By on September 14th, 2012

Last day of a going-away tribute to‘s Peacock


I feel like singing The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down.  Never had much use for Dixie though.  Here it is September 14.  At midnight the dream turns back into a pumpkin.  The Aviary community will be switched off like a light, and all the Flash apps — same switch.  Peacock, R.I.P.

But rather than succumbing to infinite dolor I’d rather celebrate the the great bird.  A male Peacock’s display is called a fan.  I’m assuming our Peacock is an alpha bird and has a mighty spread to his fan.  How big?  You’re going to see…

Pictured below are a design made in Peacock, a real-size detail of its texture, and a screenshot of the array of hubs that created it.  I mentioned earlier in this series that a benefit of the Peacock software is that it saves your method along with your image.  You can go back and recreate, tweak, take a refresher course on your own methodology.  So that snapshot of the hubs should mean that if I lose the file I could build another just like it in Peacock.

I’ll show you why that’s wrong.


Weavers by Sloan Nota in Peacock

Weavers detail

See my blog posts of September 9 and 10 for more detail on how hubs work.


We need a mathematician.  Peacock has over 90 hubs.  Nearly all have a palette of controls unique to the hub.  The Wave Generator has horizontal frequency, vertical frequency and nine other numerical sliders, along with alpha and color controls — and these all apply to your choice of nine different wave modes  (sin waves, checkerboard…).   And that’s the simplified version.

sample Peacock Wave Generator hub


The digits can extend to 15 places to the right of the decimal.  In some occasions if you alter that 15th number your whole image changes.  So how many permutations are possible within just this one hub?  Meaning how many discrete images can you create with it? Tons.

Combine this hub with another and the math of the possible images skyrockets.  Yet many compositions have 5, 20, 30 hubs.  The math of their possible arrangements (Hub 1 after Hub 2, then moved after Hub 3…) would have to be reckoned along with the math of each hub’s inherent variations on its own.  How many possible images?  Liftoff.

So if I want to recreate Weavers in Peacock, the screenshot off all the hubs and of how they’re configured still won’t be enough.  I count 14 hubs that have controllers associated with them.  I’d have to have 14 more screenshots, each showing all the decisions made for every hub, every number for every slider.

So when that light switch turns Peacock off at midnight, the entire encoded thought processes of hundreds of  artists around the world will be gone.  Images we’ve saved, but the techniques we earned — not learned, earned — all gone.


By on September 13th, 2012

Day 6 of a going-away tribute to‘s Peacock



Outfolding by Sloan Nota, made in Peacock

Time is running short for Peacock — it’s slated for extinction on September 15, two days from now.  A funny time to start talking about visionaries.  But here goes.

 Aviary began when a man had a vision. Avi Muchnick foresaw a suite of online creative apps that were friendly and fun to use — sure worked for Apple — and that would put creative tools in the hands of anyone with an internet connection.  Two others, Iz Derdick and Michael Galpert, saw the future too and together they co-founded*

It was an ambitious plan — supply online Flash-based software to photographers, animators, writers, musicians, digital painters, artists who use vectors, 3d, video and more.  Eden.  And Eden began slowly to unfold.

In a prescient move Avi recruited the Flash-programming whizz Mario Klingeman to write a new kind of app.  Mario rethought (unthought?) the venerated Photoshop paradigm — very brash move.  Peacock’s no copy-cat app.  Mario has visions the rest of us can ride.

A community grew around the software.   It included artists from North and South America, Europe, Asia, Australia plus India and the Middle East..  All connected, using the same software, talking on the forums, helping each other learn.

Phase 2.  Aviary felt it needed to grow and it attracted investors.  Some of them are visionaries too.  Jeff Bezos, the founding genius of had a vision, made it real. Bezos Expeditions, his investment entity, and Spark Capital both funded the Aviary project.

Before I lose any readers, hear me out.  Look in your pockets, on your desk, look around your kitchen — very little of what we take as entitlements could exist without capitalization behind it.  Build your own smart phone?  DIY car?  Sure some gifted oddballs can bring it off, but you?  Uncle Fred?  And Chris who builds her own phone and roadster — when does she make the refrigerator, TV, lightbulbs?

Industrialized means capitalized.  (Or Communist, which didn’t work out so well.)   So if you want the life, you rely on investors investing in your toys.  Bezos and Spark invested.

