Art Project

Blank Slate

2020-2021, Amsterdam
White background for Blank Slate (image by Steve Johnson)

Art Project

Blank Slate

2020-2021, Amsterdam

Blank Slate is “project zero” for Case Greenfield. Inspired by neuro-scientist Steven Pinker the artworks of this project express how a (proverbial) blank slate in art is impossible. “We, artists, all stand on the shoulders of giants.”

From the first cave artists in the stone age, Davinci, Bosch, Rembrandt, Van Gogh, Klimt, up to Picasso, of course Duchamp, De Kooning, and even Koons or Basquiat. We, artists have been influenced by our predecessors. Again and again. Let it be our mission to bring art a step further. A giant leap. Just like they did.

The project evolves around the model in many an artist’s mind of being completely original in their creativity. They are not. We are not. No artist ever is. There is no 100% originality in our brain. Try it yourself: think of something, anything, that does not exist of one element of existing things or ideas. All artists are connected through ideas, inspiring each-other in an ever-evolving artistic continuum. As artists, we stand on the shoulders of giants. In a way, the Blank Slate project also is a tribute to those giants.

So, we want to stand out, be original, independent, free. How to deal with this? Are our artistic theme and voice all we have? And moreover, as human beings, can we be ‘special’, are we entitled to feel special, what does ‘status’ mean, where does it come from?

And this:

(August 21, 2021) Case:

After writing the story “AI Art? Quantum Art” it suddenly dawned at me why the Blank Slate art project is so extremely relevant. Intuitively, I must have felt this when I started this project. Now, I can express it in words.

It refers to the question, whether AI, Artificial Intelligence can be creative. Because of how AI works. All it does is recognize patterns in data and recognize/continue those patterns (like linear regression). In other words, whatever AI ‘creates’ was already in the pattern of the data. Not creative, one would say.

But then, the Blank Slate question arises: how creative is the human brain, really? Doesn’t every artist, however famous or ‘brilliant’ (whatever that is) or ‘creative’ (whatever that is, too) ultimately build upon the work of their predecessors? More of the same. Add a little twist, add a personal voice and continue that a life long (in an almost autistic way)? I’d say for 99% of all artists that is certainly true.

So, how about the 1%? The Jheronimus Bosch’s, Vincent van Gogh’s, the Marcel Duchamp’s, the Marc Chagall’s, the Salvador Dali’s? The misfits, the square pegs in a round hole? How creative were they, really? Creative, as in “create something that didn’t exist before, as a whole or pieces of it”?

And, can Artificial Intelligence ever be creative in that sense? Or even, can it be creative it the way Bosch, Van Gogh, Duchamp, Chagall and Dali were creative (if we call them ‘creative’)?

I guess, in the first place it comes down to the question how we define ‘creative’. What percentage, if you will, of the work has to be new? And how do we define ‘new’? Can a new combination of existing elements be considered new, hence creative? If so, can the continuation of a pattern (in data, for instance) that results in a new configuration – of spats of paint on a canvas (eg. Deep Art), for instance, or of words in a text (eg. Verse by Verse) – be considered creative?

And if so, when do we call such a creative ‘continuation of pattern into a new configuration’ art? When we like it, when we find it beautiful, when someone is willing to pay for it, when it becomes famous, when it is exposed in a museum, when … art experts say it is art?

Or is it all going to be a matter of new interpretation, like Duchamp did: “no absolute truth in art; no juries, no rejections”. The beholder’s share: creative is whatever I feel is creative, and art is whatever gets paid (millions) for … the end of art as we knew it?

Whether created or supported by an AI system, based on quantum, realized or performed by machines or … traditionally created by a craftsman human being with a fantastic human (hopeful), it is the narrative that makes it a form of art again. Human interpretation, the personal touch, the story makes it 21st Century art! Warm grounding!

So, for the artist, not being 100% original simply isn’t the key point. On the contrary! Letting it go releases us from a self imposed mantra. By being who you are as an artist, not afraid to express yourself, being pure in your creative process, putting your ideas on paper, canvas or whatever, the artist can bring his own personal touch that, together with the social context, physical and other realities, makes it modern 21st Century art. All types of realities combined! Original or not, personal art, human art, ‘story art’, ‘narrative art’ or, better, simply just … art!

