The impressionism movement in painting ended 124 years ago. Even so, wouldn't it be cool if you could see how Degas or Van Gogh would have painted your front yard—or, for that matter, your kid or your pet? Well, a new microsite lets you find out.
To promote its current exhibition of impressionist paintings, the New York Botanical Garden recently launched a site called Impressify. It features an easy-to-use tool that allows visitors to upload any photograph and, by manipulating three filters, transform it into an impressionist "painting."
Funded by Bloomberg Philanthropies, the digital feature is the work of Brooklyn-based agency Madwell. "The brief was to create something that'll make people engage with the exhibit and share content—and it couldn't be hard to use," said creative director Chris Sojka. "So we thought, 'What if we could digitize impressionism in a social context, with your content?' It was the perfect thing to do."
It is, certainly, a fun thing to do. Three dials allow visitors to control the focus and the thickness of the virtual brush strokes, so you can give your photos the misty feel of Monet, a blunt and heavy Van Gogh treatment, or anything in between. The feature also allows users to download the finished product as a jpeg or GIF and share it on social media. (The hashtag #GardensOnCanvas furnishes a subtle plug for the NYBG.)
The landscape paintings currently on display at the garden (which has, naturally, also grown the corresponding flowers) are all by American impressionists—notably John Singer Sargent and Childe Hassam—but the gauzy, dappled style is unmistakably French feeling.
One of the challenges facing Madwell's designers was how to recreate the textured, three-dimensional style of the physical paintings in a digital setting. So the designers programmed the brush strokes to undulate slightly to achieve a 3D effect.
While the feature's obvious purpose is to raise awareness of the beauty of art and flowers, Sojka is well aware that many people will use Impressify on selfies and pics of their kids or pets. "It gets ridiculous," he admits. "Every cat photo on the internet gets turned into an impressionist painting."
No kidding. Impressify actually does a pretty snazzy job with Grumpy Cat, and just about any other photo you can imagine (see our examples below).
But such flagrant abuses of his digital creation don't appear to bother Sojka. After all, if giving your dog a little Degas helps raise awareness of the exhibit, Impressify—which will be up until mid September—will have done its work.