X-ray of art! Fracplanet 0.4.0

From the developer’s, Tim Day’s site:

Fracplanet is an interactive tool for creating random fractal planets and terrain areas with oceans, rivers, lakes and icecaps. The results can be exported as models to POV-Ray and to Blender, or as texture maps for more general usage. The code is licensed under the GPL. It uses Qt and OpenGL.

At the Sourceforge project page for Fracplanet, where you can download the program, this note, by Tim Day:

I’ve been using various versions of fracplanet for sometime now, and it’s extremely useful in creating planets. What you can use the program for is quite varied.

“What you can use the program for is quite varied.”  With that begins our x-ray of art.  Zzzz-zap!

But one more software detail.  I tried out Fracplanet with the hope that it might do what Terraform, another little project for drawing landscapes, used to do.  I say “used to do” because it no longer seems to be available as it’s been abandoned and no longer kept up to date with the latest compiling and other technical software things that are beyond my own reach and expertise at present –the versions are old and won’t run on the latest Linux releases.

Terraform could render eerie, x-ray moonscapes with relative ease.  Terragen, the well-known and highly capable landcape renderer, seems in-capable of doing this.  Why?

To put it into technical, graphical terms:  Why is wire-frame rendering not seen as the most important and best artistic use of a fractal terrain generator?

To most readers the answer is painfully obvious.  Who wants to look at wire frame imagery?  The whole purpose of terrain generators is to create realistic looking terrain, not retro graphics.

Which brings us back to the x-ray vision of art: “What you can use the program for is quite varied.”  That’s good because what I want to use the program for is not exactly what the program was designed to do.  Fracplanet, and Terraform (how I miss it!) were designed to do normal things like this:

Fracplanet 0.3.0 with terrain exported to POV-Ray and Blender. (from Tim Day's site)

Fracplanet 0.3.0 with terrain exported to POV-Ray and Blender. (from Tim Day’s site)

Neither Fracplanet or Terraform (RIP) advertise their wire frame features.  That’s because wire frame for most users is nothing more than a degraded version of an image presented for planning purposes.  Nobody intends to actually build landscapes out of wires –especially black and white, monochrome wires.  Like this:

This is art

This is art

Art?  In some ways, Fracplanet is better than Terraform because its default image shape is a sphere –a planet.  Sphere’s are circular and the circle is probably the most creative of all shapes by virtue of its great potential for doing all sorts of shape-y things.  Carl Jung, the high priest of 20th century abstract art, said it this way:

“The circle has had enduring psychological significance from the earliest expressions of human consciousness to the most sophisticated forms of 20th-century art.” Aniela Jaffe, ‘Symbolism in the Visual Arts’ Man and His Symbols (Carl Jung)

I guess he’s actually quoting Aniela Jaffe?  Here’s another “super-shape” quote:

“The circle is a symbol of the psyche (even Plato described the psyche as a sphere).” Aniela Jaffe, ‘Symbolism in the Visual Arts’ Man and His Symbols (Carl Jung)

I know it’s all psychology mumbo-jumbo, but it looks great when you mix it with art.  Circles have an extra dimension to them, visually speaking.  Who knows why?

Another question:  Why do fractal terrain developers never quote Carl Jung on their software sites?

Which brings us to this “x-ray” question about fractal art:  What is more important, the fractal or the art?

I mention this because although Fracplanet and Terragen (the Photoshop of terrain generators), use fractal algorithms in their creation of realistic looking landscapes, they aren’t really what I think most people would consider to be “fractal” programs and therefore “fractal art” programs either.

I was quite happy that Tim Day, the author of Fracplanet included “frac” in the title because that made it much more easy for me to pawn off whatever it could make under the label of “frac-tal” art.  Or is all landscape a type of fractal imagery and therefore fractal art of the most fractal-ish kind?

I don’t really care about the answers to questions like that.  Which leads me to ask the question:  Why don’t I care about the answers to questions like that?

It’s because what I’m really interested in is the imagery that fractal algorithms can produce and that includes the imagery that fractal algorithms can help in producing.  “Help” as in creating the initial imagery that can then be transformed and photo-shop-filtered into some sublime thing.  The frankenstein art of post-processing.

In that sense, the label, “fractal art” is as loosely applied to the output of a program like Ultra Fractal, a standard fractal art program, as it is applied to the output of Fracplanet –that is, if the goal is to produce art and not images for a science textbook.  To carry this thought a little further:  One ought to consider how “adulterated” and contaminated fractal art has always been since the very day fractal algorithms were given visible appearance.

There’s always been a touch of mystery in art when one thinks about it and especially when one attempts to explain it.  Call it “subjectivity” as in the phrase, “art is subjective”; but that is only the acknowledgement that art is oriented around the mind and not the tools that make it.  An art form defined by its toolset, its medium, is bound to be limited by “tools”.  That’s tools as in “you stupid tool”.

Great art is not the product of a great medium or of great tools.  Often it’s more of an accident or the result of someone like Roy Lichtenstein who saw something alluring and intriguing in making “paintings” of comic book images –the wire-frames of his times.

“What you can use the program for is quite varied.”  I think all developers are aware that what users will want to do with their programs will always extend beyond what it was they actually designed them to be used for.  And so, people have used Microsoft Excel to draw fractals instead of creating financial reports, and similarly “abused” the text-only capabilities of computer consoles to “draw” Ascii art instead of configuring their operating system.  Or Fracplanet to draw wire-worlds using the parameters in unnatural combinations:

Made in Fracplanet 0.4.0

This is more art made in Fracplanet 0.4.0

Fracplanet allows you to set the colors for several landscape features, mostly height-dependent like snow, mountains, hills, lowlands, shore, ocean –highest to lowest; but also rivers.  This allows one to create a two-color “monochrome” image.  It resembles a cheaply printed book illustration.

Screenshot from 2013-02-21 20:48:43

Yet more art made in Fracplanet 0.4.0

Altering the “Power Law” under the “Basics” tab allows for the generation of much more misshapen freaks of planetary nature such as this one.  That’s what power in the wrong hands will do!  The (so-called) “shore line” becomes the “frame of the ocean” and you can make it a transition color blending the land and sea together.  Note how the “planet” is now taking on the appearance of a microscopic dust particle.  Isn’t that ironic?  Or have I simply reduced a great program to nothing?

Is it better than the Mandelbulb?  That sounds ridiculous doesn’t it?  But really, such comparisons ultimately revolve around what it is that one wants to do with a program.  I’ve noticed that not everyone makes fractal art for the same reasons that I do.  Not everyone is pursuing the same interest.  There are a variety of interests in fractal art, that is, some of us are more interested in oddball imagery than rich, photo-realistic renderings.

How did such a disparate group of people (or am I the only eccentric one?)  end up being grouped together under the same label of “fractal art”?  In the words of the “developer-sage” Tim Day, author of Fracplanet…

“What you can use the program for is quite varied.”

Jump into Fractals!

Stop what you’re doing, forget everything you know –and just jump into fractals!

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

alienFlower by love1008

alienFlower by love1008

Synthetic.  That’s a good word in computer art.  You like synthetic things if you like computer art.  There’s too much color in this?  It looks unnatural?  It’s synthetic, just like those chewy fruit candies that don’t really taste like real fruit.  They taste better than real fruit.  Space age flavours.  This image has space age colors.  Love it, or the image will delete you.

Based on that watermark in the bottom right corner, I think love1008 would like you to visit his Deviant Art page.  If you’re color blind you won’t see anything.

Now, I know this is going to sound a little weird, but I find the next image to be fractal like even though it’s a four hundred year old painting of Mary Queen of Scots:



Here’s a fractal made with Sterlingware, the fractalist’s fractal program:

Queen Mary by King Fractal

Queen Mary by King Fractal

Don’t see a resemblance?  They’re both made up of curves, lacework, smooth textures, and all arranged in an almost –fractal-like way.  One just happens to have a women’s face in it.  All the rest is pure geometry.  I’ve seen better fractal examples of this sort of lacework, frilly, curving portrait like imagery, but this is the only one I could find easily.

MB3D_0443_hd by 0Encrypted0

MB3D_0443_hd by 0Encrypted0

Little things, like exponents, negative signs and zeroes have the ability to transform context and context transforms everything else.  Is this a particularly artsy, expressive kind of image?  I don’t think even the artist thought so or he’d have given it a more sublime title.  What I think makes this image so interesting is the thing in the upper left corner and middle that resembles a hillside at night with city lights on it.  Here’s a detail from the full size:

MB3D_0443_hd by 0Encrypted0-detail

MB3D_0443_hd by 0Encrypted0 (detail)

Then the bright, glow worm, firefly image in the center and the dark, shadowed, silent area to the lower right give the image a strange depth and contrast between brilliant, energetic and moving and the other: subdued, silent and secret.  I was a little confused when I first saw this image because it seemed so vivid and alive and yet appeared to be, on the surface, made up of such ordinary things.

Data136pic10035s by Trafassel

Data136pic10035s by Trafassel

Trafassel is always doing bold and unique things, but here what’s remarkable is the nice simple style of the image.  It’s haunted.  A city of cities built in the dark, or built for the dark.  Here’s the finest part of the full size image:

Data136pic10035s (detail) by Trafassel

Data136pic10035s (detail) by Trafassel

As weird and intriguing as a pulp sci-fi cover.  That light edge shading and marble surface texture looks painted and not computer calculated.  A rare glimpse of style in the land of fractals.

The image comes from a posting on Fractalforums that appeared over the recent Christmas holiday season announcing a new type of 3D fractal, tentatively named the Mandelex.  This image above was Trafassel’s experimentation with that new formula.


mandelex 2 by Hiato

Although I think Hiato was probably working in black and white for simplicity’s sake, the stark color scheme is perfect for the type of intense patterning that this formula does.

mandelex 2 by Hiato

mandelex 2 by Hiato

Click to view the larger versions so you can get a better view of the rich detail.  Hiato mentions the serpienski pattern at the corners which is another interesting feature.  Unfortunately the thread seems to have gone dead with nothing else posted to it for a month now.  But that may just mean Hiato and the others are tied up with other things for the time being.  I think this could be an interesting development for the future.  It was mentioned in the recent Chaos TV video from Fractalforum.com’s sponsor and owner Christian Kleinhuis.

Navalis_Ignis_Pauldebroti by Alef

Navalis_Ignis_Pauldebroti by Alef

Similar to the Mandelex, this one has raw, graphical creativity.  Although it’s just a variation (I think) of the Burning Ship formula, that one was pretty good all on its own too.  Note how the orange area goes from being sky and background in the upper left and then turns into a precisely cut wall or slice in the bottom.  Likewise there are similar “multi-dimensional” effects with the dark areas becoming space and then silhouette.  And then there’s the hazy sun image in the “sky” of the blue figure in the top right area.  It’s an object that defies objectiveness, just like the tricky optical illusions in Salvador Dali’s many surrealist paintings.  Raw fractals sometimes need nothing but a frame and that’s all Alef has done for this one.  That’s a mark of genius in the fractal art world.

FonkyBonkers by lxh

FonkyBonkers by lxh

3D fractals could almost be considered a type of synthetic architecture.  Art Nouveau, an architectural style as well as a style of painting and decoration, would be just the category for this image.  This is one of a new type of image that features the curving, non-squarish style of imagery.  I think it’s going to be a whole step up for 3D fractals because the addition of such curving surfaces and designs makes for much more creative and interesting forms.

Speaking of Art Nouveau, here’s something that looks like one of Gaudi’s famous buildings.  All it lacks is a little more curvy-ness  to offset the sharp edges and regular lines, but it makes up for that with that extremely ornate and creative point.

PALACE by abbaszargar

PALACE by abbaszargar



This of course is a painting, watercolor maybe, in the Art Nouveau style of Charles Mackintosh who apparently was Scottish.  Rather unusual location for the Art Nouveau movement, but like many ideas in art it resonates with artists from all sorts of backgrounds.  I included this because it’s a great example, as is most Art Nouveau, of flowing, geometric imagery.  And so are most types of fractal imagery.

I think fractals are most powerful in impression when they exhibit this sort of symmetry and complex pattern and simple shapes.  That’s all this image really is; the hand painted faces, which fractals can’t produce, add something to the image but could easily have been substituted by simple shapes.

Rise by Tim Emit

Rise by Tim Emit

What makes this image remarkable and worth turning our attention to?  I don’t know.  But there’s something compelling about that big lump of fractal thing.  It’s like a photo from a fractal biology textbook.  This is something exotic and found growing only in remote places.  Smaller versions have been grown in the laboratory, but they lack the robustness and size of ones like this that grow wild, on the side of a mountain, only lately discovered.

pot4b by RamiGraFx

pot4b by RamiGraFx

What is it?  It’s a hand.  See the red box thing in its palm?  It’s a hand showing you this thing it picked up.  It’s been picking them all day and that’s why its fingertips are all covered with red stuff.

wallpaper_hyperbolic_garden by thargor6

wallpaper_hyperbolic_garden by thargor6

I think this was made with Apophysis.  Not your average flame fractal image.  Once again, I present an image with strong geometric characteristics.  That is, except for the interesting woven sticks things in the center and other ball like structures.  I think that’s what caught my eye at first.  This image is a wide screen wallpaper and you really need to see it in its natural size to appreciate the detailed concentric circles.  It looks very Christmassy, but still has enough general appeal to be looked at all year round.  Perhaps it’s an aerial view of a forest and we’re looking down at the round outlines of the trees.  The biggest one in the center being set high up on a hill.  Apophysis can be used for good and not always for evil.

Life as we don't know it by Kali

Life as we don’t know it by Kali

Kali’s been on a roll lately.  Coming up with all sorts of graphically intriguing stuff.  I think I mentioned his sea creatures and especially the scary, scary elephant worm in a previous posting.  Recently he’s come up with animated fog for one of the 3D mandelbulb programs that looks like it was made in the computer lab of a major movie studio.  And there’s the exploding mandelboxes, too.  I can’t show any of them here because they’re flash applets.  Step right this way folks, to see the floating brain and also the amazing liquid planet (scroll down to it).

This image incorporates, I suspect, some of the volumetric fog rendering techniques he’s been experimenting with.  Depicting depth is technical challenge in all computer rendering because the appearance of depth, if you think about it, is the result of many complex things, such as air, which have to be deliberately programmed into the imagery.  Perhaps it’s harder to generate the impression of depth than it is to program the fractals themselves.

The fog is used to create the appearance of distance as more distant objects are deeper into the fog than closer ones. It also produces a rather nice effect in general making the image look more painterly than the average mandelbox.  But it also has nice coloring and a fine use of lighting.  Lighting is something that is a parameter –adjustable element– in 3D fractals and it can be used for better or for worse.  This is an example of the better use of it, in fact, it’s an excellent example.  Not only that,  there’s a nice space at the top right for the title of the 2014 Fractalforums.com Calendar to go.  It’s a natural choice for the cover and exemplifies the latest rendering techniques as well as the exotic sights that fractals can produce.  Furthermore, this one has real commercial appeal to it being so well composed and finely rendered.

Rainbow Armada by isight

Rainbow Armada by isight

Heavy duty 3D programming here.  If you click on the image you’ll discover how easily it was to make: just a camera click.  I’ve always felt that there’s more to fractal art that pertains purely to the eyes and mind than there is that pertains to the programming and math.  From such a perspective, such a radical, precarious perch, comes the intuitive notion that other things are close to fractal art even though they are not anywhere near fractal math or programming.  Here we start from the premise that the medium of fractal art is pixels –imagery– and not parameters.

Is that crazy?  I think I hit my head.  That can happen when you just blindly jump into fractals.

Ode to Mandel Donut Vegas

Dave Makin, in a thread over at Fractalforums.com suggested that the mandelbulb deserves more attention:

From Fractalforums.com, click to go to the thread

From Fractalforums.com, click to go to the thread

Anyhow, while still shaking my head and wondering (like taurus66 in the quote) why anyone would be interested in that puffy, spiny thing called the mandelbulb,  along came someone else, in a completely different thread, posting their marathon session, 6-core rendering of “that puffy, spiny thing:”


From Fractalforums.com, click to go to thread

From Fractalforums.com, click to go to thread

So I’m a sucker for anything that looks like it might be something new in the fractal world, and also a little bit curious to see what on Earth could be worth spending “10 days on 6 cores” to render…

Mandel Donut Vegas by Furan, click to view the 35mb version

Mandel Donut Vegas by Furan, click to view the 35mb version

The full-size is …big!  A screenshot says it better.  I had to shrink it somewhat to fit it into a blog posting:


Big is a relative thing, but this is biggy-big to me.

Print size is saying it’s nine feet wide… although at only 72 ppi…

But my browser doesn’t seem to do scaling very nicely so I looked it over at full resolution and I slowly realized that maybe that spiny, puffy mandelbulb really is worthy of more experimentation and general attention from fractal artists.

Even the title is hums with excitement: Mandel Donut Vegas.  Las Vegas, I’m sure he means, and the Mandel Donut bit is something that has a literary term for it where one contrasts two words with each other; the scientific Mandel and the truck stop Donut.  They get married in Vegas?

“Electrified Pumpkin” would not be as good.  I guess “Vegas” says electric better.  The top rings almost look like LED lights in a clear plastic tube.  And that’s the sort of schlocky, kitschy atmosphere of Vegas all over again.

At full size I was impressed by how much detail and variety there is in this “mere mandelbulb”.  It glows and the light fills, overfills and spills out in a hundred different ways.  This thing is more like a giant Disney World attraction than a simple 3D fractal image.  It must be the high resolution that makes such an impression possible.

Which brings me to another thing, that being the observation that while most fractal images look better as thumbnails (sad, but true) because they lack interesting detail when viewed large, a few, like Mandel Donut Vegas, can handle the close-up inspection and high resolution heavy lifting of a truly intriguing art object.  In fact, this thing looked better and better at high resolution.

Let me give an example:


Mandel Donut Vegas by Furan (detail)

Power, excitement; is it a roller coaster or blazing theatrical event?  Electric cables or ancient Egyptian mummy bandages?

A technical note.  You ought to be wondering what program this was made with.  Doctor Furan explains:

I’m rendering in my own Fortran 77 program (I’m working on implementation of material models to FE-systems. Now only in F77, so it’s a sort of an excercise.)


Mandel Donut Vegas by Furan (detail)

Allusions to the ruins of the Colosseum of ancient Rome?  I particularly like how the colors sometimes become too intense and overwhelm the image.  Lava flowing?  It’s all there –and more.  What are words compared to these sights?


Mandel Donut Vegas by Furan (detail)

Line and over-line.  Light and shadow; hot and cold; the burning and the burned.  Yes, that old puffball called the mandelbulb has a few thrills left in it.

Not to be confused with these things:


The original, original Mandelbulb

And now, back to lurking at Fractalforums.

Almost forgot: Furan has a website with more images: http://furan.sweb.cz/

Food for Thought

I travel the internet, I make “Viewmarks” of artwork worth reviewing, and sometimes I end up with little scraps of things that I just can’t seem to fit into a proper blog posting.  But I keep them around anyhow because they’re food for thought, so to speak; singular ideas with potential.

Here are a few of these favorite things.

I found this great image, below, on Deviant Art.  Then, for some strange reason I browsed through the comments, which I rarely do, and stumbled on something –special.

~Click on images to view full-size on original sites~



Check out the added lights and other details which are best seen in the hi-res version.  There’s some new formulas or variations out there that are interesting like this one.

And then this comment:

Comment from below image on Deviant Art

Comment from the above image on Deviant Art

Most comments however, follow this simple, straightforward, business-like style.


Comment from Deviant Art

And now for something completely different:


I forget where this one came from.  Sometimes that’s a good thing.

Now here’s something I quite like which I found, and probably would never have found unless it hadn’t been in Haltenny’s Deviant Art favorites collection:

U.F.I.-015-020512-020 by Ghostwritersociety

U.F.I.-015-020512-020 by GhostWriterSociety

Nice colours, high contrast, simple but interesting colour combinations and a great use of symmetry, something which works so well in design although I can’t figure out why.  It has a golden, polished sense to it (if that makes any sense).  I thought perhaps it was a collage because of the wide variety of imagery, but the image notes didn’t give any hint as to how it was made, only this:

MNDB3D/ U.F.I.-015-020512-020 is a Fractal Art Image, created and owned by Peter Spangler, PRSJ22, GhostWriterSociety. It is protected under Copyright: MCN C4TIH-T2YA1-HKHS6

I hope that you enjoy these images.


Founder of #Fractal-Group-UNLTD

You are invited to stop in, take a look around, and see if you would like to submit to one of our galleries. Our membership is open to all artists, upon request; send me a personal note as to your interest in becoming a member.

Interesting.  But not as interesting as this from the main gallery page:

ghostwritersociety notice

ghostwritersociety notice

I hope the image gave you “PERSONAL ENJOYMENT”.  Because if it didn’t, you’re in big trouble.  But take heart, “YOU ARE VERY ‘WELCOME’!”  It’s ‘WELCOME’ in quotation marks.  Could that be different than the regular welcome which doesn’t have quotation marks around it?  (Is whatsoever really spelt with hyphens?)

Anyhow, lets not stand around here, I think I hear dogs barking.

Autumn's Smile by Marty Strutt

Autumn’s Smile by Marty Strutt

They put warnings on cigarette packs here in Canada.  They take the form of horrific images of cancer patients and other scary things along with some sobering statement about the risks of smoking.  This image would go great on any pack of oil paints or beginner’s art kit to warn users of the long-term risks of painting.  In fact, it ought to scare digital artists too.  Sorry it’s out of season, but I suspect the type of audience this is aimed at is in a perpetual “autumn frame of mind”.

fractal pattern doodle from doodlerblog.com

fractal pattern doodle from doodlerblog.com

What’s fractal about it?  That is the entry-point to a very profitable discussion.  Has the artist captured something of the nature of fractal art?  Or at least, fractal art as it commonly appears.  Is it “better” than fractal art?  I can see infinity –and more.  Thought snacks.  Crunch, crunch.

Hafnium crystal bar by Alkemist-hp on Wikipedia

Hafnium crystal bar by Alkemist-hp on Wikipedia

This was featured on the front page of the English Wikipedia a few months ago and I immediately saw a resemblance to Jackson Pollock’s drip paintings.  I don’t think this is technically a fractal thing, although perhaps closer inspection of the crystal might reveal something of that nature.  There’s movement, there’s all sorts of things suggested, even some colors, which might be reflections of things outside the view of the photograph.  But none of those things are really there, which makes us feel insane.  If any art form can have ready-mades, fractal art is it.

Wavy.gif by someone at NASA

Wavy.gif by someone at NASA

Thanks to Alef over at Fractalforums.com I found this scary octopus creature.  It’s just a demonstration of some wave formula, but look how weird and other worldly such humble things can be!  Worthy of any TV sci-fi episode.  Speaking of which…

Space 1999 screenshot

Space 1999 screenshot (1976)

Dig the groovy op-art or math thing on the wall.  It may surprise some of you youngsters to know that there was a time when mechanical looking artwork was considered cutting edge and not primitive or retro as it is in today’s millions of colours, photorealistic Disneyland kind of world.  Somebody in set design thought this was likely to be the kind of thing people in the future would consider decorative.  Why not?  Nobody at the time thought it was any good.  It must have been ahead of its time.  There’s was more to the 70s than Planet of the Apes.  By the way (btw) click on the image to go to the YouTube channel which hosts the entire two seasons of Space 1999.  The year, 1999, used to be the unimaginable future.  Now it’s the unimaginable past.  But I still love the lunar scenery.

untitled by Dan-Florian Nitoi on Facebook

untitled by Dan-Florian Nitoi on Facebook

I like it.  A fine example of how a simple fractal shape can become something greater than a great fractal shape.  There’s no explanation or notes about it.  I’m not even sure the guy who posted it actually made it.  Perhaps it’s only a fractal in name.  A secret fractal.  Can you tell?

Digital Dharma Buddhabrot by Alef

Digital Dharma Buddhabrot by Alef

Alef kind of apologizes for the rough look of this image, “My quasijulia mandelbrot buddhabrot brahmabrot. It lacks glamorous touch of photoshop, so watch it a bitt away from monitor, > 1m.”  But that’s one of the reason’s I happen to like it.  That, and the radioactive pink, red and blue color scheme.  And the wispy, shadowy, “memories” of fractals.

Land of Layers by daimbramage

Land of Layers by dainbramage

Dainbramage (not his real name) says this: “Nothing special.  Came across this in a negative Amazing Box using _RotatedAbs as formula 2.”  I’ve been seeing it in my Viewmarks, thumbnail bookmark collection for quite a few months now and always stopped to look at the exquisite use of black and white, light and shadow, and of course, depth and levels.  This is Geometry made flesh.  Naturally, it’s even more impressive full-size.  And the shapes, both the shapes themselves and the empty spaces between them.  We should all suffer from this sort of braindamage.