And then two things happened.  Maybe an MBA could figure it all out, but Aviary wasn’t pulling in enough profit — and Adobe Flash started going the way of the dinosaurs.  The suite of programs the community was using were all Flash based.  Development sputtered,  maintenance replaced it.  Aviary was turning toward apps that worked on mobile devices and Apple had hexed Flash on their mobileware which left our apps out in the cold.
Came a fateful day when the community and our Flash apps were spun off as  Spun away. now only meant the new mobile direction — which took off in the marketplace with a sonic boom.  Less than a year ago I’m guessing.  But we knew then we were soon going to have that floating-in-space-without-a-spacesuit feeling.
And the investors?  You make art, sometimes you look at it and say it’s junk.  Must be the same if you make investments.  This one didn’t work.
However.  Avi, Aviary, Mario, the gentle folk at Bezos Expeditions and Spark Capital — I wonder if there’s anyone who wants Peacock to expire.  Because I understand how you can’t keep propping up a venture if it’s not paying for itself.  But there must be a way to salvage this remarkable and indefinable piece of software that has seduced so many people.  What can the community do to keep our bird alive, even if not hosted on Aviary?
We could try raising money if there’s a realistic price.  We can take this lovely teaching tool into schools, hospitals, retirement homes — give us a goal in community service.  What money has been lost is lost — by releasing Peacock to live on, you lose no more.
Please give us a roadmap to saving the life of this irreplaceable creative tool.

To be continued….


look deeper:

* Avi Muchnick, Iz Derdik and Michael Galpert are co-founders of  Avi’s the one I think of as first imagining the Aviary suite, he’s the public face of it, but how much Iz and Michael are also co-imagineers is unclear.

 Mario Klingeman

Gregor Samsa in a Funk by Sloan Nota        made in ScribblerToo


Today (not much left) through September 15th when Peacock, and the rest of including its community will disappear.

By on September 12th, 2012
Part of a going-away tribute to‘s Peacock

Underwater by stevek, using Peacock’s Shape Draw feature           on

[The topic yesterday was the Shape Draw function in‘s Peacock.  Another artist on Aviary, stevek, uses Shape Draw very differently than my examples can show — so I asked him to provide some of his work and to write a bit about the Peacock sub-tool that he knows better than anyone else in the community.  Full disclosure: Steve is a longtime beloved friend as well as being an artist who found his voice on Aviary.  Below is what Steve wrote.]
All images in this post are copyright Steve Klarer
“More than fifty years ago I got the clear message from my art teachers that art was not going to be in my future.  I just couldn’t draw draped fabric, had no sense of balance, and should realize that the best I could hope for might be to learn how to appreciate art.
“Fast forward half a century and I’m exploring the Virtual Reality world of Second Life. That whole world is built by its inhabitants and so I thought I’d give making things a try. Guess what?  The things I’d always imagined but couldn’t get down on paper were simple in the virtual world. I made all kinds of stuff.”
A wretched image of one of stevek’s huge Second Life sculptures, which you could enter and look out through the filmy patterned walls or view from outside in a very different way.  The sculptures featured complex motions as well.
“I was so excited that I showed Sloan because I figured that as someone who works in electronic media she’d want to know about this. After telling me that she liked my work she insisted that I had to see this thing called Peacock.
“Second Life started revealing the truth behind the lie that I would never make art.   I popped in to Aviary for a visit. Four years later it’s coming to an end but it’s changed my life. What changed my life most was Shape Draw. I’d never seen anything like it. Nobody had ever described anything like it. It was so unusual that even as I learned it I had a hard time explaining it to others.
“In grade school and high school, teachers talked about building from basic shapes. I had no idea what they were talking about.  All of a sudden Shape Draw showed me how to take a few basic shapes and lines and turn them into … anything.  I started playing with circles and spirals. But then I found that I could change things, distort things.. that all of a sudden my simple spirals and 60s type psychedelic blobs could turn into stuff.  Into landscapes. Into dreams. Into visions of thing not seen …. Not even seeable.
“I’ve always loved poetry and often wanted to find a way to respond to it with some other creation.  But what can you do if you know that you’re not an artist?  But using Shape Draw I found myself able to put into visual form my responses to the poetry that moved me deeply.

