My Funny Valentine

February 14th, 2005

I'm a fan of artist Jason Salavon. I especially like his series of works he calls amalgamations. Typically, he takes a large collection of images and averages them all together. Now, in general you shouldn't expect this process to produce anything other than a dull gray image. Salavon's knack comes in his choice of subject matter. He finds a collection of images that loosely share some common structure. When the images are averaged together, individual features are washed away but the overall structure remains.

Browsing in the drugstore the other day, I wondered whether Valentine's Day cards might have enough structure to make an interesting amalgamation. After all, they tend to be pink-to-red in colour and feature hearts, roses, or other squooshy lovey-dovey things.

After a bit of experimentation, I settled on a collection of images downloaded from the web. The images came from greeting card company web sites and Google image searches. They were resized uniformly to fit inside a 512x512 pixel rectangle, and then averaged together. Here is the result:

51 Valentines

Many of the images were of heart-shaped mylar balloons. Each such image came with a product number written in bold black text in the bottom left. The black smear in the bottom left of my valentine is the average of all those product numbers.

If you're thinking of printing out this image and using it as a real valentine, I've been kind enough to provide a second image to use for the interior. Just click on the valentine to see the other image. Of course, it's intended to be for a wife; you might need to make your own if you're giving it to someone else.

Here are two earlier attempts based on sets of images with much less coherent structure. The first is an averaging of 19 Valentine's Day cards from one greeting card company. The second is 73 cards from a different company. The one thing you can definitely detect is a general trend towards pinkness. There is a small amount of heart visible in the second.

19 Valentines

73 Valentines

Craig S. Kaplan Last updated: