Raw Style


A classic fractal program like Tierazon (1997), which is what I used to make these images with, could be looked down upon these days for its lack of layering and user modifications. But I’ve always preferred to use programs like this because they often have a raw, untamed style to them.

If you look around the internet, you’ll see a lot of very polished fractal images and, like most people, I was easily caught up with the notion of imitating this sort of artwork merely because it was there and seemed, by default I guess, to be the standard.

Part of me just got bored with that, and another part of me started looking at fractal art as just another form of art, and slowly I slid back into my old ways of exploring whatever looked interesting to me and viewing it in the context of the greater body of artwork and not just the tiny, insular world of fractal art.

In the context of all artwork, including all that crazy stuff that has shocked and excited the western world over the last 50 years; what can we say is “reasonable” when considering a new submission to the world of art?

Yes, it’s a liberating idea; only an idiot laughs at any form of art these days, but that doesn’t mean we should feel idiotic for criticizing it. The wide open category of art gives us confidence in our opinions because ultimately art is a mental experience and subsequently, as subjective and variable as our individual experiences are.

What happens in our mind when we view a piece of art is as valid as what “happens” in the mind of anyone else. However what “happens” in our mind may change if we study art or the subject matter of a particular art form (eg. fractal math) or simply reflect more on what we see. This is the way one comes to recognize and to present with confidence, works of “raw style” such as these.

May 26, 2008


Demography starts with counting, but it ends with wild tales.

Listen. Let me tell you about the houses. They all look the same, but something is different. Two houses cannot occupy the same place and thus begins, in a small way, the difference – the tales.

One man leaves his house and travels all over the world. Another man stays home thinking, always thinking. He reads the book the traveller is hoping to write. He arrives in each new city ahead of the traveller, jumps, leaps to the next destination.

The traveller returns home, late and short of money, but full of stories. The other man is polite, but tells him honestly, I know all that. What you say was written a hundred years ago.

I have not surfed the net, I have climbed upon the shoulders of a thousand lifetimes. Tell me if you have seen what I saw. But you have circled the world without a thought. I have cracked open that thought and found the world.

May 17, 2008

Crash Scene

If I had a dream and I saw a man punching little holes in the sky and each little piece that came out and fell to the ground was a transistor, then I’d say that’s how it happened.

And if that dream ended with a man standing before a mountain of garbage yelling, “Give me back the sky!” then yes, that would be it.

I say an insect sees like this. Eyes like TV screens and sunshine. A tiny metal mind undistracted.

In rain; it does nothing. It waits.

May 15, 2008

Long Twisted Tale of Titles

I see something

I think I’ve renamed my blog about 10 times over the past two weeks. It started, two and a half years ago, as Fractal Beanstalk; the idea being that fractals, a type of Generative Art, start from tiny seed-like formulas and grow into enormous things that one can explore.

But fractals are just part of what I post about now, the essence of which is really Generative Art. Generative Art is the common denominator.

It’s getting clearer

So I stuck that in the title of my blog. Or sub-title. Then I called it, Art From New Places.

Art From New Places is a good one; it really captures the essence of Generative Art, that it’s a new source of imagery and not just yet another “-ism” in the art world. But …it’s too long and also, more importantly, it doesn’t capture the essence of the whole blog, just the pictures.

Darker, but stronger

Test Tube Tales: now we’ve got the writing -the words- in there and also the experimental, freaky side of things that Generative Art is full of. But …it’s not really a sci-fi pulp publication and what about the simple strings of words I like to sometimes post; they’re not really what I’d call a tale.

Alright. Gravel Writing. Gravel is nice and ambiguous; natural and fragmented; and a lot of my images have a rough, gravelly look to them. The writing thing is there too. But …”writing” sounds too professional. Am I a “Writer”? But I still love the concept (and image) of crushed stone fragments.

Smooth. Not bad.

Gravelcloud! I used that as a title to a post recently. Good, rich imagery; and I like the combination of gravel and cloud which are two very inclusive and general types of images. Maybe I’ll keep this one.

Nope. I came to realize that the better titles were the ones that focused in on the essence of the blog. It’s not just Generative Art, and it’s not just writing; it’s a process, like I say in the sidebar (or did I change that?), of browsing the images I’ve made recently and then getting an idea from one to write something.

