Showing posts from October, 2005

Fractum Bookmarkum

I love Latin. Not the real thing, just the style and sound. Everything just sounds more important and serious.

Download parameter file book01.loo

How about Carpe Diem? Wow, eh. Why not Carpe Fractum? "Sieze the Fractals" And here's one for the professional sales folks, Carpe Dinero: Seize the Cash.

The motto of my university was, Tentanda Via. They told us it meant, The way must be tried! That's a good one for Sterlingware because I think the secret to Sterlingware is to try everything out, experiment.

Download parameter file book02.loo

It makes experimentation very easy since you can change menu options and instantly see the changes. What happens usually is that I make so many changes that I wander away from what I was working on and get lost. But that's the best way to randomize your actions: get lost.

So perhaps the motto of my university should really say: Tentanda Via! - Get Lost.

Which brings me to an interesting anectdote. Last time I visited my old un…

Dance of the Microbe

I'm fascinated with these mini-sputniks. They also have some strange technical characteristics.

Download parameter file swimmer07.loo

For instance: they look good with color numbers 1-12 which is unusual as most Sterlingware images only work well with 13-26, which generally have few saturated colors. As a result there's a greater range of color options for these orbit-counting creatures.

Also, the formulas produce clusters and even isolated, structures making it possible to find images, like the one here, that look like portraits. My images are usually "fractal-scapes," featuring part of a huge fractal object. The image here looks like a few plankton floating in seawater.

Another peculiar thing is that the orbit-counting images look fine with no anti-aliasing. Curved shapes in particular benefit from the smoothing effects of anti-aliasing, yet the orbit-counting images, like the one above, abound in curves and look fine with no anti-aliasing. This one doesn't h…

Behold, the Sugar People

More orbit counting creatures, harmlessly shot with the camera and still living at large. Look at the color. Doing the RGB scrabble game (GBR-RBG-BGR...) produces some fine alternatives too in this image.

Download parameter file swimmer01.loo

There's a famous abstract artist whose works are stored forever in my mind, but whose name I can't remember that painted some zippy, spritely characters like this.

They have a nice Christmassy look to them. I always thought that fractals would make nice greeting card images, but getting the same thing to come out of your printer as what you see on your monitor can be a real challenge.

I could never paint or draw something like this. Without Sterlingware, I'm nothing. The colors too; there's more than two, and the whitish highlights on the creature's arms and legs extend out to become the thread-like tendrils that go squiggly and disappear.

People can't imitate fractals, and fractals can't imitate people. I think they …

Fractal Spider and the Gymnastic Children

The orbit-counting render methods from Sterlingware can be frustrating to work with, but once you find a half decent color setting, there's a harvest of squiggly creatures waiting for you.

Download parameter file spider01.loo

They have an interesting water color look to them. This is because most color settings are too strong for the orbits and produce a moire-electrified look which can only be corrected by lowering the intensity of the "render" dialog on the color controls.

That's a nice way to say I fiddled with it and the only half decent thing I could come up was washed out. Color experimentation in Sterlingware is still somewhat of a mystery to me, but it does add an interesting element of surprise to working with it.

I like the faded, vintage look to this one. Usually the fade-ishness just looks dull.

Well, what else? Fractal hunting for sport, that's what. Orbit counting produces little pieces which often have the appearance of psycho-plankton, atomic-amoe…

Could people be fooled by fractals?

I'm not saying that my fractals belong in the Louvre or anything, but from time to time I come across fractal images that remind me of stuff I've seen in artbooks or galleries.

Download parameter file brain02.loo

I wrote about this and gave examples in my previous, short-lived blogs. Examples aren't really needed and the image above is not intended as one.

I've seen images that look just like parts of Salvadore Dali works but mostly images that resemble abstract artwork. I think it's something to think about as the fractal art genre starts to age: How does an interesting (ie good) fractal work differ from other abstract works currently in art galleries?

I'm sure there are fractal images that when printed could pass as regular artwork and fool almost anyone who is unfamiliar with fractals and despises digital art.

