Darts for Keith

Welcome back all you faithful Orbit Trap fans to this week’s episode of, “Image of the Week”.

Well, as you may have guessed from the title, this review is not going to be pretty. Keep your shoes on. There’s plenty of broken glass around in here.

As usual, I was surfing along on my way to something else when I hit this rock. Ouch.

I probably would have just gotten back on my surfboard and zipped away, except for all the contortionist back slapping going on and the hallowed heights this particular image was being raised up to. Keith was named as “Artist of the Month” there on Renderosity for May, and in the little write-up they had on him, he described this image as his “most recent favorite”.

Rainbow Garden by Keith Mackay (Deagol on Renderosity)

As many people in the fractal art world are aware, Keith has done some very impressive work assembling fractal images to make up complex scenes like coral reefs (complete with fish) and flower-like arrangements that are very eyecatching, unique and popular. I’m not knocking the guy for those, because for work like that Keith really is an example for others to study and ought to be praised for it. That sort of work isn’t easy to do and requires real technical skill and opens up all sorts of creative possibilities for fractal artists.

But the image he describes here as his “most recent favorite” embodies everything that I think makes Fractal Art cliche and boring.

It’s not because it’s a spiral. Spirals can be a very versatile and fertile sub-genre of their own and are capable of producing new and interesting imagery (in what has now become a classic fractal theme) when dealt with in creative ways (note the word, “creative”). This one here, however, doesn’t show any of that sort of creativity and is just a very dull, and uninteresting spiral. The coloring (which is often what saves mediocre work like this) isn’t particularly interesting or creative either. What is this thing good for?

The Fractal Universe Calendar! It wouldn’t even look out of place if it was featured on the cover.

It’s funny. I guess I must be the only person who didn’t know this image had already been picked for the 2009 Fractal Universe Calendar. I wasn’t even aware of that when I started to write this posting. It wasn’t until I went looking for links to include that I started to read some of the (very flattering) comments posted on its gallery page on Renderosity. (Whoa. A lot of folks really love this one!) One of those comments congratulated Keith on having the image chosen for – the cover! That’s how and when I discovered that what I had been joking about in my posting had already become reality.

“The stuff piles up so fast in the Fractal Art World you need wings to stay above it” (Martin Sheen, Apocalypse Now, …more or less).

Why don’t they put some of Keith’s good stuff in the Calendar? Keith also makes artwork that is very professional looking and original. His fractal flame assemblages I mentioned earlier, although not really my sort of thing, personally, have a thousand times more creativity and interest to them than these cheap plastic pinwheels. Can it really be that people would rather look at those worthless spirals instead? Why not just one image that’s a little different? It would sure make the “horrendous” job of editing easier. At least it wouldn’t be so hard to tell the images apart when they’re “sorting” them.

I can honestly say that I consider the Fractal Universe Calendar to be an embarrassment to Fractal Art. It’s not even good eyecandy, its just a lot of mediocrity, rehashed year after year; variations on a theme that was already boring 10 years ago. All it’s doing is perpetuating the stereotypical image that people have of fractal art as being stupid wispy spirals. Keith’s front cover up there is a prime example of what has come to be an annual collection of the most shallow, juvenile, tasteless fractal art imaginable.

Well, there you have it folks. That’s all the time we have tonight. Tune in next week for another fresh and never before seen episode of Image of the Week.

Technorati Tags:

How comments work: After the approval of your very first comment you will be able to post future comments immediately to any posting. Any username or fictitious email is good enough.

11 thoughts on “Darts for Keith

  1. Tim, I feel your pain. I get the same feeling when people call Kenny G a “jazz saxophonist”. Makes me want to knock some heads together and shout “WAKE UP”!! What about the greats like Trane and Bird and Eric Dolphy, who pumped sweat and genius into the empty air?

    I admit that I sometimes make square images in gaudy colors (notwithstanding that almost all my images use gaudy colors) with the calendar in mind. This probably limits me, but it is a (mostly) conscious choice. It is a shame that some of Keith’s other images, to which you refer, haven’t a snowball’s chance in hell of gracing the FU Calendar (dangerous to use the acronym), but no one ever said that life was fair. Unfortunately the art world is full of easy listening and eye candy, and as long as such sells it is hard to fault the bagmen for doing what comes naturally.


  2. Yeah, yeah, yeah… “The Devil makes us do it!”

    The “art world” isn’t full of eyecandy. Maybe your art world is, though.

