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Kevin Champeny

6 Amazing Kevin Champeny Mosaics From Afar And Close-Up

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Kevin Champeny

A quick glance at one of Kevin Champeny’s large-format mosaics will reveal a beautiful, often playful image—an elegant rose, a detailed skull, or a colorful fish, for example. But a closer look reveals the true artistry of the work, as colors turn into hundreds or even thousands of tiny hand-sculpted items, chosen based on their relationship to the larger image.

Champeny is interested in the relationship between his work and the viewer: "I want people to talk about what these pieces mean to them and how their own experiences make sense of the choices I made when creating the work,” he told mental_floss. The self-labeled "organized hoarder" keeps literally hundreds of thousands of tiny sculpted pieces in his Westchester studio, where they also serve as inspiration for new ideas. Enjoy some of Champeny’s work below, and check out his tumblr and Facebook pages for the complete collection.

1. What Remains

This 60-inch wide by 48-inch tall and 1-inch deep piece is made of 35,000-plus hand cast urethane flowers.

After a skull was then chosen to be the subject, I photographed a skull and printed it out on a large format printer and visually broke down the colors to about 40-plus to work with. I hand sculpted 30 different flowers as the pixels for the skull. I then molded and cast the flowers in color (nothing is painted) in various forms of resin. It took over 35,000 castings to create "What Remains". The flowers were then painstakingly glued on by hand to create the final piece. Each mosaic can take up to several months to complete from concept of idea to finished art.

2. Sweet Death

More than 33,000 individually hand cast urethane pieces of candy make up this piece, which is 66 inches wide by 66 inches tall and 1.5 inches deep.

This my homage to 'Día de Muertos' or the Day of the Dead. I captured the beauty of the intricately designed sugar skulls commonly found around this holiday with a tattoo styled design created entirely of candy, taking the idea of a sugar skull to a completely new level.

3. A Rose By Any Other Name

This piece is 51 inches long, 41 inches tall, and 1.5 inches deep, and is made of more than 15,000 individually hand cast urethane pieces of candy.

What could be sweeter than giving flowers? Candy? A flower made out of candy with a title alluding to Romeo and Juliet? Yes, all of these. This cloyingly sweet rose is a perfect example of how far you can take a theme before it just about implodes. Had I actually made it from real candy, well, that would have been going too far. Or would it?

4. School of Transcendence

Champeny hand-cast 25,000 fish to create this 42-inch long by 60-inch tall and 1.5-inch deep piece.

I created this particular piece with all of the left over castings I had from learning how to cast urethane. It was a very cathartic piece, utilizing castings that I'd accumulated over about 15 years. Finishing this mosaic closed a chapter on a very long process that helped me get to the point where I am now in my career.

5. Hot Wheels

This Hot Wheels piece is made of 4400 tiny cars and weighs 550 pounds. It's 9 feet wide, 4 feet tall, and 3 inches deep.

This is perhaps the most fun I have had creating a mosaic. This custom beauty was created for a car enthusiast and allowed me to get in touch with the joy I had as a child playing with Hot Wheels in the driveway. It took me several months just to acquire the nearly 5000 Hot Wheels needed to make this and another month to build the finished mosaic.

6. Flag

This American Flag piece is made of 44,450 hand cast urethane army men; it measures 72 inches wide by 48 inches tall and 1 inch deep.

I created the Flag mosaic as a direct commission through Jellio for the U.S. Army Tank Automotive Research, Development and Engineering Center (TARDEC), in Michigan. I was only given 30 days to hand cast—they are cast in color, nothing is painted—and apply all 44,500 soldiers. It was exhausting but well worth it. It remains to this day, the mosaic that I have been the most proud to complete.

All photos courtesy of Kevin Champeny.

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iStock // Ekaterina Minaeva
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Man Buys Two Metric Tons of LEGO Bricks; Sorts Them Via Machine Learning
May 21, 2017
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iStock // Ekaterina Minaeva

Jacques Mattheij made a small, but awesome, mistake. He went on eBay one evening and bid on a bunch of bulk LEGO brick auctions, then went to sleep. Upon waking, he discovered that he was the high bidder on many, and was now the proud owner of two tons of LEGO bricks. (This is about 4400 pounds.) He wrote, "[L]esson 1: if you win almost all bids you are bidding too high."

