The Varieties of Fractal Experience

There’s a theme that binds all these images together but I can’t seem to find the right words for it.  Freaky; harmonic; other worldly; sacred symbols; journey into mystery: they all fit for some but not for all.  I guess variety is best; with a play on the famous book by Henry James, The Variety of Religious Experience.  There’s a cult-like, mystical weirdness to these –an attractive kind of quicksand.  Perhaps it can’t be described.  Perhaps it shouldn’t — it mustn’t!

~Click on images to view full-size on their original site~

Some old thing by Brutaltoad

Description: I had this old picture lyin’ around an I thougt it would make a great present for the mandelbulb’s birthday <3

happy birthday, Mandelbulb!

That’s from the gallery page on  It never ceases to amaze me how often the folks at (FFs) stumble across great looking artwork and then casually move on to some deep technical discussion.    I call this one, Return of the Overlords.  Ancient astronauts; landing pads in the Andes; road to the moon.

This was posted in Nov. 2011 and even then was considered retro by its author.  I think it’s one of the best of the early mandelbulb images.  The mandelbulb wasn’t anywhere as interesting, visually, as the things it gave birth to.  But BrutalToad has managed to nudge it into a higher orbit, primarily, it seems, through color and background texture in addition to the nice scene selection as well.  The shadow is a nice touch.

Sacred Maths by Tabasco Raremaster

This one inspired the theme for the whole posting.  Posted just a few weeks ago on FFs it suggests a mathematical, geometrical religious icon.  You’ll note that the five “snowflakes” are each different and yet a variation of the same theme.

Normally fractals produce similar things since that’s one of the main, expected characteristics of fractals.  Of course, things have gotten much more sophisticated lately and this is a good example.  The different shapes suggests human and not algorithmic creation which again gives it a strange feel for a fractal.

Back in classical times geometry and other mathematical subjects were seen by some as semi-religious topics and became part of the culture of a number of religious cults and societies.  It seems ironic to our modern minds that science would inspire thoughts of the supernatural but the topic does pop up from time to time in online discussions about fractals and so the theme, and the title of this image, needs little explanation.

Chinese Royal Doll by Milan Dobrojevic

The alien-ness of fractal art can be clearly seen in this image.  I’m guessing that it was either made in Steven Ferguson’s Sterlingware or Fractal Explorer using one of his formulas.  I’ve never been able to understand why programs like Sterlingware (Sterling; Sterling-Ware…) are used so little by fractal artists since they produce such creative imagery and do it so easily too.  It’s another one of those fractal art things that requires deeper explanation and contemplation, I guess.

From the phone number on his website,, Milan is located in Serbia, part of the former Yugoslavia.  He seems to be very active in a number of fractal related activities and businesses.

It’s a joke now to say that one could stare at an image all day, but for this one by Milan it’s almost true.  Of course, if you have the program you can zoom into it and explore it in great detail which is what people do in art galleries when they move in and look closely at artwork.  One of the things that makes fractals so unusual is this visual playground aspect to them.  It’s almost as if they’re a landscape and the images we see of them are mere snapshots.

Cover Photo 1 by Fractal Art Gallery

I found this one on Facebook, a rather new source of fractal art for me.  This is a brilliant example of how accidentally wonderful 2D fractals can be.  Eyes, hair, fingers; and all that simply from the isolated context all three of these elements find themselves in, in this one selection.

I couldn’t figure out who actually made this image and I had to make up a title for it as well.  Despite the endless self-promotion on Facebook and the flood of junk one has to wade through to find something interesting, I found this and the author is anonymous.

The Paper Caper by Pauldelbrot

According to the gallery page, this is a 2D Mandelbox.  The intriguing details are not so easily seen in this low-res version but it’s good enough to display the contrasting patterns that make this image so… mysterious.

It’s like a big fractal web press printing out little fractals.  Pauldelbrot specializes in these “retro” type images but he gets interesting results because he explores advanced variations of them.  The old style, flat fractals were never a dead end, creatively, they simply require artists with a good grasp of their 2D potential.

Anyhow, Pauldelbrot has flattened the mandelbox.  It’s forwards and backwards at the same time.  Just goes to show there’s always something new and exciting in fractal art if you can think creatively.

