The idea of sketching to describe something is not new but to use the concept to find imagery online is experimental. A new search engine based on this idea is very much in the experimental stage. Retrievr allows the user to find related Flickr images by drawing a sketch.

It is not a case of if you are looking for a picture of a rose you can find it. The application matches large shapes and colors in other words compositional elements in an image. I found it fascinating as I sketched in basic compositional divisions of a page and watched what came up. It’s one of those things that for me turned into a way to switch to neutral and just enjoy experimenting with imagery. I first just played around with black and white then I mucked about with primitive sketches.

This is what I found during my experiments. The large box on the left is a rough drawing of a general landscape just blocking in areas. The four little images on the right is what was found. It’s a long way from being a search engine as such, but boy what a lovely source of inspiration when you feel a bit dead headed.

The nuts and bolts behind the scene is run by python but it is fascinating to see the path that this is taking in combination with tagging, RSS and social software I get quite excited about this. I am not about to go all geeky on you, but it’s all interesting stuff to me. I am constantly fascinated not by the technology as such, but how people use the technology.


  1. You can set the copyright level you wish on flickr. As with any image on the web it is wrong to simply use it. Retrivr doesnot capture it – it simply displays the image.

    I always check the copyright level. Some people don’t mind or ask for a link back etc It is right to remind people to do so however.

  2. Retrievr…
    does it capture images that the owner might not want you to use?
    as in copyrighted?
    a good reason NOT to use Flickr if theft by right-click is a worry for artists (a term that includes photographers).

  3. Damn you Sharon – I’ve been playing with Retriever all night while my chores sit idle! Then my two fellas came along and decided they’d like to have a go at it too! Ah the inspiration and design possibilities! It’s fascinating what comes up. Seriously, THANK YOU for passing along this most interesting site.


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