In an online art gallery it would be easy, since it is near impossible to spot the tell tale signs of hand made art, such as brushstrokes or the texture…

Robinson Crusoe on Mars

Don't be ashamed if you haven't seen it. You can probably figure out the whole movie from the title.

Download parameter file sinetrap01.loo

There's a special appearance by some famous spacecraft half way through the movie. They used the same spaceships from War of the Worlds, but turned them upside down.

There are other examples of cinematic frugality in the movie. The entire cast is only three people, plus a monkey. Yes, one is called Friday.

One of the guys is killed off in the first five minutes, and Friday doesn't appear till half way through. Mona, the monkey, advances the plot quite conveniently and even discovers the only food around.

Which brings me to the fractal connection. The food is these funny bean-like things growing on strings in a pool of water. They look just like the diamond shaped things in Sterlingware's sine-trap 01 render method.

I like the movie. It's incredibly dated and cliche, but it contains that delightful view of space exploratio…

Snapshots from the Fourth Dimension

The sine-trap 01 and 02 render methods in Sterlingware have always captivated me. They have a real vintage sci-fi look to them.

Download parameter file rocket02.loo

It was only natural then to spend some time trying to find new color settings for them. Diamond shaped bean strings/ long tails with shark fin collars/ and then tangled masses of both, produce a rich forest of imagery to be captured.

But they can also be repetitive and boring at times. That's why you have to get off the beaten trail, so to speak, and zoom into the tangled underbrush.

I've got alot of images based on this render setting, and next to the fractal dimension option this one has been the most productive.

Add in Julia Mode and you've got the ingredients for some very exciting stuff. Julia Modes will mutate the simple sine-trap plant growth and produce contorted forms.

I used to read about the "fourth" dimension in comic books. It was something like the proverbial "parallel" universe…

Mandel with its head blown off

Finally, a fractal program that saves in PNG format and also supports the use of high explosives. It's called "perturbation," which is, I assume, a standard mathematical term since I'm sure no one would deliberately give that name to anything.

Download parameter file mandel.xpf

It's free, it's fun, and if you've ever experienced the joy of blowing up your toys with firecrackers, you'll love this.

I'm not sure what it does mathematically, but the result is a fractal that looks like it's been flash-frozen and carefully dropped on a concrete floor.

Or, imagine a fractal image painted on a lovely china plate then whipped out of a car travelling 70 mph as it passes a brick wall.

That's not quite it. When you press the hotkey, "b" and hover the mouse cursor over an area, the image is almost instantly transformed just as if the cursor detonated a charge of dynamite.

I'll bet Ultrafractal doesn't do this. This is not a serious fract…

Printmaking made easy

By now it may be obvious that my approach to Fractal Art is somewhat lazy. My creativity is limited to photographing fractals rather than developing them into more complex works.

Download parameter file orangevilla02.loo

We all have individual preferences, not just in style or artistic taste, but in the tools of art. I like to keep it simple and concentrate on the capabilities of the fractal generator, despite creative limitations.

But there's so many things you can do with a fractal image in a graphics program like Photoshop. And with all the added effects and filters from a graphics program your fractal artwork may become more creative. I say "may" because it takes time to get a feel for, and become creative when you use more complex tools.

I've always liked art, that is, looking at art. Way back in high school art class we were forced to work with a wide range of mediums. I didn't like any of them. Drawing, painting, pastels, bas relief, sculpture, etc... …

Fluffy, the cat who loved rabbits

Everyday I get hundreds of emails asking me to write about animals and the warm and fuzzy things they do.

So at long last I bring to you the true story of Schwartz and how he came to earn his new name, "Fluffy."

Download parameter file spiral10.xpf

Once upon a time Schwartz, my younger brother's white and tan cat, went out to the hay fields around our farm to seek adventure. The hay had just been cut, and for some unknown reason he seemed to be heading out to the hay fields alot. Also, he hadn't been eating much of his catfood.

Some time later, on this bright summer day, he returned with something small and furry hanging from his mouth. It was making a faint screeching and screaming noise.