What Rough Beast by stevek, using Peacock’s Shape Draw feature           on

“Yeats’s question at the end of The Second Coming, “… and what rough beast, its hour come round at last/Slouches toward Bethlehem to be born?” had been rattling around my mind since I first saw it in high school. It’s a troubling poem about troubling times and it ends with a troubling image.

“Using Shape Draw to push and stretch my responses to that question brought forth a piece that allowed me to respond to Yeats, to express a response.  It’s been well received.

“Watching the horror of the Japanese Tsunami left me speechless. But Peacock, and mostly Shapedraw, helped me bring my feelings out into a visual form. The same thing happened with the Gulf Oil spill. Unspeakable sadness and anger came out, again through Shapedraw, as a whole series of oil spill related paintings.


Tsunami by stevek, using Peacock’s Shape Draw feature           on


“Shape Draw isn’t just for pulling out dark images. It’s a tool for making anything. I think that Frail Deeds Dancing (although created in a moment of grief) is light and playful. A silly and rather sentimental piece that I did in my early Shapedraw experiments got the title Welcome. I’ve just had a request to donate it to a residential center for homeless kids. They chose it because it makes them feel good. I’m glowing with happiness that I could make and give them such a gift. And it’s due to Peacock and mostly to Shape Draw.”


[In response to the demise of Peacock stevek posted his illustration to the following poem by Constantine P. Cavafy]


Things Ended

Engulfed by fear and suspicion,
mind agitated, eyes alarmed,
we try desperately to invent ways out,
plan how to avoid
the obvious danger that threatens us so terribly.
Yet we’re mistaken, that’s not the danger ahead:
the news was wrong
(or we didn’t hear it, or didn’t get it right).
Another disaster, one we never imagined,
suddenly, violently, descends upon us,
and finding us unprepared -there’s no time now-
sweeps us away.

Constantine P. Cavafy


Things Ended by stevek, using Peacock’s Shape Draw feature           on

[After eye surgery yesterday — happily a success — bed is an important destination.  Your weary blogger will have another eager go at it tomorrow.]

To be continued….




By on September 11th, 2012

Day 4 of a going-away tribute to‘s Peacock

Bet you wish you had a tool that could draw like this — just one of Peacock’s sub-tools, Shape Draw. The fluency and flexibility are miles beyond Photoshop’s reach.  More examples?


This Bluebird of Happiness feather was a technique breakthrough for me.  I wanted to keep the look of individual barbs going up the feather shaft but also wanted them to taper.    Shape Draw includes controls that let you specify length, angle and much more.

I’ve used Photoshop’s move-and-replicate feature.  Each iteration requires key commands, and to change direction, scale, spin also requires a dedicated maneuver.    If I’d had to hand specify each barb on the feather…  I would’ve made a blue balloon.

And Shape Draw has other ways to play.  Four ways to array a single ring that was striped with gradients.  Patterning, 2d design effects, exciting surfaces.

Shape Draw is irreplaceable.  When Peacock goes you won’t find this powerful playful tool anywhere, not anywhere at all.

To be continued….



Today through September 15th when Peacock, and the rest of including its community will disappear.

By on September 10th, 2012

Day 3 of a going-away tribute to‘s Peacock

Have you ever heard of a Coons patch?  I hadn’t til it showed up in Peacock.  Here’s what Wikipedia says –

In mathematics, a Coons surface or Coons patch, named after Steven Anson Coons, is a surface used to smoothly join other surfaces together.  It is used in computer graphics, and used in designing shapes of automobiles.

Here’s why you’d like to have it as an artist.


 It’s a grid, ergo you can treat it like netting and sculpt delicate elaborate shapes.

It can be treated as a solid skinned with an image….

…easy as this:

Or maybe you want to distort a 2d image like a pattern.

As I said yesterday, this all happens without leaving your workspace, results can be immediate, and your work stays fluid and swift.


 Another thing that Peacock has that Photoshop sure doesn’t — a supple displacement mechanism.  Say I want to take a head I made in Poser and displace it with the silhouette of an improbable beast.

