Dear Diary,

I’ve been thinking recently about the creative explosion of Mandelbulbs and Mandelboxes.  Sometimes, I think they represent the latest new wave in fractal art.  Other times, I wonder if they are just the latest it iteration.  After a few thousand bulbs and boxes replete the gallery coffers of Fractalbook, will these once novel forms be yesterday’s quats and flames?

I do enjoy looking at them though.

Your Penpal


Dear Diary,

I’m not surprised that folks gave up trying to talk sense to Chris Oldfield (milleniumsentry) about his production of (I guess) pure fractals in their "native environment" of Ultra Fractal.  Oldfield, like those unknown sources in the Bush Administration, prefers to "create his own reality."  If Oldfield thinks something, that thought is immediately reified as truth.  If Oldfield believes that permission must be obtained to use one of his images, then it must be definitively so.  No amount of time spent pointing out that Fair Use exceptions in copyright law allow such reproduction for the purposes of reviews or satire will change his closed mind.  He’d rather have you believe that Tim and I are rude for displaying images while writing a blog of fractal art criticism.

Likewise, Oldfield has drunk the UF kool-aid from a Big Gulp cup.  UF’s greatest achievement, I think, was winning the propaganda war — that is, building graphic processing features into their software while simultaneously convincing UF users they are not really doing any graphics processing at all.  See, it’s that unique "native environment" that allows UF users to layer fractals like Pringles and import static media like a photograph but still churn out a bona fide "fractal" — even if, technically, the result is now a collage — an algorithmic mash-up. 

And I still occasionally see this proud disclaimer on Fractalbook: "Made with UF.  100(+) layers.  No post-processing."

Let’s see if I understand the dynamic here. Because Oldfield used the Photoshop-Lite features built into UF, his "fractal" is pure as the driven pixel?  But, if I use Photoshop, whose filters also run using algorithms, I’m creating a kind of bastardized, non-fractal, digital-like art?

Not even UF enthusiast Damien M. Jones believes that hype.  

Personally, I agree with Terry W. Gintz’s observation:

It is pointless to continue to argue that rendering layers of fractals is some kind of advanced or superior approach to fractal generation, or that one program is all you need to create great fractals. It is a great selling point for the benefit of fractal novices, and to eliminate the excess fractal programmer population, but it does nothing to advance the science of fractal imaging.

By the way, I wrote this part of my blog post directly in Dreamweaver.  389 words.  No post-processing.

Your Penpal


Dear Diary,

I’m a little dismayed that at least one of the Bulbers-Boxers reverted to some very old wave thinking in an OT comment.  Ker2x, responding to an image by Oldfield, notes:

Btw… it still look nice, but i have no interest in this kind of artwork.
i like the beauty we can (surprisingly) find in mathematic and chaos.

To paraphrase: My fractal is purer than yours — even if you’ve just spent considerable time arguing how pure yours is.  Mine is 100% algorithmic-mathematical-fractal.  Yours is a "derivative."  Mine is right and true and good.  Yours is "this kind of artwork."

I have little patience for such braggadocio elitism.  It sticks in my craw when the UF cultists pull this stunt.  It’s just as unbecoming when it surfaces in the Boxer-Bulber crowd.

You made an aesthetic choice, dude, revolving around the extent of your use of graphics processing.  That choice doesn’t make you somehow nobler than the rest of us who’ve consciously made a different choice than yours.

Your Penpal


Dear Diary,

What Oldfield probably doesn’t realize is that I’m actually on his side.  If he wants to produce fractal stratum, whether purely or impurely, I say go for it.  Supercollide your fractals to pulp, for all I care.  My thinking has always been to do whatever’s necessary to get the art you want.  My maxim:  More talk about art.  Less talk about purity.

I’ve already outlined my thoughts about the aesthetic choices one can make while navigating the sliding scale between algorithmic art and graphically processed art in this exchange with Tim.  No need to rehash here.

I have no beef with fractalists who want to mask and layer and process until the seahorses come home.  My gripe is with those who insist their tools are somehow special and thus elevate them to a higher plane where the air is more rarefied than the processed smog we derivative losers are forced to breathe.

Your Penpal


Dear Diary,

I’ve been thinking about this post (nearly two years ago now) by Tim where he worries that Ultra Fractal is increasingly becoming a program "for engineers only."  Tim observes that

A lot of work has gone into Ultra Fractal, and from the looks of Ultra Fractal 5, a lot of work is continuing to go into it. But what I question is whether that work is making Ultra Fractal a better tool for the average user to make fractal art or is simply making a better tool for the developers and beta testers to play with and “oooh” and “aaah” over. Ultra Fractal 5 strikes me as the fractal programmer’s fractal program.

I wonder how many of UF’s users lost their bearings in the move from v4 to v5?  How many of those users lack the programming mindset and instead make fractal art by an instinctive process using serendipity?  Are they now cast overboard — left to drown unless they quickly enroll in a Visual Arts Academy UF course in order to re-learn the basic operating procedures for their tools? 

This sounds like a deliberate marketing strategy to me.  Here’s betting that UF v6 will need the coursework for an advanced degree to decode its inner workings.