The Wall at Sunrise by Tim Emit

Do you think this thing is fascinating?  If you don’t then we clearly don’t share the same tastes in fractal art.  I was stunned when I first saw this on FFs.

To me it’s a stage, and in some strange way that defies logic, there are two lights shining on it.  The patterns and wide variety of them make this one that’s well worth taking a closer look at.

But even in large view the image is great.  Maybe that’s what a great fractal image is: good art at every scale.  The name, “Tim Emit” rings a bell.  Could he be the famous “timemit”?  You can see now why the fractal world needs a phonebook.

It’s a stage that needs no performers because the show is the concert hall itself.  The audience; the orchestra; the curtains; even the backdrop are part of the show.  Should I mention that it didn’t get a single comment on FFs and I was the only one to rate it?  Another mark of greatness in the fractal world.

crystalRock by Tom Lowe

I think I was doing the right thing when I gave Tom Lowe the very first Nobel Prize for Fractal Art; now he’s gone on to create 3D cellular automata.  If you click on the image up there you’ll go to the page that talks about it on his own website for Automata Finder.

Cellular automata are extremely weird as well as being a natural phenomenon.  Seeing one in 3D, or what appears to be 3D is disorienting in a wonderstruck way.

Advantages of this algorithm over standard cellular automata:
  • The automata is embedded in a continuous space and continuous time
  • It can be simulated at any level of detail, allowing it to be simulated in the distance or up close
  • Results are often ‘dynamic fractals’ with the small features changing more quickly than the large features, this matches nature quite frequently

(That’s from Tom’s Automata Finder webpage.)

“Embedded in a continuous space and continuous time”  “Dynamic fractals” — this is the sort of creeping number monster that cellular automata (CA) are, but Tom has jumped the gap and created a the equivalent of a walking Frankenstein.  Although I’m not actually sure about that because I didn’t understand most of what he’s saying on the page.  But that’s what I saw in the video.


Not the sort of thing I’ve ever seen Mandelwerk (Johan Andersson on Deviant Art) make, but this is really a fantastic image for it’s imagery and also the inclusion of wireframe elements.  This is quite ironic when you read the notes from the gallery page:

Just wanted to show you what it looks like when I arrive for a days work at MB3D.

The arrival to a new 3D hybrid fractal world (on a lucky day)

Normally I never submit these kind of first arrival overview renders, but I always do one big to be able to see where the interesting shapes are (if there are any) before I zoom in and get the disposition right. ;)

Clic on the image and check out the full view image, and you might understand how it feels…

A mandelbox in jeans and a t-shirt.  There was a time when jeans and t-shirts weren’t fashionable.  Maybe this will be the next big thing in mandelbox fashions?

Portable Stage Play by FractalJam

Crumbleton Rooftop Terrace by FractalJam

I’ve reviewed an image similar to this by FractalJam in a recent post.  The upper one is the weirdest; they both look like some sort of elegant coffee table but the upper one has what looks to be a snowy forest diorama inside of it.  The lower one is more tropical and suggests a palm tree in the center of the top surface.

They’re very unique mandelboxes as well as very bizarre furniture things.  The coloring in the top one is exceptional.  One doesn’t often find such a combination of intense detail beside areas of no detail.  They complement each other.  I think it’s also a rule of design or something.

Beyond the Familiar, Into the Unknown by dainbramage

The compositioning here emphasizes the central ball node and the koch-like pattern on it.  I think that’s how it works.  The lighting just magnifies that effect.  This type of image is usually dull and monotonous but this one speaks and beams “enlightenment”.  The mark of mystery, the sound of silence; cave of the cosmic tree!  And the tree is covered with trees… the cave itself is a big tree… Where are the leaves?  Our thoughts about the tree are it’s leaves.  How long does summer last around here?

Autumn Leaves by Trafassel

Herr Trafassel, the author of Gestaltlupe and his famous Journey to the Center of the Mandelbox is back again with this very victorian and ornate looking leafy spiral.  Is is a coincidence that it happens to be called “Autumn Leaves” and just happens to follow the previous image of the leafless trees?

On a more serious note, this is actually an image made with the original mandelbulb formula.  It doesn’t normally produce such rich imagery except in Trafassel’s own program, Gestaltlupe.  Or does he have magic powers?

