Gaston and The Warrior Poet
I stumbled across a rather thought-provoking program in my random wanderings o'er the web, and while on a walk through the lake district, I came across warrior~poet's website, an artist and visual poet whose icons and desktops are of a superior caliber. His site is worth checking out for the catalogue of high-quality imagery, but the particular that got my inner playdoh artist wiggling is a link to a program by a contributor named Leo Fink called "Gaston."
It is a simple enough program to understand, as there is a window with a large, colored, shiny and shadowed ball suspended inside, and a second window with a multitude of sliders. Simple. The kicker is that all the sliders deform, warp, twist and mash the ball into freeform, wind-carved organic shapes that can then be saved as a .png file, ready to be made into an icon. The deformed ball is fully 3-D and can be turned around in all axes to get the best angle. Yes, this is rather processor-intensive, and running on my 1.8GHz dual-proc G5, it was responsive enough. The pixels inherent in the model can be adjusted for performance, then kicked up once the form is right for a higher resolution.
I used the default 100 (squared!) pixels for playing, then cranked it up until it looked like a high-end Maya conjuration at 500 square pixels (that's a quarter-million, btw!). The icon for the program itself is made with Gaston, and should give you a good idea of what the program does. It is a novel and unique approach to making icons, and none will be alike. Even better is that the program is freeware. If a kid brother or sister has a set of 3-D glasses, there is a check-box that makes the image 3-D, so track one down and get warped!!! [Britt Godwin]