Showing posts from 2009

Fog and Fyre

When it comes to making art by pushing buttons and turning dials, there ought to be a general rule of thumb that says push every button, turn every dial.  If it's there - turn it.

I just discovered the blur thing.  It's always been there, but I guess I just thought it made things blurry and that's not terribly interesting.  But I've discovered that the two blur parameters, blur-something and blur-something else are very interesting.

The second image in a series I've titled, Smudge.  The first one didn't look cool when I looked at it a day later, so I deleted it.  The blur effect is quite powerful and adds a unique style to the images.  I guess you just don't know what the result of some parameter change will be until you see the results.

The above was left to render for a much longer time in order to made the light, translucent forms more visible.  The blur does create the expected cold, foggy, wet, rocky seashore look and the black and white color limitat…

The Wheel of Digital Art

The digital medium allows for some very strange, head-warping things to be done.  For instance, one can take one piece of art in it's final state, completed and ready for viewing, and use it as the raw material for another, completely new and different work of art.  This is more than a mere "reworking"; it's a complete transformation of one thing into another where only the artist (i.e. machine operator) knows what has happened.

Made in Fyre, the above image is blown up to four times its size and transformed by Showfoto's block wave filter.  I then cropped out a piece which is shown just below.

As always, sometimes it makes something interesting and sometimes it doesn't.  I tried it on twenty or so images and came up with the following results:

The above, using the same procedure I just mentioned, yielded the image below:

The same thing again, from the above to produce the one below, which is a cropped out detail of the 4x image.

Above image used to make the one b…

Can Bad Fractals be Good Art?


Good software makes images that are too slick.  It's hard to get good software to make smudgy, jagged, off-color stuff.  Purebred imagery is predictable.  Artists often make junk and crazy mistakes but it's a process of trial and error that leads to new styles.  Good software and professional skills is a toxic combination that gets everything right the first time and inevitably leads to the best fractals -- a dead end.

I've given the fractal world many bad examples to follow and, unless my disciples are all off in the desert hiding, no one seems to be following my liquid path down the drain.  But success and popularity are difficult obstacles to overcome.  The encouragement of others is sometimes all it takes to keep someone going down a fruitless path to a heartless goal.

If you want to help someone produce better art, not necessarily better fractals, challenge them with negative criticism and encourage them to give it up.  When the lights of success and encourageme…

The Golden Shore 2

Although I tried as best I could to hide from the ugly brute, he no sooner awoke than I was snatched up in one of his enormous hands.  However, instead of consuming me like some dainty he in a very refined manner asked me who I was and how I came to be on this island.

Explaining to him as well as I could, for I had not yet recovered much from my unfortunate ordeal at sea, I told him I was Sindbad and had left my home in Baghdad and sailed from Bussorah almost sixty days ago.  I had however been shipwrecked and washed up here after clinging to some timbers which were all that remained of my ship.  I was suitably astonished when he responded in kind and told me that he too was a native of my own country and that if I was able to show him the way, he would carry both of us back there.

The means of doing this were no less extraordinary, for he claimed that once the sun had set he was embued with the power of walking on the sea as if it were dry land.  The only reason he had not already left…

The Golden Shore

Finally, after more than a week drifting about at the mercy of the sea, I saw in the distance some land.  The coast appeared quite rugged and at first I thought myself to be suffering greatly from my ordeal for I perceived the shore to be golden and glittering like a Sultan's treasury.  On shore I discovered that the sand that surrounded the cliffs were in fact made of gold just as my eyes had thought when I saw it far off at sea.

I was greatly confused at this for how could it be that such wealth could lie exposed and easy prey for anyone sailing past and yet be as undisturbed as this?  Furthermore, there appeared to be a settlement not far away with a fine harbor and several large ships in port.  My wonder at all this gold was quickly forgotten however when I stumbled upon a enormous pile of human bones and another one of those monstrous creatures whom I had hoped I would never see again.  I now found myself wishing I was back at sea clinging to the wreckage of my ship.  I took s…

Journey into Bubbles!


There's an odd render setting in Sterlingware 1.7 and 2.0 called "27. gaussian sine dimension 9".  It's not terribly interesting...

Unless you just happen to be in the mood for twisting dials.  It seems that at the default setting of 30 iterations all you get are some dull swirly things.  But when you lower the iterations to 10, then you get these circular, radial wave, glass-like patterns.

It just goes to show that you haven't really seen everything until you've really seen everything.

After that it's a matter of playing around with the color controls to get something half-decent looking.  Once again, we have to depart from the default settings, that cow-path of creativity that leads to barren pastures and stuff you don't want to step in.

Low color numbers look good, but the higher ones aren't bad.  The intense radial pattern tends to turn into dust if there are too many steps from the higher numbers.