Schwartz, friendly as usual, sat down beside the sandbox where my niece and nephew were playing. He began to chew on the baby rabbit in his mouth.

It wasn't exactly a rabbit, but a "hare." It seems that "hares" are different from "rabbits" in that th…

Layered fractals: Images math never intended

"There are no natural fractal images, only post-processed ones."
      - Plato
Alright then, the so-called "post-processing" is okay, and the debate has been laid to rest. But what about layering?

Download parameter file flatblue.loo

No way. It's unnatural. Some layered "fractals" don't even look like fractals.

And it's hard work too. When you layer an image it takes all sorts of adjustments to get it to look good. Organically grown fractals are easy to make: the generator does everything and you just save whatever looks good.

People who layer fractals just want to make their lives hard. It's almost like traditional brush and canvas art that took ages to make and required plenty of talent and training.

That's why I prefer to hunt, gather and scavenge my fractals from off the ground. It's so much simpler just to pull one off your boot and frame it. In the words of Laika, the first dog in outer space, "Bad artists borrow, good…

Why post-processing is evil

I know it's a dead issue, but I've never had a chance to speak on the matter and I feel like talking.

Like a master geometrician allow me to solve this question in a few simple steps and then quietly sit down.

Download parameter file evil2.loo

First, stop me if I'm wrong, but the beginning of all fractal images is the calculation of a series of two-dimensional (horizontal/vertical or x/y coodinates) points by carring out the instructions of the fractal formula (ie iterating it). This just creates alot of information, you can't see anything yet, it doesn't produce anything visual.

It's similar to a magnetic field. Imagine a magnet under a piece of paper. You don't see anything until you sprinkle some metal filings on the paper and the metal filings reveal the invisible pattern of the magnetic field. A magnetic field, alone, cannot be seen.

There, I'm done.

Okay, there's more. You can't see the output of a fractal formula: the millions of coodinate…


On an island in the Pacific somewhere there are trees that have very smooth but thick bark similar to beech, baobob, or fig trees (depending on what you're familiar with). They have been known to live for 600 to 800 years, but once they are more than a hundred the inner wood disintegrates and the trees become hollow.

Download parameter file skyhole.xpf

As long as the island has been inhabited the people there have lived in these hollow, but still living trees.

Inside, on the inner walls of the tree are deposits of sap or resin. This material dries to form a hard, glassy material with a slight bluish tinge. It gives the inside of the "house" a jewelled look.

From time to time, due to age or insect damage, openings form in the ceiling of the house. Since there's very little rain there's no reason to fix these holes and they perform the practical function of letting in light or letting out smoke from cooking fires.

There are no windows as we know them or even doors f…

Who cares what the name is?

A good name is at least a meaningful label. Like a magnet it attracts the right things and repels the wrong ones.

Download parameter file glob.xpf

Names I didn't choose: Fractal Safari; Fractal Mine; Fractal Voyage; Fractal Journey; Fractal Tales; Fractal Caravan.

I wouldn't call this an art gallery, so I avoided anything artsy. It's not a technical discussion either.

I wanted a name that conveyed that special quality that makes fractals exciting: The math is interesting and the artwork that comes from it can be good, but there's something more.

I don't know, a fractal program like Sterlingware or Xaos is like a magic beanstalk and here's some of the things I've found. And an electronic trail of bread crumbs so you can go right back to the same place, if you're curious, or sceptical.

That's good enough, who cares about the name?

The glory of fractals

When I first discovered fractals I was sceptical and disbelieving. I was curious, but I sensed that they were being hyped and promoted by some group of fanatics trying to make their little thing into something big.

Download parameter file cutout.loo

Then it was like falling down the rabbit hole, so to speak. Everything I saw was incredible and endless. I saved thousands of images because I felt they were all unique and I would never find my way back to that place again.

I would go to bed late, not quite sure that what I had seen was real. Occasionally I stared at the image on my monitor and wondered, "what is this!"

I couldn't relate fractals to anything else I knew. They seemed to be a strange new world separate and unconnected. I had seen things no mortal was meant to see.