(Update – 3 August, 2023)

And there is yet another point in relation with AI Art, the new kid in art town, the new fruit on the art tree.

These days there is a lot of discussion – especially among visual and textual artists – about copyright infringement by developers of AI algorithms. Check for example this BBC article: New AI Systems Collide With Copyright Law. The basic idea is simple. AI algorithms are trained with data from – among other – existing artworks without consent from the artists. Now, as this is a whole new terrain for lawyers, there isn’t a lot of useful jurisprudence. So, lawsuits are expected.

This, too, is interesting for the Bank Slate project. It is clear, that in the artworks of the Blank Slate project existing artworks of famous artists are used. The artworks of my project are literally based on existing artworks. On purpose! That is the whole idea of the project, right? It isn’t done secretly. And, to my honest knowledge, I’m not breaking any copyright, because the artists’ copyrights in these cases have expired. Otherwise they would not be IKEA posters, right?

Anyway. This gives another perspective on the Blank Slate project. The project states that “there is no blank slate in art, we artists all stand on the shoulders of giants”. If so, then to what degree can we as artists copy the work of other artists? What does it mean to be ‘standing on the shoulders of giants’, to be “inspired by” other artists?

And about the technicalities of AI algorithms: how exactly do these algorithms use existing artworks as training data? Do they copy? Clearly not. Well, although …

I guess, we’ll have to wait what the lawyers have to say about it.

So …

Now that I come to think about it, the whole Blank Slate project slowly transformed into a project about the question:

What is creativity? And what is creativity in the era of AI?

That is the real question, of course. Is creativity a trait that is exlusively reserved to human beings, or can machins be creative as well? And animals, for that matter? Can animals be creative? What is ‘creative’ in the first place? Is it really important to be creative? That kind of questions.

Blank Slate steps

July 2023

(July 31st, 2023!)

Hello … I’m still alive!

Yeah, I know.

Apparently, I find it easier to write Stories than to keep file of my Projects. But to be honest, there hasn’t been much activity in this project the last year. I just picked it up again. My new workshop helps a lot in that respect.

Here are some impressions of me working on “On The Shoulders of the Impressionists“. It is based on IKEA posters of Van Gogh (Starry Night, 2x, now in MoMa Museum, New York) and Monet (Waterlillies, 2x, no in Musée de l’Orangerie, Paris). And, okay, Vincent really was a post-impressionist, but who cares.

The work is 200 x 200 cm. It consists of 4 IKEA posters (120 x 80 each) and a self-made 40 x 40 cm square fill with a piece of an IKEA Sunflowers poster. The idea, as with all artworks in the Blank Slate project, is to express that behind your blank canvas there always are giants or art, who preceded and inspired you as an artist, in this case the (post-) impressionists van Gogh and Monet. The blank canvas piece is painted in the hefty style of van Gogh, with his wild, emotional streaks.

On The Shoulders Of The Impressionists

The original design in ProCreate on IpadPro

The artist doubtfully inspecting his work

Yours Truly with the artwork in the background

March 2022

(March 31st)

Woken up from my artistic hibernation

Well, that took a few months. But, finally, I’m back working on the Blank Slate project again. Hopefully, soon completing two artworks: “On The Shoulders of The Impressionists” and “On The Shoulders Of The Old Masters”. So far, at least I have spanned the IKEA posters on their wooden frames. Eight in total.

Working on On The Shoulders of the Impressionists

Anyway, it is a pleasure again to do the physical work of building frames and spanning canvases rather than doing the digital work of designing studies for physical works and developing digital artworks with NFT’s.