It's all a good example of how al…

Ice Star

The heat death of the universe appears to be more than just a theoretical supposition.

Already it has been documented that parts of the universe have reached the level of zero energy, that being absolute zero, zero degrees Kelvin, or -273 degrees Celsius.

This is the domain of the literally, frozen stars.

Observing these entities is quite difficult and requires special instrumentation because their state of zero energy - heat death - means they do not emit light energy or heat energy.

As a result, such domains have been purely hypothetical and impossible to confirm until now.

Now we have photoshop filters and these Ice Stars can be seen for the very first time.

Cheap too.

No probes.  No expensive funky, hi-fi telescopes.

Just me and my Mosaic Toolkit by Lance Otis.

Saving NASA billions.

Since 2005.

Just by pushing buttons and turning dials.

Mosaic Toolkit Adventures

Mosaic Toolkit by Lance Otis.  It's a "photoshop" filter that I use in XnView running with Wine on Ubuntu Linux; that's why it's really not a Photoshop filter in my mind, but then I guess "Linux" is just a kernel too and not a whole operating system.

I start with the Vernissage filter by Mario Klingemann that makes colored squares and rectangles; it's part of his Instant Art collection of filters -- a good name, I think.  Then I go over to the Mosaic Toolkit and change the default settings to Square Rings (from just plain Squares) and set the Cell Size pixels to 10.  Then I wait a really long time (it works faster natively on Windows) and click on apply.

After that you have the square shapes with little square windows and railings on the sides and it's just a matter of trying out different filters to change the colors or other simple things like that.  Because the shapes are so clean and simple, many of the filters have much pronounced effects tha…

Algorithmic Art Thoughts - 1

Algorithmic Art is something like a space station.  In a space station, Earth-people live and work just like they do on Earth; breathing, eating, thinking, moving.  But they do so in an environment that makes many of their routines and habits awkward and simply -- foreign.

There's no gravity on a space station, so something that is completely intuitive on Earth -- which way is down -- becomes completely meaningless out in space.  Out in space one has to arbitrarily decide where the floor is and sitting "down" in a seat requires one to be forced and bucked into it.

In the context of space, many previously held assumptions are revealed to be based entirely on external forces found on Earth (eg. gravity).  Algorithmic Art does the same thing for art by taking it out into space where the familiar frames of reference don't exist and can't exist because they're based entirely on factors which aren't present in Algorithmically produced imagery.

Algorithms are mecha…

Fractal Guernica

Fractal Guernica, (guernica03.loo)

In the same category as room-temperature fusion, perpetual motion and the age-old alchemical quest to turn lead into gold, is added yet another bold and fearful challenge: to make a piece of fractal artwork that rivals the depth of expression of Picasso's famous painting, Guernica. I threw down this challenge recently albeit in a very off-handed way, via a blog posting and near the end of it, suggesting it was merely something mythical and hypothetical which would be good for one to contemplate and aim at, even if it was out of human reach.

Well, wonder of wonders, here it is -- all algorithm and all art.  You could call it an accident, I suppose, but that's the whole point of the hitherto mythical Fractal Guernica concept: algorithms don't express anything other than algorithms.  If algorithmic art is just an accident then fractal art is all about chasing ambulances and spotting crash scenes.

For those of you who like big art, or are just …

Sterling-Worlds - Interactive Fractal Art

Climb the mountain, explore the caves, or check out the little islands off shore... Just load the parameter file (shellcity02.loo) into Sterling2 and this whole little world is yours.
Fractals are a unique form of artistic imagery.  They are more like sculptures and dioramas than the flat, static paintings they are often presented as because they can be viewed from more than one perspective.

Fractal Art in it's simplest form is more like photography because the image is made up as much by what is left out as what is included.  Fractal Art is an artform of editing and selection -- browsing and choosing -- from what the generator creates.

In a simple, single-layer program like Sterlingware however, there's no reason why an artist has to limit himself to merely presenting still images to his audience.  It's possible -- with fractals -- to present the viewer with the parameter file that will recreate the entire fractal environment and allow the viewer to explore it like it was a …

Sterlingware Reloaded

Made in Sterling2
(parameter file: shell01.loo )

That great fractal classic by Stephen Ferguson, Sterlingware, has been been reconfigured by Tad Boniecki (aka Soler7) with 50 new formulas and released for download as Sterling2.  And it's totally free too.

Now many of you will know me as a sort of Sterlingware sage; the renowned author of Tim's Sterlingware Tutorial, that classic guide to using Sterlingware 1.7.  I've spent thousands of hours experimenting with Sterlingware 1.7, the previous version made in 1997, and learned just about everything there is to know about it.

So you'd think a guy like me would have known that an updated version had been released -- a whole 6 months ago!

