What Makes Art Creative?

Some people say that something is not creative unless it is popular. Luckily, those who first discovered Vincent Van Gogh's totally unpopular work after his death were not among the people who say this.

What makes something creative? Or rather what makes something creative desirable? Because let's face it: if you created it and you didn't get the sudden urge to destroy it or let others destroy it, then your creation is creative to at least one person: You, the creator.

In many cases, what makes a creative piece desirable is the advertising skills of the creator. Take Pablo Picasso for example - art's greatest hustler. The famous cubist elements that made his paintings so desirable were generously borrowed from certain sculptures found in one school of African art, which was not popular in the Western world at the time. He took the unique stylized shapes and forms of these sculptures and made them popular to white Westerners by fuzing them with provocative scenes and subjects that would appeal to white Westerners. Like Red Light District workers.

Picasso was a marketing genius! A behavioral psychologist extraordinaire! And many other things I'm sure.
And then there was Vincent Van Gogh who was completely unpopular while he was alive. Yet today he is worshiped just as much as Picasso if not more and his popularity keeps growing. Despite being ginger. He invented a movement influenced by nothing other than his internal turmoil.

If you look at the hue histograms of Van Gogh paintings, it becomes quite obvious why he has more likes on Facebook than Picasso (to put in terms that people today would understand). Van Gogh appears to have had a superior understanding of colour. Apparently, very few people do.

He was able to combine colors in a manner, which pleases the eyeball. All eyeballs. Or at least 90% of all eyeballs. Which is a pretty hard task considering that eyeball pleasing is an objective affair.

To loosely quote my favourite paper on color harmony loosely quoting their favourite paper on color harmony, there is no exact formulation that defines a harmonic set of colors but there is a general consensus among artists when a color set is harmonic and there are certain templates that are based on this consensus.

Harmonic templates on the hue wheel. Templates may be rotated by an arbitrary angle.
These hue wheel templates illustrate which color combinations generally work and which color combinations do not. As you can imagine this has many applications. One novel application would be for example: I have this red top with a yellow stripe that I want to match with a jacket to look ultra cool but I'm not sure which jacket will look cool with it.

For about two years I've been working on an image filter that harmonizes the colors of an image and I am finally am starting to scratch the surface of answering the question about my red top.

Initially, I took the naive approach of simply flattening the color space entirely to a color space with way less colors to fit a particular template. The Color Vision filters of Coloroid do just that. It has a slightly skewed versions of this algorithm, and it takes into account the pure assumption that people with color vision deficiencies see the world through harmonic templates, the I type and the X type in particular. Some people have total color blindness: they see the world in black and white. Black & White is another harmonic template, namely the N type, which is why B&W selfies are popular.

Now I'm taking a more sophisticated approach where I keep track of certain pixels, and distance between them. Below is the original image of a tree hugger in a blue jacket and a harmonized image on the right along with their hue wheels.

And below are a few other harmonized choices. The one on the right is pushing it. My personal favourite is the one on the left, which is actually the exact color of the jacket in reality before being exposed to the destructive nature of iPhone's automatic processing.

More on the subject of colours.

Antal Nemcsics et al, Computational Color Harmony Based On The Coloroid System, 2005
Daniel Cohen-Or et al., Color Harmonization,