Uh oh. It’s getting away on me.

But these are all nice ones:

Picture Cave
Radio Cave
Graphic Smasher
Savage Ferocity
Pixel Lab
Pixel Smasher
Picture Teller
Picture Words

I settled on Picture Teller (I’m pretty sure, this time) because of it’s play on the name, Story Teller. The pictures tell the story; which is really what the common denominator here is: there’s no “writing” and there’s no “art”; just words and pictures.

Yeah. I never thought of that. Words and Pictures. Just words and just pictures – draw your own conclusions, ha, ha. “Words and Pictures” sounds even better than Picture Teller.

Alright then. It’s “Words and Pictures” from here on in.

Indistinct is like a blank page – waiting, and full of potential

What’s the big deal about the title? I used to think it was about the audience, or visitors, rather. “Audience” sounds like a whole bunch of people expecting something great. On the internet it’s all visitors: a busy marketplace with people walking by on the way to somewhere else – easily distracted -yes, but also easily distracted -again.

The title is actually for me. It’s a strange sort of mission statement or company slogan/motto. It’s a vision of what could be, and if that vision is well articulated (you only have two or three words to do it with) then it contributes an enormous amount of momentum to ones creativity. Or maybe it’s just me.

No, that’s no good either. “Crash Scene”, I like that. The name says it all and sums up all the fun with Generative Art: never knowing what it’s going to look like or where it’s going to stop. I don’t care what this one means, I just like it.

In the world of art, staying on the road takes hard work and skill. Going off the road however; requires talent and inspiration.

May 7, 2008

Gravel Writing

I’ve noticed that the difference between replicas and the real, historical objects they are meant to represent is the lack of imperfections.

Real things, like dinosaur fossils or castles or even little things like roman clay oil lamps, are almost always either incomplete or broken.

When people take photos of disasters or photograph a chance encounter with some rare animal or reclusive celebrity, they never look like they do in the movies or in work done by professional photographers.

Genuine photos are unposed and candid and, in the case of rare animals in the wild, lacking some important feature that makes classification simple and instead generates comments like, “Couldn’t you have taken a better photo?”.

Reality is grainy, dark, smudged, curious and always to some degree not what we would quite like it to look like. Reality is unintended and chaotic; a puzzle that never has all the pieces.

That’s what most people think is the opposite of Art. To them Art is intentional and while some artwork may display elements of chaos and natural “wildness”, it is the image of chaos or nature that the artist prefers and deliberately sets out to create, thereby producing an artificial one, even if it is immediately more pleasing to look at.

Generative Art, on the other hand, has an ugly beauty to it just like the swirls and rivulets painted by rainwater flowing over gravel. It has a quality that can’t be imitated. These are things I’d never make. Things I’d never have thought of.

May 6, 2008


If you’ve been following my blog (there must be a few…) you will have noticed that I’ve not just redone the page design but also renamed the blog.

The new name, Art From New Places, is actually the name I used for my 2nd attempt at blogging, this attempt being the 3rd. My first attempt was back in the spring of 2005, and I called it, “Tim’s Fractal Blog”.

At that time I thought it was smart marketing to use my first name in the title; it sort of gave it a personalized and I thought, more appealing sound. I gave it up after about a month or two because the word, “Fractal” was too limited for what my interests in blogging were, and the idea of having a less personalized and more anonymous title was beginning to look quite appealing after attracting the attention of a few online misfits.

Art from New Places was broad enough for my eclectic, algorithmic art interests and at the same time expressed what I considered to be an important point: this algorithmic, computer art stuff was not merely and extension of the art world, it incorporates into it something fundamentally new and different.

There is art from the world around us (realism) and art from our imaginations (abstract…). Computer generated imagery (self-generated, not drawn by a person) is a completely new source of visual imagery — it’s a new “place” like the other two are places.

Sure, there are fractals in the real world (clouds, broccoli, I forget the others…) but they’re pretty limited compared to what even a very basic program using only the Mandelbrot formula or newton things can do. Computerized graphic generators create small worlds that can be explored and, of course, captured and displayed like photos from an exotic locale.

