilities. While considering many different versions of rules, I discovered interesting opportunities to add more strategy into the game, which is something worth exploring.

I’ve also become excited about the idea of games that use a combination of logical thinking and creativity. These types of games could bring new players into the world of tabletop gaming, and are socially engaging forms of entertainment for people who want to do things together.


Trying to bring something as intangible as story telling into a game was a really difficult challenge, but something that I believe can make a game really unique and replay-able and something that I’d like to try to incorporate into future game projects.

Try the game

If anyone is interested, here are some files you can print to play the game.


card rules pdf