Untiled Faces by Nathan Selikoff

Untiled Faces by Nathan Selikoff

You fiddle with the stick controllers for one display and it changes what you see in the others, with the right one being a zoom of what you select with the stick in the first display.  Notice the wierdo retro monochrome dislay, not unlike some of the mini monitor screens in Space 1999.  The artist explains it better, perhaps:

Untiled Faces is an interactive sculpture that mixes a chaotic dynamical system with its “meta” representation, allowing the viewer to explore the four-dimensional parameter space by moving a series of levers. The left pane of Untiled Faces shows a 32 by 32 grid of images. As the left lever is moved, a red square over one of the small images moves, updating two variables that affect the center and right panes. The right pane shows the selected image from the left pane at a larger size. The right lever moves a small red target within this image, updating another two variables that affect the center pane. The center pane shows a chaotic attractor, whose four coefficients are taken from the positions of the left and right levers. The center lever adjusts the virtual camera viewing this strange attractor. Thus, all three images are linked, and in a somewhat mysterious way show the relationship between a strange attractor and its Lyapunov exponent.

It won the “Most Innovative” award at the “Bridges” conference.  But that’s not too surprising when you see the other entries.  The math and science crowd seem to have a whole different perspective on “art”.

Pink Hibiscus by

Pink Hibiscus by Amanda Moore

Very nice “colorama”.  The image tags for this on Fineartamerica.com include the word fractal and useful combinations of “canvas prints”; also, apophyis.  It could be processed but what does that really mean anymore in the world of advanced fractal features?  I had to fish this out of my browser cache because the site disables all the right-click functions on the mouse and the image was too tall for a screenshot on my laptop’s short screen.  No threatening copyright notices written with barbed wire, though.  But I suppose most of you artists reading this think all those things are good ideas.

I’m still hunting around Fineartamerica.com for fractal images; it’s always exciting to find a new online art venue.  So far it looks to be suffering from the same malaise as Deviant Art and all the rest.

Poelzig Hans (1869-1936), Großes Schauspielhaus in Berlin (1919): Innenräume im Bau. Foto auf Papier, 18 x 24 cm (inkl. Scanränder). TU UB Plansammlung Inv. Nr. F 1600.

Poelzig Hans (1869-1936), Großes Schauspielhaus in Berlin (1919): Innenräume im Bau. Foto auf Papier, 18 x 24 cm (inkl. Scanränder). TU UB Plansammlung Inv. Nr. F 1600.

All that text was in the meta part of the jpg file, I guess.  Pretty convenient.  Note the groovy Greek capital beta letter and the double dot, umlaut things.  It’s going to be a dull world when everyone learns English.

This was how the Mandelboxes of the past were rendered.  There really is a fractal aspect to this one.  And that’s precisely what the architect was trying to depict, I’m guessing.  Things like this are planned out carefully ahead of time.

The fractal art world, on the other hand, is different:

Deviant Art is practically a mountain of art!

Deviant Art is practically a mountain of art!

Somewhere on Facebook

Somewhere on Facebook

If you build it they will come!

If you build it they will come!

From the National Post newspaper

From the National Post newspaper

This isn’t a fractal, obviously, but then again it really isn’t not a fractal, either.  It suggests fractal to me.  It has all the attributes of a nice 3d fractal to it: depth and layers; nice surface texturing which repeats the forms from the large scale view; basic geometric shapes -circle, line, rectangle, symmetry, curves; a nice little bit of realism added in to enhance the context of the image.  Oh, I forgot; it’s ornamental, that makes it very fractal too.



This on the other hand is definitely in the fractal/chaos theory realm of imagery.  Mario837 says this about it: “Made with Chaoscope 0.3.1 – Lorenz-74 attractor, Solid render.”  I like the shape and also the color.  Very few fractal artists experiment with color, in my opinion.  Color can transform things –for better or worse.  In this case it’s for the better.  Nice simple piece of algorithmic artwork, even if it does resemble a cross between a Cuisinart blade and a toilet seat.  Simple shapes can be not so simple sometimes.

ultraLucia 667 of 760 by Dan Wills

ultraLucia 667 of 760 by Dan Wills

I don’t know if the link will take you directly to the full size image, but it’s worth a try.  Dan’s in a category all his own.  To really appreciate his work you have to stroll through it like one would a large exhibition.  Then I think you begin to see things the way he does.  Sometimes making great fractal art can be as simple as just wandering around in a formula and letting your eye set the course.

ultraLucia 634 of 760 by Dan Wills

ultraLucia 634 of 760 by Dan Wills

There’s been a lot of talk (by me) about whether or not fractals can ever produce artwork that has as much substance and expressiveness as what is called (by some) to be Fine Art, Mona Lisa kind of stuff.  I’m of the opinion that it just doesn’t have the basic ingredients and structural requirements to do the job, but this image comes close.  It’s almost a Mona Lisa like thing, but the greenish shape is the mysterious, smile element of the art work.  Just as viewers stare at Mona’s smile to carefully read it’s subtleties, something’s there in this image, a mandelbrot man, probably, but the coloring is spread over an uneven surface which makes one have to look carefully to make out the faint outline of …what?



Am I dorianoart’s greatest fan now?  Maybe some of you think that all these are just variations on a theme, but then of course they are: variations on a great theme!  Nobody else makes images like this.  I don’t think they have the “vision” to do it.  It’s a subtle style and in the world of art subtlety is a powerful thing.

Sea Dragonfly by Lawrence Morell

Sea Dragonfly by Lawrence Morrell

Although not exactly fractals, they do depict the fractal like patterns seen in butterfly wings.  Of course it’s the transformation these things have when rendered in frosted glass that really makes them interesting.  Glass is such a strange medium since it naturally distorts light and behaves with a mind of its own sometimes.  You can see more at the Portland Fine Art website or on Lawrence’s own website named lawrencemorrell.com.

Lawrence Morrell's work at Portland Fine Art

Lawrence Morrell’s work at Portland Fine Art

2dbarcode from Wikipedia

2dbarcode from Wikipedia

This is meatiest of all food for thought bits.  Real art in its most energetic, catch it if you can, style.  Is this a piece of information, a diagram to explain how to read two dimensional barcodes?  Or is it the first step into the world of digital art?  The first step which requires your eyes –and the mind they’re plugged into– to be calibrated for the new medium.

Digital art can be read.  This is why mathematicians can get excited over rather dull images that are perfect graphical renderings of mathematical formulas and expressions.  That’s a bit of what I meant when I said the math and science crowd have a different perspective on “art”.  I’m sure Benoit Mandelbrot went bananas over the first computer printouts of fractal formulas; it was like seeing the face of things he’d only known as expressions of numbers and greek letters.

I like that “quiet zone”.  A digital DMZ?  Or is it just the digital equivalent of lawns and parkland?  A minefield for rogue pixels?  Do not go gentle into that good Quiet Zone!

I think the food’s all gone.  I’d better stop now.

Panorami Frattali by DorianoArt



DorianoArt has a real talent for mixing fractals with photography and doing it with style.  It’s not the typical marriage between earthy fractals and leafy scenery.  It’s more like an extraterrestrial romance between mother earth and alien invaders.

Despite such a disturbing courtship, the results are quite natural, or rather, quite unnatural, a hybrid landscape, a cyborg environment of majestic mountains and expansive pixel plains.

DorianoArt’s talent is playing match-maker to two fundamentally different image types and bringing about an unexpected harmony.  They complement each other, instead of curdling each other like orange juice and milk would.  Of course it’s not for everyone, especially for those who see no natural beauty in proliferating plastic scenery.

But for those who do, you can learn a thing or two from DorianoArt’s fractal panoramas.  They involve more than just slapping a clip-art sky over a fractal.  These sorts of images require a considerable amount of pre-marital counselling.

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



Was he just lucky with this one, or does Doriano know something about composition and design?  The mark of a real professional is that you don’t see the marks, it all looks natural and effortless.

In case you’re thinking that this is actual snow and ice, I invite you to click on the image and view it full-size.  Then you can feast your eyes and the wondrous moire effect, the hallmark of true digital artistry.  The sky is real (you knew that, didn’t you?) and yet it blends seamlessly into the ice fields at the horizon.  And the sunlight too.



Is this the same mountain and hill from the first?  The sky is the same too.  But one barely notices this because the rolling expanse of striped cylinders draws our attention away and on down to that hazy vista of gently rolling geometry.

There is absolutely nothing natural about these striped cylinders (with purple ends).  In fact, they’re almost abstract.  Who would ever have thought of combining two things like this?  Not even Dr. Frankenstein.



There is nothing short of pure chemical joy to be found in both the chromafied sky and the pixel-gritty foreground of mercury drops.  The glass –-something— in the right midground is just a pleasant extra which, now that I notice it, leads our eye off to the vanishing point of this computerized carpet.  The moon, or is that the Earth? is conveniently located right where it is.  Who is this master of the fantastic?

DorianoArt ID on DeviantArt.com

You know, these images do remind me a little of the cover images for video games.  Slick, amazing alien landscapes and impossible combinations of technology and nature.  I also remember that the cover art was sometimes more impressive than the games.

It’s refreshing to see an artist who actually displays their real name on the internet.  Reminds me of the old days when people had real names and you knew who was crazy because they were the ones walking down the street waving their hands and shouting like they were on the phone.  Back to the art…



Oh no.  He’s gone too far with this one.  Mandelbulb, okay; and blue sky shining through the mandelbranches like in a forest, that’s okay too, but the troll kids?  Troll kids are too much.  Let’s let Doriano (I know his real name, now) explain:

Several things here starting from a wood photo in the background…(just an hour ago I was in a wonderful wood five minuts from my house) -then Mandelbulb 3D – and finally in the foreground the little people are (Gosha character) rendered with Poser 7. Final adjustments of lights in Photoimpact/Photoshop

It’s all fun and games until the Posers show up.  Creepy.



Doesn’t that bronze, or orange-chrome tubular thing just fit in perfectly with a south-western U.S. desert landscape?  Although, I think those objects on the horizon on the right, which are conveniently located at the vanishing point of the metal drops, are skycrapers and not buttes or rock pinacles.  A nice use of pattern, irregular objects, photo-sky and natural city scape.

You see?  I told you it wasn’t as simple as just slapping two things together.  Doriano is an artist not just a computer graphics wizard.  Son of da Vinci!



I present to you, loyal Orbit Trap readers, the Mona Lisa of our time.  Compare it with the real thing, if you’re not familiar with it.  Here we have a head-like thing in the foreground with nothing else but a dim, undetailed landscape for a background.  Of course, I don’t think Doriano intended such a allusion.  But then, did Leonardo intend his audience to fixate upon his subject’s smile?

Artist’s create but the audience interprets.  At any rate, I find it to be a richly colored and rendered mandelbulb image.  I can’t quite figure out what makes it so interesting, but as I said earlier, good art is a bit of a riddle.

The notes say “Here are two Mandelbulbs + a Terragen background for this “neoclassic” mandelbulb sculpture…..



One of the images of mine I more love returns here in another version…Hope You can appreciate it!  (mandelbulb 3D -terragen)

Hmmn…  So the sky and mountains aren’t photographs at all,  they’re made in terragen, the artificial landscape generating program.  That’s an interesting combination, although the terragen landscapes are so realistic they might as well be photographs.

The “mandelbeetles” are an interesting element adding synthetic animal life as well as synthetic ground to the lifelike horizon and sky.  Perhaps this is their hive and they are hatching out or tending the next generation.  Of course, the truth is probably that they’re both part of the same mandelbulb image and it’s the formula that connects them.



This one is pure syntheticism.  The land is artificial and the sky, whatever it is, is not even the color, much less anything else sky-like except that it is above.  Once again, the colors are rich and multi-faceted which is a talent of computer graphics.  Moire and pixel-grit add another scale of artistry here so you’ll want to click on the image and view it full-size, that is, if you like this sort of computer abstract expressionism like I do.



I don’t know if Doriano made the city imagery in the top, but he complemented it well with the orange energy collecting cells at the bottom.  The lighting is quite well done as if both these image areas were created together.  That’s the sort of harmony I was talking about at the beginning.



I couldn’t find the first Sindragosa, or the first Robotika one either.  I don’t like the search function on Deviant Art.  Nothing works as well as Google.

This one makes me think of an illustration for a book, perhaps one of Sindbad’s adventures, lost in the desert and arriving suddenly at a mysterious place, which of course shines like gold.  What great looming thing is causing that shadow we’re in?

I’m sure many people will find Doriano’s mandelbulb/box renderings a little rough, but I find that stylish.  It adds a unique texture to the images and uniqueness is something that one doesn’t see much of in the fractal world; it’s just too easy for all of us to follow the same path without realizing that there’s a lot more creative potential in how you render something than what you actually render.  And you won’t get to be the leader of the pack by stepping off the trail.

Doriano’s not a formula trail-blazer or technical pioneer (as far as I know), but he’s done great things by being creative with the artwork rather than the tools, and in the end it’s that fresh approach that makes his work stand out.


Pauldelbrot’s Mandelbrot Safari and other Journeys into the Unknown

Back, several postings ago, when I reviewed the latest Fractalforums.com calendar, I heaped abuse on Pauldelbrot’s image from his Mandelbrot Safari series calling it retro and not cutting-edge.  The owner of Fractalforums.com and publisher of the calendar, Christian Kleinhuis, informed me that what Pauldelbrot was doing was in fact very cutting-edge as it was utilizing new methods that enabled him to zoom to a much greater extent than had previously been possible.  And something about a new coloring method too.

But as an illustration of how weird fractal art as an art form can be, Pauldelbrot’s work can be kicked and abused in one review and then praised in another, just a month later as you will soon see.

Let me explain this apparently senseless thinking:  For the calendar, I didn’t think Pauldelbrot’s work had commercial appeal (as well as just about everyone else’s work in the calendar); But in this posting I present his Mandelbrot Safari images as epitomizing the pastime of fractal exploration (and a fresh example of that) as well as a good example of classic-style fractal art.

But most importantly, I rather like many of these images myself for their own sake, and the fact that they’re from the Outer Limits just enhances that.  One shouldn’t talk too much about fractal art.  Perhaps most readers have already skipped to the pictures.

The best way to follow the Mandelbrot Safari is by reading its own forum thread on Fractalforums.com.  More images, comments, etc…  Who knows?  You might even decide to buy one of the FFs 2012 calendars for no other reason than because it contains one of these Safari images.  Now wouldn’t that make me look stupid after saying they had no commercial appeal?  Buy a calendar —fight the man!

~Click on images to go to original forum thread with larger images in it~

The initial image from Pauldelbrot’s Mandelbrot Safari thread

The safari begins:  fairly common terrain we’re starting off from on May 4th, 2012.  Doesn’t look particularly promising, I must say.  But I’m not the pilot or the navigator on this expedition.  Let’s wait and see what’s over the horizon.  I’m sure he’s got some exotic destination in mind.

evdz1_008_lrg by Pauldelbrot

The game is afoot, as Sherlock Holmes would say.  That’s an odd looking color to be seeing out in this sargasso sea of yellow.  The perennial question:  Where does it go?

evdz1_017 by Pauldelbrot

I jumped ahead a few of Pauldelbrot’s image postings and here we are at the first of many “portals” to the (glittering) unknown.  If you’re anything of a fractalnaut, you ought to be getting excited right now because it looks like this trip is 1. never going to end, and 2. going to be full of surprises.

evdz1_018_lrg by Pauldelbrot

A comment:

Is that the coloring of Pauldelbrot’s image, or of this guy’s hefty signature?  (sorry, couldn’t resist; it’s the duty of everyone on the internet to stamp out signature lines and other forms of “junk mail” content)

evdz1_029_lrg by Pauldelbrot

According to the thread, we’re now zoomed into about 4 e30 magnification.  That’s 4 and thirty zeroes behind it.

evdz1_044 by Pauldelbrot

Pauldelbrot answers a tech question in the thread here about what program he’s using:

…a mix of custom and off-the-shelf code here. Time on these has increased but the latest few have taken a few hours each. The iterations are still pretty low (around 5000) but the precision bits are getting fairly numerous.

A couple hours, each?  We’re obviously on the other side of some computing sound barrier.

evdz1_090 by Pauldelbrot

Note by author:

Now over 20,000 iterations in the shallowest parts of each image, and the magnification has just passed one googol, too…

Sound sci-fi -ish, doesn’t it?  What’s a googol?  Biggy big!  So big it’s covered with big-fur!  That’s the layman’s definition. (it’s this, actually: 10100)

Gets slower and slower with depth…

He’s doing this in Ultrafractal (UF) and makes this comment which sheds some light on the type of technical challenge all this is:

I should warn you that to get close to the quality results I’ve posted you’d need to use 3×3 AA, depth 2, nonadaptive AA because depth 1 isn’t enough oversampling and UF’s adaptive AA seems not to work as well as mine. The deeper images would thus need some very beefy hardware to render in anywhere near a reasonable time; or even a cluster rendering different tiles of the image per machine.

This is what Christian Kleinhuis, the owner (and sponsor) of Fractalforums.com must have meant when he told me Pauldelbrot’s image in the calendar was actually cutting edge imagery after all.

evdz1_113 by Pauldelbrot

The images are largely like this; circular and elegant, which is the sort of thing that characterizes classic fractal art –highly detailed, organized images.  I guess “complex geometric” is not a bad description, either.

Pauldelbrot says this in response to a comment about the great coloring:

It “discovers” colors, because it keeps shifting and blending them. Colors that are somewhat between pure primaries and secondaries, or somewhat desaturated as well as saturated, included, which may often be overlooked by humans doing things manually.

evdz1_204 by Pauldelbrot

“Overlooked by humans doing things manually”  Computers are more than just powerful paintbrushes.  It’s through this sort of exploration that one can develop a real appreciation for the machinery that they’re using.  That’s half the fun, I’d say.

I’ve just shown a sampling of images here; you’ll definitely want to check out the thread if you find these interesting.

evdz1_218 by Pauldelbrot

Some of the really dark images are the best in my opinion.  This one is from November 30th, 2012 and marks the 7th month of the safari.  It’s still going on, although, as Pauldelbrot said, the rendering gets slower because of the depth of the zoom.  Another image was posted just this week (Dec 11).

Pauldelbrot has embarked on a number of these zoom excursions with the same journey into the unknown feel to them.  Here’s some highlights from some of the others…

511_28_11_12_2_35_18 by Pauldelbrot

A note from this image, from a series entitled “Fall Woods 1”:

This zoom is near the Autumn Forest zoom. However, the area zoomed into is around a seahorse below and to the right of the green period-3 blob in Autumn Forest I. Out here, the “zero basin” doesn’t exist — there is no zero attractor at all. Where that happens, the basin implodes into a disconnected Julia set, which the surrounding seahorse shapes still try to conform to, with amazingly convoluted results!

Images in this series have mostly been rendered at 32000×24000 and downsampled for a whopping 625 samples per pixel, needed to render the “zero basin Julia” regions properly. I was able, nonetheless, to render most of them in under two hours.

Yeah, that’s 32 –thousand by 24-thousand.  Pauldelbrot is no wimp when it comes to making fractals!

511_03_11_12_12_37_51 by Pauldelbrot

511_02_11_12_12_20_32 by Pauldelbrot

Those above are two of my personal favorites from the Autumn Forest II and I series.  The disorienting vastness of fractal panoramas is easily seen in both as well as Pauldelbrot’s excellent coloring style.  In the process of trying to make fractals into art, I wonder how many of us forget how artistic fractals can be in their raw, freshly calculated form –if only we were to explore them and not the latest layering techniques more.

Lilac Exponent by Pauldelbrot, Sept 14, 2011

This is from more than a year ago.  It caught my eye back then because of the intense patterns of shapes and shapes and more shapes.  This sort of thing is an art form that only fractal algorithms can do and they do it very well, especially at the hands of someone as talented and creative as Pauldelbrot.

As Christian Kleinhuis was saying; Pauldelbrot has really done something new and different even if it does lie within the old category of “classic” fractal art.  I think Pauldelbrot has elevated that classical category higher with this kind of work and his probably represents the best of its kind.

Best of its kind so far, that is.  If Pauldelbrot’s herculean efforts and endless hours of rendering have shown one thing, it’s that there’s still much to be explored even in the realm of classical fractal imagery.  I hope he’s inspired a few others to follow this path, even if it takes them away from the seemingly much more advanced 3D fractals that most work on these days.

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 Fractalforums.com.  It never ceases to amaze me how often the folks at Fractalforums.com (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, 011art.com, 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?

The Epiphytic Art of Comments

Like the elegant orchids and other surface-dwelling plant species called epiphytes, image comments can have a richness and uniqueness that is surprising when one considers their tiny size and extremely casual origin.

And also like the epiphytes of tropical forests, comments can become almost as great, collectively, as the underlying tree they’ve attached themselves to, to the point of obscuring or upstaging the creature that gave them their dwelling place and opportunity to be.

But it’s a safe bet that comments are never going to die out as long as the synergy and mutually beneficial effects of leaving compliments and leaving personal hyperlinks endures.

But then, who would want them to?  They are the graffiti of our times which, like graffiti, started out as merely idle mischief and casual (senseless) expression but subsequently became the subject of art exhibitions.

Photograph by Dirk van der Made (user:DirkvdM). Epiphytes near Santa Elena, Costa Rica, January 2004. {{cc-by}}

In my journeys through the internet I found one particular “tree” on Redbubble.com whose prolific collection of epiphytes was arresting.  Like their exotic counterparts of the tropical forest, I found some of them to be quite collectible and consequently have arranged them with digital pins below in a virtual specimen gallery.

Just to make one thing clear: I make no judgment as to the “beauty” or “value” of these comments –positive or negative– or even the image they were attached to.  Who needs to judge or point out natural beauty if it truly exists?

But I do add some comments of my own.  Even I can’t stop the natural growth of these things.

The Epiphytic Art of Comments

Artist bio excerpt:

From the sidebar of the image page:

The image:

The History of the Bioluminoidal Fractalization Process, by Rhonda Strickland, on Redbubble.com. Click image to visit original page.

And now an assortment of comments starting with some of the oldest and moving down to (some of) the more recent:

(comments were posted over a period of 2 years)

(-something beneath the sea?  Like something dark and murky?)

(nice and to the point.  Does the “~” mean something?)

(-a picture says a thousand words;  this one –a thousand and one)

(-that’s 3 encores)


(all day long…)


(–is she saying the image and music is great, or that she herself is blind and deaf?)


(–look at those two links.  Who’s being featured here?  The artist or the group?)

(–could there be another Fiery-Fire out there?  One on every art portal?)

(–yes, that’s what I was thinking when I started to read these comments)


(–another short, concise, Hemingway-esque comment, “She photoshopped.  She was good.”)

(–hey, this looks big!  Top Ten?  In the whole Fractal Universe!)

(–hmmmn… not all Top Tens are the same, I’m thinking)

(–2nd runner-up?  I guess you need to know Redbubble to know whether this is something to get excited about.  Looks like Rhonda knows Redbubble pretty good.  Me?  I would have said, “Beat it, Ushna!  It hurts just looking at that graphic!”)

(–didn’t he leave a comment before?  Or did he forget?  To err is human, to forget is “superb”.)

(–I just can’t bring myself to use more than two exclamation marks in a row.  I guess I need more practice.)

(–nothing impresses me more than awards with big, fancy, metallic spelling mistakes in them.  But then, who knows how to spell parallel properly these days?  I’m going to go look it up again.)


    (–the mysterious caps; the repetition; very stylish.  The artsy avatar suggests they might have something just as interesting on their site –and all you have to do is click…)

(–am I making fun of these people?  You get favved 50 times and then the Most Favorites Group favs you with the “fav of favs”.  I wonder what their idea of “success” is?  On the other hand; no spelling mistakes in this one)

(–finally, some intentional humour.  Deviants on Redbubble?  That’s comments to the exponent 2)  

(–“You are really great”  No matter how false or shallow, we all love to hear that, again and again…)


(–check out the moronic face in the volkswagen and how neither of the two vehicles seem to follow the obvious curve in the road that they’ve been cut and pasted onto.  Scary photoshop.  More like crashing edge than cutting edge.  Worse than a spelling mistake, in my mind.)

(–three minutes… but that really is a compliment if you think about it –in the online environment where there’s always something else to click on –like the commentator’s linked avatar and name)  

  (–grammar aside, where exactly are these people coming from if their blacklist is made up of: churches; political events; graveyards; or people?  On the other hand, if they’re that picky then being “approved” by them is really something!)

(–Yeah!  The avatar looks like he really means it.)

(–if this one didn’t crack you up good then you’ve either been reading too many comments like these or you’re the kind of person who posts comments like this.  She’d like to recommend this as Digital Art as soon as she can find out if it is Digital Art?  That’s far out.)

(–was it an animated gif and I took the screenshot before all the frames could load?  Or is it just another example of award images that are a parody of themselves?)

(–best of the bunch, my favourite of all of them.  “Absolutely stunning… have a great weekend”.  In the (post-processed) words of T.S. Eliot… “In the room the women come and go;  Saying “Rhonda, way to go!”)