November 2021

(Nov. 21)

Completed On the shoulders of Davinci No. 1, 2 & 3 (Ecce homo)

Yesterday, I have completed my very first physical artwork, On the shoulders of Davinci No. 1, 2 & 3, (Ecce homo). It consists of three equally sized 80 x 120 cm unvarnished acrylic paint on pre-printed IKEA art posters of Leonardo Davinci’s Vitruvian Man, positioned exactly 15 cm apart (from 1 cm wide wooden frame outerside to frame outerside):

  • No. 1 on the left shows the vitruvian man in the circle
  • No. 2 in the middle shows the vitruvian man as he is
  • No. 3 on the right shows the vitruvian man in the square

The original idea was to create a Jheronimus Bosch like three-part tableau, sized 276 x 82 cm (incl. frames), creating an impressive canvas with three times the vitruvian man shining through – demonstrating visually that there is no Blank Slate in art – at the same time being a tribute to Leonardo Davinci. And now that I see the end result, I can say, it works!

But, now that the work is finished, it is also much more than that. Due to its size and pale coloring, and the vitruvian man of No. 2 so explicitly notable in the middle, the entire artwork creates a certain transcendent, almost religious atmosphere. The whole thing has become much more staty, noble, majestic alsmost, than originally intended. It has a certain timeless grandeur.

On the shoulders of Davinci No. 1, 2 & 3 (Ecce homo)

On the shoulders of Davinci No. 1, 2 & 3 (Ecce homo)

Acrylic on preprinted IKEA posters, 276 x 82 cm

Case Greenfield, 2021

Also, it beautifully reflects my intention to expresses in my artworks the messy mixture of our daily reality, our self-created realities and a new, dawning reality:

  • No. 1 depicting the often experienced flatness, if not emptiness of our daily reality
  • No. 2 depicting the self-conscious, almost heroic image that we like to have of ourselves
  • No. 3 depicting the uncertain, blurry and chaotic future that awaits and frightens us

In this interpretation of the real, physical artwork (not: the ideas I had and the digital studies I made earlier) it almost becomes an ecce homo artwork. Maybe, that is a good subtitle.

(Nov. 4)

I have been googling a bit on the term ‘artiverse’. Turns out there is a sort of game on Steam, called The Artiverse by a team called OWW, Occupy White Walls. Artists can upload their artworks and these will then be displayed in a metaverse type of online environment.

Here’s what they say about it:

Great art opens minds. Trouble is, so much of it is behind closed doors. Or in the wrong place, at the wrong time. Never connecting with its true audience. OWW has the power to place your art in front of the right eyes – better than any website or art platform ever could. On a basic level, OWW is a game. Tens of thousands of players create galleries and display art they like. (We say galleries, we mean incredibly imaginative, surreal art spaces that could never exist in the real world.) Which is pretty amazing in itself. But here’s the really clever bit. Once players begin to choose art, our AI (DAISY) works her magic and guides them to the art that they are most likely to love (kinda like how Spotify recommends music). Once they’ve chosen art they like, other players are invited to come and view it. Which means more of the right kind of eyes on the right kind of art. A bit like a dating site where you never swipe left. OWW enables a world of artists to connect with a world of audiences which they could never have reached before, allowing artists to sell their artworks both in-game and in real life.

A charming objective, I think. And supported by AI, suggesting “You may also like” alternative artists and artworks. Nice. Unfortunately it is in Steam. And it only covers contemporary artists. And the Steam metaverse is still very primitive. There must be similar better initiatives. I will keep on looking. It cannot be that I am the first who has my artiverse idea.

Another piece of software I found is TheBrain. It may do a better job in linking through several dimensions, but it is not AI supported so all handwork. And not an immersive experience at all. Not what you want in 2021.

I suppose The Artiverse is an idea whose time has almost but not quite yet come …

(Nov. 2)

The Artiverse and the Philoverse

Last week, Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook, sorry … Meta, announced his Metaverse initiative. It is an interesting experiment in the course of humanity. If it would succeed – to which I have great doubts on the sort term, but I do believe it might happen in the long run – it would be a major collective step towards trans-humanism (whatever you think of that).

Mark Zuckerberg in his Metaverse

It inspired me to something that I would like to call “The Artiverse” and “The Philoverse”. I am not the first to use these words. Yet, I think, my interpretation is a bit different than earlier uses of the words.