    You folks seem to think that the biggest thing in the world is getting published in some cheap drugstore calendar like the Fractal Universe.

  3. Toby,

    By shrugging your shoulders and accepting the mundane inevitability of (your take on) the commercial art world, you let everyone, including yourself, off the hook far too easily.

    Are you saying Keith was forced to make fractal junk food because such genericness is what the calendar editors and publisher require? But Keith was one of the editors. Moreover, he described the reviewed image as his “most recent favorite.” That doesn’t sound like a compromise. That sounds like complicity.

    And the unfair world is filled with fractal zombie eye candy because that is what “sells,” so why struggle against one’s aesthetic fetters…says Toby who admits consciously pumping out workaday spirals himself to better maintain his favored position in the ruling fractal art hierarchy.

    But, as usual, you’re only here to blow more smoke to cover up the real questions. Like:

    Why does the FU Calendar have to be run as a competition instead of a traditional publishing venture?

    Why can’t the editor(s) be monetarily paid for services instead of courting conflicts of interest by having their own art included in the final product?

    If the editor(s) don’t enjoy insider privileges, then why was just over 40% of the selected FU Calendar art from 2004-2008 the work of only four current and past editors?

    Why will neither the editor nor the publisher respond to any of the issues Orbit Trap has raised and brought to their attention in posts, emails, and personal letters?

    And, most critically, why do you and others protest so strongly against having the two main fractal art competitions being run using conventional and professionally accepted protocols in order to better insure fairness?

    Once again, our adversaries are quick to blame all the problems of the FU Calendar on its taste-impaired publisher, just as the same crowd conveniently places the BMFAC’s many troubles at the feet of its intractable sponsors.

    No one forced the editors, judges, and director to agree to terms that trashed their ethics for personal gain. And, Toby, no one’s coercing you or anyone else to make music like Kenny G’s by churning out another undead, oversaturated spiral.

  4. Philip,

    That’s a good one…

    Just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in.
    –Al Pacino as Michael Corleone in The Godfather, Part III

  5. Well guys, I am always up to (or down to, as the case may be) a challenge. I managed to get April for 2010 in the calendar, and I don’t really care. I find it amusing that I could jump through the right hoops, but I hardly consider that image as great art.

    Enough of smoke blowing. Let’s tackle your questions. The second and third are contingent on the first, so let’s start at the beginning:

    Q: Why does the FU Calendar have to be run as a competition instead of a traditional publishing venture?

    You would suggest what? The publishers should contract with artists of their choice to produce images specifically for the calendar? The way they do it makes perfect sense: cull a bunch of images from eager “artists” and choose the ones that fit their requirements. Have a willing editor or editors eliminate a large percentage of entries that obviously won’t make the cut and then choose 12 out of 200 or so.

    I don’t get your problem with this.
    Nobody at Avalanche makes any pretenses that this is a competition, they simply want images for their calendar: it is the artists themselves who have turned it into a faux-competition.

    And since there is no competition, except in your fevered imaginations, there are no need for any “professionally-accepted protocols”, and your second and third questions are moot.

    It is, after all, in your own words a “cheap drugstore calendar”, and no earth-shaking art event…

    As to your fourth question: I think it is pretty obvious that those people regard you as nothing more than a nuisance to be ignored, and probably wonder (as do I) just what you are on about with all this nonsense about a competition.

    Can you show me anywhere, anywhere at all, where the publishers or the editors refer to the submission process for the calendar as a competition?

    I’m not against fairness in competition, if there is a competition.

    And I don’t think that it is a question of anyone trashing their own ethics. I believe that the publishers actually *like* the images they select, or, more cold-bloodedly, at least assume that the calendar-buying public will like them, and so far they seem to have been proven correct.


    “The optimist believes we live in the best of all possible worlds; the pessimist fears that this might be true.”

  6. Toby,

    I think Orbit Trap’s readers are savvy. So, I prefer to just let them:

    –make their own call as to whether the FU Calendar editor(s) and publisher screen and select their entries using a competitive process.

    –ask themselves what these same editor(s) and publisher have to gain by openly denying their competition is a competition.

    –come to see that the problem is not whether the editors like the selected art, but that the editors are able to select their own art (see also: judges, BMFAC).

    –risk being a nuisance and continue to call for OT’s questions being answered by the people who were directly asked — that is, the calendar’s publisher and/or current editor — instead of having to rely solely on your suppositions.