Buddhabrot_moshiahobrot_talis by Alef

This is from a FFs thread discussing Problems with implementing Budhabrot in UF.  There’s a whole bunch of interesting little “rough” images in it.  The Buddhabrot is a very captivating fractal as it often displays this kind of hazy but ordered kind of imagery.  The ghostly appearance and similarity to images of the Buddha have made this fractal an image class of its own.  The golden glow, the obedient sparks; something dharmic this way comes!

Fractal collection by National Post

See any familiar formulas here?  There’s a few that resemble julia sets.  Must be made with UF I’d guess since I don’t know of any other program that gets you that shiny, metallic look so well except for XenoDream or Incendia.  What’s the connection here with the other images in the post?  I’m sure you can see it.  You might need to view the high-res version to be sure.

The Curvaceous Columns of Coldinica by Madman

This one is fresh from the oven, Dec 3rd.  There’s an interesting note on the FFs gallery page:

Description:  Just playing around with MJB’s DE Combinate Technique. Thanks Mark!

That’s MarkJayBee I believe.  Isn’t this the sort of Antarctic city buildings imagined in HP Lovecraft’s novella, At the Mountains of Madness?

At any rate, the shapes and combination concrete/glass/grid construction here is something I’ve never seen even in a 3D fractal.  Clearly, we haven’t reached the end of the varieties of fractal experience.


“DEcombinate in Inv Max mode using: Menger3/Transform2IFS/ColumnsIFS/Trans-qIFS/TilingIFS” –from the image notes on the DA page.

If you view the high-res (1,600px × 800px!) you’ll see the variety of forms from that list up there.  But just looking at the low-res you can easily see that this is something that produces categorically different shapes and imagery.  Quite an exciting development; this one is only from Nov. 16.

Desert Fortress by Kali

This is such a beautiful image and yet it may appear to some to just a new rendering of a common fractal pattern.  It’s made with Fragmentarium, a program made by Mikael Hvidtfeldt Christensen and maybe that’s what gives it its special, spectacular look.

Of course, it could have something to do with Kali, too, who is well known for his deeply weird —livingfractal creatures (and a scary worm, too).  Kali is one of those people who is constantly creating interesting artwork as well as extending the capabilities of the medium itself.

I have often found that its not the developers themselves who get the best results from their programs but rather some user who just seems to have an intuitive feel for what the program does best.  It’s probably the same way with musical instruments and power tools, too.

The desert image is a careful balance between the extremes of  mechanical perfection (i.e. monontony) and slick surface rendering (i.e. obliteration of the subject matter).  These two things meet at the place where they compliment each other and the simple fractal pattern is transformed into an extensive landscape of fractal sand sculptures; each slightly unique and yet connecting with the others in similarities of shape.

MB3D_0174_hd by 0Encrypted0

These are not your Dad’s fractals.  Yet another example of how the fractal art tools are evolving.  I had to look carefully to find something in this image which would connect it in any way to the rest of the 3D fractals I’ve seen.  From the comment on the FFs gallery page, “slon_ru” seemed to share the same sense of wonder:

Is it mandelbulb3d?!

The sophisticated colouring further disorients me because the “alien swizzle-sticks” appear to be individually coloured although a few seem to betray the standard method.  It received a 5-star rating by five members which is quite something these days on FFs.  Unlike DA, where the comments and feedback grow “like lard on a pig”, the FFs crowd seem to be more absorbed with solving the latest math and graphical rendering riddles than concerning themselves with “who’s watching me?”

pain observer by Jesse

Fractal Cabinet of Dr. Caligari; or Aladin’s cave?  Did I just say that the authors of fractal programs don’t usually make the best stuff with them?  I’m guessing that Jesse used his own program here and what a stylish, non-block-like scene he’s found.  The red and blue, Cecil B. de Mille, Carlsbad Caverns, amusement park lighting is caused by the little lightbulb sources that one can orient and adjust in the program.  Most use them to just add light, but Jesse has used them to paint the walls with glowing color.

Well, there you have it.  Expect bizarre new sights in the 3D fractal world in the coming year;  I’m seeing the addition of a few more gears to the fractal engine.  And maybe a few folks will rediscover the potential of those flat fractals.  Does that sound like crazy New Year’s tabloid predictions?

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