Or is there just no place for serendipity in fractal art anymore?  If not, then let’s see no more work by artists, please.  The work of the makers of brushes and paints and canvases will be satisfactory enough, thank you.

Your Penpal


Dear Diary,

I worry that Fractalbookers think I dislike them.  I don’t.  Mostly.  But I really dislike the environmental trappings of Fractalbook.

Fractalbook is fine for social interaction — for getting artistic tips and advice — for having your ego massaged daily — for self-declaring yourself a master.  But it’s lousy place to showcase your art.

Especially to outsiders.  As a virtual museum, Fractalbook is far too muddled — mostly extolling social networking accouterments and oodles of self-promotion.  Take deviantART (please!).  How’s your art look against that puce background and officious busyness exploding from every available pixel?  At least Renderosity has the good sense to use a black background.  Now, if only those vampy sorceresses and seductive Indian princesses in their underwear weren’t enticing visitors from the borders of nearly every frame.

I see good art on these places all the time, but I’m reluctant to send OT’s readers into these cluttered lairs of virtual ass-kissing and unfettered commercialism.  Is this really how you want people (and your virtual friends swooning over your every render don’t count) to see your work?  You do have a web site or a blog, right?  A safe and quiet haven where the public can reflect on your work without virtual saturation barrage fire, yes?

No?  Then I suggest you’re more interested in hanging out with your laudatory friends than having art lovers hang out with your work.

Your Penpal



5 thoughts on “Diaries

  1. Serendipity is the key word. It’s gone.

    I am one of these that ignored UF5, whatever seems to be the “new” features there didn’t attract me at all, at least for the kind of “art” I like to make (quotation marks needed more than anything else). Importing pictures? Ugh.

    “Look at the result; if it moves you – great, if it doesn’t – just move on.”

  2. If “fractals” must be considered a form of art, then the technique used by the artist should be of secondary importance. And each technique should be considered good and valid for its scope: single layer, multiple layers, light or heavy “post-processing”, etc. In the “official art”, an oil painting is not considered better than a watercolour, basing only on the technique. Of course, there are good and bad works, in each case.
    I must admit that “pure” fractal images, even those from the most sophisticated software (UF, I mean) appear in most cases as exercises of digital image composition, rather than expressive creations. They are beautiful, wonderful images, without a soul. And a piece of art must have a soul, otherwise it is simply a (beautiful) picture. The so called “post-processing”, even if it is done by means of other programs (comparable with the fractal generators), can add a personal touch, an unique style, a more definite character. The digital manipulation is not a the safe way to “infuse a soul” into a fractal image, but often a manipulated image is much more interesting (not necessarily “beautiful”) than untouched images. I think that the post-processing makes the digital creations much more similar, not only in appearance, to the traditional art, though digital and traditional art are, and must be kept, distinct.
    However, post-processing should respect the original fractal nature of images. The visual impact of fractals is mostly due to their iterative nature and repeated patterns. If we want that fractal art shows fractal properties, then post-processing cannot be so much heavy to demolish the original fractal pattern.

  3. Esin,

    I’ve heard this same argument before from other UF users — usually under the rationale of “mastering one’s tools.” I can respect such an achievement as a craft exercise. But is one’s art made better by such self-imposed limitations? Shouldn’t that be the real question?

    Besides, it’s more the self-satisfied attitude I deplore than the act itself. My point was that it’s all similar graphics processing anyway, so, even if doing such work in UF rather than Photoshop might be more difficult and time-consuming, it isn’t inherently more fractal — and certainly not more noble.


  4. While I don’t embrace purism at all (at least in the context of fractals), I feel like the “no post-processing” note is more likely boasting about having enough “skill” to pull off the necessary post-processing effects within the program rather than boasting about never have touched photoshop, ever. UF isn’t always flexible with minor adjustments like that and previews can be very misleading, so pulling off necessary contrast and sharpening adjustments right from UF are indeed “skills”, however pointless and time consuming as I personally think they are. So I find that’s really a side-info that the artist spends a ridiculous amount of time on something they could’ve done in just a few minutes. Look at the result; if it moves you – great, if it doesn’t – just move on.

  5. Dear cruelanimal, thank you for quoting me :)

    As you wrote, i made an “aesthetic choice”, dude.
    I like his artwork, but i’m more interested by the fractal itself than the “artwork”, the “pixelcrafting”, the “that kind of artwork” because i don’t know how to call it. So, ok, “look good, but not my thing. kthxbye”. (i could say the same about building architecture : i recognize that some building are very nice but i just don’t care about how it was made, when, why, who, etc …)

    For me, it’s not all about “how nice does it look ?”. As an exemple, i love the lyapunov fractal : http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lyapunov_fractal even if the result is far from being “nice”.

    Your paraphrase is a false assumption.
    If you want to blame the “Boxer-bulber” for just clicking in a cool software, and producing cool result without pain, without bloging about it, without research, criticism, withtout artistic spirit, or whatever, do it.
    But you shouldn’t need me (or anyone) as an excuse to do it.

    PS : i’m not an artist, i’m a UNIX sysadmin that whisper to computers and dream about datacenters.


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