  7. Toby,

    It took a while for this passage in your previous comment to sink in:

    I managed to get April for 2010 in the calendar, and I don’t really care. I find it amusing that I could jump through the right hoops, but I hardly consider that image as great art.

    So, the 2010 Fractal Universe Calendar’s selections have already been made? And you scored April? Congratulations. Hopefully, all the winners will soon be announced. I know our crack staff here at OT is anxiously awaiting the results.

    But, from past experience, I’m not holding my breath that either the editor or the publisher will be contacting us with the details anytime soon.

    It certainly looks like your public support of the FU project has paid off nicely. Wasn’t the deadline May 10th? So, in less than twenty days, the editor, doing the judging that was formerly done by two people, has carefully sifted through more than 600-700 images, and “the publishing team” at Avalanche has meticulously plowed through the 200 survivors she screened for them. That’s some efficient judging — especially considering the spin from past editors that the Avalanche judges peruse and rigorously study all the (discarded) cutting edge entries.

    And I’m sure the FUC folks will greatly appreciate your dedication to the worthiness of their cause. After all, you submitted to this year’s FU Calendar (how many images? ten?) but “don’t really care.” One might ask: then, why bother? Is it merely to further develop an ironic, detached, and pass-me-the-sunglasses attitude? Surely not. You’re just “amused” that you can “jump through the right hoops.” I get it. What a bunch of tools they all are. Now you can sit back and smirk at the marks — and maybe even chuckle under your breath as you deposit your $200 check.

    And, although you were one of the contest winners, you “hardly consider” your accepted image “as great art.” It’s good to see you’re so in touch with your own creative process. Maybe you can even serve as a role model for all of us to emulate: to deliberately strive to produce what we admit is commercialized schlock, and then shrug dismissively when we have the good fortune to place our self-proclaimed crap in a mass market product.

    Yes. I’d say you’ve shown us a snapshot of the soul of the artist we should all endeavor to become.

  8. Guys,

    Here is a link to the images selected, so that you can have a look and heap scorn upon them:


    As far as sorting through images: those Avalanche people do that for a living. My photo agency can go through 1000 of my images in a day (and reject all the good ones) without breaking a sweat. And as for the $200 check–it is really chicken feed compared to what I get for photos, which are not even chosen through a “competition” and are much less work to make.

    It’s funny, you know. A couple of years back when I first “made the calendar” it seemed like something grand. A nice ego moment. “Wow, I must be a ‘real’ artist! I made the calendar!” I geared up and cranked out the obligatory 10 images the next year, sure of continuing victory–and fell flat.

    I was shocked. What? All those SUPERB images, and the fools at Avalanche can’t see what they’re missing? Not only did I give up on “calendar images”, I stopped doing fractals for a while.

    Halfheartedly I submitted some images the next year. Bust again. The next year I didn’t even submit anything.

    This last year I made a few interesting things that I liked while beta testing some new colorings and decided that they were worth sharing on ‘rosity. When the calendar call came I tweaked them a bit and submitted them for fun. And hey presto!

    The accomplishment that I am most proud of is not caring one way or the other. My fractal happiness consists of creating images which give me joy and serve as reminders for me of a greater reality and truth. If they also give something to others then so much the better. I also love creating good tools (formulae) and sharing them with others, so as to empower them in their own pursuits.

    I am very glad that my whining and petty ego no longer has the upper hand in these pursuits: like the fisherman’s wife always complaining, never satisfied. I am finally free (usually) to create or not create in a pleasant state of mind, without worry or anger or jealousy. I heartily wish the same for you.


  9. Toby,

    We wish you well, too. We worry about your apparent personality disorder. We never know which Toby is going to show up. Will it be:

    a) the Zen master who is one with the fractal universe, or
    b) the ironic, detached hipster who doesn’t give a shit about anything, or
    c) the compulsive biographer who — whatever the issue — slips in rambling analogies to his own life story, or
    d) the press secretary cum propagandist who argues the FU Calendar is not a contest and offers as proof only that the editor and publisher say it is not a contest?

    I’m voting for d). Like any good press secretary, you never let self-evident actions or plain facts get you off message or interrupt the flow of your flacking.

    You keep saying you “don’t care,” yet here you are at OT again and again — spinning and re-spinning the same party line.

    Congratulations, once more, for being named Miss April. Keep up the good PR work, and who knows? You might even cop the cover next year.

Comments are closed.