Oh, do not ask, “What is it?”

Let us go and make our visit.

–TS Eliot, here

Well, I hope you enjoyed this lush example of art comments.  If you’re curious about the artist, Rhonda Strickland, you can see more of her work on her Redbubble page.  This particular image to which all these comments were made is apparently presented with music, although I wasn’t able to hear it myself.  She works in a number of genres in addition to fractal art, including that of poetry.

Don’t forget to leave a comment…

Arvinder Bawa’s Fractal Exhibition in Spain

Arvinder Bawa recently had a showing of his fractal artworks in Laredo, Cantabria, Spain at the Sala Ruas gallery.  The poster explains it best:

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

Advertisement for Arvinder Bawa’s fractal art exhibition in northern Spain

Arvinder has written an interesting explanation to accompany the exhibit.  I like his simple language and layman’s terms:

…For the exhibition it is necessary to write a short explanation of what these images represent and it is hard to find the words to explain the process without drowning the reader in complex mathematics and iterative equation manipulation programming techniques. In an attempt to make a start in assembling this write-up, here is what I have come up with…The geometry of nature – Fractals – Order and Chaos

The images which makeup this exhibition have been generated by a computer program which follows the behavior of some mathematical equations that represent complex dynamics using complex variables. The behavior of these equations is represented by the images where the black regions are zones of stability and order and the brightly coloured areas are zones of chaos.

…it is only in the last thirty years with the invention of computers and high resolution plotters that we are able to enjoy the chaotic behavior in glorious and beautiful images…

…When we view the images it is as if we are in the presence of something cosmic and familiar, and this is because many of the structures in nature and in our surroundings behave in a similar way. The coastline, the structures in biology and botany, the behavior of populations and economies, the meteorology, cosmology and the study of turbulence in air and fluids all have elements of chaos which is essentially what we can see in the images in this exhibition.

~From Arvinder Bawa’s blog, Arvinder, Aug. 27th, 2012

“Behave in a similar way” –I like that.  What we expect from a branching tree or a crack in the road is what we expect in fractal imagery because they’re following the same kind of rules and “behavior”.  We are at home in both places because they are so much alike.

Arvinder’s work is admittedly a little “retro” as he states in the same blog posting:  “Images such as these were popular in the 80s and the 90s, and many books with wonderful images were published.”

Here’s a handful of thumbnails of the exhibition taken from Marisol Cavia’s Flickr page:

Fractals – The Geometry of Nature – an exhibition by Arvinder Bawa at the Sala Ruas, Laredo, Spain, Oct. 2012

Fractals – The Geometry of Nature – an exhibition by Arvinder Bawa at the Sala Ruas, Laredo, Spain

Thumbnails of some of the exhibited images found on Marisol Cavia’s Flickr page

Arvinder Bawa and colleague, at the Sala Ruas gallery, Laredo, Spain.

Arvinder Bawa, Cork Street, London, England, 2012

Well, what about it?  Why an exhibition of images that are so out of style in today’s fractal art world?  I don’t think the Sala Ruas gallery sticks just anything up on their walls for visitors to look at.  What did the curator of Sala Ruas see in these fractals that most of us, “up to date” fractal folks wouldn’t? (key word: most of us).

There’s been a lot of talk in the fractal world about “Takin’ it to the streets” and introducing the rest of the world to fractal art.  That’s supposed to be the whole idea around the BMFACs and yet Arvinder’s work is precisely the kind of “garish, 70s-style imagery” that the BMFACs hope to erase from the world’s memory.

One thing I’ve realized from a decade of watching the fractal world is this:  I think the fractal world understands the art world to the same degree that the art world understands the fractal world.  That is to say, very little.

We can laugh it up all we want about work like this but someone thought this was worth exhibiting in an art gallery.  I wonder what they’d think about our fractal artwork?

The fractal art world as a whole is as eccentric as the math and programming that goes into creating the imagery.  Arvinder Bawa is one of us because he’s found something in fractals worth looking at and drawing other people’s attention to.  I can’t think of a better definition of “artist” than that.

…Plenty of room at the Hotel Fractalfornia

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

bilding by ZZZ_spb

Just a neon sign, cloudy sky and moon, but what a transformation.  A number of 3d fractalists refer to having an “architectural style” and here you can really see what’s meant by that term and why it is such a natural one in the world of 3d fractals.  Nice and subtle addition to an otherwise average mandelbox.  ZZZ_spb really shines at this sort of thing.

Encapsulation by MarkJayBee

Another example of subtle but powerful.  This is not a terribly exciting mandelbox but the clear box Mark put around it and especially the way he’s colored and textured it’s surface has transformed the simple image into something fascinating.  I don’t think Mark was really trying to make something noteworthy here, just experiment with this inclusion feature of the program. But the final result is great.

Handshaking Buds by Kali

Made in Fragmentarium, a bold new program by Syntopia for making weird, terrifying things like this.  Although, like Mark’s image above, I believe this image is something of a technical experiment rather than an attempt to create art in the strict sense of the word (and what does that mean?), the result is something quite unique and almost humorous as well.  Humour in fractal art?

The power of fractal recursion to repeat things on smaller and smaller scales works quite an artistic effect here in the little shaking hands in the mid-foreground (bottom, center).  You might need to view the hi-res version to really appreciate it.  Next they’re all going to buy the world a Coke…

Growing Phantasma by lxh

Is this what ZZZ_spb’s hotel looks like in the morning?  Well, it’s by lxh, another screen name I’ve been unable to decipher.  Maybe’s that the idea behind these screen names.  Someone ought to compile a list so we can at least decode them from time to time.

Lxh says this about the image on the Fractalforums.com gallery page:

Description: This might be what we see – a foreign city or complex – but in fact it’s the virtual manifestation of thoughts, ideas and efforts of the fractalforums scene and at least stage of my personal fractal journey.

Greetings to all you fractal travelers and explorers out there. May the shape be with you. And many thanks to all the gurus who made my journey possible: Daniel White, Jesse, Tglad, Kali, DarkBeam and all the other genius behind. You are my heroes …


DURING the whole of a dull, dark, and soundless day in the autumn of the year, when the clouds hung oppressively low in the heavens, I had been passing alone, on horseback, through a singularly dreary tract of country ; and at length found myself, as the shades of the evening drew on, within view of the melancholy House of Usher.

(excerpt, The Fall of the House of Usher, by Edgar Allan Poe)


On a dark desert highway, cool wind in my hair
Warm smell of colitas, rising up through the air
Up ahead in the distance, I saw a shimmering light
My head grew heavy and my sight grew dim
I had to stop for the night

~lyrics, Hotel California, by the Eagles


Menger on the beach by SaMMY

Made in Structure Synth by SaMMy.  He says this:

Description: I tried to build the mengerbox in a chaotic style – i hope you ENJOY  embarrass

Created in Structure Synth ( ~96000 Objects),
rendered in Vue Xstream ( ~9,5 Mill. Polygons, global radiosity),
little corrections in Photoshop.


Nice, California look.  The sunlight reflects off the water and off the ceiling of the middle cavity; nice touch.  It resembles those 3d Bryce images that incorporate obviously artificial elements and yet have been seamlessly wrapped in the environment around them as if they grew out of it –right there.  In fact, this menger sponge structure looks like a ruined or dilapidated tropical building.

Crumbleton by FractalJam

“Her mind is tiffany-twisted…”  I see this as an extremely unusual coffee table and of course, the sort of thing that would only reside in a rather wealthy, luxurious kind of place.  It’s an interesting “thing”.  Made of glass; too delicate to be used and thus… tiffany-twisted.

Her mind is Tiffany-twisted, she got the Mercedes bends
She got a lot of pretty, pretty boys she calls friends

~Hotel California

ExoExhibit by MarkJayBee

Mirrors on the ceiling,
The pink champagne on ice
And she said “We are all just prisoners here, of our own device”

~Hotel California

You know, if they had 3d fractals back in 76 when Hotel California came out, then they would have used them for the album cover.  I’m assuming you know what an album cover is.

Mark’s image here uses reflection very well and creates images within the image –of itself!  “Prisoners… of our own device”  As always, if you want to get all the thrills this image has to offer, you need to click on it and see it full-size.  Or check out the mammoth version in Mark’s Deviant Art gallery.

Xenotransplantation by “aka FLUX” (on Flickr)

If you look closely you will see the rough, bud-like points of the mandelbulb.  However, this is not really a 3d image as you might have guessed and has been creatively layered and other things to produce this beastly looking creature.  (Pressed mandelbulb?)  As the title suggests, it’s a combination of various animal tissues –transplants.

From the Flickr gallery page:

Xenotransplantation (xenos- from the Greek meaning “foreign”), is the transplantation of living cells, tissues or organs from one species to another.


A continuing concern is that many animals, such as pigs, have shorter lifespans than humans, meaning that their tissues age at a quicker rate…

I like the symmetry.  Symmetry can give a surreal feeling implying this macabre concoction has morphed into a coat-of-arms symbolizing authority and pride instead of revulsion and fear.

And in the master’s chambers,
They gathered for the feast
They stab it with their steely knives,
But they just can’t kill the beast

~Hotel California

Autumn colors1 by Pauldelbrot

Nice coloring, interesting “zipper of the infinite” content, as well as the old “fractalscape” endlessness that is always eye-catching and reminds us that fractal art is playing with power –graphical power.  Which recursion to follow?  Paul’s next image in the series zooms into the green area, which looks small in this view but expands into the infinite in the next.  So many places to go…

Last thing I remember, I was
Running for the door
I had to find the passage parameters back
To the place I was before
“Relax, ” said the night man,
We You are programmed to receive.
You can check-out log-out any time you like,
But you can never leave! ”

~Hotel California

Album cover, Hotel California, by the Eagles, released in 1976 just a year after the term, “fractal” was coined by Mandelbrot (and playing ever since in endless recursion and perfect self-similarity).  Click to view back cover, inside, record sleeves, etc…

Simple album cover; just a neon sign, hazy sunset and some colonial architecture.  Computers have changed a whole lot since then, but art is still the same.

Plenty of room at the Hotel California
Any time of year (Any time of year)
You can find it here

~Hotel California

Listen to the Original song on YouTube

“Some dance to remember, some dance to forget”

Brother, can you spare $58?

Fractalforums.com’s owner, Christian Kleinhuis (aka Trifox) is attempting to put out another fractal art calendar this year.  I reviewed last year’s and called it, “The Best Fractal Calendar Ever!“.

I hope that review scored me enough points over there with the Fractalforums.com folks to cover this year’s review.

Here’s a brief summary of the discussions surrounding this year’s (proposed) calendar:

Screenshot from Fractalforums.com 2013 Calendar order page. Click to go there and read the rest.

How much is that in $US for one copy (shipping included)?

  • For German Orders:  $46
  • European Orders: $50
  • Worldwide: $58

Here’s how Jeremie Brunet (aka bib, bib993) explains it on his Deviant Art page:

Pre-order fractalforums 2013 calendar now!

  • by *bib993, Oct 7, 2012, 1:31:19 AM

Dear Watcher,

You might not know that without fractalforums.com, the recent history of 3D fractals, i.e. the discovery of the 3D Mandelbulb and Mandelbox would not have been the same, and we wouln’t have been able to make these extraterrestrial landscapes, strange and fantastic objects like we see flourishing on DeviantArt fractal galleries for about 2 years now.

So now it’s time to say THANK YOU fractalforums for having been the boiling pot which made this new form of 3D fractal art a reality. And especially THANK YOU to Christian Kleinhuis, our beloved administrator, a.k.a. the “priest of chaos” as he likes to call himself for fun on his great new Youtube video series.

So, please support fractal art and the fractal community and go buy the calendar! Moreover, there are several DeviantArt members who took part in this year’s edition of the fractalforums.com calendar (last year, 2012, was the 1st edition), so check out this page at fractalforums.com to view the chosen images and pre-order you calendar by Paypal.

That’s right.  Mr Kleinhuis has been footing the entire bill for Fractalforums.com.  I don’t know what the costs are but I’m sure it’s dedicated hosting (not cheap, shared hosting) and probably runs about $60 to $80 a month.  He’s got some advertising revenue but the majority of the costs probably come right out of his own pocket.

Is $58 too much to ask?  “Brother?”

Taurus66 had this to say in a thread on Fractalforums.com (FFs):

Sorry for the directness guys, but someone needs to say that. The reason, why this calendar doesn’t work, is the same reason, why the cups and the calendar 2012 didn’t work:
It is FAR TOO EXPENSIVE and in addition this time the need of prefinancing via Paypal (incl. non existent shipping costs) looks shady to everyone outside FF.

The day before Taurus66 posted that, a new thread was started by Christian Kleinhuis:

Screenshot from Fractalforums.com. Click image to read the rest…

Further down the thread bib writes:

Have you asked Tim and Terry at OT to do a review?

And then Christian Kleinhuis says this a little later:

…i have written a mail to the info email at orbittrap  but will ask tim directly again this evening

And so, without further introduction or delay…

A Review…

…of the (proposed, but not yet printed)

– Fractalforums.com 2013 Calendar! –

A public “Decap-tionating”


~Click on images to view full-size on the Fractalforums.com Calendar order page~


Vivid, sensory, perfectly rendered image …of a golden golf ball in a manure pile

“When fractal art dies in a calendar, does it make a sound?


I know this guy’s work. He’s got a hundred better than this one. Nice composition, thought. Sorry.  What’s next?

The Hair Balls of War!

The Guano-bulb. I’m sensing a theme this year…

Now this is a good one. Seriously. Put this on the front cover, seal it, and let customers assume all the rest inside are just as good. This one is so detailed and realistic I zoomed into it and look what I found…

© Plamen Agov • studiolemontree.com

Don’t kid yourself, it doesn’t matter how careful you are; weeds can get into your fractals and ruin everything.

Oops! Another good one. Really, though; you can never go wrong with this guy’s work.  What’s his secret?

1. It’s not cutting edge fractal art 2. Neither is it a new variation on an old theme 3. I don’t care who made it —three strikes, you’re out!

Adamantium Heart? How about, “Daddy, I dropped my ball in the sewer”

In the cave of burning dogfood

Man, there ain’t nothing funny about this one.

2012… Those were the days. When you couldn’t visit Fractalforums.com without seeing something innovative, creative and awesome. History in the making! Forget the calendar thing, man; it’s not worth the hassle.

No More Flat Fractals!

Does it seem that no one has any interest in the old, 2D fractal images anymore?  And furthermore, does it seem that since the advent of the 3D fractal craze that there are more fractal artists making interesting work than ever before?

I’d answer yes to both those questions.  Numerous times while browsing further and further back in an artist’s gallery on Deviant Art I’d come to the “Before Mandelbulb” era and their notable gallery all of a sudden reverts to UF layering trash.  It’s like the mandelbulb and it’s various other 3D formulas have given many artists superpowers which the old “flat” fractal programs failed to do.

In addition to that, quite a few fractalists are becoming more proficient with the 3D tool set and actually experimenting with non-fractal elements in order to be more creative.  There’s something about the 3D fractal genre I think that makes it easier to relate to and work with.  It’s more fertile ground.

And less abstract?  3D fractals seem to be more realistic or at least, more “concrete”.  Or are the 3D tools just much more powerful and better able to generate interesting imagery?  A few hours playing around in the mandelbulb programs will allow almost anyone to find something interesting?  Like being let loose in some newly discovered lost city with a camera; you can’t fail to bring back something shocking and awesome.

Let’s start with the most awesome thing I’ve seen lately, a new formula variation made by HalTenny (Deviant Art) who also seems to have made the best example of it:

~ Click on any of the blog images to view full-size on their original site~

Industrial Contamination by HalTenny

HalTenny brought us the famous “onion” or 3D metal boiler and enamelled piping images which quickly became a small rendering rage in themselves.  And just as with those, he lead the way.  This new variation looks even better and creates incredibly bizarre and yet realistic looking works.  The use of “fog” to give a photographic depth of field effect works well to give a sense of immensity to the rusted metal structure.

HalTenny’s Deviant Art gallery is well worth taking a look at.  His work just gets better and better and the high quality of the graphical rendering is state of the art.  He comes up with great, new variations of formulas and he’s a rendering perfectionist.  A great combination of talents.

View from the war machine by ZZZ_spb

Some people like to add trees, lakes and birds to their images.  We don’t need them.  They can eat lead and taste shrapnel if they ever come around here.  Nice dreamy Maxfield Parrish sunset, don’t you think?  I like that.  It’s a delightful contrast to the cold machine gun and artillery shells and harsh steel walls of this creatively rendered mandelbox, mandel-something.  Who is this ZZZ_spb guy?  I like his style!

The Hall of Masters by lxh

It doesn’t get much more 3D than this.  I keep expecting to see someone walk in through one of the passageways.  It’s a temple, cathedral or something grandiose like that.  And with the “fog” feature the depth is so realistic it reminds me of big budget CGI movie scenes like the last Harry Potter movie.

The Fractalforums.com gallery page for the image has this note by the artist, lxh:

Since i know it, i’ve always been fascinated by the architectural structures of ABoxMod2. To me it looks like a big pillar hall where all the fractal formula masters have their place. In this case i pimped it with _rotatedFolding, HeightMapIFS and Photoshop. Hope you like it.

Like it?  We love it!  Make another one, please…

The Masters Gallery by lxh

Lxh adds these notes:

As you might can imagine I just had to take a further walk through the hall of masters until Julia brought me a view stages deeper to show me the gallery, a sort of shrine krypta, but empty. And it seems no coincidence that my very first thought was: Right Julia … where all the masters have their place.

I understand this as a preview and i’m thinking of filling these shrines with shining and illuminating classical fractals. This could be the place of Mandelbrot for example. Right behind might be Pythagoras’, Sierpinski’s or Menger’s .. don’t know .. any suggestions?

Suggestions?  Yeah I’ve one: Skulls!

Pendant of Necromancy by Tahyon

Notes from the artist on the Fractalforums.com gallery page:

Mandelbulb 3D and PS CS6
Another Pendant from Alchemist collection
This one has a bit of postwork, but without the skulls it wouldn’t be a necromancer pendant…i put a little beat of evil in his shape
Hope you like it

Postwork done in PS CS6

The Alchemist collection is a set of shiny metallic mandelbulb designs presented as jewellery which you can see by clicking on the image and checking out the original gallery page.  Tahyon has quite a bit of skill as a designer as well as a fractal artist and here the two talents merge perfectly.  I’ve always said that 3D fractals were very ornate and would work well as decorative items.  The skulls (and the screaming skeleton) just add a little polish to the fractal.

Morning Departure by MarkJayBee

Mandelbulb 3D v1.53

Found this ‘ship’ departing from the area of ‘Thedus Station’….

A rock that looks like an old fashioned wooden sailing ship.  It’s hard to imagine a rock looking like a sailing ship, but there it is.  A good example of how profitable it can be to wander around and browse a 3D fractal.  Mark, of course, has many more images which are much more sophisticated than this “rock” and here’s one that is also a little offbeat:

Dôme de Champ Magnétique by MarkJayBee

Notes from the Fractalforums.com gallery page by the artist:

Mandelbulb 3D v1.7.9.9c TestFile

DEcombinate using: discoballIFS/PolyFolding/ABoxModKali/Menger3/_reciprocalY3/_SphereFolding1

Managed to get an inside view of Luca’s new ‘discoballIFS’ formula; playing about with iterfog gives some interesting – but unpredictable! – transparency ‘diffraction’ effects.  nerd

Hi-Res version at:

The “diffraction” effects he’s referring to are quite creative.  They almost look like something a photoshop filter would have produced.  Just as HalTenny’s renderings are super clean and perfect, this one is rough and wild and yet reaches a similar level of perfection in a very different category of style.

Here’s a fantastic example of Mark’s advanced “watercolor-like” mandelbulb style:

GSV MainBay III by MarkJayBee

Mark has worked as a professional illustrator, photographer and photo-restorer and somewhere I read that his goal with 3D fractals is to create sci-fi illustrations.  I think he’s achieved that goal.

To the depths of the ocean where all hopes sank… by Mandelwerk (Kraftwerk)

Kraftwerk, on Fractalforums.com, or Mandelwerk on Deviant Art has really tried hard to take 3D fractals to that higher level of more expressive, cerebral art.  This actually is not a good example of that, but it is a good example of his rich and sophisticated coloring, an artistic quality that is less exploited by 3D fractal artists than it is by the 2D ones.  I like the shape, color and pattern to the fish object and the rendering is so photo-realistic that I would expect on closer examination to see that it’s carved from wood and covered with a thin layer of plaster and paint.

Nagasaki by Mandelwerk

Artist notes from Deviant Art gallery page:

My second image of the two horrible events that took place in Japan in August 1945.
I hope I will never have to create a third image.

Thinking of the hundreds of thousands people who lost their life and to those whose life is still affected by the aftermath of the atomic bomb.

Mandelbulb 3D
My own photo of sky added in Photoshop.

The 400 pixel version I have up there really doesn’t do justice the original which is 1280px wide.  It’s a neat depiction of distorted architecture and also of what could be interpreted as atomic models spinning and whirring away on the left.  If you loved Nagasaki you’ll love Hiroshima too:

Hiroshima by Mandelwerk

Image notes from Deviant Art gallery page:

When I found this theatrical scenery of a big city in a frozen moment just as it gets hit by a heavy impact I knew I had to do my Guernica. [link]

The stylized high buildings and twisted structures gave me the image of the vision I had as a child when I heard about what once had happened in the City of Hiroshima.

I have been working on this piece for almost a month to get the disposition and ambience exactly as I wanted it to be, to show my respect for the hundreds of thousands people who lost their life and to those whose life is still affected by the aftermath of the atomic bomb.

Mandelbulb 3D, rendered with 7760 x 3490 resolution, a very important aspect…

I hope mankind will never use these terrible weapons again.

Mandelbulb 3D, Photoshop

Can fractals be thought provoking and express ideas and not merely delight our eyes with beautiful designs and ornate details?  You know, maybe he’s done it and that without leaning too heavily on Photoshop to make mere fractal “elements” into something completely different.

Well, it looks like Mandelwerk’s pair of fractal images has managed to express and evoke something more substantial than the usual eye candy wonders. I could see something like this made into an actual outdoor sculpture/memorial type of thing.  An artist like that deserves his own public exhibition.  Browsing his Deviant Art gallery will quickly show you what I mean by his unique graphical style and persistence in trying to move fractal art to a higher level.  I’ve said it couldn’t be done, but I was just speculating on the future based on all the junk we were all making at the time.

Circuitry Circus #4 by Reallybigname

Reallybigname brought us the Mayan Trickster images that were symphonies of detail and design.  This one is equally good although you’ll need to view it full-size to really appreciate it.  Here’s another one in the series:

Circuitry Circus #2 by Reallybigname

The detail isn’t just of high quantity, which is easy enough to find in any fractal formula whether 2D or 3D even, the detail is also of exceptionally high quality and shows the processing power of these formulas to create unimaginable imagery.  This is the world’s most complicated clock or circuitry as the name suggests.

Soldiers in a Row by skyzyk

Skyzyk ignored the rules about color when he made this image.  Or is Skyzyk now writing the rules about color?  Ironically, this 3D image has a flattened appearance to it.  But the plastic look it has is why I like it so much.  These are distinctly artificial colors if one can say that in the context of digital art.  It’s the bowels of a machine, a plastic extruding, super-advanced toy factory (and shiny!).

Here’s another one by “Skyzyk the Rule-Breaker:”

Hall of Champions by Skyzyk

It’s eerie and creepy and the pillars look like they’re made of celery –celery gone bad and yellow– and all this because of the color!  Nice touch.

Jan 20 by Skyzyk

Not an uncommon 3D fractal rotary cheese-grater image.  But transformed into something radically different and resembling a hand-drawn comic book image by Skyzyk’s mysterious color talents.  If you look closely at the full-size image on Skyzyk’s Deviant Art gallery page, you’ll see the artistic effect his coloring style has on the “drive shaft” structure.

Artist notes for the image:

Made with Mandelbulb3D 1.796 by jesse, [link] ,Photoshop and or finished in Dynamic Photo HDR5 Formulas by :icondark-beam:[link]
Artwork Copyright at myfreecopyright. [link]
My work is not and should not be considered Public Domain. All my works are watermarks embedded with Digimarc. My works are not to be shared anywhere without my express consent and written permisssion.

Please note that my parameters are available upon request. If you would like to download the full image, or as a print, also, please notify me.
:groups: Member of #GetWatchers: We help Artists to expand their audience. Expand yours… You can Join us Here.OU!!!

HDR?  Maybe that and the Photoshop finishing explains the stylish look.  This HDR is the same thing that photographers (like Ron Fitch) use to combine several versions of the same shot with varying levels of contrast to make a richer image with more “pop” as the Dynamic Photo HDR website says.