To me, both The Artiverse and The Philoverse are artworks in their own right, and as such, part of the Blank Slate art project. Especially The Artiverse will express how much art, artworks and artists are connected and interrelated, inspired by each other: there is no blank slate in art, we all stand on the shoulders of giants!

The Artiverse visually and auditively expresses “the artistic continuum” that art really is.

And by the way, wouldn’t it be great to add taste and smell as well! Wow, so that you could actually smell the oil paint!

The Artiverse

To me, The Artiverse ( would be a virtual space where artworks and artists are listed in one consistent whole in a continuum along the dimensions:

  • Time – A chronological timescale from the caveman up to today
  • Style – A continuum in style characteristics, eg. type, scale, color, form, texture
  • Goal – A continuum in purpose and philosophical meaning, art school

It could be realized by scraping the web for visual, auditive and textual information on art, and using these data as input for AI clustering and classification algorithms. Then eg. using the clustered and classified data to be represented in video, image and audio to present art, artworks and artists in a logical context. Next, a regression algorithm can be used to predict the next developments in art.

For example, you could then interact with an avatar of, let’s say, Rembrandt or Picasso, with whom you could have a virtual conversation about their art. Or maybe, you could even be part of – a digital recreation of – the actual event of creation of an artwork, in a digital copy of the studio of the artist. And it would be easy to switch seamlessly to related artists. Or you could watch a digital copy of an artwork, commented or explained by the avatar of the artist and get recommendations of similar artworks, that you may like.

The Philoverse

To me, The Philoverse ( would the be a similar virtual space where philosophies and philosophers are listed in a similar consistent whole, at least along the dimensions:

  • Time – A chronological timescale from the ancient Greek philosophers (or earlier) up to today
  • Style – A continuum in style characteristics, eg. action oriented leder or introvert scholar
  • Goal – A continuum in purpose and meaning, philosophical schools, etc.

For example, you could have a conversation with Plato, Socrates, Aristotle, René Descartes, Immanuel Kant, Confucius, Lao-Tze, Friedrich Nietsche, Jean-Jacques Rousseau or Ludwig Wittgenstein. Or you could get lessons and hear speeches on the philosophical ideas of the philosophers and easily compare their ideas.

And, of course, The Artiverse and The Philoverse would be artworks in their own right!
We’ll see

So, I don’t know. It’s just a thought. I do not know, whether I will ever have the time, money and (technical) team to really execute these ideas.

So, if you think these are good ideas, please feel free to start a fund raising action for The Artiverse and The Philoverse, or maybe first just The Artiverse. Let me know!

October 2021

Study for On The Shoulders Of Davinci No’s 1, 2 & 3 completed

So, I finally completed my study for On The Shoulders of Davinci No’s 1, 2 & 3. I’m happy with the balance of the three images, now. And one of the real artworks – No.1 – was already completed a few months ago. The other two will soon follow, now that I have my home workshop installed.

Study for On the shoulders of Davinci No. 1, 2 & 3

It just dawned to me, that you may get a dissappointing feeling when watching the Blank Slate artworks. “Is this it? Is this all? It’s so simple. IKEA prints covered in white.” Yes, and that is the whole point of these works. They should remind you, that creativity has its limits. There is no 100% pure creativity. Nobody, no artist, creates something out of nothing. We want, in our mind, to believe in the romantic hype of free, unlimited creativity, but in reality we all stand on the shoulders of those who inspired us. We borrow their genius, and build upon it. Step by step. There is no blank slate in art, and in life, for that matter.

The Blank Slate artworks are first and for all meant to make you think. And hopefully, you enjoy the borrowed beauty of the original works as well. And maybe, maybe, my additions give the original works a new source of joy and warm grounding.

September 2021

Built a primitive home workshop

Traveling up an down to a workshop not close by can be a drag, sometimes. So, I installed a primitive home workshop. Not perfect, but it will do!

August 2021

Back in business!