Well, as it turns out, they're just fractals. Very down to earth and natural. Mathematics made flesh.

Previously, they had been known only in theory, dreamed of by mathematicians. The written …

The fractal that dripped blood

Or better yet: The mandelbrot that ate people.

It's because of chance discoveries like this that I keep experimenting with Sterlingware. I've never seen this sort of Jackson Pollock, paint all over the place look before. The color worked out well and has a number of variations that look just as good.

Download parameter file blood2.loo

It uses the "x/y; y/x; stalks" rendering method which is generally pretty frustrating and one I give up on quickly. You have to enjoy the hunting and gathering process to work with fractals.

Hmmmn... what else? I never saw the movie, The House that Dripped Blood. But it's not necessary to see movies, or even read books for that matter, to talk about them. I saw the title, I talk about the title.

I don't like Jackson Pollock's artwork either. It's very interesting that he may have actually generated fractal or chaotic graphics with his swinging paint cans, but I don't find them interesting artistically. And they&#…

I walked with Ditko

This is not actually a fractal at all, although it looks like it. It is in fact a drawing from an issue of the comic book Strange Tales from way back in the early 60s, illustrated by my favorite comic book artist Steve Ditko.

Download parameter file islet.xpf

Steve Ditko and Stan Lee invented Spiderman and Steve illustrated all the issues up to number 35 or something like that. Ditko's stark and simple style was unusual in the comic book world were everthing is often exaggerated and overdone.

Ditko did lettering too. It had a real retro look to it even back in the retro days of the 60s.

I don't think he was ever super popular like Jack Kirby who drew the Fantastic Four.

Alright, it is a fractal. The parameter file is a dead give-away. But this is one of the things I like about fractals in general and Xaos in particular: Although they are the expression of a mathematical formula they have the potential to be rendered in very stylish ways.

Fractal programs are very creative tool…

A tale of two programs

Don't you just hate titles like that? I haven't even read the book.

Sterlingware excels in detail and complexity of formulas and rendering options. Xaos excels in visual effects and color. Especially color. Xaos contains the greatest algorithm ever know to civilization. This is the random pallete (color) generator.

Download parameter file feelers.xpf

Similarly, Sterlingware's weak point or challenge is coloring. Many of the default color settings are good, but if you want to run and leap off into the unknown (it's not just me is it?) you have to spend some time learning to adjust the color numbers.

That's why I often alternate between programs. The weak points of one rekindle my interest in the strong points of the other.

Xaos just doesn't have alot of formulas or rendering options. But if I can find an interesting image, the random coloring function will always produce awesome, eye-popping results from just clicking it forty or fifty times.

What is more impo…


I prefer to give images a name rather than a number so I can identify them more easily when just viewing the file names. I sensed something baushausy about this one.

I've always like the sine trap render methods especially the first one, but I found they almost all looked the same. This one was a big breakthrough for me which came about in the usual way: push all the buttons.

I lowered the iterations, stalks and bubbles radius (which usually doesn't do anything) and used the sin()*cos() transformation. It happened over several weeks and hours of happy experimentation.

Like Bauhaus (I'm probably not even pronouncing it correctly) fractals have strong geometric components which one either loves or hates. How could anyone hate the smooth minimalist geometric bauhaus look?

Book covers. Look at all the book covers that feature bauhausish designs. They naturally lend themselves to the marriage of image with text. I'll bet simple fractals like this one would make great po…

Fractal photo travel blog

I know what fractal artists do with fractal programs: they make artwork. But I'm sure that for many people, their interest in fractals is just as much about exploring the mysterious images made by fractal formulas, as it is about making artwork.

This blog-thing is about my explorations of new fractal terrain in Sterlingware 1.7 and Xaos 3.1. Naturally, I've included images or "fractal snapshots" but I've also included the parameter files so people who are interested can go and visit the same places too.

I would call this a fractal "photo-travel-blog" with snapshots, anecdotes and an electronic trail of breadcrumbs -a parameter file- for the benefit of the curious or the sceptical. Feel free to post a comment if you feel you have something to add.