Tower by ZZZ_spb

This is just plain cool.  Wait, look!  It’s by the same guy as made the machine gun one above.  I often don’t see the artist’s name when browsing around the fractal art world because they aren’t always that noticeable.  (And some names are harder to remember than others.)

It’s a desert sky at sunset… the ornate stone work suggests bricks and blocks, not slabs… the little window is typical of a defensive position… the title, “Tower” suggests the artist was thinking the same thing… the machine gun and artillery shells of his last one…  all this reminds me of an interesting photo I saw on Wikipedia of an ancient tower:

Tripoli Tower of Lions (Lebanon) c1900 from Wikipedia

Or the famous university library at UNAM in Mexico City:

UNAM Library by Oscar Esquimal

From the blog, Esquimal.

You can check out more by ZZZ_spb on Fractalforums.com on this page if I’ve copied the link correctly.  (Linking to some things can be pretty complicated these days.)

Looking forward by ZZZ_spb

Yes, we just can’t rule out any possibility when it comes to 3D fractals, looking forward

I’ll bet you don’t know Ronald Fitch

I found his gallery on Flickr during a routine search of the word, “fractal”.  I clicked on a couple of unusual looking thumbnails and quickly headed straight to his main gallery page.

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

walls and plumbing by Ronald Fitch

Ron uses one of the 3D mandelbulb programs but he must be pushing some different buttons because his work is quite unique.  In fact, for the image above Ron says this:

one pattern is good but two may be better. This seems to be a set of booths with plumbing. The booths are colored with a painting by the great Lyonel Feinniger, one of his paintings of boats for which I have yet to find a really good use. The lower level is a bit of Miro.


I guess he’s using a texture mapping feature from the program and instead of a standard texture he’s used that feature to apply a famous artwork on the surface of the mandelbox structures.

The effect can be quite powerful especially when he starts to embellish the final image with other items:

fins of bricks by Ronald Fitch

The window makes for an interesting touch and is a further example of how introducing realistic elements in 3D fractals can work quite well.  With the old 2D fractals such photoshopping usually  came out looking odd and unnatural.

afternoon view or the tower by Ronald Fitch

This is a picture that began life as a picture that looked like it was taken through a window It is entirely unlike anything else I’ve seen out of Mandelbulb 3D.

Ron’s got a real eye for the unusual and creative.  Who has ever made a Mandelbulb image as freaky as that?

feathered roof masts by Ronald Fitch

This is the type of fractal image I describe as “raw style” although the Mandelbulber programs tend to make imagery that is much easier to relate to than the old style 2D programs.  It’s worth viewing this one on Flickr by clicking on the “actions” button and viewing the largest size image.  I think you can jump right there via this link.

The gallery page says this about the image:

This is derived from two images combined with Dynamic HDR, a program meant for somewhat different purposes. This is easily done with two or three versions of the same image. these can differ in various ways but one must be darker and one lighter.

That’s High Dynamic Range Imaging (HDR), a high-tech photography trick that allows you to combine several photos of the same thing taken under differing conditions of focus and lighting and produce a composite image that has the wide range of detail that more resembles a drawing or painting than a photograph.  I’ve never heard of anyone applying it to a fractal image, although some layering techniques probably approach the same sort of composite effect.

Here’s a couple of Ron’s photos that exhibit the HDR effect:

clouds3 by Ron Fitch

cactus truck b by Ron Fitch

water ditch 1b by Ron Fitch

It allows you to capture an entire scene despite the widely contrasting light and contrast and put it all together in a single photograph in the way only a painter would have been able to do before.  Of course, you need a good photograph to start with otherwise the final result is only of technical interest.  I really like all three of these despite the fact that the subjects are quite ordinary.  But it’s the mark of a good photographer that they can produce something interesting from the ordinary.

The top image of the cars and house is incredibly mundane and yet it’s got some strange spark to it.  Ron’s also processed it a bit which may not be as evident in the low-res example here.  But still, it’s a real accomplishment to turn the mundane into the magical.  The water ditch has an old-time tinted photo look to it.

Back to fractals…

rutted road through the wilderness by Ron Fitch

The old and the new; the rough and the smooth.  Notice what humble titles Ron gives to his works.  I’ll bet he never thought he’d someday be a big star on Orbit Trap.  Let’s hope he stays this humble.

Ron’s unique rendering style shows through in the top one.  It appears more hand-crafted than formulaic.  The coloring further adds to the old-style feel.  Rather good composition in this one which can be a real challenge in fractal art.

interconnections and bus by Ron Fitch

A relatively simple image and yet the contrasting “movements” between the interconnecting objects in the foreground and the rushing bus in the mid-ground are instantly apparent and captivating.  It’s surprises like this that keep so many artists browsing around in the Mandelbulbs/boxes looking for just one more.

Well, there you go.  Now you know Ronald Fitch.

Orbit Trap v2.0: A Kinder, Gentler Fractal Blog

Hey!  Wasn’t Orbit Trap supposed to be closed down?  Wasn’t Orbit Trap supposed to be finished with and over and all that sort of thing?

Well, let me explain.  In short, I got tired of blogging every week and after six years decided it was time to give it a rest.  Eight months later I realized that a niche blog doesn’t need weekly updates to remain relevant and I began to consider starting it up again with a more relaxed attitude.  Yes, a much more relaxed attitude.

Orbit Trap has never been a one-man show and would be rather one-dimensional if it were.  Long ago me and Terry had decided that we’d retire Orbit Trap rather than keep it going with only one of us as the sole contributor.  Similarly, neither of us was going to resurrect the blog on our own.

Now it’s back up and running.

I like fractal art.  Even more, I like commenting on it.  Public art begets public commentary and no place is as public as the internet.  Fractal art and the internet are intertwined.

A blog about fractal art is just such a natural thing.

So long, and thanks for all the fish

Orbit Trap is closing down.  This is the last and final post you will be reading here.

No, this is not a joke.

After almost 6 years of continuous weekly and sometimes daily (hourly?) publishing, we, the co-editors of Orbit Trap, Tim Hodkinson and Terry Wright have decided that the blog has run its course and now it’s time to move on to new projects.  If you’ve just discovered Orbit Trap and are curious about it’s 6-year history, I suggest you check out the About Page.

The blog and all its postings will still remain online for at least the duration of our current web hosting contract, as an archive, but there won’t be any more new content posted to Orbit Trap from this point onward (February, 2012).

If you’d like to hear our opinions on where the Fractal Art world is going or what we have to say about Fractal Art in general, or our commentary on any of the various events or entities in the Fractal-sphere, then I’d suggest you read the blog (again?).  Anything posted by “Tim” is a good bet.

In Terry’s words, “We came.  We saw.  We left.”

In the words of Sergio Leone, “You can’t be a communist if you own a villa.”

In the words of Arthur Dent, “I always thought something was fundamentally wrong with the universe.”

In the words of Dirty Harry, “I know what you’re thinking. ‘Did he fire six shots or only five?’ ”

But as is always the case in the Blogosphere it’s the comments section that gets the last word.

“Special” Holiday Fractal Finds

There is fractal art and there is the analysis of fractal art, and then there’s fractal events: contests, calendars and the occasional news item.  But then there are those occasional “things” that just don’t fall into the usual categories.  Here are some of those high points –special finds– of this 2011 holiday season on Deviant Art…

Season’s Greetings…

In all fairness, the authors never intended their images to be displayed like this.  Some authors choose to restrict viewing only to registered and logged-in members of Deviant Art.  All others are presented with the stock image padlock.

I think the idea is to prevent potential scammers from misusing their art as well as maybe web bots and those Google Image searches so the online gallery site can just stick to displaying artwork to those users who are browsing around looking for artwork.  I have a DA user account from a few years ago but it’s too much trouble looking up the password and username.  Besides, very few artists require registered log-ins so I don’t bother.  I don’t actually know what those “locked up” images look like.

Best Animation Thumbnail Link of All Time

Based solely on the style of writing and the type of rock used, I propose a date for this artwork of no later than circa 2011 BC

You know, most people who venture into the complex and time consuming realm of animation I believe have an above average level of user skills when it comes to using fractal software.  Why this artist preferred to scrawl this desperate, “dying man”  message in place of a single frame capture I’ll never know.  Actually, come to think of it, I found the thumbnail so funny I forgot to click on it and view the animation.  I guess that makes us both Neanderthals.

Best Use of Irony in a Signature Line

Signature lines are the bumper stickers of the Information Highway --Anonymous : ) =)

Yes, some of you know who this is.  And why is that?  It’s because you’ve seen this signature line so often!

I don’t know why, but I got to actually thinking what that quote was saying and thought to myself:  “She intends for us to click on those links, doesn’t she?  And does she not have to best of intentions that we should visit her galleries?  Wouldn’t it then follow that the road to hell goes right through her galleries?  Or at the very least, the road to hell *starts* with her galleries…”

Nirvana is the achievement of total watermark-nature

Bouddha Face by trsor7 (Deviant Art) -click for fullsize-

Okay, I understand.  People are always stealing artwork off Deviant Art and in some cases –paradoxically, in fact– reposting it to DA under their own name.  And what better way to foil such evil schemes than by stamping your username and gallery link on the image (under a huge Deviant Art logo).  And what better place to put that watermark than smack dab in the middle of the image?

In fact, after you’ve done that, maybe no one will ever want to steal your image.

Watermark springs a leak

Here’s the original image with a, shall we say, rushing torrent of a watermark:

Grey Skies by f--l--A--r--k (Deviant Art) Old version Dec, 21st

Then a change of heart…

Here’s the newer, cleaner version:

Grey Skies by f--l--a--r--k (click for full-size)

Note that Stan Ragets (stanragets.com) didn’t get rid of the watermark altogether, he just made one that didn’t leave tire tracks right across his image.  In fact, the new one is rather stylish.  Now how about doing something with that DA username?

Even God didn’t put a watermark on the Milky Way…

Hot Milkyway by geaannunziata (click for full-size)


After 2 weeks of rendering, a watermark says “it’s finished”

Hot and Cold Geometry by Joao Benoit (click for full-size)

Yeah, the details of the watermark show up a lot better in the full-size version too.  But then, it’s only natural to to finish off a composition like this made of squares with a nice square watermark right in the middle on a clear, white background.

Note how the centrally located watermark connects both the “hot” and “cold” geometry elements and unifies the whole picture.  Could the use of the watermark in fact be an artistic statement?

I wonder what his other artwork looks like?

Here’s one.  A mirrored photo with an almost fractal look.  Click on it to see it full-size and see if you can spot the watermark.

Satan's Employees by Joao Benoit (click for full-size)

It’s hard to spot that watermark in this one.  Watermarks just seem to blend it perfectly with Satan’s Employees.  But then, I’m not really looking at it from the point of view of an artist.  That is, a poor, ripped-off artist.  I’m looking at all this from the point of view of the audience.

Watermarked Mona Lisa by Me, me, ME!!! 2011

It’s entirely up to the artist whether they want to use a watermark or not; or whether they want to use any sort of digital restrictions.  But I would suggest you consider what you may in fact lose with all these things even if someone actually tries to “steal” your art.

Writing your name on your artwork isn’t a bad idea at all.  In my opinion though, watermarks just ruin your artwork by making it unviewable if in fact they do succeed in making it unusable.  But then, if you don’t want people to view your artwork, then what’s the use of uploading it?

Phase 3: The Relentless Pursuit of Color, Shape and Pattern

Untitled by Jackson Pollock, 1943

Shimmering Substance by Jackson Pollock, 1946

Cobra Chair by Carlo Bugatti, 1902

Wall Piece 2 by Abhidnya Ghuge (Click for full-size)

We’ve all watched or taken part in, at sometime or another, that great quest to “define” fractal art.  Although few members of the fractal world seem very interested in this sort of “constitutional debate” everyone operates with at least some sort of understanding of a boundary around fractal art.  The boundary is where fractal art is combined with or merges into “other” things and becomes something more, or less, than fractal art.  There are limits to what we’ll call “fractal” art.

These “phase” things are attempts to clarify what fractal art is and thereby produce a more energetic approach to it.  More energetic because when one is more focused on what it is they’re doing, their efforts usually become intensified.  Also when one identifies new areas of the same discipline there is often a burst of creativity.  At least that’s why I keep returning to this puzzle of defining fractal art: taking stock of what you have or who you are usually leads to new possibilities and undiscovered resources.

But another reason is that I don’t think anyone has really put their finger on what exactly fractal art is all about.  Strangely enough, I have never thought fractals and fractal geometry was really the heart of fractal art, that is, the thing that people are pursuing when they make and view fractal art.

Of course not everyone whose work falls in the domain of “fractal” art is motivated by or pursuing the exact same interests.  There are some who (possibly) can claim their interest is primarily fractal algorithms and they aren’t interested in art work that might look similar to it but isn’t derived from the rendering of those fractal formulas.  But I see this more as a technical, scientific pursuit than an aesthetic one.  However, the art world is a pretty broad and eclectic place so maybe an obsession with math graphics qualifies as an art form as much as any of the more obscure art forms of the 20th century did.

I am not interested in fractals or fractal math, or any of the technical aspects of how algorithmic art forms are made.  The underlying mechanics of how algorithmic art is made to me consists of little more than technical trivia.  What’s important is the images themselves and discovering new sources.

What I’m getting at here is the notion that what attracts and drives fractal artists and their audiences is not the pursuit of rendering fractals and the establishment of an art form defined by –and delimited by– fractals, but rather the admiration and pursuit of this intriguing way of creating art works of color, shape and pattern with a computer.  Fractals are, so far, the best tools for doing this and as such fractal programs are the thing our mutual interests congregate around.  But it’s really those three graphical ingredients: color, shape and pattern; that are the heart of what we do and what drew us to fractals in the first place.

But who can overlook the incredible story of how fractal images are made?  Such simple geometric formulas… repeated a million times… yielding a galaxy-sized panorama of elaborate imagery.  But you get over that pretty quickly and soon it’s just playing with parameters and flipping through formulas until you see something that shows some potential –graphical potential– and not some new discovery in the field of fractal rendering.  We’re here for the visual thrill; to look at the “pictures”.  Fractals are just the only thing the machine will do, and so that’s what we do, and that’s how we label it.

But I think it’s more accurate, as well as more liberating, to say that what has passed for fractal art all these years and what will live on in the future as fractals compete with other forms of software, is that enduring game of creating art from color, shape and pattern.  Fractals themselves I think are a fad and eventually become a trap to those who either forget, or just plain fail to see, that what can be done with fractal software is just a small part of what can be done with graphical software as a whole.  There is nothing to be gained by “specializing” in fractals, and in fact, I’d say there’s a lot to be lost and missed out on by doing so.

We’ve made fractals the subject of the art form when in fact they’re really only the tool and the real subject matter is color, shape and pattern.

Well, that’s the end of the lecture, but here’s some really good examples of color, shape and pattern in current fractal artwork:

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

Destroy by bib993 (Jeremie Brunet)

Is Neo-Pollockian too strong a term to use here?  I just found this a few days ago browsing the Deviant Art Fractal feed for recent uploads.  I can’t think of a better example of the “abstract, but not really abstract” aspect to works of color, shape and pattern.  It also has that strange, endless detail quality to it.  There’s a thousands paintings in this one big one ironically named, “Destroy”.

Sunturn by DarK--MatteR (Deviant Art) aka Boris Danilevitch

New things from old tools!  That’s what the relentless pursuit of color, shape and pattern is all about in its highest expression.  How many of us have written off “spirals” as exhausted and cliche?.  And yet there’s plenty more possibilities as Boris has shown here.

X Marks the Spot by element90 (Deviant Art)

Old school; maybe more like ancient school: “Classical”.  But forget all that and just take a closer look at the patterns.  From one side to the other and also from top to bottom, there is no similarity except shapes shifting into each other –a liquid pattern.  There’s really nothing retro or primitive about fractal imagery like this.  The newer rendering methods and formulas just make different stuff.  But in these simple renderings patterns stand out much better and are presented more effectively.

Flowabrot-13M by ker2x (Fractalforums.com)

I think this was intended to be a test render posted to a thread entitled: “A 3D Buddhabrot with 13 Millions voxel :) “.  There’s a YouTube video related to it.

What is so great about this image?  The author, Ker2x didn’t even post it to the online gallery and as you can see this is just a screenshot of what I think is his own program Flowabrot (download link -Windows).  Color and shape is what I find most engaging about this image.  But the colors are fairly basic;  and yet that oversaturated effect (which comes naturally when using oversaturated colors) is electrifying.  The shape is unique and although symmetrical there is enough variation in the edges (a type of pattern, or texture) to make the fairly simple shape engrossing.  This is another great example of how fractal tools can really give us an edge in making works of color, shape and pattern, that is, at least when we keep looking for new things to do with them.

Anyhow, I hope I’ve at least made the idea seem plausible that fractals are the tools and not the subject of fractal art –as strange and contradictory as that may at first sound.  The ramifications of this I think are obvious: fractal artists will see and discover new opportunities and get a “second wind”, as marathon runners say, when they begin to see fractals merely as the tool and not the subject of their of their art;  an art form that is simply defined as the combination and permutation of three graphical elements: color, shape and pattern.

Best Fractal Calendar Ever!

Fractalforums.com 2012 Calendar (Cover art by Johan Anderssen)

Why is it the best fractal calendar ever?

  • Great artwork by the best 3D fractal artists today
  • Authentic, state-of-the-art fractal imagery that didn’t exist even a year ago
  • Big!  Printed on A3 paper (297 × 420 millimeters or 11.69 × 16.54 inches)
  • Chosen by real artists and fractal enthusiasts, not a political clique
  • Contains artwork that has been highly praised in multiple online venues
  • A real “art” publication and not just another kitchen calendar with fractals
  • From the online forum where the original 3D Mandelbulb was born
  • First of it’s kind; a souvenir of 3D fractal history
  • Spiral bound, not stapled and hole punched like the cheap-ies
  • Help support the best online fractal forum community

Ordering information on Fractalforums.com

As you can see, I’m excited about this one.  After all those years of the sickly (leprous!) Fractal Universe Calendar that “featured” cliche flowery spirals and was an annual embarrassment to the fractal art world, this Fractalforums.com 2012 Calendar is a sign that better things are truly possible in the fractal art world.

The very first one, proudly hung on the wall of Christian Kleinhuis, the proud Daddy of Fractalforums.com

The calendar is being sold by Christian Kleinhuis, the sole sponsor and operator of Fractalforums.com.  For those of you who don’t know much about him, he has this to say about himself and how he came to Fractalforums.com:

About Me:

Christian Kleinhuis, 35; Working as Web-Programmer in Cologne,Germany, living in Bonn.

Working with fractals and knowing about the theory behind it has inspired me, like most of us at the Fractalforums from a programming background.  I started my first mandelbrot in the year of 1990 in amiga basic.  My goal back then was to create a comfortable zoom tool to enable zooming into transforming fractals.  This was the time my first mutatorkammer was developed –a generic formula creator for iterative formulas.  I really don’t know if it was done earlier, but I found it out on my own.  I was using hybrid formulas, mainly alternative forms of hybrid formulas, where formulas (or just the parameters) are exchanged in each iteration step.

Ultrafractal has always been a source of inspiration, and THE database for fractal formulas, especially coloring algorithms.  Ultrafractal then developed the animation functionality, and I saw that it was perfect, and that my style of code (rather show that its working,and not make a usable program) wouldn’t lead to such great usability … this was then around 2006, when the Fractalforums.com was founded by “Jason Henegan”.

The forum was hanging out with about 70,000 clicks a month, counted by the board, meaning that it has to be divided by 5 to 10 … when Jason Henegan wanted to sell his domain, it was me that took over the domain with the data…

The idea for the calendar came to Christian around Spring of this year, 2011, while he was considering ways of defraying the costs of hosting the forum.  He alone was covering the cost of the forum’s expenses.  A change of hosts and increased advertising revenue improved the financial situation for the forum but he still wanted to produce a calendar and thought it was good idea for the forum in other ways.

In the Fall he put up a poll on the forum to find out what interest members might have in buying a calendar.  The response was encouraging enough so he made plans for selecting the images and finding a publisher.

The image selection was a combination of monthly voting choices by the forum membership (where the data was available) and also Christian’s own personal selections which were needed to bring the total up to 12 monthly images and artwork for the cover.  Hybrid judging from a hotbed of hybrid 3D fractals…

One of the images is a winner in the Benoit Mandelbrot Fractal Art Contest 2011.  Three others are variations of winning entries in the BMFAC 2011 by the same authors and reflect the sort of “multiple venue” selection I mentioned at the beginning.  All of them will be familiar to those who frequent Deviant Art’s fractal pages.

In my opinion, all the images are good ones and while there are maybe one or two that I’m not as excited about, there aren’t any mediocre ones and there aren’t any that resemble the sort of junk the Fractal Universe Calendar used to cough out year after year.

Here’s the individual pages:

iEar by Louis Markoya

Louis’ winning BMFAC 2011 entry was a variation on this theme.  In case you don’t know, Mr. Markoya is a newcomer to the world of fractal art –just this year in fact– but he’s a long time member of the larger art world and even collaborated with the great Salvador Dali back in the 1970s.

Viaduct by Krzysztof Marczak

It’s his program so he can put a shiny monolith in it if he wants to.  Krzysztof Marczak is the author of Mandelbulber, one of the popular 3D fractal programs that grew up around Fractalforums.com.  He’s quite accomplished with the program’s fine art of embedding objects.

Detail of Quadray Set by J. Dierks

One of my own all-time favorites.  The thumbnail doesn’t do justice to the full size image.  Like Krzysztof, Jesse Dierks wrote the program his images are made on.  You see how much talent there is on Fractalforums.com?

Secret Microcity by Jeremie Brunet

Jeremie needs less introduction than most 3D fractal artists do.  He’s had at least two shows of his artwork in Paris (France), a spot on a French TV art channel, and probably a few other things even I don’t know about.

Bridges to Everywhere by Brent McNeely

Brent is better known online as “Dainbramage” although he has yet to show any signs of permanent mental impairment.  Here’s a good example of those complex fractal forests that exhibit squares, circles and just about everything in between; an Eiffel Tower Forest.

Underwater Amazing Object by Jeremie Brunet

What?  Two images by the same artist?  This is Jeremie’s winning entry in the BMFAC 2011 where their (unwritten) rules state that an artist can only truly have one good image a year.  Everyone loves this one and evidently Mr Kleinhuis does too.

Sea Invader by Torsten Stier

Torsten, known also as “taurus66” is a dedicated explorer of the 3d fractal interiors.  He’s also one of the few artists who dares to be colorful and does a good job of it.  He’s not afraid to use lake effect either, although he hasn’t in this one.

Wasp Troll by Johan Anderssen

Another widely popular image and a variation of a BMFAC 2011 winning entry.  This was a monthly winner as chosen by the Fractalforums.com membership voting and won a few other awards elsewhere.  The whole world seems to love Johan’s Wasp Troll series of images.  I find them a little scary.

3d Burning Ship by Jeremie Brunet

Three images?  Ay caramba!  Hey, it’s all about art, not about artists.  Jeremie is always pushing the envelope of the Mandelbox and if the calendar could accommodate animation then his amazing vidoes would take up at least half the spots.  Maybe living in Paris just gives artists a little edge?

Infinity's Eye by Ross Hilbert

Ross is another artist who has also created the machinery he works with.  I’m guessing, but I think this one was made with his Fractal Science Kit.  If you hang out at Fractalforums.com you will have seen many other richly detailed geometric artworks made by him.  He’s another “pillar” of the Fractalforums.com community.

Point of Origin by Hal Tenny

If you’ve seen anything this year in the world of 3D fractals you’ve seen some of these bronze metalworks.  Hal Tenny makes the best ones and I think he also made either the original ones or at least gave them their incredible popularity.  He had a winning entry at the BMFAC 2011 that was a variation of this.  Everyone finds these things cool to look at.  It’s hard to believe they’re not photographs, the surface texture and lighting is so realistic.

Fractal Beest by Forest Walz

A fine choice for a Winter month.  The small image here doesn’t quite show the wide range of shapes and crystalline details in this fractal “beest”.  It’s not the easiest thing to find this sort of dragon-like image and present it in such a pleasing way.  Fractal art can be a real challenge sometimes because it’s pretty easy to make and that makes it hard to create something that stands out so well as this.

Well, there you have it.  What a great event to finish off the year with.  Hopefully the calendar will sell well and this Fractalforums.com 2012 Calendar will become the first edition of an annual event.  Christian Kleinhuis and the forum voters have made a great selection.  The extra large size the calendar has been printed in along with the spiral binding ought to make for a long-lasting tribute to how great the early days of 3D fractals on Fractalforums.com has been.

Why not grab a piece of fractal art history and buy one?

## update 02/12/2011: Christian Kleinhuis sends in these comments about each of the images, starting with the front page:

1 title page – artist-mathematician-programmer the classic bunch of people hanging around at the forums, and whose konglomerative work have produced this calendar and most of everything at the forums…

2. iear – listening to what might come this year

3. travelling highway – the coder of one of the programs needed to be inside, funny thing is that it is in fact more of a test rendering, to test his program interact with euclidean geometry ….