I refound my inspiration. Went to IKEA to buy the necessary preprinted canvases with famous paintings:

  • Davinci’s Vitruvian Man
  • Van Gogh’s Starry Night
  • Vermeer’s Girl with Pearl
  • Monet’s Water Lillies
  • Van Gogh’s Sun Flowers
  • Davinci’s Mona Lisa

Unfortunately, there was only one copy left of the Girl with Pearl, so i will have to see how I will solve that.

July 2021

Study trip to Sicily

Still blocked. Nothing has happened the last few weeks. I have decided I must take a break. I will go on a study trip to Sicily.

I have written a short Story about my two week trip. Click here to read it.

June 2021

Artist block … !!

So, this is the weirdest thing. On April 23rd, I finished my first tangible piece of art, “On the shoulders of Davinci, No. 1”. And then … nothing. I blocked out. Totally. A weird form of reticence. As if I didn’t dare cross the threshold into a new room. For now, I just let it happen.

May 2021

First studies of final artworks


A major step forward in this art project. I am thinking of buying IKEA replicas of popular classical paintings (118×78 cm). Putting these in a square of 196×196 cm. And filling the hole in the middel with a HEMA printed 40×40 cm photo on canvas of another masterpiece.

Something like this, as a tribute to the old masters like Davinci, Rembrandt and Vermeer:

Study for On the shoulders of the old masters

Study for On the shoulders of the old masters

And something like this, as a tribute to the impressionists like Van Gogh or Monet:

Study for on the shoulders Of the impressionists

Study for On the shoulders of the impressionists

And here’s another one. A study for On the shoulders of cavemen (multiple, now). This one is purely on HEMA photo prints, each 75×75 cm, so 150×150 cm in total. Or I could make one of nine parts: 225×225 cm.

Study for On the shoulders of cavemen

Study for On the shoulders of cavemen

And more to come, eg. one for the expressionists. But I’m not sure IKEA have those in their collection.

So, what will this art project look like?

I am now thinking of a number of bigger paintings, something like 200×200 cm. Maybe, a short series of smaller copies, but hand painted and signed, of course. And a number of prints of the original paintings on a decent size, eg. 60×60 cm, or maybe slightly larger, eg. 80×80 cm.

So, the entire “Blank Slate” project the will then probably exist of:

  • About five or six original large paintings, probably between 200×200 and 250×250 cm
  • Some ten smaller ‘original copies’ of each of those, ie. 50 to 60 pieces in total of eg. 75×75 cm
  • And prints of the original paintings, on demand.

But that is only half the project. The next phase, then, will be ‘blank sculptures’. I have only just begun thinking about those. Maybe, Le Penseur, David, Pieta, The Great Sphinx or a Pyramid, maybe a Giacometti, Moore or LeWitt, or a Balloon Dog.

By the way, you may wonder why IKEA and HEMA? Well, I’ll be very honest here; partly, out of practical reasons: it is simply easy to order and use these pre-made prints on canvas. But moreover, to stress the fact that anybody could have made these artworks. And anybody can, of course. I may think (live in the illusion, have created my own mind model), that I am unique and original in this. Well, the idea maybe, although that’s not sure either–there likely has been an artist out there who had the same idea before me–I have not done an investigation, because it doesn’t matter; the message is the same, or even stronger then. But maybe more important, especially, even actually creating these artworks is far from unique or creative. A bit of a recursive joke: showing that pure ‘blank slate’ originality and creativity in art do not exist, by making a number of very far-from-original artworks in a pretty uncreative way. That’s why.

There is no blank slate, either blank canvas or blank sculpture, in art!

That is the whole point. QED

And, maybe most important: it doesn’t matter. It still gives me joy to be engaged in creating these artworks, anyway.

April 2021

Rediscovered the ideas of Marcel Duchamp about reality

Case discovers a parallel between some of Marcel Duchamps ideas about art and his own.

Duchamp started as an artist in a time of breakthrough scientific discoveries, such as relativity (by Albert Einstein, 1905) and the fourth dimension (by Theodor Kaluza, 1919). And of course, quantum mechanics, introducing the notion of uncertainty in science (Werner Heisenberg, Niels Bohr, many others). These insights dramatically changed our ideas about reality … and who we are, just like Copernicus’ ideas did in the Middle Ages.