In Photoshop you go to Filters in the menu bar and select Displace.  This evokes a dialog box where you enter the percentage of displacement that you’d like vertically, horizontally.  Which takes you to a box where you navigate your drive to find the beastie you want.  Looks like this:

What if you don’t like how this displacement looks?  Repeat the whole process, guess again at the distortion percentages, off you go…

Ah, but in Peacock you stay with your image and you play with your image.


I have eye surgery tomorrow morning but I’ll be back.  To be continued….


Today through September 15th when Peacock. and the rest of including its community will disappear.

By on September 9th, 2012

Day 2 of a going-away tribute to‘s Peacock


Most people know of Photoshop, that Big Daddy of artmaking software.  I love Photoshop, rely on it, do some of my best work with it.  So why do I care about Peacock?

 You work differently in Peacock.  You start with a canvas in a workspace and you attach one of the hubs to the top.  Here it’s the Wave Generator.

Now I’ve added another hub to the chain,  You can see what a difference the choice in new hubs can make.

Here I’ve used the Wave Generator hub on top to color the wave pattern.  We stick with the Convolution hub choice and add yet another hub, the MiniMax.  You can see that the order you place things in a chain makes a big difference.

One major plus in Peacock is you  never travel away from your workspace off to a filter editor.  It’s plug and play.  Imagine getting immediate feedback.  A hub’s controls stay at your fingertip — you can tweak, experiment, dare.  Work is fluid and swift.    More than any other software I know, Peacock is fun.  It’s a playground.

Here are three tweaks of the Wave Generator hub.

Any one of these could have been the topmost hub in the examples above.  Which would change every hub that followeed.  Immediate feedback.  Yes.


•  You save differently in Peacock.   By this I mean you save the image and complete instructions.  Imagine coming back to a Photoshop file a year later and figuring out how you did it.  Even if you’ve saved the layers, they’re mute.  Peacock thinking stays on view.

Interesting side effect of this was that each of us in the online community could learn from opening another artist’s Peacock file.  And did we!  So that there was a social aspect native to the software design.


sample Peacock file created May 11, 2008 —  one month after I joined Aviary.


Here’s where I fit into the land of Peacock.  My onsite name is bassp.   As I explained there,

Perhaps to you my Aviary name bassp sounds like something an angry lizard might blurt but it’s really short for the term bas-space.  To me it represents the nuances between flat 2D space and the roundedness of 3D.  OK, my peculiarity.

When I joined Aviary in April 2008 it was still young.  The online-only software was all beta (still is) and built on the Adobe Flash platform (part of its downfall).   Peacock put a new gleam in my heart’s eye.  Beta software, very much still under construction, and users were encouraged to give feedback.  New features would appear inside the app, new wonders, it would be like Christmas all year long.  Thrilling.  I was agog.

I’ve created 5311 files on what’s now called  Most were made in Peacock.  Strikes me as kind of wacky but they just accumulated.

Cue the slap with the wet washcloth: the website, all its apps and its whole community will disappear come Sept 15.  I’m in the final stages of saving all those files — and from now until the end I’ll be celebrating something grand.



To be continued….


Today through September 15th when Peacock. and the rest of including its community will disappear.

By on September 8th, 2012


made in Peacock by bassp (Sloan Nota)

If you’re an artist there’s likely to be a tool that your hand knows how to reach for on its own.  Comfortable in your grip, allows you the nuance you need or the well-weighted wallop.  Do you make chairs, run chemistry experiments, bake cakes?  Look around as you’re at work — your eye will light on a tool you have a feel for.  You trust it, have bonded with it in the quiet way of tools, and the fine muscles that control your actions with it have adapted to just the shape and heft.

Now how about if a Blue Meanie Genie came along and ruled that the world will have no more paintbrushes – or Buchner flasks – or bowls?

I’m a digital artist.  My tools are modes of software.  And one that I’ve gotten really friendly with, have bonded with unto my very bones, will disappear on September 15.  Peacock at advanced will become nothingness — along with all the other Flash apps and an entire community.

I’ll spend the remaining days trying to say what my heart feels is enough.

made in Peacock by bassp (Sloan Nota)

Peacock is billed as an Effects Editor and as a Visual Laboratory.  Truth is, Peacock’s hard to pin down.  No one quite knows how to explain it because there’s never been anything quite like it.  Revolutionary.  Addictive.

made in Peacock by bassp (Sloan Nota)

To be continued….