There may be examples of algorithmic or generated art that predates the computer or is based on different technology (i.e. not the digital graphic medium of jpgs, gifs, pngs…) but the personal computer is the only one I’ve used or know much about (there is some other freaky stuff out there).

I made these “gravelcloud” images from processing a fractal image (could have been any digital image really) with a series of photoshop compatible filters (they don’t require the Photoshop program). As is often the case, I discover certain combinations of filters that can be used to achieve the same effect on various images, and in that sense become a type of customizable, modular algorithm or process.

I used Overlap 4 by Andrew Buckle from his “Andrew’s Filters” collection, and (in the BW image) the Extractor 1 filter by Mario Klingemann.

The Overlap 4 filter is really what makes these images interesting because it creates a symmetrical image (rotated 45 degrees) that has a very interesting effect. Minor coloring alterations were done with some coloring filters that I can’t remember, now.

Did I mention how easy all this was?

April 30, 2008


It is possible, if one peels back enough layers, to find the memory of the wall; how the wall once appeared in the human mind.

It is almost always quite different than the wall you think you are looking at today. It’s darker, a little dim to see — and quieter.

All other layers contain sound, but the memories of the wall are always silent. Perhaps the mind could not remember what the wall looked like and also capture the sounds around it at the same time.

Memories of the wall, as you can see, are smooth but the sounds are smoothest of all. The light whispers, but the sound is dark. Try to touch it — you hear nothing.

Technorati Tags:

April 26, 2008

Geomo de la Fyre

Fyre embedded parameter file

Lately I’ve begun to seriously question whether using the term, “abstract” to describe any piece of artwork can be realistically used. I think the term abstract is itself an abstraction and is hopelessly inseparable from the world of realistic forms and imagery.

I think abstract is another way of depicting reality, that is, real things. It’s because our minds instinctively try to interpret all visual experience in realistic terms. Abstract becomes real in our eyes.

We ought to speak of “abstraction” then, because our minds refuse to think in any language other than that of real objects. Abstract is a style or type of realism; a minimalized style, transforming real things and commonly representing them in a simplified way.

The other end of the “abstract” spectrum — the opposite of simplification — is the excessive detail of chaotic imagery. It doesn’t look “realistic” but our minds translate such things so quickly that it soon becomes “something”. Jackson Pollock’s famous (notorious?) drip painting come to mind.

Fyre embedded parameter file

Maybe that’s it; abstract art is suggestive, and therefore keeps triggering matches from our mental database of real imagery. We’ve all just seen too much of reality to go back to looking at even a blank canvas or a simple square without seeing it as a variation of something we’ve already seen in the real world.

Fractal art is an excellent example of this; fractal art often “looks like” real things and is almost always named after something real — like it was a perfectly natural and obvious thing to do. Is it possible to look at a fractal image and not “see” something?

Some fractal imagery of course is obviously realistic as fractal patterns can be found in natural things (brocolli; the structure of trees; clouds…) so it’s not surprising with those fractal images that one sees something real. But I’m thinking that all fractal imagery is converted into real images regardless of how “unreal”, “non-representational” or abstract it may appear when analyzed.

Fyre embedded parameter file

Just as the state will appoint a lawyer to ensure that all defendants have representation in a court of law, our minds keep appointing realistic interpretations to represent “non-representational” artwork in the “court” of our minds. Abstract art never gets a chance to speak for itself.

Mark Rothko’s famous smudgy square images (also infamous? like Pollock) I always thought of as being windows in dim rooms (although very expressive windows). The smudgy outlines resemble clouds or muddy water; an archetypal sort of imagery if there ever was one. I find these things realistic, but just “stylized”, as if abstract was a style of rendering real things. In fact, take away the realistic qualities or interpretations and I think Rothko’s works lose all their effect, as does all abstract work.

The human mind just can’t handle abstract art.

Technorati Tags:

April 21, 2008

The Inner Workings of Walls

Fyre 1.0.1 embedded parameter file

Most have never looked beneath the surface of a wall, or even considered doing such a thing.

A wall is not seen as an object of substance, and therefore not thought of as having depth, or in this case — inner workings.