4. approaching the city – jens is the other coder, and as well we have a test rendering here as well, jens just tried out a formula which he grabbed up at the forums, and this one popped out straight away!”

5. eploring the microcity parts – nice example of depth of field usage, and yes, bib has three entries, but this was not a candidate for discussion ;) it belongs to the pics of the kind: “this has to be inside!”

6. exploring fractal city further – showing of the rudimental aspect of converting a formula from 2d to 3d, the  sierpinskie structures nicely arrange in 3d, and thus this image is not only voted by the community, it show off some very basic fractal behaviour – namely self-similarity – which is not so well visible in all of the other images ;)

7. exploring the sea -(more of a secret )  if one of the images could be a problem it is this one, and should better have been exchanged with a better one …. first it won the annual compo, and the bfmac, and thus i felt like i had to use it, but it is in fact cropped far more as it would be good, and additionally the background of this image comes out very dark…. but c’est la vie!

8. summer jellyfish – this image always blows me away when i see it, love the colors and structure, and i am happy to push taurus into creating a 16:9 version out of his original 4:3 one ….

9. deep sea lifeforms – now more words about this one, just an extraordinary example of chaotic stuff that comes out of a single formula … johan not only helped in creating the calendar he also took is artistic-freedom and designed a 16:9 image out of his original 4:3 one…

10 flying dutchmen arriving – this image is in here, mostly because i want to honor the achievement of 3d fractals in general, and this image shows nicely how a 2d structure would look in 3d, just google for “burning ship” fractal, and you can show everyone that the 2d companion is just a slice through the 3d-burning-ship-fractal-bread

11. 2d cut – infinites eye – i wanted to honor ross for his extraordinary sharp and clean usage of ifs renderings, beside of that this image won the annual 2d compo ….

12 the work behind the scenes – this always reminds me about lenords work, but this image has been community voted, and it is the one that strikes most of the “normal” people, the ask when watching it: “is this a fractal ? or is it out of a computer game?”

13 up up and away – the journey continues, with this striking image ….

Apophysis + Deviant Art = Flaming Piles of Garbage

Let’s just jump to the heart of the matter:  Why is Deviant Art such a garbage dump?  What is it about fractal art, and especially the flame fractal category in particular that leads to the creation of these huge online wastelands of worthlessness?

Typical scenery to be found while browsing the Fractal category on Deviant Art

It’s not all bad

Oh yes, I have to acknowledge that there really are some flame images out there that are not garbage.  I’ve collected about 10 so far and that’s (only) after browsing maybe 4000 thumbnails.  Like I said in a previous post, I don’t mind scavenging for the good stuff, even when the ratio is 400:1.  You can breeze through 400 thumbnails in about 15 minutes.  The time required varies a lot of course depending on how promising the thumbnails look.  If you have to frequently stop and check out something that looks interesting, that can really slow you down.  For the most part you can travel at a pretty good clip, or click –show next page.

Jock Cooper left a comment recommending Cory Ench’s flame fractals.  I found a couple that would make me agree.  But…

Man. Even Cory’s got a lot of stuff there.  Something like 700 and frankly, while agreeing with Jock and acknowledging Cory’s ability to make some of the best flame fractals, he’s got quite a few “also rans”, to use a horse racing expression.  Whick raised the question:  Is this just the nature of fractals?  Is there always going to be such a wide range of “quality” wherever fractals are found?  Don’t all fractal artists have “a lot of stuff” in their galleries?

I went through all of Cory’s gallery, or galleries rather, mainly browsing the thumbnails.  It was quite interesting to see the progression of his artwork over time.  Cory’s best stuff is his most recent.  Or has he just become more discerning and more selective in what he uploads these days?  I’ve said before that all artists are editors and judges of their own work.

Three cheers for thumbnails!

An aside:  Next to Mandelbrot himself, we ought to celebrate the guy who invented auto-generated thumbnails.  Without those little visual samples we’d never be able to navigate the Sargasso Seas of the fractal world.  You can tell an awful lot about an image from it’s thumbnail.  And if there’s any substantial difference between a thumbnail and it’s full-size image, it’s usually that thumbnails make the larger images more appealing than they later turn out to be.  Thumbnails are a good visual summary.

Ich bin ein Garbage Picker

I’m a garbage picker and nowhere is it more so than when I’m crawling over the heaps at Deviant Art.  You know what gold miners do most of the time?  They shovel dirt.  It’s hard work but the chance of finding even a little bit of gold has caused people to dig away whole mountainsides.  Gold miners are really dirt miners.  Garbage pickers are the gold miners of the garbage fields.

What the fractal world really needs right now is more garbage pickers.  If you want to test yourself to see if you’ve got what it takes then try looking for good flame fractals on Deviant Art.  If a place like that doesn’t make you want to give up then I, King of the Garbage Pickers, salute you!

A new pile is uploaded: This could be the one, I just feel it!

They say I gotta dig

Finding good fractal art is like just like digging through heaps of garbage looking for useful or valuable things.  The better artists are like rich people and you’re bound to find something to make it worth your while “browsing” their garbage.  But what I’ve found is that the difference between the so-called “better” artists and the average, or even the worst, is not that great.  Artists who make good stuff often make a lot of the other stuff, too.  And the ones who upload endless pages of cheesy cliche images will eventually stumble on something noteworthy.  I love it when that happens.

Fractal Art is the realm of the scavenger

The notion that good fractal art comes only from skilled and talented people (as the Fractal Art Manifesto claims) is simply not supported by my numerous trips to the great online dumps of the fractal world.  Furthermore, this suggests that good fractal art is as much the outcome of playful experimentation as it is of any kind of ability or learning on the part of the fractal program “user”.  Fractal art is an electronic toy; a paint-by-number machine.  It’s only the grown-ups who want to make it into something big and important, not us kids.

Anyhow, this scavenging aspect to viewing fractal art that I’ve been alluding to I think just reflects the same scavenging environment that fractal art is created in.  We search parameter sets and search parameter variations looking for something that stands out –that catches our eye.  We search large panoramas for signs of promise, something that’s different.  The artists sort their work and the viewers sort what they’ve sorted.  Everyone who doesn’t like junk is a judge.

Even if you’re into post-processing there’s still a lot of experimenting and scavenging to be done.  Post-processing entails the most searching and experimenting of all.  It’s a natural extension to a fractal program: extra buttons.

No two piles are exactly the same

But why is there so much trash on Deviant Art?

We’re getting there.  Firstly, the making of fractal art is a lot of fun.  It involves experimentation, exploration and sometimes just the challenge of taking someone else’s parameters and making something different with them.  It’s a simple reflex to save the image and later upload it to some site like Deviant Art or Flickr:  Each upload represents some sort of accomplishment to the artist.

That is Deviant Art and most other art sites in a nutshell.  This is why there’s so much “garbage” piling up in places like Deviant Art: artists want to share their “accomplishments” where the possibility of getting a reaction is possible.  If they lack objectivity and think everything they’ve made is great, or fail to notice how much their own work resembles the truckloads that have already been uploaded, I think they can be forgiven.  At least they we can shrug off the “offense” of spamming the gallery or posting images that are random batch renders (I loved that feature of Apophysis when I first tried it out).

The average Deviant Art user is self-absorbed and seeks recognition.  The uploaded artwork reflects that self-indulgent, short-sighted and emotionally driven creative context.  The uploads aren’t for the benefit of the general public to come by and get acquainted with fractal art; rather it’s the kitchen fridge analogy that some commenter here on OT years ago pointed out.  Kids are proud of what they’ve made because they made it.  And parents (or in this case, your online buddies) are (almost) as excited because of the relationship they have and because giving compliments makes them and everyone else feel good.  I’ll bet cave painters got the same sort of comments from their friends as the folks on Deviant Art do today.  The whole thing is just the result of human nature and the ageless urge to create because it’s a fun thing to do and it’s a social activity as well.  Bigger things like “art” and “innovation” are not what these sites are all about.  They’re very personal and thus very trivial and that’s why one needs to approach them with gloves and a shovel, a sharp eye and a critical disposition.

What then should be done about these trash factories?

Firstly, Deviant Art is not some charitable enterprise set up to encourage and nurture young artists.  Deviant Art is a money making operation.  So the people running the whole thing don’t care so much about the quality of the artwork as they do about the quantity of people attracted to it and the commercial spinoffs it creates, like art sales, advertising and paid memberships.

I mean, think about it.  Why does Deviant Art (or Flickr) exist in the first place?  Those motives have a lot to do with explaining why the place is so member-focused and so inclusive.  It’s primarily the needs of the members that generates most of the income.  Deviant Art makes money off it’s membership, not people like me whose primary interest is looking around.  They might sell more prints though if they had, perhaps as a separate section, a more selective collection of artwork.  But I’m guessing that they’re reluctant to embark on any kind of sorting endeavor for such a massive amount of artwork.

And placing upload restrictions on it’s members would only spawn a new site where those restrictions didn’t exist.  Besides, features like “favorites” galleries go a long way to sorting through the trash even if some artists game the system.

Sites like Deviant Art will always resemble a landfill site and the only chance for most people ever seeing the better stuff is plain old word of mouth advertising.  The Favorites sections do this somewhat when they’re not too large, but beyond that they’re very few critical venues where the more interesting fractal artworks can break of out obscurity and get the sort of attention they deserve.  The contests at best are too infrequent and display too few artworks.  At their worst they’re horribly biased and choose work that should be thrown back on the heap instead of being held up for all to see.

Orbit Trap + More Orbit Trap = Deviant Art’s Best Friend

You know, Orbit Trap is probably the best friend Deviant Art ever had.  Look how many artists and artworks from there we’ve pointed people to.  And we’ve inspired a lot of “journal” postings too, I hear.

No need to thank us.  It’s payment enough just to be able to roam those flaming, smoking heaps at will and dig for gold where no one has ever dug before.

Or may ever dig again.

The Echo of El Greco

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

A View of Toledo by El Greco (c1597)

A classic example of El Greco’s trademark polyester/nylon sheen.  Things are always a little distorted, too.  I’ve often found El Greco’s style to be very modern and impressionistic.  Note the shadowiness.  Even the shadows have shadows.  Although the themes are always religious, as I guess most paintings were back then, his style is quite unique and radical and could even have been painted in our own time.

UFO by SvitakovaEva (Deviant Art)

“Sheeny”, distorted and shadowy:  Is it not the echo of El Greco?  I like the simple title, too.  The image is simple but potent.  In this tiny drop of formula there is river, desert, mountains, sky, clouds and eternal silence.  I’ll bet most of us would have just walked past this if we were zooming and browsing around in there.

I wouldn’t have called this “UFO” although that’s not a bad title as it accentuates the mysteriousness of the image; I would have done something daring and called it “Jet Trail of the Ascension”.  Yes, El Greco would have liked that, I think.  El Greco had a talent for combining religious themes with far-out, far-outed-ness.

View and Plan of Toledo (detail) by El Greco (c. 1610)

What exactly is going on there?  The top right figure in the “sacred cluster” looks like a ballerina spinning on her head.  Like Eva’s fractal, this image is only partially understood like something half hidden in a shadow.  And yet there is nothing disappointing about that.

Evolving Hologram by DorianoArt (Deviant Art)

I found this one El Greco-tesque, too.  The polyester sheen and the rushing movement, numerous folds of light.  And the square shape in the middle, repeated, echoed in pieces all over.  Is there a bottom to this well?  Drop your eyes and listen for the splash…

Hologram by DorianoArt (DA)

The Tornadoes from Toledos;  Hologram isn’t bad either.  There’s a glowing, fiery, aurora borealis look to this.

Hey.  You don’t suppose this is a flame fractal, do you?  Oh man.  I gotta check the gallery page to see if it says anything.

A screen capture is worth a thousand words

It’s a flame.  I bookmarked this one before I wrote my recent posting suggesting that almost all flame fractals be extinguished.  I must not have realized it was one of “those things”.  This is like the apotheosis of apophysis.  Good art speaks for itself and is more than the sum of it’s genes –or in this case, parameters.

At least he didn’t make it with Chaotica.  Then I’d really look foolish.

Let’s change the subject:

Friendly squid visit at night in Komodo National Park by Nhobgood (Wikipedia)

Well this ain’t no flame fractal, for sure.  But, look at the ghostly luminescence and the spirally tentacles and the way the animal’s body just slips away into the dark nothingness around it.  Isn’t this the sort of creation we could expect if the flame fractal genre develops some more graphical options and parameter choices?  I’m not a programmer or even a math person but I think the flame genre has some potential just based on what I see.  At the moment it takes some real experimentation to come up with something that hasn’t been done before.

Hopefully that sort of flame fractal renaissance will come from Thomas (Lyceum) Ludwig’s work with Chaotica, which just so happens, as he recently informed me, to be the main reason he started the project.  (A new personality would be nice, too.)

Flame Fractals: Get the Fire Extinguisher!

Odysseus blinds the Cyclops

My continuing Odyssey in the seas of Deviant Art has brought me to what I shall refer to as the island of Apophysis, that being the great flame fractal program created by Mark Townsend which utilizes the “flame algorithms” discovered or invented by Scott Draves, the author of Electric Sheep, the original flame fractal application in the form of a screen saver.

My apologies to Mark; he did a great job of producing the software and gave it all away freely so that the whole world may use it (and sometimes it seems the whole world is using it).  My urge to ram a sharp stick into the eye of this cyclops is because I think that while it may be a great thing to play with, it has taken up a disproportionate amount of gallery space everywhere in the fractal world with endless variations of its very limited themes.

While I’m at it I’ll apologize to Scott Draves as well.  He had the right idea when he made a screen saver out of his flame algorithms because that’s all flame algorithms are good for: live entertainment.  Scott made the algorithm code open source under the GNU Public License (same license as Linux) which allows anyone else to use it as long as they don’t add restrictions to the software they produce with it.  That’s one of the reasons flame fractals are found in so many places.  If you love flame fractals in general and Apophysis in particular then give a hearty cheer for Scott and Mark.

Now let’s get down to blinding the beast.

The only good thing I’ve ever seen done with Apophysis was a 3D video full of glowing domes and cosmic laser beams.  You’ve undoubtedly seen this sort of thing because Apo (for short) only makes a few things: glowing jelly fish domes; feathers; jack frost stain glass windows; colored smoke rings; and cloudy lint-like cobwebby fragments.

Change the colors, mix and match the Five Great Themes, add an inspirational title and that’s about all you can do.  Now there have been some 3D additions like I mentioned as well as numerous attempts at animating these flame constructions but they don’t have anything like the variety of imagery types that the mandelbox or other 3D fractal hybrids do.  I’ll go out on a limb here and say that Scott Draves probably saw all there was to see when he made his screen saver program and let it out of it’s pen and onto many thousands (millions?) of computers.

Here’s my main point:  Flame fractals are fun to watch as a screen saver and fun to play around with in a program like Apophysis but they become boring and repetitive when made into still images.  It’s literally like photographing a fire: you can’t capture the quality that makes it exciting to watch.

Here’s some examples of that from the Electric Sheep screensaver, set to the synthesized sounds of Kraftwerk:

If fractals in general are best experienced in their interactive software form, then flame fractals are the best example of this.  In fact, I would say that flame fractals really have no other beneficial aspect to them than live entertainment.  There’s a few, very rare examples of something that someone has made that captures that ghostly, other worldly look of flames, but in my years of browsing other people’s fractal art galleries I don’t think I’ve seen more than just three or four of these.  Flames aren’t like other fractal algorithms in terms of creativity.

Here’s a recent, short (3:10) YouTube video by Scott Draves that adds some perspective to the whole flame fractal genre, from the original screensaver to more recent applications of it.  Look and see if you can see anything interesting and art-worthy in the various flame fractal graphics shown.

Whether you watched the video or not I think you’ll see that there’s an appeal to flames but that it’s almost entirely confined to their application as moving, animated graphics and even then it’s more of a plaything like the screensaver or a visualization accompaniment for music.  Alone, as in a still image (or thousands of still images) flame fractals are categorically less interesting, to put it mildly.  In fact, I would go so far as to say that flame fractals are a waste of time and ought to be separated from the main fractal category on sites like Deviant Art because they’re so uniquely boring and not likely to be of any interest to anyone except the people who make them.  Actually forcing the Apo crowd to look at their own work would be poetic justice.  Creatively it’s not much and yet it’s managed to draw a considerable number of “players” to it.

I think the creative shallowness of flame fractals is best exemplified by Thomas Ludwig’s new program, Chaotica.  Like Mark Townsend with Apophysis I’m sure Thomas (aka Lycium on DA) has made a good flame fractal program.  And also like Mark he’s giving it away freely, but based on what I’ve seen made with it, the same “Curse of the Flames” inhabits this new program as well.  If you’re not familiar with Chaotica it has it’s own Deviant Art group and you can see for yourself there what’s new and what isn’t.  I’ve been meaning to post about it for months but since I haven’t seen any artwork of interest made with it there’s not much to talk about.  To me, so far it’s just more flame fractals.  Perhaps Chaotica’s contribution to flame fractals is purely on the technical side?  faster rendering, optimized code?  But after so many years of these “flaming” flame fractals, who really cares anymore?  I mean, apart from the people who make them, that is.

That Cyclops has eaten enough of the Electric Sheep.  Please, don’t think twice before you post another flame fractal image –think three or four -hundred- times.

Fractal Paintings of Tralfamadore

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

Brummbaer with his Fractal Tralfamadore images

The intersection of Brummbaer (he doesn’t use a first name) and fractal art is something worth taking a second, and more careful look at.  Brummbaer brings with him several decades of graphical and artistic experience and his “Tralfamadore” series of images are worth studying as well as appreciating for their fractal-ness.  There’s something to be learned from Brummbaer’s fractal artworks.

The Artist:

Brummbaer is a German-American digital artist who has done work as an art director, designer, graphic artist, and 3-D modeler. His fine art and underground magazine Germania brought him recognition in Europe during the 1960s, and he orchestrated light shows for musicians such as Frank Zappa and Tangerine Dream. In 1985 the International Synergy Institute in Los Angeles invited Brummbaer to be their artist in residence, and work on their Fairlight CVI computer. Brummbaer began focusing on computer graphics. He created several short computer-generated animations and has done visual effects for a number of popular films. Brummbaer was one of the primary computer animators responsible for the special effects in the Tristar motion picture Johnny Mnemonic. Brummbaer also created innovative openers for SIGGRAPH’s “Electronic Theater,” and has long been a pioneer in the world of digital animation, where he has been noted for his signature hallucinogenic style.

(from: https://sites.google.com/site/brummbaerontralfamadore/10—about-the-artist)

The Fractal “Paintings”:

The paintings are based on fractal designs, calculated on a computer using commercial and some offbeat programs. After the creation by the fractal generators, the design is either moved into a 3D program like 3D Max and further treated, or taken into photoshop, where you tweak the color and composites. After several testprints, a high resolution version is painted in the computer with the help of a Wacom-tablet. Finally the image is professionally printed on canvas or paper guarantied to last a hundred years. Once the canvas is stretched, it is ready to be painted on. Layers of oil, acrylics and varnish give me the ability to create a vibrant painting, using some techniques of the old masters. This goes on until the painting is finished. Every painting is a single, unique piece — nevertheless, once a painting is finalized, it is possible to do prints in any size on any permissible material.

(from: https://sites.google.com/site/brummbaerontralfamadore/home )

Brummbaer’s use of “post-processing” makes the most ardent fractal post-processor look like a purist.  And yet the images still retain their fractal-ness and only seem to have been enhanced and refined.  Don’t fear Photoshop.

Here’s a good example:

A Crack in the World by Brummbaer

He’s added the sky, which is not uncommon in 3D fractals, but he’s also added the birds, something which is much rarer but still not unheard of.   And then there’s the ladder reaching up to the little “wormhole” as Brummbaer calls them.  But the biggest difference in this sort of image by Brummbaer is the fact that it’s a series and they all fit into the setting of a story.  There’s a narrative context.

The Story:

Once upon a time on Tralfamadore

there were creatures who weren’t anything like machines. They weren’t dependable. They weren’t efficient. They weren’t predictable. They weren’t durable. And these poor creatures were obsessed by the idea that everything that existed had to have a purpose, and that some purposes were higher than others.

These creatures spent most of their time trying to find out what their purpose was. And every time they found out what seemed to be a purpose of themselves, the purpose seemed so low that the creatures were filled with disgust and shame.

And, rather than serve such a low purpose, the creatures would make a machine to serve it. This left the creatures free to serve higher purposes. But whenever they found a higher purpose, the purpose still wasn’t high enough.

So machines were made to serve higher purposes, too.

And the machines did everything so expertly that they were finally given the job of finding out what the higher purpose of the creatures could be.

The machines reported in all honesty that the creatures couldn’t really be said to have any purpose at all.

The creatures thereupon began slaying each other, because they hated purposeless things above all else.

And they discovered that they weren’t even very good at slaying. So they turned that job over to the machines, too. And the machines finished up the job in less time than it takes to say, “Tralfamadore.”

from Kurt Vonnegut, jr’s “The Sirens of Titan”

(from: https://sites.google.com/site/brummbaerontralfamadore/home )

Brummbaer adds his own bit to the storyline to draw his images into the context of Tralfamadore and set the stage for their entry:

So our cat “Missy” came back from Joshua Tree and claimed she saw an interstellar “earth lander” descending on the desert… under hypnosis she revealed the extents of her adventure, including detailed descriptions and measurements of the spacecraft, which we reconstructed, rendered and painted here for your enjoyment. Of course we could not stop here yet, and eventually built the spacecraft ourselves, constructing it exactly according to Missy’s hypnotic revelations. We understood that fractals in the real world suggest wormholes — the bridges between galaxies. Once you find – or create — a fractal design in the physical world, you have to find the smaller iterations of the pattern — and there, where the universe bunches up and folds into itself, you will find a wormhole to another space or planet. Since we built our machine, we hardly are home on the weekends…

(from: https://sites.google.com/site/brummbaerontralfamadore/home )

By the menu in the upper left corner of the Brummbaer’s Tralfamadore homepage you visit his galleries separated into various categories of Tralfamadore imagery:

Gallery menu

Here’s one from Gallery 02: Tralfamadorean Views and Landmarks:

Palace of Information by Brummbaer

Note the simple addition of the sign “PALACE OF INFORMATION” to the side of the “building”.  This immediately establishes a realistic context of building/cityscape to the fractal imagery.  With the exception of the reddish sky background, everything is just a fractal image, albeit one that has been exported and rendered in a 3D program.

This one shows Brummbaer’s transformative use of fractal imagery the best:

Follow Your Heart by Brummbaer

Who hasn’t seen this sort of quaternion or hypernion/3D toffee chew image before?  But the hand drawn additions: rider; pole; heart; whip; flags; sunset and moon; completely change the context and message of the fractal.  And it’s not just because he “drew” on it.  He obviously carefully chose this one and thought it over in his head about what he could do with it before even starting to add  those things.  Lastly, the title acts like a caption and frames the whole work with an idea that is the theme of the image.

Complex and subtle stuff, but Brummbaer, as you can see from the biographical note I quoted above, is a professional graphic artist and comes to fractals by a much different route than most of us have.  I think that’s why his work here is so different.  He’s taken similar kinds of imagery and done very different kinds of things with it.  Sure, there’s others who have drawn on fractals or even strung a few images together for a diptych or triptych, but Brummbaer’s Tralfamadore collection is much more refined and polished than anything of its kind I’ve seen in fractaland.

Which is not to say that no one else can do it as well as Brummbaer can.  In fact I’ve reviewed this little project of his precisely because I thought it might suggest other creative tangents that others might consider going off on after seeing such a rewarding example.  I’ve often thought fractals are better used in supporting roles than playing the starring role themselves.  I think that’s the lesson to be gained from this collection of Brummbaer’s fractal art.

My Deviant Art Odyssey

“A lot of the people I hang out with at dA are the same people that are at Fractal Forums…”

Hal Tenny said that in a comment here on Orbit Trap recently.  After my recent posting, Renderfeast, which featured an number of Deviant Art folks (DAers) I saw people on Fractalforums.com remarking that they had been featured on Orbit Trap.  I didn’t recognize their FFs usernames from DA.

Hal Tenny is right though, much of what appears in the FFs gallery uploads section also appears on DA.  I should have noticed this myself and probably would have if it wasn’t for the aversion I have acquired over the years to the big online art sites like DA and Renderosity, Flickr, and just about anywhere else you can find easy upload access and instant social interaction.  Places like that just get swamped with mediocre stuff and it’s tiresome to wade through it all looking for a few good ones.

But I don’t seem to mind it so much anymore.  Maybe I’m more patient or maybe I’ve just come to accept the fact that digital art in general is like that and that places like DA are more like “refrigerators” to stick stuff up on than they are serious art galleries.  The Linux world often complains there’s too many versions of Linux and that that confuses and distracts too many newcomers from the really good ones.  I just see it as the expected result of removing restrictions to innovation and creativity; it will never be any other way.  We sort through things everyday when we’re shopping or reading the news.  Should online artwork be any different?  Who really wants less choices and fewer options?  Maybe the chaff makes the wheat look better?

