Fractal Dim Sum

Can small pictures be an artform?
It all started with my file browser. I wanted to be able to browse images at the same time as other files, so I adjusted the size of the thumbnails in my Linux file browser, Nautilus, to the size that they would be in any decent image viewer when in browser mode.

Funny thing though; sometimes the thumbnails looked better than the larger versions. I would get all excited seeing something I had made a few days previously, and then when I clicked on the thumbnail and the full size image appeared I would be disappointed with it.

Sometimes Art Can Be Too Big?
Yes, that’s right. It’s not just a matter of the smoothing effect of anti-aliasing that usually occurs when a small thumbnail is made from a large image; I thought about that right away. Smaller images just seem to change the context in which they are viewed.

It’s the same way with Chinese Dim Sum. Dim Sum, meaning little bites (or so I’m told) is where you go and eat a lot of little snack-like Chinese food items instead of the usual plate of something. Some of the items are special, but really there’s not a whole lot of difference between Dim Sum and going to a buffet. But with Dim Sum you just eat a little bit of a lot of things. It’s different.

A Step Backwards
So I started to make smaller images instead of larger ones. Normally it goes the other way; one tends to make larger, more intensive works as they become more skilled.

Hmmmn… that’s a disturbing thought. But I really think I’m on to something. There’s a subtle, but distinct style to these 300×400 and 320×320 images. For many people, that’s the size of their thumbnails. I find this genre to be more casual and experimental. I save images that I normally wouldn’t because I feel, for some strange reason, that it’s not a big deal if their appeal is shallow since they have such a small “footprint”.

Like Dim Sum; if you bite into something and find it’s not what you were expecting — then so what? They’re gone with one bite. No big deal. Try something else. I don’t think you’ll like the chicken’s feet.

Image Notes:
Made in Sterlingware, India Inked, Mirror Mirrored, Hue adjustment, &c

July 31, 2008

Walking Heads

I came up with an interesting color setting for Sterlingware. The process is one where I work with both the fractal program and graphics program in sequence. So I experiment with Sterlingware and find something that looks promising and then save it. Then I open it up in the graphics program (Xnview) and see if I can make something out of it. Through trial and error (many of them) I eventually come up with something that is a combination of the best aspects of both programs. A symbiotic situation.

Original Sterlingware image. Not so exciting, but not quite finished yet either.

The fractal program and the graphics program work together. The fractal program doesn’t have to produce something that is finished, it only has to produce something that the graphics program can finish using its many graphical effects. I used to think of the graphics program as “post-processing” and turning the fractal into something just plain digital.

But lately I’ve begun to view the process as one continuous, seamless graphical experiment. The fact that the two machines are separate is really just a technical matter and the output is as fractal as if there was only one program being used.

These images were India Inked with the Xor pattern and then Mirror, Mirrored, but not symmetrically, which produced the Easter Island-like head. I then shifted the hue using the plain old graphics program feature (not a photoshop filter) and saved these three variations because they looked good.

July 29, 2008

Fun with Mirrors

After three hundred and something postings, one has a tendency to repeat oneself. Or, euphemistically speaking, revisit previous themes. I must have said something about this. Symmetry, maybe.

Here are two sets of images, made in Sterlingware, and anti-aliased 2 or 3:1, although I’m finding that anti-aliasing doesn’t always make for a better image. I used Alfredo Mateus’ photoshop filter, Mirror Mirror (1996) to apply a very simple mirrored effect that often has a very complex results.

The filter divides the image into four quadrants (isn’t that what quadrant means?) and allows you to position each quadrant in four different ways. So, I’m assuming you can rotate each square into any of it’s four possible positions. Actually, that’s not quite right, because sometimes I can put the top piece on the bottom, so it doesn’t quite work that way. It doesn’t matter, because if you try it out you’ll soon see how it works.

It produces a mirrored effect. No surprise there. But with fractals, this has a very natural look because fractals often have symmetry and often have repeated elements. On the other hand, maybe any type of imagery works well with this mirrored effect.

I’m rediscovering the graphical power of Sterlingware. As I’ve often said, although it’s “getting old” (1997) it’s not the kind of program that loses it usefulness like a word processor or web browser or graphics program might. Sterlingware produces a wide range of fractals and has enough really good rendering options to support maintain one’s creativity for a long time.

Combine that with some graphical effects like Alfredo’s Mirror Mirror, or Flaming Pear’s India Ink, and the possibilities are quite great. I’ve been using Sterlingware for 6 years now and I’m still finding new things to do with it. I think it’s because Sterlingware has so many creative ways to modify (and I mean easily modify) the 55 formulas that it’s “limited” to. There are in fact, no limitations with such fractal programs. It’s just like an old violin.

July 24, 2008

Art Fist: The Brutal Code of Color!


I made this image in Sterlingware with only a slight hue shift in XnView, my trusty side-kick. Although Sterlingware is now over 10 years old, which is pretty old by software standards, and lacks many of the new features that extend the rendering powers of fractal programs (i.e. user formulas and other junk) I consider it to be the current Heavyweight Champion of Fractal Art without any real competition.

Am I nuts?

No, no. Not at all. It’s because of Sterlingware’s color capabilities and the ease with which it allows you to experiment with it. A color coup d’ etat.