What walls do, cannot be explained merely on the basis of color and texture. Just like skin, which is “skin deep”, the smooth surface of a wall is deceptive and can easily suggest simple answers to all suggestions of deeper things.

People have often responded, perplexed, when asked, “what’s behind this wall?”

Fyre 1.0.1 embedded parameter file

Once, as a child, when I had measured the rooms of our house, I was intrigued by the discovery of what appeared to be (by implication of my measurements) an unexplained space in a wall. There was the fireplace, there was the bookcase, and now, here — the empty place.

Beneath all stairways, in every situation, without exception, there is a space. It’s as if the ascension of the stairway, like the acceleration of a rocket, requires something equal and opposite. When the design of the house was negotiated, the living room declared, “If you are going to leave my room and go upstairs to another room, then you will leave with me — your emptyness.” “Cursed are you above all constructions, stairway. For leading a man where he should not go, you will forever be half-useless and the haunt of spiders, a Tower of Babel in the DNA of every double-floored home.”

Fyre 1.0.1 embedded parameter file

Don’t be surprised.

Imagine what you thought the first time you looked under the hood of a car and saw — all those things. The car had done a pretty good job of hiding its inner workings. Perhaps you thought it just moved — all by itself.

Yes, and so it is with the inner workings of walls. The engine revealed. The machine unmasked.

Woven within white wind, we whispered; what wonder was worked with walls.

Technorati Tags:

April 18, 2008

The Arabian Nights


Just like fractals, there is a special allure to the stories of The Arabian Nights.

And also like fractals, I think that special quality that makes them attractive comes from their unique origin: fractals springing from a strange new area of mathematics; and The Arabian Nights, from the Middle East.

I’m not even a student of literature, or even much of a reader at all for that matter, but I’ve noticed that there are artistic differences between the folk tales of the British and the Europeans, and with those of The Arabian Nights.

What are they, you ask? Well, read the book and find out. It’s there, as curved and flowing as the arabic alphabet it was originally written in.

So I like fractals to be fractal-ish and The Arabian Nights to be Middle Eastern, retaining their Arab and Persian (Iran) origins.

How can fractals or Middle Eastern folktales be anything other than what they are?

Just as The Arabian Nights can be mistranslated or European-ized, fractals can be layered and “artist-ized”.

For example: one translation of The Arabian Nights I read told how Sindbad returned to Baghdad after another voyage into the uncharted world and out of thanks for surviving, gave a large donation to a “church”. Obviously it was a mosque, but why use a word which in 20th century English usage is never used to refer to a mosque? (And this was a version from the 1940’s.) Why not change Sindbad’s name to Sigfried or Samuel or Stephen, as well? Or substitute Basra with Vienna (not a good substitute for a busy ocean port) or Paris or London instead?

Anyhow, translation isn’t always so simple and sometimes there is more than one reasonable rendering and the final choice can come down to subjective, stylistic preferences that grow out of long, complicated scholarly arguments — the sort of things which I suspect bored Sindbad in Baghdad and drove him back out to sea… In fact, the Sindbad stories, although also of Middle Eastern origin, are not considered part of the Arabian Nights and were included by European publishers who regarded all Middle Eastern folktales as a single category, in the same way as “fractal” art includes, from time to time, imagery that isn’t strictly “fractal”, but looks like it.

I’m not arguing for a “pure” fractal genre, or even that such a category (is such a category even possible?) should have a special status; many of the stories in the “Arabian” Nights are very similar to those of Indian and Jewish origin. So in the literary arts as well as the visual arts, categories are a matter of degree because styles and methods are easily, even subconsciously, influenced and exchanged across (apparent) cultural boundaries. In such a context, purity has to be defined because very little is or can be isolated.

What I would say is: Don’t overlook the “natural” beauty of a simple fractal formula rendered in a fairly plain way in a program like Sterlingware. There is no natural or “pure” way to graphically render fractals, but it is possible to use simpler methods which allow the fractal algorithm to contribute more of the imagery instead of less. Like a translation that doesn’t attempt to embellish or transpose the cultural context of The Arabian Nights, sometimes fractal art can be more interesting by allowing it to retain its original “style” and making less adjustments to it.

Technorati Tags:

April 14, 2008