What sets the gallery section of FFs apart is that there’s very little “fiber” to sift through.  Most of the FFs artists seem to have a home gallery on DA.  This is not so surprising really, since FFs has always been primarily a “fractal” site and not a fractal art site.  DA on the other hand is clearly a place where the graphical side of things is the main attraction.  It has the atmosphere of a flea market but that’s just the nature of online digital art.

Since becoming reacquainted with DA in the past few months and particularly in the last few weeks via the “favorites” sections of personal gallery pages I see DA and sites like it differently now.  Consider this:

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

Ultimate Mandelbrot Xmas Fractal by aparks45 (DA)

I found it by browsing DA on the search term, “Fractal” and selecting “Newest”.  Instead of newest you can browse by “Popular” but that’s the kind of thing I always avoid on these BOAS (big online art sites).  Popular is “too subjective”, let’s say.  How else can you quickly find fractal artwork like aparks45’s up there?  You won’t find it traveling on “Popular Street”.  Now some of you may be thinking, “That’s a good reason to stay on Popular Street” but I’m of the opinion that there’s always something better out there “in the wild”.

I’ve discovered that there’s actually a separate fractal art section on DA with three subsections (go ahead and laugh).  You have to click on the “Digital Art” link in the left sidebar on the main DA page which then expands into the sub-categories of which Fractal Art is one.  It’s not as obvious as it ought to be, but I’ve always suspected that BOAS were designed to be member-friendly and not visitor-friendly.  Members are where the money (if any) comes from.  On the other hand, big sites like this are always a challenge to navigate because they’ve got such a wide variety of stuff on them.  Categorizing artwork is an art in itself.

Here’s another one by aparks45:

A Beautiful Fractal Christmas Holiday by aparks45 (DA)

These next two aren’t fractal, but I discovered them after getting off the main road and exploring aparks45’s own gallery.  I just love the way Santa catapults across the sky like he was shot out of a slingshot.

Christmas Holiday Snow Globe by aparks45

The Day before Christmas by aparks45

The very first image in this posting, Ultimate Mandelbrot Xmas Fractal, was posted along with this request:

And received (so far) only this response:

Negative criticism?  On Deviant Art?  Well, maybe SquallLion1 is an exceptional member of DA.  I don’t ever remember seeing such honesty on a BOAS like this except when it came to criticizing Orbit Trap for its criticism.  But I find it as fresh and energetic as these animated gifs by aparks45.

While sailing between Scylla and Charybdis on my  DA odyssey I’ve gained new insight into a place like Deviant Art as well as fractal art and computer/digital art in general.

Fractal art is:

  • Easy to make
  • Fun to make
  • Lends itself to decorative application
  • Popu-lous even if not as popular
  • Never out of place in a waterball
  • Always exhibits the properties of its medium

Here’s another one, hot off the DA presses:

Christmas Mandelbulb Fractal by aparks45 (DA)

No Christmas trees or other assorted stock items, just lake effect and some sort of sci-fi moire force-field crackling in the background.  I like this one…

I’d have displayed a larger image for this one but resizing animated gifs is a little more complicated than simple one-frame images and the full size version is a couple MBs in size.  As you can see, an animated gif is actually a looping video clip.  Fortunately DA creates animated thumbnails for animated gifs.  I recommend you click on this one and view the full size version on DA.  (Assuming, of course, you find these hyper-saturated shimmering gifs as interesting as I do.)

This image really has some style to it.  Maybe it’s the gif palette that forces aparks45 (Amy Parks ?  who owns a 45?) to step into the retro color world of 256, 8-bit  color with it’s special dithering tricks that has been all but forgotten in today’s fractal art world of millions and millions of colors.

Read the fine print, you can call it a Hanukkah contest if you prefer

Off We Go Then by aparks45 (DA)

Neat, eh?  It’s “lake effect” in a photo of a “lake”.  Just add water…

Artists sometimes make interesting work by accident.  It actually happens all the time in the fractal art world.  Artists look at their work differently than their audience does.  Aparks45 has made some really freaky stuff but I don’t think that was her intention.  I think she was just exploring the technology of these video loops and getting a grasp of how to use the GIMP, her graphics program.  Here’s a good example:

Swim thru the planets of life by aparks45 (DA)

I think it’s a hand drawn image.  Here’s what the gallery page notes say:

The lake effect is actually drawing something new instead of being just a cheap digital way of imitating a natural phenomenon.

Aurora Borealis Out In Space by aparks45

You need to see the full size to really appreciate this one, although it’s not bad as a thumbnail.  The “Jupiter” up in the top left is a nice touch.  When was the last time you ever saw real color like this?

A gallery note:

Mother Mary Angels Jesus by aparks45

That one there has a story:

Here’s a screenshot of the Ebay listing:

Click to view full listing on Ebay

Well, I said it was an odyssey and just like Ulysses, it’s time for me to set sail once again.  I’ve genuinely enjoyed browsing aparks45’s animate gif gallery.  I know it’s not the sort of fractal art or digital art most Orbit Trap readers are used to looking at or expecting to see reviewed, but if fractals are anything they’re a place of surprising wonders and the realm of the eccentric.  I like eccentric things.  Maybe eccentricity is what art is all about.  One thing I’ll say in closing; doing what everyone else is doing is a waste of time.  And no fun either.


A collection of uniquely rendered fractal things.  And a few that are just traditionally intriguing.

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

Elevenish by LucaGN (Deviant Art)

I almost skipped by this one while browsing away on Deviant Art.  I think the icy-blue fruit chew wafers caught my eye and stopped me.  Most people use Earthly colors for their mandelboxes but LucaGN must have asked, why? and came up with something wild and avante garde.  If you check out the full size view you can see some nice Martian imagery out the “window” in the center.

For Eva by LucaGN

Primitively fractalic.  Must have been baked in a square pan as it fits the frame perfectly.  LucaGN has a good eye for this sort of strangely stylistic imagery.  I still can’t figure out what I like about this one but maybe LucaGN saw the same thing too.  According to the image comments on DA “Eva” is Xantipa, the Fractal Queen of Color.

Boleslawiec Delights by Timemit (Deviant Art)

“Ducks”  Next to the whole 3D thing, the “Ducks” formula or whatever it is, is the most exciting thing to happen this year.  Samuel Monnier on his Algorithmic Worlds Blog explains it better than I can.  I just look at “Duck” pictures and see that Ducks is a creative and surprisingly unpredictable thing full of variation.  Timemit adds something more and has captured an almost Art Nouveau kind of geometry/organic fusion thing.  …silkscreen, batik, it’s just very captivating and really surprised me.  Maybe Deviant Art is more than just a playground for socially disturbed people?  I’m beginning to think so.

What the War Lost by Timemit

Top left area is my favorite in this one, but the whole thing is a treasure trove of fractal gems.  You see?  You don’t need to know anything about “Ducks” to spot it instantly.  There’s the theory of Ducks and the practice of Ducks.  Do you see any of the “self-similarity” or boring repetition of the old time fractals here?  Ducks is usually a wonderland of shape and color but this one by Timemit is an exceptionally good example.

Fractal_Years_by_misterxz (Deviant Art)

Since I’m on the topic of Ducks, here’s one by the (allegedly) Ducks Master, Misterxz.  This one is a fantastic image on it’s own right but especially as an example of the Duck-ian method.  It doesn’t really look “fractal” at all, except, I guess for the tree things at the top and the Koch snowflake things near the bottom…  I guess what makes it new and exciting is that there’s so much variety in what is a formula generated image.  Ducks is a whole new world and Misterxz’s image here makes that pretty obvious.  Ducks adds something categorically new to fractal graphics even if it’s not a huge break-though in fractal theory.

Ultrameta 731 by Dan Wills (Picasa)

Dan’s in a rendering category all his own.  He manages to find really weird stuff and capture it in an eye-catching way.  This one is actually about a year old (Dec. 2010) so I must have missed it or something last time I checked out his Picasa Web Album Ultrameta gallery.  Dan’s galleries are a voyage into the fractal unknown.  You can’t view stuff like this and not want to grab your own “ship” and sail off yourself.  Sometimes the renders are rough but that just seems to add to the “natural” authenticity and archaeological atmosphere of Dan’s collection.  Ultrameta is an unexplored ancient tomb filled with intriguing artifacts that decorate its ghostly walls.

Balancing Act by Actionjack52 (Deviant Art)

Maybe this one isn’t so strangely rendered but it’s got a unique look to it.  It’s just so perfect and exact and yet still lively and interesting.  I like how the blue background seems to “stick” to the subject –or is that just an effect of the unsharp-mask?  Actionjack52 has some other very nice images but in keeping with my offbeat theme let’s just look at his Deviant Art avatar:

World's greatest avatar by Actionjack52

A marvel of graphical engineering.  Just 5 animated gif frames for file size 6.92 kb!  I can’t stop staring at it.  Where does all that energy come from?  Doesn’t he ever need to rest?

2011-07-27_00-30-11 by Daniel (Picasa)

A delightful accident?  Incomplete rendering?  It’s a Mandelbulb 3D image that’s come out looking like an old Victorian hand tinted engraving.  The actual structures and underlying parameters aren’t all that unusual, but I’ve never seen anything quite like this.   Sometimes I think fractal artists try to make things look too good and they miss out on a lot of cool looking oddball renderings (and oddball fans).

Ice Arena 3010 by Actionjack52

Would you believe it?  This foggy, frosty image is also by Actionjack52 who made the ultra crisp wheel up above.  Here’s a good example of how the stranger renderings can really create innovative stuff; it’s resulted in this very panoramic “winter” landscape.  The curved “road” in the bottom right almost seems to exhibit tire tracks in the packed snow.  Smoke drifting up from chimneys.  Full moon lighting up the snow…  Is this the Hunters in the Snow of our fractal times?

Hunters in the Snow by Pieter Bruegel (1565)

It ought to be titled: Dogs in the Snow.   Why so many dogs to go hunting?  I guess if you don’t catch anything you can eat a dog instead.  Just say it’s rabbit.  This scene looks incredibly modern to me.  I must be getting old.

Dabbling in Color by Dsynegrafix (Deviant Art)

How can something so square look so exotic?  So many fractals display smooth curves and anything but sharp angles and simple lines but here is something fresh and refreshing.  I guess the color contributes a lot to the artistic impression here also.  It’s 3D and made in Mandelbulb 3D.  There’s some sort of wiry, metal rod parameter set floating around DA that makes things like this.  I suspect Madman’s (Fractalforums) Gluon Glitch video I reviewed uses a variation of it.  Dsynegrafix has added her own special touch to it though with unique, and colorful results.

In Lieu of Circles 4 by Dsynegrafix

I love the orange/gold structures in the right and left foregrounds.  You really need to click on this one and view it full size to appreciate the “electronic” plastic-y feel to it.  Reminds me of Jock Cooper’s Mechanical series of images.  And Tron, the Disney movie, too; Electron Temple.

Pyropus by Eccoton (Deviant Art)

It’s almost 2D at the bottom and gives the image a collage look.  Coloring is really exceptional and also the variety of fractal structures.  There is a strong symmetrical structure to this and yet it’s not a simple mirror image but rather exhibits more of a natural, organic symmetry.  Click and look at the full size which is about 10 times larger and you’ll really be impressed with the professional look of this image by Eccoton.  But then Eccoton, if you browse his gallery, you’ll see is a quite accomplished graphic artist of the hand drawn photoshop variety (the hard kind of art).  Perhaps he touched this one up?  Anyhow it sure looks polished and perfected.  “Mandelbulb 3D/Photoshop” the gallery page says.  Nice combination.  I keep thinking he’s cheated a whole lot in making this image; it’s just too good.

Ancient Sun by Mehrdadart (Deviant Art)

Nobody makes these sorts of golden renders like Mehrdadart does.  The classic black frame, as often abused as it is used, actually looks nice with an image like this.  There’s so many metalic colors in this image it’s almost suitable as a test image for color calibration.  If you like this one you’ll like a lot of Mehrdadart’s other images.  He makes a lot of 3D fractals and always gives them that something extra in the way of rendering and coloring that says “grandeur” if you will permit me to speak in the language d’art.

Sunrise in China by Mehrdadart

They look like windows.  The full size is much more impressive.  As the artist says, “Try the full size, please!”  And the full-size is 1800 x 1665 (is that big enough for printing?).  This one is actually a year old and has that classic square mandelbox look.  But even still it’s got a unique, energetic quality to it that is not even close to its expiry date.  Nobody ever made something like this back in 2010 with the mandelbox.

Connections by Actionjack52

Actionjack52 again?  Well, this one’s not really offbeat rendering but it is a sort of extreme rendering because I’ve never seen such hyper-machined metalic-a surfaces before.  This is the sort of thing many people will want to copy, I mean learn for themselves, that is.  I like the bird’s foot aspect to this.  One often sees resemblances to natural forms in fractal art, such as this bird’s foot structure, because, I assume, somewhere in the internal structure of natural things or in the DNA of living things are codes that result in fractal looking (natural) renderings.  A three toed foot is inherently stable.  Rhinos have them.  Of course they’re not birds.  Not even close.  They probably eat birds.  Could mutations occur through ingested DNA?

Mandelbubbles by Jimmie (Fractalforums.com)

BMFAC 2011 Retro Collection winner?  Alright, forget I said that.  From the Fractalforums.com gallery page: “Description: Inkblot… (Postwork in PSE…)”.   (Inkblot Kaos?)  Some sort of edge-detection filter and maybe a texturing thing too to give the leathery look.  An old “trick” perhaps and not nearly as eye catching as the latest 3D rendering techniques but Jimmie has accentuated the simple shapes and patterning in this humble 2D fractal and made them interesting and resembling paper cut collages.  The sharply defined mandelbrot man in the center is elegant in a simple way.

Speaking of “papercuts”, here’s one recently unearthed from a storage room at the University of Michigan.  Created originally by a small art academy in southern China back in the early days of the Cultural Revolution and acquired by a UofM professor via a source in Hong Kong back in the early 70s and subsequently forgotten until just recently when someone cleaned the storage room:

Translation: "Chairman Mao is the Reddest Sun in Our Hearts"

China’s a far-out kind of place.  These pictures are actually made of white cut-out paper pieces mounted on a red (very, very red) background.  Check out the whole collection of 15 if you find these sorts of things as bizarre and sci-fi-ish as I do.  The authors are unknown but they were certainly very skilled at this rather ancient art of chinese papercut artwork.  News release of Nov. 1, 2011 for the collection.  History is a kind of science fiction.

Let’s not end this posting with images of communist propaganda or with harsh, political speeches exhorting the fractal proletariat to Eliminate the Four Olds (The List; The Contest; The Program; The Leader).  Even I denounce myself as an enemy of fractal art and plead to be sent to the countryside for reeducation.  Here’s something dramatic and considerably less political by Mehrdadart:

Aborning by Mehrdadart (DA)

I like the simplicity to this one and how it accentuates the very simple fractal image.  It’s “dramatic” but not sentimental like most “dramatic” fractal images are.  It’s ironic that Mehrdadart who generally makes such rich, ornamental images could have produced something so different and yet equally engaging.  It’s the connection with the little white dot on the right hand edge that “leverages” the rest of the image.  Ultimately, fractal art is all about art, not fractals.

There’s more.  There always is.  Especially now that I’ve found a more effective way to browse the labyrinthine passages of Deviant Art.  My great discovery?  I check out people’s “favorites” section.  Oddly enough while fractal artists will endlessly promote heaps of their own garbage they are much more discerning when promoting the works of others.  All the DA artists I’ve featured here were found because someone else (who probably wasn’t featured here) had “faved” them.  It’s interesting how well the system works even though it’s routinely abused and manipulated –even as we speak!

Fitz vs. The BMFAC 2011

I hear shouts! It's Prince John's men attacking our good forest folk again!

As the Robin Hood of the Fractal Kingdom, I feel compelled to take up the cause of our fellow countryman, “Fitz” and right the wrongs of the evil Prince John and his minions, the various Sheriffs of Nottingham known in today’s Sherwood Forest as “The Selection Panel”.

Fitz’s claim is that –well let’s let Fitz speak for himself:

Screenshot of Fractalforums.com thread, "The BMFAC 2011 results..."

“Reflecting sphere hovering over chess board…”  Ouch!  You know what he means by that, right?  Cliche shiny stuff that comes from safe, elementary choices.  But let’s consider his claim for a moment, not whether it ought to be in the winner’s circle or not, because my review of the 11 “losers” in the winning circle shows that Fitz’s entry is certainly better than any of them; but rather lets ask something much more radical, something Fitz probably would not even have suggested himself: Was it not in fact one of the best entries?

Here’s Fitz’s entry that he’s referring to as “my best entry” in the screenshot above which forms a hyperlink to this image:

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

Biomass by Fitz (NoEyedSquareGuy on Deviant Art)

In Fitz’s comment he was comparing his image with another which he referred to as “this” which is a link to MarkJayBee’s (Mark J. Brady’s) winning image:

CupreousComplex II by Mark J Brady

Judging art always has a subjective aspect to it because we don’t all “like” the same sorts of things (i.e. taste) but I’d say that Fitz’s image is superior to Marks simply by virtue of the complexity and variety of imagery found in it.  Mark’s is still a good one and he makes a lot of good images like this, but I think Fitz’s is just more interesting and presents much more “fractalness” in it.

Note the top left area in Fitz’s image shown here in a detailed screenshot from the high res version on his Deviant Art site:

Detail of Biomass by Fitz (NoEyedSquareGuy)

Fitz’s image is really detail-rich and the details have quite a variety to them.  Here’s another detail from the bottom left corner:

Detail of Biomass by Fitz (NoEyedSquareGuy)

Then, taking a closer look I discovered this subtle detailing in the left mid-ground:

Detail of Biomass by Fitz (NoEyedSquareGuy)

Mark’s image is one which features perspective and fine metallic/glass surface texture and as such wasn’t intended to be (I’d guess) a “rich detail” type of image.  So in that sense we’re comparing apples and oranges, which is a pretty common occurrence in fractal art since there is such a wide variety of imagery with a similar wide variety of characteristics.  In short, it’s not fair to compare Mark’s image to Fitz’s with respect to fine detail; one ought to simply compare them on the basis of general artistic impression.  That is, which one do you like –more?

I like them both! –but I’d agree with Fitz that his Biomass image (he entered more than one image) is a “stronger” entry than Mark’s.  But Mark’s entry is still light years ahead of the”losers-eleven” group I posted about but it’s a little too plain and offers only the effect of panoramic depth to make an impression.  Fitz’s works on many more levels although Mark’s is still a good example of 3D fractal art.

But could Fitz’s image be the best?  This is a somewhat difficult thing to say, but since the Benoit Mandelbrot Fractal Art Contests in general have majored on selecting minor artwork, it’s not hard for anyone to question their choices and rank a non-winner above all of the winning selections.  Besides challenging Mark’s image, what other good images are close to being as good as Biomass that we should compare it with?

Here’s one, Fractal Wasp Troll by Johan Anderssen:

Fractal Wasp Troll by Johan Andersson (Mandelwerk, Kraftwerk)

I like Johan’s artwork in general and like I said in a previous post, he and the other really good 3D fractalists didn’t submit their best works to the BMFAC.  On the other hand, I happen to know from hanging around Fractalforums.com (the Arc de Triomphe of fractals) that this image has been particularly popular there and those folks are a tough crowd with Parisian standards when it comes to art.  Well, c’est dommage, I agree it’s good but I think Biomass is better.  I don’t care for the smeared, wispy look and prickliness of the image but a lot of other people seem to.  Mind you, the coloring is pretty good and the detail is almost as good as Biomass’ making it a good example of that graphical aspect of fractal art.

What other winners can compete with Biomass for top spot?  Oh yes, Hal Tenny’s famous metal works.  Undoubtedly one the the best images in the contest:

Gordian Twist by Hal Tenny

Well this is a tough one.  Who isn’t amazed when they see one of these ornate metal tube and sphere marvels for the first time?  Totally fractal and yet it looks totally like a photograph of some wild metal sculpture.  And lots of intricate detail; a virtual fractal pipe maze.  Coloring is nice, too.  Hal Tenny really is a great fractal artist even if he does hang out with complete jerks on Deviant Art.  I’d say Biomass is tied with this one.  I really can’t say it’s better because Gordian Twist is such a masterwork and such a unique variety of 3D fractals.

Alright, a tie for first-place?  Or second?  Is there any other winner that Biomass needs to contend with?

Underwater by Jeremie Brunet ("bib" on Fractalforums.com)

Nice one, eh?  Jeremie is putting on a show in Paris as announced here on Fractalforums.com from November 24-29, 2011.  He made this very professional looking poster to advertize it which shows how eye-catching this image of his is in a different context:

Jeremie Brunet Fractal Art Exhibition, Nov. 24-29, 2011, Paris, France (not Paris, Texas!)

What can I say?  It’s a great image and it has something that many fractal art images often lack: focus.  The multicolored deep sea base is the intended subject of the image and it just naturally works that way.  The color couldn’t really be better.  The overly bright yellows and reds fit in with a undersea scientific base (I’m guessing that’s what Jeremie was thinking).  The use of fog and just about everything else at the artist’s control has been used to maximum effect.  It’s no wonder they chose this one for the exhibition.  Another tough decision.  I’d like to rank Biomass just above this one because the bright coloring is just a little too much for me, but I think I’ll give it a tie with Biomass just like Gordian Twist by Hal Tenny.  A three-way tie for first place, so far.

Who else in the BMFAC winners can challenge Biomass for the top spot?  If you read my post on the “losers” of the BMFAC you’d already know that I’d picked Aztec Flying City by Bernard Bittler as my top choice.  Dave Makin, a BMFAC judge, thinks it’s junk, or as he says, “bog-standard/run-of-the-mill“.  Let’s take a look:

Aztec Flying City by Bernard Bittler

It’s panoramic; nice use of color; great perspective; variety of 3D fractal imagery; excellent use of Photoshop cheating.  Cheating?!  Well, look at those clouds dragging and snagging on the “flying city” thing on the right side of the image.  I don’t think any of the 3D fractal programs, including Ultra Fractal added those clouds (did you know UF can make mandelbox images?).  I don’t want to start any fights or anything, but the use of graphical “post-processing” in the 3D fractal world is pretty obvious.  But I guess after years of in-house UF post-processing it’s a little hard for the UFers to complain about guys like Bernard adding clouds to their “fractal” images or combining three different fractal formulas into what is really nothing short of a “collage”.  But let’s not go there right now.

Sorry.  Bernard wins again.  It’s the best.  That puts Biomass in three-way tie for second place with Hal Tenny’s Gordian Twist and Jeremie Brunet’s Underwater.

But of course this is all simply my opinion and not that of the official Selection Panel.  The official Selection Panel, made up of, –what does the BMFAC rules say the Selection Panel is composed of? “The selection panel is composed of fractal experts, prestigious fractal artists, and sponsor participants.”

Sorry Fitz.  The experts have spoken.  If Bernard’s great image is “bog-standard/run-of-the-mill” according to just one of the “experts” and still placed in the top 25 to make it a winner, then I guess the judges must have really thought yours was trash to place it even lower than those 25 winners and even beneath the 10 “honorable mentions”.  Personally I think Biomass was one of the top 4 but I’m neither an expert nor particularly “prestigious”.

I think there’s a good possibility that Biomass was the victim of politics.  The organizers didn’t want the exhibition to be completely taken over by 3D fractals and so they let in a lot of (relatively weaker) traditional images and that’s what bumped out such strong images such as Biomass.

Most of the good fractal art being made today is of the Mandelbulb/Mandelbox/Hybrid something or other/3D variety.  The BMFAC despite my earlier concerns certainly didn’t shut those kinds of images out, but did they really go far enough and give 3D fractals (like Biomass) their rightful portion of this year’s contest winners?  They couldn’t.  It would require passing over the old veterans (has-beens) that the BMFAC alone considers “prestigious” and “representative”.

The contest has changed with the times, but it hasn’t changed as much as fractal art has –it’s not contemporary fractal art anymore.  The 2011 BMFAC has chosen a lot of fractal art that is old style and no longer impressive and certainly not representative of the art form today.  2D images made with complicated layering in Ultra Fractal belong in the last decade.

I wonder though; have folks like Fitz changed their mind about the BMFAC?  I’m sure he’s not the only one who’s been left scratching his head wondering what on earth the judges were thinking when they chose so many mediocre entries and passed over so many good ones.  In a thread on Fractalforums.com back in August, 2011 about the BMFAC 2011, Fitz seems to treat Orbit Trap’s criticism of the BMFAC as a rather trivial matter.