Mattheij had noticed that bulk, unsorted bricks sell for something like €10/kilogram, whereas sets are roughly €40/kg and rare parts go for up to €100/kg. Much of the value of the bricks is in their sorting. If he could reduce the entropy of these bins of unsorted bricks, he could make a tidy profit. While many people do this work by hand, the problem is enormous—just the kind of challenge for a computer. Mattheij writes:

There are 38000+ shapes and there are 100+ possible shades of color (you can roughly tell how old someone is by asking them what lego colors they remember from their youth).

In the following months, Mattheij built a proof-of-concept sorting system using, of course, LEGO. He broke the problem down into a series of sub-problems (including "feeding LEGO reliably from a hopper is surprisingly hard," one of those facts of nature that will stymie even the best system design). After tinkering with the prototype at length, he expanded the system to a surprisingly complex system of conveyer belts (powered by a home treadmill), various pieces of cabinetry, and "copious quantities of crazy glue."

Here's a video showing the current system running at low speed:

The key part of the system was running the bricks past a camera paired with a computer running a neural net-based image classifier. That allows the computer (when sufficiently trained on brick images) to recognize bricks and thus categorize them by color, shape, or other parameters. Remember that as bricks pass by, they can be in any orientation, can be dirty, can even be stuck to other pieces. So having a flexible software system is key to recognizing—in a fraction of a second—what a given brick is, in order to sort it out. When a match is found, a jet of compressed air pops the piece off the conveyer belt and into a waiting bin.

After much experimentation, Mattheij rewrote the software (several times in fact) to accomplish a variety of basic tasks. At its core, the system takes images from a webcam and feeds them to a neural network to do the classification. Of course, the neural net needs to be "trained" by showing it lots of images, and telling it what those images represent. Mattheij's breakthrough was allowing the machine to effectively train itself, with guidance: Running pieces through allows the system to take its own photos, make a guess, and build on that guess. As long as Mattheij corrects the incorrect guesses, he ends up with a decent (and self-reinforcing) corpus of training data. As the machine continues running, it can rack up more training, allowing it to recognize a broad variety of pieces on the fly.

Here's another video, focusing on how the pieces move on conveyer belts (running at slow speed so puny humans can follow). You can also see the air jets in action:

In an email interview, Mattheij told Mental Floss that the system currently sorts LEGO bricks into more than 50 categories. It can also be run in a color-sorting mode to bin the parts across 12 color groups. (Thus at present you'd likely do a two-pass sort on the bricks: once for shape, then a separate pass for color.) He continues to refine the system, with a focus on making its recognition abilities faster. At some point down the line, he plans to make the software portion open source. You're on your own as far as building conveyer belts, bins, and so forth.

Check out Mattheij's writeup in two parts for more information. It starts with an overview of the story, followed up with a deep dive on the software. He's also tweeting about the project (among other things). And if you look around a bit, you'll find bulk LEGO brick auctions online—it's definitely a thing!

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Nick Briggs/Comic Relief
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What Happened to Jamie and Aurelia From Love Actually?
May 26, 2017
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Nick Briggs/Comic Relief

Fans of the romantic-comedy Love Actually recently got a bonus reunion in the form of Red Nose Day Actually, a short charity special that gave audiences a peek at where their favorite characters ended up almost 15 years later.

One of the most improbable pairings from the original film was between Jamie (Colin Firth) and Aurelia (Lúcia Moniz), who fell in love despite almost no shared vocabulary. Jamie is English, and Aurelia is Portuguese, and they know just enough of each other’s native tongues for Jamie to propose and Aurelia to accept.

A decade and a half on, they have both improved their knowledge of each other’s languages—if not perfectly, in Jamie’s case. But apparently, their love is much stronger than his grasp on Portuguese grammar, because they’ve got three bilingual kids and another on the way. (And still enjoy having important romantic moments in the car.)

In 2015, Love Actually script editor Emma Freud revealed via Twitter what happened between Karen and Harry (Emma Thompson and Alan Rickman, who passed away last year). Most of the other couples get happy endings in the short—even if Hugh Grant's character hasn't gotten any better at dancing.

[h/t TV Guide]

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