Fountain, Marcel Duchamp, 1917

Fountain, Marcel Duchamp, 1917

(Courtesy: Wikipedia, PD)

Duchamps interpretation was that there is no absolute truth in art. It inspired him to challenge the traditional rigid prescriptions about what is art and what not. No juries, no rejections: Nude descending a staircase (about reductionism in art), The large glass (about the unknown, the fourth dimension), Three standard stoppages (about uncertainty and coincidence in art), The fountain (about defining art and antiart), Étant donnés (about the beholder’s share). 

Case starts as an artist in the wake of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Quantum Computing (QC), which will change our reality and ideas about who we are … once more. So, what is art in the 21st Century, in the age of AI and QC? What will be its role in creating realities that shape ourselves?

March 2021

Started reading Eric Kandel’s “Reductionism in Art and Brain Science”

See this story. Or click the image:

Eric Kandel Reductionism in Art and Brain Science

Feb 2021

Started studies for “On the shoulders of …”

Studio, Amsterdam

Les Demoiselles d’Avignon By Pablo Picasso - Maurice Raynal, Picasso, 1921, PD-USStudy for On the shoulders of Picasso

Study for On the Shoulders of Picasso, Procreate on iPad

(Courtesy: Les Demoiselles d’Avignon by Pablo Picasso – Maurice Raynal, Picasso, 1921, PD-US)

Rock painting at Cueva de las Manos (image by Mariano Cecowsky)Study for On the shoulders of caveman

Study for On the Shoulders of caveman, Procreate on iPad

(Courtesy: Cueva de las Manos image by Mariano Cecowsky)

The basic idea for these artworks is simple: in our art, we try to ignore our inspiration, to ‘overwrite’ our predecessors. Trying to convince ourselves, as artists, that we start with a blank slate. But we always fail.

Eg. “On the Shoulders of Caveman” is inspired by the beautiful hand paintings at the Cueva de las Manos in Argentina, dated about 7300 BC, ie. more than 9,000 years old.

Jan 2021

First sketches on paper, well, … on iPad

Studio, Amsterdam

Way of working at Amsterdam studio
Way of working at Amsterdam studio

Dec 2020

Idea conception after reading Steven Pinker’s book The Blank Slate

In the last decade – 2010 to 2020 – Case spent quite some time and effort on studying the brain. One big conclusion from his studies is how the brain creates its own realities, as a survival organ. Case wants to make this a leading theme of his art, but has no clue how, and what it means for his voice in art.

After reading, Steven Pinker’s book The Blank Slate, Case is thinking about his voice in art, again. During a Christmas party, it dawns to Case that there is no blank slate in art, despite our illusions about creativity and uniqueness. All art builds upon our predecessors. That is a great theme for his first art project.

The Blank Slate by Steven Pinker

In the book, “Pinker argues that the dogma that the mind has no innate traits – a doctrine held by many intellectuals during the past century – denies our common humanity and our individual preferences, replaces objective analyses of social problems with feel-good slogans, and distorts our understanding of politics, violence, parenting, and the arts. Injecting calm and rationality into debates that are notorious for ax-grinding and mud-slinging, Pinker shows the importance of an honest acknowledgment of human nature based on science and common sense.”

In Case’s words, we tend to create our own – mostly feel-good – realities, esp. when we try to understand human nature. The big question, now, is whether that is a good or a bad thing, and why. Or, is there a solution in between?

Blank Slate video

A few short impressions of the making of On the shoulders of Davinci no.1. The first artwork in this project. The painting is made of a straightforward IKEA printed canvas, that Case has spanned on a wooden frame. All this, to demonstrate the idea of un-originality and un-creativity. Simple. Effective. Antiart? No. Art with a message. Conceptual art, maybe. Later the spanned canvas will be painted white by Case. Followed by an impression from Case’s Instagram and Twitter posts about the making of On the shoulders of Davinci No.1.

Here’s an artistic impression (no sound) from Case’s Instagram and Twitter posts about the making of On the shoulders of Davinci No.1.

Blank Slate artworks


Sorry. There are no completed works yet in this project.