Screenshot of Fractalforum thread "International Benoit Mandelbrot Fractal Art Contest 2011"

“Hilarious mental image”  Well, that was back in August.  Here’s his response to the actual judging two and a half months later in October, 2011:

Screenshot of Fractalforum thread "International Benoit Mandelbrot Fractal Art Contest 2011"

“Pretty weak”

Ha ha! Prince John, you rascal!

Yes, my fellow countrymen of Sherwood Forest, Prince John’s Fractal Art Contest (PJFAC 2011) is not worthy of great fractal artworks like Fitz’s Biomass.  But now “methinks” his Sheriffs of Nottingham on the Selection Panel aren’t so much a “shady board of fractal art” so much as they are just plain bad judges of fractal art.


Fresh and only recently uploaded to Fractalforms.com, the Times Square of Fractalville, comes this modestly named image, Stable Wormhole.  Created by none other than the author of the famous Mayan-something images, Reallybigname…

~Click on images to view fullsize on original site~

Stable Wormhole by Reallybigname (fractalforum.com)

It’s part of the ever enduring mystery of art that images like this rarely seem to receive the sort of online reaction that I think they deserve.  Or is it simply that most viewers don’t see what I see in this image, or see it but don’t get as excited about it as I do?

First is the powerful circular symmetry and majestic structure to the image.  Fractals are particularly good at creating both simple structures and complex detail at the same time.  I can’t think (at the moment) of an image that demonstrates that as well as this one; it’s like a cathedral dome ceiling…

Interior dome of Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore (aka Florence Cathedral)

Actually, it’s even more ornate than this cathedral dome ceiling, although the cathedral dome is full of symbolism and tells a detailed biblical narrative.  But both images draw on the “energy” of highly organized geometric design.  On the other hand Reallybigname’s image is completely anonymous and as suggestive of mysterious things and powers as the similarly geometric religious images called mandalas:

Mandala_of_Vajradhatu from Wikipedia

You see how “cosmic” such mandelbox creations can look?  Such imagery is both ornamental and at the same time powerfully symbolic, as if it was a religious diagram or text book chart as well as a piece of artwork.  And fractals often create very similar looking types of imagery (even if they’re not always appreciated right away).

It’s an interesting overlap between mere “beauty” and mystic symbolism.  I could go on: the theme of geometric order and strange, mystical symbolism is one which has always fascinated me about fractals.  Fractals are so simple and “harmless” and yet the multiple mathematical arms that draw them are something of a cosmic wonder themselves if you think about them.

Perhaps math is the one aspect of fractal art that can give it a greater value than that of being mere decoration and ornamentation.  Of course, one needs to be able to identify the mathematical “code” of the image and thereby know what they’re looking at.

(Back to Reallybigname’s image.)

I didn’t like the subdued coloring at first especially in the upper part, but I came to see it as very tasteful and sublime the more I studied the enormous amount of detail in the image.  The outer corners are rock like and stoney while the center is almost a hazy, glass like material, a bubble of something undefinable.

There are forests, islands, caves, smooth expanses and little scratches containing mysterious treasure troves that only the parameter holders can know of (the parameters are included on the Fractalforums.com gallery page).

The central parts along the edges look like animal bone cross-sections, but then as one moves towards the center we come across something like a crystal ball sitting in a miniature landscape of mountains and trees.

There have been a number of other mandelbox images like this.  A few I’ve even reviewed here on Orbit Trap before in the early days of the 3D rage, but this one by Reallybigname is a definite refinement of this particular 3D fractal art form.

More Reallybigstuff by Reallybigname:

Hello Everybody!

Sometimes I just like to share interesting things that I find online that I think will be of interest to Orbit Trap readers who are “on the same wavelength” as me.  Perhaps that’s only one or two people but so be it.

Lindelokse, an established Deviant-artist decided to join the gang at Fractalforums.com and announced it, as is the tradition at Fractalforums.com, in the Meet and Greet section here.

Nothing scandalous or anything.  I just found the responses rather amusing and a further example of what distinguishes places like Deviant Art from Fractalforums.com.  Deviant Art is a place where social silliness (for those who don’t know this…) is the order of the day.

Nothing wrong with that!  I just mention it because the development of online culture is an aspect of fractal art that is very relevant since fractal art is almost entirely an online art form.

Also, I heartily encourage everyone to visit Lindelokse’s Deviant Art page in case they’re curious as to what kind of artwork could evoke such a warm, back-slapping (blooming) welcome as this!

Screenshot of Fractalforums.com thread

A Golden Straight-Jacket for Madman

It’s not often I click on fractal videos these days.  Video is just tricky with fractals, especially when you’re trying to combine it with music or some sort of meaningful sound.

But when I saw Madman’s posting on Fractalforums.com today, when he said, “This one took 10 days to render @HD quality, no anti-aliasing.” …I thought no one spends 10 rendering something for nothing.  So I took a look.  And you can too, right here, thanks to the embedding powers of YouTube:

The intro is amazingly well done and syncs with the music like it was made in movie studio.  The spinning spokey top thing transforms in the weird way that 3D fractals often do and it usually looks distracting and disorienting but in this case it works wonderfully well.  The small wire elements which make up most of the imagery look good all the time.

Screen capture at 25 second mark

This is right were my mind went “wow”.  I thought I was in a new Star Wars movie landing on an updated Kamino Cloning Center or in Bespin Cloud City.  The best “shining” part of the video in my opinion.  But there’s more I liked:

Screen capture at 1:05

At this point I felt like I was flying as well as in a dream.  In addition to watching it at 360p on my laptop I also downloaded the 1080p HD version (114MB) and watched it on my newly aquired 40″ HDTV.  Yes, that is a step up in venue, but everything good about the video is still there at 360p and small screen.  The “action” in the video alone makes it impressive.

Screen capture at 1:16

The color goes hyper and wild at this point and I really liked it.  Rather than look broken or overexposed it was stylish.  Even the golden flash added something.  It took on a real Tron like look, the original version.

Screen capture about 1:35

Someone on Fractalforums said the best part was at about 1:30 and they’re certainly right that it’s one of the best.  We shoot suddenly out into space enroute to this ornate structure.  There’s a lot of very nice still images to be found in this video.  Just like one of those European art films.

Screen capture at 1:49

Here, almost at the end of the 2:11 video I get the Stanley Kubrik 2001 feeling.  Maybe a few too many stars in the background, but they do help for perspective and showing movement.  Nice orbiting space station.

A few general comments:  Firstly, what a thrill.  I was genuinely dazzled in a couple places and I’ve seen my share of “wonder-filled” mandelbox videos this year.  Madman has really accomplished something with this video.

Secondly: he kept the length of the video short and tight.  There was always something happening in the video and not just something moving or transforming, there was always something captivating going on.  I think that’s the hardest part along with syncing the audio with the video.  Making video seems to require juggling several things at once.

Thirdly:  The graphical picture looked unique and fresh to me.  I’ve never seen this sort of “steel staple” formation before and it transforms well during the spinning, zooming and rotating.

Fourthly:  I don’t know if zooming into little tunnels is always the best thing to do when you’ve got so much spectacular and panoramic other things to look at, but it does balance those “big” scenes with an alternate, close and confined experience.  And the last tunnel zoom fit with the music exceptionally well.

Fifthly:  It takes great graphics, good planning and just the right selection of music/sound effects to create a good fractal video “experience”.  That’s a lot of work and maybe it takes some real talent for this sort of thing, too.  Video is a different medium than still image work and simple fly-throughs in and over otherwise interesting imagery just aren’t enough to keep people’s attention anymore.

Sixth:  Let’s all watch it again…

Why the Benoit Mandelbrot Fractal Art Contest 2011 Won’t Work

Or: Why the Offline Promotion of Fractal Art is a Waste of Time

Here are 6 reasons:

There is no such thing as “Great” Fractal Art

This is the key problem, really.  I didn’t understand this myself until just this past year.  Fractal art is a limited medium and it just can’t make the kind of visual imagery that evokes great ideas or makes people stop and reconsider the nature of art itself.

The hopes of the contest organizers is that they will “wow” the offline crowds with something they will recognize as “real art” and start people and the media to take a serious look at fractal art.  But they won’t because such works don’t exist and never will.  There’s a ceiling to how impressive a piece of fractal art can be and that ceiling is well below the artistic stratosphere of Warhol, Goya, Picasso and even Pollock (yes, even those drip paintings).

Pollock’s drip paintings have historical value and are largely respected for playing a part in freeing the minds of the art world.  Pollock was like Columbus discovering the last parts of the world.  Covering the same territory today with digital tools doesn’t accomplish the same thing.

The greatest fractal art collection won’t move critics or even the average art fan to suggest that all galleries need a fractal room to be complete and up to date with today’s advances in art.  It will catch people’s eye for a little while.  That’s what decorative, design artwork does.  No one’s going to write a Master’s thesis on a piece of fractal artwork the way many have about Picasso’s Guernica.

Fractal art is too eccentric to appeal to most people

I didn’t use to agree with this until I heard Paul Lee say it once somewhere online.  Unlike most people in the fractal art world, Paul is trained and experienced with both sides of the fractal art genre; the technical side and the art side.  I thought about it more seriously when I heard him say it.  Actually he said “too abstract” but I think eccentric is a better term.

Sure, we’ve all heard stories of how appreciative people are when they see fractals for the first time and how they marvel at its (genuinely) freaky mathematical origins.  If all those people were connecting with fractal art work in a really meaningful way instead of in a merely superficial way then the fractal art world would be enormous by now.  To most people fractal art is just eye-candy and it melts in their minds as fast as chocolate does in their mouths.  The real aficionados are a statistically small group; weirdos like us.

Fractal art is an attractive but shallow art form that is best appreciated by being exposed to hundreds of works

Fractals are a world to be explored and to look at, not a few masterpieces to be studied and “understood”.  To have this happen in an art gallery you’d need to have an exhibit of hundreds of images, not a mere 25.  And without animation you’ve missed a feature of fractal art that leaves it incomplete, especially in the 3D area.  Suffice it to say that printing and framing fractal animations is both financially as well as technically challenging.

Ideally the audience would get to fly the spaceship themselves and not just stand on the ground and look at the pictures.  Again, this is not something that an offline gallery is best at, although digital works can be displayed –digitally– in galleries.  Of course, seeing how easily fractal imagery can be made might cheapen the masterpieces hanging on the wall in the audience’s mind.  But maybe making fractal art is more exciting than viewing it?

Fractal art is created on computers and that is the most natural venue to view it in

What a thing to say!  But really, sitting in front of a computer is the context in which we make our fractal discoveries and also the venue in which we polish and perfect them.  Printing them out can be produce spectacular results but we’d never get to that place if they hadn’t appealed to us in a big way on the computer screen.

As for the rich detail of high resolution printing, so what?  You want a closer look?  There’s a number of solid technologies for displaying zoomable images on the internet.  In fact, I think Damien Jones, one of the BMFAC organizers produced one of his own.  Ironic, I’d say.

Printing can produce rich images that the computer screen can’t match.  It’s almost as if printed images are a genre all their own.  But that’s going a little too far.  There’s nothing second rate about “monitor art” it’s just a lower resolution and smaller, but that’s the “canvas” on which fractal artists work.

The notion that fractal art is a young and relatively unknown art form with the potential to “go viral” is an old and exhausted excuse that has been repeated over and over again since it really was a young and relatively unknown art form with the potential to “go viral”

Fractals aren’t a new thing anymore.  Look at all the old people who talk about seeing their first fractal back in the 1980s on the cover of Scientific American.  Look at all the people who claim to have been making fractals for 20 years!  Self-programmed on Comodores or Amigas with monochrome monitors and hammered out on dot matrix printers.

Me, I’ve only been around since 2002 but I’ve seen a few things come and go and I can tell you that even the recent 3D fractal surprise has only taken us to new places, no one has found anything categorically new there.  The fractal world gets larger and larger with the addition of every new formula, type of formula and rendering method but it doesn’t really go anywhere or advance to a higher level.  It’s the same old awesome but strictly ornamental type of imagery all the time.

People know about fractals, they just don’t care.  There’s plenty of fringe art forms around; will they captivate you and change your life if one day they have an exhibit in your city?  We couldn’t care less about them and they feel the same about us.  It’s the law of the conservation of apathy.

Offline art resides in art galleries because it’s not digital, not because that’s the apex of art

I can’t help but think that many fractal artists see art galleries in the same way that small town athletes view the Olympic Games.  In the words of Frank Sinatra  “If I can make it there, I’ll make it anywhere, It’s up to you, New York, New York”.

Anyhow, there will be plenty more Benoit Mandelbrot Fractal Art Contests in the years to come once someone figures out a consistent sponsorship method.  The real question is how long will it be before fractal artists realize that they’re already in “New York” and the only place the BMFAC will take them is offline and out of town.

The only thing fractal art lacks today is creativity.  The artwork is too tame and domesticated.  Contests have never been able to change that.  In fact, they seem to encourage it.  Institutionalized and anemic artists that seek approval rather than innovation.

Benoit Mandelbrot Fractal Art Contest 2011: Judging Part 2

And another thing…

If you’ve only got one or two judges then there’s nothing that really needs to be explained.  But when you’ve got 12… one would naturally wonder how a much more complicated scenario like that would actually work.  How do a dozen people from all over the globe select a group of 25 images out of 345 entries?  Dave Makin says the Honorary Presidents aren’t “actually” judges and yet they are listed on the official site as part of the Selection Panel.  If that’s the case then how much does an individual judge know about the judging if such a basic fact about who is and who isn’t a part of the Selection Panel can be in dispute?

Just taking a glance at all those names on the Selection Panel makes me wonder if they all have equal roles.  Just like a chairman of a board of directors, someone has to initiate the judging and organize everything.  I would assume either Damien Jones or Javier Barrallo (or both) perform that role.  Makes sense, doesn’t it?  Someone has to organize the group.  But this begs the question of where does simple clerical organization and direction become the more executive function of control and manipulation?

Discussions take place, electronically I would assume, because the group is geographically spread out.  When there’s a stated mandate for the contest to create an exhibition that “represents” fractal art rather than just pick the best works, and we now know that a considerable amount of discussion goes on to accomplish this because simply counting votes won’t work when you’ve got to make sure no artist “wins twice” (or three times) and the many inevitable ties have to be broken… it suggests that there’s an enormous amount of influence and direction required by the organizers.  Aren’t the organizers acting as editors of the judging?  That is, they’re judging the judging.  What I’m saying is that they’re going to have to do that even if they didn’t intend to when they created what is essentially a committee in need of direction.

I think it’s an absolute necessity and that means that despite the big list of judges and the wide influence one would expect the actual result is one or two people exercising a disproportionate amount of control over the whole process in order to arrive at a decisive result that reflects a view of fractal art that can only be a subjective one because in who’s opinion has the Benoit Mandelbrot Fractal Art Contest ever been “representative” of the state of fractal art?  (Of course the judges aren’t really that diverse.)

It’s never really been a contest because from the very beginning it’s always had this huge group of judges and such groups never create clear decisions even when voting on just a few things.  How much more so when their tasked with selecting 25 entries out of 345.  Unless they’re “helped” that is.  I think anyone can see that the Benoit Mandelbrot Fractal Art Contest judging is not straightforward and simply can’t be.  12 judges and 345 pieces of art: how many more variables do you need to produce a circus?  Oh, and remember each name associated with a work can only appear once in the final results.  No wonder nobody has wanted to explain the judging of the Benoit Mandelbrot Fractal Art Contest all these years; its an irregular and informal thing.

For those who can’t understand why their artwork wasn’t part of the “winning” selection I would say they need only to look at chaos theory itself and remember that unpredictable results often occur in circumstances that are “highly sensitive to initial conditions”.  The old Butterfly Effect thing.

The Benoit Mandelbrot Fractal Art Contest 2011: Judging the Judging

If they’re going to…

  • not consider a second artwork by any artist
  • rearrange the judging results to include a “wider range” of styles
  • declare in the rules they don’t want “garish” art
  • let the Honorary members influence the results
  • have a discussion to decide the final winners

…then why do they have all those judges in the first place?

And what exactly does this mean?

From the BMFAC 2011 site, rules section

Apparently the Honorary Presidents aren’t “judges” and yet they are considered to be Selection Panel Members? But they “did express their own choices”.  How?  To whom?

I would expect the Honorary Presidents to be judges.  Isn’t that what the above screenshot from the Rules suggests?

My point is: if they’re going to do so much adjusting of the judging then why bother having 12 people vote.  Wouldn’t that just create a great deal of noise rather than clear results?  Wouldn’t it simply create the need for one person or a few senior people to step in and break ties and chose which image by a popular artist becomes their only winning one?

Dave Makin, (a judge) in a recent comment here has shed some light on the judging process and for that I really am grateful.  But I question just how much any one judge really knows about the actual selection since there’s so many of them and the expressed need to show “diversity of fractal styles” and a whole bunch of other rather subjective things stated in the official rules makes it a task that necessitates some strong oversight and direction.

Personally, I think that big list of judges is nothing more than a smokescreen to justify a whole lot of “adjusting” to go on.  Call it a “discussion” but it defeats the entire purpose of having 12 people judge if the results aren’t going to be honored and a whole lot of negotiating is to go on afterwards.  It creates a situation where each judge really has very little say in the final outcome and their votes cancel each other out.  And where the final results can be claimed to be a group decision when in fact no group that sizes is capable of coming to any clear decision on 25 pieces of art.  You end up with an exhibition that no one voted for.

From that sort of “judging” comes the sort of “winners” we’ve seen this year.

Benoit Mandelbrot Fractal Art Contest 2011 Losers Announced

In case you haven’t seen them, the winning images are all here.  Of the 25 winning images which will make up the entire exhibit shown sometime within the next year, there’s only really one good one: Aztec Flying City by Bernard Bittler.

They messed up his name on the official website.  I know because this image of Bernard’s and subsequently him as well is quite familiar to me; I reviewed it here on Orbit Trap over a year ago.  He’s known as “arias” on Fractalforums.com where he posted the image in September of 2010.  Even still, the image is an excellent example of state of the art 3D fractals and certainly not stale.

I wouldn’t have reviewed any of the other 24 “winners” here on Orbit Trap because I don’t think they’d be of much interest to anyone.  In fact, looking over all the entries left me feeling a little sorry for the judges.  They can only chose from what is submitted and many of my favorite fractal artists, whose work like Bittler’s I’ve reviewed here: Johan Anderssen; Jeremie Brunet; Mark Brady; and Hal Tenny; submitted works which weren’t what I’d say were their best.

None of them are in the “loser’s circle” however.  But I’ve identified a number of works that were chosen that I don’t think belong in any fractal art exhibition and certainly not one that hopes to introduce people to fractal art.  Let’s start with the best of the worst:

Janet’s a legend in the fractal art world but as I posted just recently her work expresses a cheap sentimentality and cliche style that has come to characterize what’s dull and boring about fractal art these days.  Even Louis Markoya, a winner in the contest, agreed with my comparison of her with Thomas Kinkade, that great “Painter of Kitsch”.  “Revelen” or any of her other works with such pompous titles belong with the also-rans and not with the winners.

This one wouldn’t even make it into the deceased Fractal Universe Calendar.  Shiny flowers arranged on a string over a textured background layer?  It’s almost childish.  There’s a mistake with the name, maybe there’s also a mistake in placing this one as a winner?

Conveniently placed together for a screen-shot, here’s two more “winners” who ought to have shared a common destiny buried away in a Deviant Art gallery.  You can’t see much from these thumbnails but take it from me, they look even more trivial when viewed large scale on the contest site.  More cliche fractal “art”.

Yvonne Mous is a previous BMFAC winner.  I don’t think that’s much of a compliment anymore.  Jessica ought to be ashamed for trying to connect her multi-colored spiral party with Vincent Van Gogh’s art work.  Of course she’s not guilty of elevating it to the winner’s circle.  All she did was submit it.  You are forgiven.  Go and sin no more!

One other thing: isn’t that the “garish, 70s-style imagery” that the Rules say they don’t want to exhibit?

Carbajo is another artist who was chosen in a previous BMFAC.  While the other “losers” are merely decorative, this one is merely disgusting.  Yes, it looks like a tissue slide.  But why would we want to look at it?  Or exhibit it?

I first saw this one just a few days ago in the recent gallery uploads page on Fractalforums.com.  I didn’t click on it there but I did click on it when I saw it on the winners page of the BMFAC 2011 site.  Another shiny thing from Ultra Fractal.  Even Janet doesn’t make shiny stuff anymore.  The Fractal Universe Calendar would have made this a cover image.

Bill is a veteran BMFAC winner.  He’s tied with Dave Makin for the lifetime achievement award.   Dave was a judge so he couldn’t enter the contest this year.  If they want to be fair about things they should make Bill a judge next time so Dave won’t be penalized for his pit stop as a judge this year.  Bill’s work is sharply rendered and very fractal but so is a broken window.

Come on.  What were they thinking when they chose this DESKTOP WALLPAPER as one of 25 images for an art exhibition?  I will acquiesce and say that maybe Janet Parke’s artwork is a matter of taste and I just don’t care for it, but this glassy tree on a mirrored surface by Pasternak looks like a User Contributed Aero desktop theme for Windows Vista.  They’re going to print this out the size of a door and hang it on a wall?  It’s nothing more than a cellphone background.

Ewa’s another long time competitor in this World Cup of Fractal Art.  I was a little hesitant to label it as one of the losers because I looked so long into that fuzzy sandstorm expecting to see something.  Ewa’s learned a thing or two about “artistic” fractals.  Make them fuzzy and highly textured and people will see things in them.  It would be interesting to hear what the judges saw in this one.  I’ll bet it would be more interesting than the actual artwork.

Let me end off on a positive note.  One of our “biggest fans” here on Orbit Trap has been hard done by in this year’s contest.  I’ve listed here 11 images that I think are worthless examples of fractal art out of the total of 25 that they chose as the winners.  That’s almost half the winning entries.  Those images have taken places that other entries could have filled.  Think about that.

One of the entries that I think beats all 11 of these losers is by Esin Turkakin.  Here’s a screen-shot from the entries page:

Decide for yourselves:  Isn’t Esin’s Metropolis better than all these losers?   And yet, it won’t be exhibited because the judges thought those 11 were better than this one.  I can’t blame the judges for not picking works that weren’t submitted, but I can accuse them of incompetence when they chose bad ones over better ones.  I’m not saying it’s great, I’m just saying it’s better.

The Benoit Mandelbrot Fractal Art Contest needs a better system of judging.  Better art submissions won’t matter until they fix a system that is both dysfunctional as well as shrouded in secrecy.  This year’s herd of losers really begs that point.

Oh, and give Bill a chance, too.



An Art Form of Shape and Color

By looking at all these weird fish images my hope is that you’ll stop seeing them as fish and start seeing them simply as objects of shape and color.

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

Opisthoproctus_soleatus by Augustus Brauer, 1906

Eurypharynx_pelecanoides by Goode and Bean, 1896

By Eric Zugmayer, 1912

Saccopharynx, 1887

Winteria_telescopa by Augustus Brauer, 1906

They have no need of being real, we can relate to them entirely as manifestations of shape and color.  Shape and color then, become real things, or rather, they become their “own reality”, their own little world with its own characteristics.  Which is ultimately what I’ve been saying about fractals: they have little in common with other things (like fish, Tim?) and like fish out of water (forgive the metaphor) they are a disappointment when flopped down at the feet of a land animal.  They can’t really be compared.  Underwater, of course, the land animals look equally out of place.

Scopeloberyx robustus by Emma Kissling, 1911

Scopelogadus_mizolepis by A. Brauer, 1906

Poromitra_crassiceps by Emma Kissling, 1911

Cottunculus_microps by A. Mintern, 1887

Bolinichthys longipes (Brauer 1906)

Challenge: imagine a deep sea fish you’ve never seen before.  It’s got eyes, a mouth, tail (an end) and some fin-like structures somewhere in between.  In your mind, add some colors, give it some brighter ones in places and some more subdued ones in others.  Change the numbers of it’s parts; two tails, one eye (or three).  Stretch some part of it and compress some other part.  Give it some new kind of pattern for fish scales, say car-keys or bottle caps, or sewing needles.  Lastly, change the outline of it, it’s profile.

Now look at that fish and ask yourself if it’s really something completely new or just a variation of other ones you’ve already seen?  It’s probably a variation, a synthesis of other images you’ve already seen, but a fractal program will come up with shapes and colors that you’d never imagine.  That’s the strength of fractal algorithms, they work in ways our human minds don’t.  But then that non-human “painter” doesn’t come up with the sorts of things that a person would paint.

Coccorella_atrata by A. Brauer, 1906

Regalecus_glesne, Naturhistorisches Museum Wien

Cryptosaras_couesii by Gilbert and Jordan, 1905

Platyberyx_opalescens by Emma Kissling, 1911

Malacosteus_niger by Emma Kissling, 1911

-Lobianchia_dofleini by Emma Kissling, 1911

I just say that fractals are a completely different medium and that you’ll never find creatures from our human domain in theirs.  Just as you won’t find fish living on dry land.  They’re two different environments and they produce two different –but equally interesting– kinds of art work.  Interesting, though, for different reasons and in different ways.