No.  I only found out about it because I was surfing around and - I forget exactly how - found myself at Paul N. Lee's list of fractal programs.  My first thought was how old and out of date these listings must be. I could remember visiting this very same web page back in 2002 when I'd f…


I subscribe to the Project Gutenberg (public domain electronic books archive) recent additions RSS feed and it often brings to my attention books that I would never go looking for.  One of these I checked out recently was called Pictorial Photography in America 1921 by Pictorial Photographers of America.  I was just curious...

I found this passage interesting (1921):
Is Photography to Remain a Black and White Art?

[Question] “What forecast, Mr.White, do you make of future developments in photography? Is it to remain a black and white art, or are photographs in natural colors to supersede the familiar photograph of the present day in our exhibitions and in our homes?”

[Answer] “I think that the fundamental expression of photography is in black and white, and as we develop what I would call the definite photographic quality, black and white will maintain its present ascendency.”

Anyhow, at the end of the long gallery of Pictorial photos I found this ad.  Everything is in black and white in t…

Stones in the Abyss

In Star Trek's greatest scenes we seem to see
the face of outer space
exactly at the moment when
it first attained the title of
"caribbean cruise"

They run about the screen in an
interplanetary rage
of curiosity
Heaped up
glowing with crystals and orange sand
under pastel skies
in an abstract landscape of painted trees
sculpted rocks alien make-up and silver toys
slippery mind game computers and
and all the final speculative sub-plots
of the
"imagination of science"



Anyhow, you get the idea.  It was a nice vision of space back then when traveling to the Moon was seen as just the beginning instead of just the end.  But now, sending out space probes, which ought to be the start of a great real-life drama instead of the start of a trickle of data, is less like launching a mechanical Columbus and more like tossing stones into an abyss.

(Image made in Kandid.)

Evil Seeds from Space

As beautiful and wondrous as the cloud stars are, we must not forget that they also contain dangers.

Just as the enchanted world of the coral reef holds both spectacular sights as well as some of the most ferocious predators found in the sea, cloud stars have been known to have sinister things lurking in their shadows too.

Early on, both space probes as well as Earth based sensing equipment detected small clusters of highly radioactive debris inside a number of cloud stars.

Just as some trees have thorns, these radioactive masses emitted sharply focused, intense beams of ionizing radiation in the form of gamma rays.  The actual number of these "jellyfish" clusters is quite small yet would pose a significant threat to probes and of course to the crews of a manned space craft.

Ironically, these radioactive masses also have the potential to play the role of navigational beacons as their radioactive beams are so focused that they can easily be used in the way a magnetic compass…


Yeah, I can see it.  I can see them.  Street lights, apartment buildings; a bustling city on a grain of rice.  The tail lights of cars; the gritty sidewalks and the busy people.  There's sky too.  A bit.  The smog gives it a golden glow.  A dirty golden glow.  It's five o'clock in the afternoon and it's winter.  In the shadows you can see the night.  People going home.  But some of them are not too tired to see the great dirty city and the dots, connected, that make up the bigger dot.

It's a thousand streets and sidewalks; electric wires and railings; data flows and networks.  This is the x-ray of the city - everywhere in one place.  The abstract is real because that's what our minds see.

Howler Stars

Although cloud stars have only very recently been discovered, it is already apparent that there are many kinds of them.

One of the most recent types added to the list are the howler variety.

Howler stars received their name because of their characteristic radio frequency emission which when received on standard radio-telescope equipment resembles a howling noise similar to wind or the suction sound associated with a whirlpool.

It's not understood how a cloud star can also be a radio frequency emitter (RFE) because, once again, their low density eliminates the usual sources by which normal stars emit light, heat and all other types of electromagnetic radiation.

One possibility that's been suggested is that cloud stars that "howl" don't actually create the radio transmissions themselves like a pulsar does but rather only alter the signal produced by another star just like a pocket of gas can act like a prism when regular light from another source is passed through…

Candle Ships

While still in the very early planning stages, NASA has released plans for a space ship that is powered entirely by the energy released by a single wax candle.

Owing to the weightlessness of space and the complete lack of drag which slows down terrestrial aircraft, the actual energy requirements of space travel are relatively small.  So small in fact that a small, efficiently designed craft could theoretically travel at 1,000 mph using no more than 1,200 Joules -- the energy released by a 400 gram candle in one hour.

As is often the case, however; the Candle Ship is competing for research and design dollars with another similar project called the Boxing Ring Ship.

The Boxing Ring Ship utilizes the heat given off by the human body during strenuous exercise.  Enclosed in a special room whose special walls absorb heat and convert it into electricity, two astronauts would literally fight it out in order to power their space ship and reach their destination.

Owing to the design of the Box…