Images Inspired by Chihuly Glass

by Adam Finkelstein

Dale Chihuly is a Seattle-based artist who works primarily in glass. He is a pioneer in this art form and has received worldwide attention for his work. I had the pleasure viewing a large body of his glass at his installation in the Seattle Art Museum in 1992. There are no words to describe the beauty of his glass. Let it suffice to say that the computer-generated images below were inspired by Chihuly glass, but they have a long way to go....

This is my first attempt at modeling something glass-like. I used John Snyder's generative modeling system to create the geometry. The base and outer rim are splines which were created by randomly perturbing the control points away from a circle. The colors are simple spirals of blue and green paint. I used John Snyder's ray tracer to create the image from the geometry.

Despite its similarity to an ashtray from the 70's, I am quite pleased with most the image. Unfortunately, the shadow is too crisp; it exhibits none of the light focusing and spreading that would occur if light were sent through a real glass dish of that shape. That led me to the next image:

I looked through some books on Chiluly's art and found that in quite a few photographs, his glass is shown on a black, highly-reflective table. Needless to say, it is a dramatic effect. But more importantly, none of the complicated focusing effects appear in the shadow on the table, because there is no shadow on the table -- just a reflection of the glass.

So in the image above, I placed the glass on a highly reflective table. Since such a table does not send light up to the glass (except in the mirror direction from the lights) the glass would naturally appear too dark. So I made the ``painted'' areas on the glass emit light, giving the work a slightly neon-esque effect. People tell me it comes across as ``dramatic lighting'' so I'm happy with it.

This is a work in progress. I am trying to figure out how to render these things in Greg Ward's Radiance package.