The question is not, “Are fractals art?” but rather, “What kind of art are fractals?”  They’re not the kind of art that human artists make.  And for that reason they’ll never do what the works of Picasso, Dali, Da Vinci or other artists like that have done.

We make fractals with a different kind of machine and machinery; that’s the “medium” we work in.  We get a whole new category of results from working in that new medium.  Comparing it with other, more traditional mediums like painting or photography is a mistake because all the audience will think is, “Those aren’t good paintings” or “Those aren’t good photographs.”

But what I’m saying is that fractals aren’t a digital subset of those other visual art forms, they’re a whole new category because they’re made in a totally different medium.  If you regard fractals as something new and unconnected to any other preexisting art form or medium, I think you’ll be able to work with them much better and appreciate them much more and also to deal with any criticism they might receive better.  You no longer will have to defend fractals as paintings or photographs before painters and photographers.  Like the deep sea fish, fractals are strange new things to look at; fresh examples of shape and color that could never have been imagined.

Is that art?  Of course it’s art, but it’s not the kind of art that Picasso made or Ansel Adams made or that any human in the future will ever make.  Fractals as an art form are on a completely separate trajectory and path than the “human” or hand-made arts because where they come from and what forms them isn’t human or done with the hand.  The real winners in fractal art are those who are content with fractal art existing in a separate, alien domain.  The losers are those who want to be painters and photographers.  You can’t get there from here.

Made in Sterlingware

Made in Xaos

Made in Sterlingware

Made in Xaos

Made in Sterlingware

Made in Fractal Vizion

Made in Tierazon

Fractal “objects” composed of little more than a shape with some simple coloring has been one of my favorite themes over the years.  Most of what I see other people making are much more complex “scenes” with very “deluxe” coloring.  But for me the ability of a program (and the formula it’s using) to create a variety of shapes is intensely interesting.

15,500 year old flint tools from Texas (Michael Waters, Texas A&M Univ.)

Is this art?  Cave-man tools?  Yes, it too is an art form of shape and color.  Shown together they are even more powerful as examples of mere shape and color.  I made some things in Terry Gintz’s quaternion program, Hydra.  All they had going for them was their shape and their coloring.  There was nothing else to the images.  Shape and color were their only characteristics.

Fractals (and rocks) are good at this kind of thing.  It’s a simple genre that works with only shape and color and so it’s not capable of doing the sophisticated things that something like sculpture, for instance, does.  There’s more to a Henry Moore sculpture than there is to those flint tools in the picture above.  On the other hand, I find the stone tools more attractive and pleasant to look at (and hey, probably more useful too).

Fractals are an interesting art form just like weird fish drawings and rock collections.  I wouldn’t say fractals are a lesser art form because they lack the capacity and capability for higher expression (above the level of a rock or fish).  They’re just a different kind of art.

I can just see the old sage, Master Po, from the Kung Fu TV series saying to Kwai Chang:

“The greatest art is found in the common objects around us.  We see art in a painting because we look for it.  We do not see the art around us because we do not look for it.  Art is nothing but a frame.  It says, look!  Every man who looks is an artist.”

“But Master, you are blind.”

“Can you see what I see, Kwai Chang?”

“I do not know what you see, Master.”

“Well then, shut up about it!”

Image Spam vs The World! -some advice for Fractalforums.com

It had to happen sometime.  Fractalforums.com is a wide-open, free access forum that allows image uploads.  And many fractal artists subscribe to the old belief that if you throw enough “stuff” at the wall eventually some of it will stick.

Well, 65 clumps on the wall in one day was just too much for the folks at Fractalforums.com.  Maybe I shouldn’t advertise this, but they’ll still let you get away with hurling three a day.  Frankly, I’d say that even one a year is too much.  Why allow anyone to use a community forum as a personal gallery?  –community space as personal space.

I’ve smiled a few times while following the discussions about this on Fractalforums.com.  The moderators over there are wrestling with the same thorny questions that we did here on Orbit Trap when we finally decided to moderate comments and not grant carte blanche to anyone who wanted to spit on us or preach ad nauseum from the comments section.  Say something relevant or shut up.

Interestingly, the term ad nauseum has been used in the English language since the early 1600s.  It seems that overwhelming and unwanted content is nothing new.  It’s just grown legs and sprouted wings since the internet came along.

Now, in defense of people who want to dump a pile of their artwork right in the middle of everyone’s way…

There is no defense for people who do this.  It’s a deliberate attempt to hijack a venue known for better content and use it, briefly, for the completely futile purpose of showing people stuff that they don’t want to look at.  Nice people don’t do this.Unfortunately it’s the nice people who have to respond to it and come up with a policy to deal with it.  What it really is is unpaid advertising.

So what exactly should be done about image spamming on a place like Fractalforums.com?  Glad you asked.  I’ve been thinking about this, and like I said before, it’s much the same sort of situation as has been encountered here on Orbit Trap with respect to comment moderation.  So I feel like I’ve been through this before.

#1 Don’t punish the innocent

It’s always just a few people who do this.  Try to focus your attention on fixing them.  Forcing everyone to stick to some arbitrary limit in the interests of “fairness” isn’t fair because all those other people are not the problem.  In a similar sense good dogs don’t need to be put on a leash (or muzzled).  You don’t have to treat good members the same as bad ones.  In fact, why would you?

#2 Punish the guilty (with zeal and abandon)

Kick ’em out!  Kick ’em wa—-y out!  And throw rocks at them while they run off.  Get everyone involved and celebrate!  Have a deletion party.  Use blinking text and marquee messages.

#3 Don’t give newcomers a door key

Spammers usually register and dump a load of junk right away.  They’re usually strangers.  They don’t make any attempt to “get to know anyone”, because they’re just there to use the facilities, the web space.

If it’s possible, don’t allow anyone to immediately upload anything.  Give them 30 days or something to show their good behavior and just join in the forum discussions.  The probationary period will pass soon and then they can have full access.  But for spammers, the probationary period will never end because they’ll never stick around that long.

#4 Public forums are not “Public” places

The place belongs to whoever started it up and pays the fees (if any).  If you want it to be a place to discuss fractal software development where images are only posted as examples, illustrations or test-renders… then don’t apologize to people who want it to be an online art gallery.  Suggest they sail away and found a vibrant new online colony, far (far) over the horizon.

Whatever preferences the owner or moderator may have for the site may drive some people away but the one’s who are looking for what you’re attempting to establish and maintain will gladly cooperate with you because they share your vision for the site, too.

You can’t be all things to all people and if you try the whole site will just descend into fiery spamnation.

#5 The New, The Trusted and the Ugly

Three classes of members (if the software allows it).  Don’t set any posting limits, just tell everyone to stop before they post an image and ask “why will anyone on this forum want to look at this?”  If you can think of a reason then go ahead and upload it.

Posting limits turns moderators into policemen and spoils the mood of the forum (for them as well as the others).  They also force moderators to punish members only because they’ve stepped over a (possibly forgotten) line.  It’s all about quality, not quantity.  If someone drops in with some exciting snapshots from their Voyage to the Bottom of the Fractal Sea, then they should govern their uploads by the same principle that everyone else is using: “will it be of interest to other members?”.  Sometimes you need a series of images to make your point.

#6  Keep your list of rules short

The comment policy on Orbit Trap was slowly boiled down to a single sentence: “Comments are moderated, but only to weed out the harassing ones.”  What exactly does “harassing” mean?  Well, for starters it’s a relative thing, but the essence of it is this: irrelevant and unpleasant.

Contrary opinions aren’t irrelevant although they might be unpleasant.  But when people people repeat the same things again and again, they quickly become both irrelevant and unpleasant.  But that’s what “trolls” are all about: they want to irritate you and discourage you from continuing.  To them, freedom of speech means having the freedom to heckle whoever’s giving the speech.  In other words: harassment.

#7 Marked for Destruction!

Image spam is the posting of irrelevant images.  Images that don’t have any connection to what the forum postings or the general theme of the forum is all about.  If a moderator isn’t sure that the images being posted by someone are irrelevant just wait for someone to say so.  In an open community, annoyances are self-limiting things that everyone is eager to “fix”.

News sites allow anyone to flag a comment and then label it for the moderators as: 1) spam; 2) hate speech; or 3) obscenity.  If the software allows this, Fractalforums could include a “Flag this image” as part of the gallery posting template along with the “rate this image” 5-star option.

Anyone can mischievously click on that flag as a prank (sounds like fun) but the news sites don’t say they’re going to remove flagged comments, they just allow you to flag them in order to “alert a moderator”.  What this flagging thing really does it remind commenters that every comment they post can easily be flagged as garbage if someone thinks it is.  When you post stuff that people don’t want to see they’re doubly motivated to alert the moderators and get you punished for it.  But they also know that if there’s nothing wrong with what you’ve posted then it won’t do anything and may even make them look bad.  (Oh no, another form of online vermin to be eradicated: false complainers.)

It’s easy to skip over 65 mediocre images in an online gallery, I do it every day!  But it’s strangely soothing to click on each image, one at a time and flag them.  It’s that vengeful aspect of human nature that makes the task of moderation so much easier.  People like to punish wrong-doers.  That’s what keeps comment sections going: the urge to correct others.

#8 Deep discussions about math and graphical programming…

Deep discussions about math and graphical programming are toxic to image spammers.  I actually think that’s what has kept the art dumpers away from Fractalforums.com for so long: it shrivels them right down to the roots like a good old systemic herbicide.

Linux forums have the same effect on the link spammers.  They take one look at what’s being discussed and they’re no longer even sure what language the forum is using.  “Who on earth is going to read this stuff?”

I noticed a few months ago a number of unrepentant Deviant Arters dropped in on Fractalforums.com, posted images and began doing “deviant” things like posting inane comments to make theirs and their friends images stand out.  Surprisingly, these people just drifted back to Deviant Art and abandoned their conquest of Fractalforums (itching skin, headaches, tired all the time…)

One reason was that they didn’t get much attention.  Probably because most members on Fractalforums weren’t interested in images that only look nice and didn’t have some technical relevance, but also I believe because the heavily technical atmosphere of Fractalforums drove them away.  I think they finally found a potential audience that didn’t interest them.

One of the best ways to keep any online site from being hijacked is to simply be so extremely different that outsiders suffer from culture shock.  If you aren’t interested in fractal programming and the optimization of graphical systems then what is there for you at Fractalforums?  Even nerds would call these guys nerds.

#9 Censorship!!!

I almost forgot about this.  Funny, because even today it still comes up.  You block someone from commenting after weeks or months of steadily growing annoyance and within hours they suddenly appear in your referral stats on another site telling everyone in the world how they’ve been “censored”.  I thought censored meant you were prevented from speaking?

But no, to blog trolls it means they’ve been forced to set up a brand new blog!  This kind of New Censorship could the greatest boost to self expression ever seen.

There is no such thing as censorship on the internet.  Users finding themselves “censored” (the Che Guevaras of our time) can go to Blogger (popular), or Deviant Art (even more popular) or WordPress.com (good comment moderation options!).  Add in Google Adsense advertising and they might even make money at being “censored”.

And for the fractal art Che Guevaras who find themselves exiled from Fractalforums.com, there are even trendier options available from which to “show the world” how they’ve been censored.

Flickr is nice.  Deviant Art is your best bet if you’re looking to recruit a battalion of berets and counter attack (on Deviant Art).  Picasa… Renderosity (does anyone go there anymore?).  They’re all free of charge, but for a few bucks a month you can (literally) own your own domain and expose the evil squelching of anyone (or everyone) who’s blocked you from accessing their site for reasons you may start to better understand if you actually attract an audience and start receiving the same trash you once dished out.

Don’t cry “censorship” online.  It just shows how superficial and phony you are (and probably were all along).


Anyhow, Fractalforums.com is a special part of the fractal world and I’d like to see it stay exactly the way it is.  Hopefully the moderators will have the conviction to stand by their reason for being and tell people who want to do other things to go to other places.

I believe it was probably that need for a new and special venue that gave birth to Fractalforums.com in the first place.  That’s how Orbit Trap got started.

A Fractal Made Me Smile!

If you’ve been following my recent revolutionary thoughts about fractal art you may have noticed a few comments posted by readers here and in other venues relating to emotional experiences and feelings triggered by fractal images.  Such things are important from my revolutionary perspective because they appear to refute my theory that fractal art is mentally empty.

One the the main tenets of my artistic uprising is that fractals alone, “raw fractals” computed from parameter settings, are such a rigid graphical medium that they don’t allow the artist enough involvement and direction in the creative process to produce works that express feelings and ideas in the way that painters and even photographers can.  The fractal medium frustrates human expression so to speak, rather than facilitate it.  Fractals are a completely different kind of imagery, completely artificial and best appreciated for its weirdness and supreme alien character.

In fact what I’m saying is that the fractal medium is for all intents and purposes dead to such things as human expression and commentary.  Things which have been the main themes in (finer) art up to this point in time.  Attempts to use fractals to convey human feelings, thoughts, ideas and just about anything else that originates in the experience of being alive is a waste of time and the source of innumerable pieces of bad art.  And so I say… it isn’t going to work, give it up!

But in the interests of fomenting creative insurrection in the fractal art world, or at least more enlightened thinking about fractal art, I think I ought to respond to these suggestions that fractals have already been doing the sort of emotional expression that I (boldly) said they will never be able to do.

I will start by disqualifying most of what my critics are claiming to be works of “emotional expression” by saying that sentimentality is not the sort of higher art material that I was talking about in the first place.  Sentimental feelings, although nice and pleasant and definitely a type of emotional expression, are not substantial or important enough to be the subject of “fine” art (the good stuff).

Dictionary time…


bleeding heart A person of excessive and emotive compassion; one of undue sentimentality, whose heart strings quiver at the slightest provocation. This figurative phrase is of relatively recent origin:

You want to think straight, Victor. You want to control this bleeding-heart trouble of yours. (J. Bingham, Murder Plan Six, 1958)

hearts and flowers An expression or display of cloying sentimentality intended to elicit sympathy; sob stuff, excessive sentimentalism or mushiness; maudlinism. This American slang phrase was originally the title of a mawkishly sad, popular song of 1910.

sob story A very gloomy story; a sad tale designed to elicit the compassion and sympathy of the listener; a tear-jerker. This common, self-explanatory expression often applies to an alibi or excuse. It also frequently describes the narrative recounting of the trials, frustrations, and disappointments of one’s life.

How anyone could heed such a sob story is beyond me. (Los Angeles Times, June, 1949)

~from thefreedictionary.com

Fractals that give you that “Christmas Tree” kind of feeling, or ones that remind you of a cat sleeping in front of a fireplace are just sentimental.  A well stocked cupboard or a reupholstered couch can do the same thing.  Joy amidst defeat; dark victory; the futility of everything; irony; heart of darkness… –these are the kinds of emotions I’m thinking of when I speak of fine art vs. decorative art.

Sentimentality I would say, following my decorative vs. fine art dichotomy, is “decorative” emotion as opposed to the “fine art” emotions that I just listed.  How does one express dark victory, a sense of great loss amidst the reality of success with fractals?  In Goya’s greatest scenes we seem to see… nothing that you’d expect to find in Ultra Fractal!

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

A plate from the Disasters of War series by Francisco Goya (c1810) Tr. "What more can one do?"

Not even the most carefully crafted bifurcation fractal can come close to expressing what Goya has done here.  These are the powerful, complex emotions of fine art works.  (It’s also part of a larger series of works.) Here’s an example by an equally talented skilful painter that evokes and expresses plenty of emotion, except it’s all sentimentality (maybe even cheap sentimentality?).

“Cinderella Wishes Upon a Dream" by Thomas Kinkade

If Thomas Kinkade is the “Painter of Light”, then Goya is the Painter of Darkness.  (To be honest, I’d rather have the kitschy Cinderella picture hanging in my dining room, but there’s a very enlightening lesson in Goya’s grim ink sketch reminding us that war gives opportunity to evil things.)  Goya’s work is fine art while Kinkade’s is sentimentality at it’s “best”: emotion as decoration.  Fine art is sometimes ugly to look at while decorative art, as its name suggests, is always pleasing and beaut-i-fying.

Les Coquelicots a Agenteuil by Claude Monet (1895)

How about Claude Monet?  The water lillies guy.  I actually bought a print of this painting here and hung it up in my residence room in university (years ago).  Have you every seen a fractal image that expressed such a peaceful, soothing and joyful feeling as this?  Maybe you think you have.  But can I call this “fine” art, or finer art, or is it just simply my own personal preference in sentimentality and decoration?  Was Monet simply the Thomas Kinkade of the last century?

Sentimentality is superficial emotion.  It’s shallow, trivial experience.  So I guess fractal art that expresses emotion can’t be considered fine art if those emotions are shallow and trivial.  “Cute” is shallow and so is anything that elicits a mild response.  Fine art deals with emotions of substance and complexity.  The Mona Lisa, for example, almost qualifies as sentimentality except for the fact that the famous smile is complicated and nuanced.  If she had a typical smile (or no shirt on) it would be a great work of sentimentality not art.

If it’s any comfort to those of you who feel hurt that I’ve dismissed all of fractal art as decorative art/design then you may be delighted to hear that Monet’s Coquelicots (Poppys) has just been tossed into the same category as you.  I don’t put all of Monet’s work there, and I should add that I really like his Poppys painting (I bought a print, remember?) but it’s nothing more than just a really beautiful image of nature.

If someone was holding both Monet’s and Goya’s images over a fire and asked me to chose which image was was more worthy of being spared destruction I’d say Goya’s because it’s a rare and powerful artwork of great moral merit rebuking our illusions of what war is.  What Monet has captured in his painting can be recaptured on any nice summer day by going for a walk in the country.  (As for the Kinkade one, I’d say “Hey, don’t forget this one!”)

Fractal artists work with formulas and their parameters and so you can’t expect such imagery to depict the same sorts of themes as painters do because painters form all of the image themselves and make the image do and be whatever they imagine (and have the talent to render).  We can’t expect fractals to portray the products of the human imagination, or even the the complex human emotions we ourselves experience everyday.

Some fractal images do, however, portray emotion it’s the shallow kind of emotion which I call sentimentality.  I suppose I really ought to show a few examples of this fractal sentimentality to complete things, but I’ve insulted enough people for one posting already.  On the other hand, if you really want to see “good” examples of this type of lower-class emotional expression, in the spirit of Thomas Kinkade, I can’t think of anyone better than this Prestigious Fractal Artist.

Scenes Inside the Goldmine

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

Synthetic made gold crystals by the chemical transport reaction in chlorine gas. Purity >99.99% Photo by Alchemist-hp (Wikipedia)

Why do people make fractal art?  Well, actually they don’t make it so much as they find it, steal it, dig it out of the dirt.  Some of the best pieces of fractal art are things just picked up off the floor of the gold mine.  The fractal miners don’t call them art.  They don’t call them anything.  They’re named by where they were found or with a date.

Fractal art is warehouse full of rocks and boxes of rocks.  Seen as “test renders” many of the really interesting fractal works are known by just a few because they never make it out of the goldmine and into the bigger world.

The “miners” have just seen too much gold to realize how valuable their finds really are and how much they shine when compared to the artificial stuff that clutters the big cities of fractaland.   Although none of it is worth anything they keep going back to look for more.  If that’s not a good description of gold fever I don’t know what is.

Knini by Bib (Jeremie Brunet)

Made way, way back in April of 2011 in Mandelbulb 3D this was a single render, meaning (I guess) it comes from a single image and not a series of layers.  When you find a nugget like this you don’t try to fit it into the usual 4:3 or 16:9 frame, you let it have its own aspect ratio.  You’ll need to take a look at bib’s treasure map if you want to find another one like this.

Rotated "Mandelbox surface" by Kali (fractalforums.com)

The full size is worth the view.  I like the humble name.  This is probably one of the best examples of panoramic lighting and haze I’ve seen in the 3D fractals.  There’s no mention of any processing but can Mandelbulb 3D make something that looks this polished and complete all on it’s own?  I don’t think it could have been painted or drawn better than this.  And the monochrome palette makes it look even more impressive instead of plain.  But to Kali it’s just part of a conversation about mandelbox “folding”:

Rotated “Mandelbox surface”

Then added 90º rotation on y axis

There are many possibilities using this method with different params and rotations

These folks are so low-key.  This is an awesome 3D fractal rendering that would make a spectacular poster: “Fractal Mt. Kilimanjaro” or “Eiffel Tower of Babylon”.

Burning Ship Close-up by HPDZ

HPDZ is High Precision Deep Zoom which (as you may have guessed) is the name of a program of whom the author (I believe) is Michael Condron of hpdz.net.  Not exactly cutting edge fractal art these days, but some themes like the Burning Ship (and the Phoenix formulas) just never lose their shine and this is a good reminder of that.  The site is dedicated to deep zooming and contains animation downloads ranging from 7 to 739 MB (for the true enthusiast).

Special Sphere by Haltenny

There always seems to be something just a little new in the 3D world, but this is quite a bit new.  It reminds me of the internal parts of an electric motor as well as the lobby of a very ritzy banquet hall.  Haltenny is a master of the metal mandelbox and if you follow these things you undoubtedly have seen either his very steam punkish copper vats and piping or versions by other people using his (generously shared) techniques and parameters.  (What is a parameter file but a fractal treasure map?) You’ll find the best ones on his Deviant Art site.  This is a bit of a departure for him but he’s one of those folks who’s always looking for something new.

Alisss by Fractalisman

Too glassy and brittle to be real gold but it’s still a golden one.  A nice 3D scene with a figure photoshopped in.  I don’t think it’s all that easy to make these scenes look big and massive.  I think one has to have some skill with the lighting and fog effects otherwise the result is something microscopic rather than this Glorious Temple of Golden Glass.  Is that woman standing in awe of the massive monument in front of her, or is she genuinely lost?

Hernando's Hideaway by covertop99agenda5 (Deviant Art)

Well, who else would find such a motherlode as this besides “covertop99agenda5” aka co99a5 aka Kevin from Jacksonville Florida.  I don’t know which name to use, but I will say that he often makes very detailed renders like this one.  I think these take much more time and certainly one has to also find something with worthwhile details to render.  Despite numerous appearance on Fractalforums, Kevin seems to have most of his work on his Deviant Art page.  Which in fact is a goldmine all it’s own.  I’ve just included the most golden one here.

ABoxScale3Start16 by Trawersant

I have no idea who this person is but their Fractalforums bio says they’re from Poland.  There’s a bit of a funny story connected with this one.  Trawersant apparently uploaded quite a few images via the convenient bulk upload function which is something frowned upon in many online art venues (to put it mildly).  In fact I would have avoided them all if it wasn’t for the fact that this one in particular has such an interesting and unusual mandelbox folding pattern to it.  You can really see how complex and amazing the details of 3D fractals can be.  No mention of which program made this one, but I’ve heard that sometimes you can’t tell those things from the final images.

Baroque by Pauldelbrot

Paul is an oldtimer by fractalforums standards having been there since January of 2009.  I believe, but I’m not sure, that his full name is Paul Derbyshire and he’s been active in the fractal world for quite some time.  Paul has a different perspective on fractals which means, using my goldmine metaphor, that he tends to pick up different rocks than most of the others.

The patterning and design aspects of Pauls images are quite captivating despite their humble appearance when displayed alongside the latest sculptural wonders of the mandelbox.  This one is a fine example but many of his other ones displayed on Fractalforums are equally good.  The style is quite different but it’s still golden.

Sketch by trafassel

In case you thought “Professor” trafassel had disappeared on his Journey to the Center of the Mandelbox I present this image to update you with his whereabouts.  This is part of a series of images he’s made with his own program Gestaltlupe that seems to incorporate some sort of ancient dust parameter.  It’s weird, but the images all seem to have accumulations of dust on them like the objects in a pharaoh’s tomb would.  The result, along with the black and white, or greyscale, palette is to give a much stronger impression that one is looking at a photograph or electron micrograph.  In a sense the journey is real and like other fractalists trafassel is exploring  something quite tangible and in his own custom made gold mine.

A flower for you, by stoni (fractalforums)

Stoni adds the note that this is his first fractal posted to fractalforums, made in the Mandelbulb 3D program.  I’d say he’s (she’s?) off to a good start in this prospecting business.  A great example of the varied geometric surfaces and structures that can be made.  Shape is everywhere and the variations are impressive.  I think it would make a very unique Christmas card.  In fact, I’ve always though fractals were a natural theme for such ornamental themes as cards.  Hopefully Stoni will be back (unless he’s actually another Deviant artist with a huge gallery slowly growing over there).

Well, as always there’s more.  And there always will be because fractals are a goldmine, or rather they are *the* goldmine.  You won’t find paper money in the goldmine but you’ll find gold.  It has a value all its own unlike the paper stuff that everyone chases after in the big, bright cities of fractaland.