That’s right. This is about art, first and foremost, and only secondly about fractals. Art is the more important factor in the label, Fractal Art. (Write that down.)

While new formulas and all that other confusing stuff may sound exciting to the mathophiles in the fractal art world, and has probably lead to the current stagnation of fractal art, it’s what you do with the structures created by formulas that leads to the creation of Fractal Art and not just fractals.

I think the first converts to post-processing were those who saw something interesting in the basic fractal images they were making and knew how to make that short, but quantum leap to completion in a graphics program.

I’m sure the earliest post-processing successes involved simply color enhancement and not the thermo-nuclear layering that we see proliferating today. Color is a big deal in art because it’s a big deal to the human eye, that is, to visual perception. Color turns straw into gold.

Which brings us back to Sterlingware. Sterlingware still has me engrossed in fractal art despite the fact that it lacks power windows; GPS; and a talking dashboard like Ultra Fractal 5 does. Sterlingware is the Fist of Color! A lean, mean, Fractal Art machine.

Ha! Ha! Ha! …I win again!

Sorry about that. But when I say excited, I really mean it.

If you don’t like it, then go parse yourself.

July 21, 2008

Fake Kandinsky: Roto-Chicken

One-Click Kandinsky, made with Fyre

When art meets alogorithm
like an old master meeting a machine
struggle ensues

Abandon the old master
Abandon art
Put your money on Roto-Chicken

Unappealing perhaps
Forget the name
Follow in the steps,
easy to distinguish
Of Roto-Chicken

At times you may wonder
how the chicken may wander
but watch how he blunders
into art

July 14, 2008

Clickism 2001: A Space Odyssey

I m a g e &nbsp N o t e s
Started with Vernissage.8bf, then Mosaic Toolkit (Lance Otis), then …out comes the hammers and wham-o-rama! until I saw something that shouted out, “Hey!”. Works every time.

July 11, 2008

Pulsar: Song of the Whipper Wire

I heard this explanation of a pulsar once, it had something to do with radio waves and some cyclical thing and was just way too scientific to be true.

I said to the guy, a professor I think, “Wait a minute. What if you’re all wrong and it’s just some creature in a cave of blinding light snapping back and forth like a whip — cracking, pounding, hypnotic, wave-like, sirens of Jupiter trance?”

Yeah! Whaddaya say to that? Eh? Mr. Science Man!!!.

I m a g e   N o t e s
Sterlingware sine trap fractal and uscomic.8bf. Newton got hit by an apple; I got hit by this. …And the rest is history.

July 8, 2008

Blue Screen of Death Vs. the Red Planet

I m a g e &nbsp N o t e s
Just a simple, pure Tierazon fractal and no artificial ingredients, except, of course, the text which was done with the simple and quick text feature in XnView. I think the typeface is Tahoma, 8pt.

July 5, 2008

Fatboy Gets the Loot But Learns to Enjoy Sharing With His Tiny Cousins

Was he a bully? Or did he just show more initiative?

Over the years his talents quickly developed along with his ability to find the good stuff, haul it off — and wolf it down.

Of course, his tiny cousins were better off at reaching the small recesses of the cave and cleaning those places out. But in the end such a strategy limited their growth and caused them to compete with each other and not with numero uno — Fatboy.

Fatboy was in a position to do away with all three of them quite easily now, but they were hard to get at, and since they couldn’t really harm him or steal his stuff even if they tried, he paid little attention to them. They were family too.

For all his massive size, Fatboy could sure move fast when he spotted the golden crunch. Old, bored, or just a change of heart — they didn’t know — but one year he started sharing the loot with them.

Everyone changed. It was like old times again. It didn’t take much from Fatboy’s pile to keep the cousins heaped up and happy. And it made Fatboy feel magnanimous and more like the big brother he used to be.

Why you could say that their little place was the happiest cave on Mars.

I m a g e &nbsp N o t e s
Tierazon fractals, India Inked and uscomic.8bf-ed. Pretty simple stuff.

July 2, 2008

Something Stripey This Way Comes

Different, ominous, threatening…

One of the things I find both intriguing and yet also frustrating about art is that people seem to respond to it differently and this makes the experience difficult to explain and subsequently, to comment upon or even predict.

This image, which is an unaltered fractal from Tierazon, passed through several different categories of “worthiness” before I finally decided it was worth posting. After reaching that conclusion I deleted a couple of others that were quite similar to it in coloring and general content but seemed to lack something which this one apparently had, and more importantly, continued to have. The test of time is usually a good way of determining what has value, although sometimes I think we can lose the ability over time to perceive what originally made something important.

Anyhow, I think this image shows the subjective side to art quite well, since I’m sure many viewers will not like this image, which is such a different reaction than mine.

Sometimes I think that a lot of famous “art” is simply the result of mass hysteria and the mind-bending influence of experts who we think must know better than we do. Have I become a mind-bending expert?

The conclusion I’ve reached in all this is that art is an experience and therefore influenced by all the things which shape any sort of experience. Our memories of the past and our current, but momentary, expectations both prepare us for and prejudice our experience of the artwork before us. We learn from experience and sometimes the results of those lessons leave us much more — stupid.

Art criticism then, almost becomes an exercise in psychoanalyzing yourself and everyone else around you. But that’s something we should be doing more of anyhow. Once again, the snakes and ladders of art criticism brings us back to the beginning.

June 29, 2008