De la Huerta

Spanish isn’t one of my strong points, but I think it means from the Huerta. Huerta being the orange orchards (or something very similar) that were started by the Moors in parts of Spain and have continued on (I think) to this day.

Actually, all I know is what I saw while looking out the window of the train once when travelling through the area around Valencia about 20 years ago. And what I read in James Michener’s book, Iberia. White buildings dropped here and there, and in between, lots of slender orange trees carefully arranged in a grid pattern and framed by narrow, dirt trails.

The image here is something that started out as a fractal and was then chewed and distorted by multicrystal.8bf, then “influenced” by a few other color effects filters. The strange and communal geneology of the landscape is repeated in the labyrinthine paths of photoshop filtering.

A chorus of nations and nationals combed the land and designed it’s open architecture.
I worked the field
a little,
harvested something different,
but closely related.

And the name?
How should we call it?
Lacking reliable historical sources
I refer only to ballads
and the residues of tradition
Things that rhyme,
are sung once a year,
or only eaten on special occasions.
When that fails,
and we begin to argue about several different people who all have the same name,
I suggest something simple
where it came from
De la Heurta

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May 7, 2007

A Series of Radishes

I’ve always liked the collection or series genre. A series of four pictures contains an extra, fifth thing. The mystery of animation is that there is actually no movement, just a series of still images. Movement is the collective quality of the individual images which disappears when they are separated.

Collection, or association, creates a context which can change our initial impression of the individual images. It’s something that’s been done in many ways for probably thousands of years, but I still find the effect intriguing and fresh. Maybe that’s what makes collages so interesting, even when they’re made with uninteresting pieces, the sum transforms the parts into a symphony of scraps.

I think the differences in each of the images cause us to return and look more closely at the others and regard previously overlooked features with new interest. Or less interest. It works both ways. Editing is the key here.

I saw a documentary about a commercial artist who did all sorts of creative work, from oil painting to grocery store decoration. He commented on having to sit in art class and make highly detailed, realistic drawings of all sorts of simple objects. Eventually, (it took a while, maybe) he saw it as being a good thing, but not because it improved his drawing skill, but because he said, “When you have to make a drawing of something, that’s the only time you really look at it”.

Because digital art can be so easy to make (mine is), the act of “really looking” can be absent or at least, unlikely. Ironically, the repetition of the image in a series of variations causes us to regain some of that careful observation that otherwise would be lost flipping through the piles of imagery that a computer can quickly make.

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April 29, 2007

Terraform – The Digital Side of the Moon

My latest digital place to hang out began with installing Ubuntu Linux on my zippy new computer. It was a big step for me because my new computer has Windows Xp on it, and although I have a valid license, I bought the computer used and in the event I ever had to reinstall Windows (like if I messed it up while installing Linux) I’m not sure I’d be able to reinstall it without buying a new copy of Xp.

Considering how paranoid Microsoft is these days with piracy, and how I can’t bring myself to pay $150 for yet another copy of Windows, splitting my hard drive into two partitions and installing Ubuntu on the other one involved the possibility of abandoning Windows once and for all. That’s a big move for someone like me since my digital art hobby revolves almost entirely around Windows programs.

Playing around with Ubuntu on my old PC (P2, 450mhz) wasn’t too much fun. I was however, able to confirm that at least one fractal program I used would work on Linux using “Wine”. Wine is a strange, magical thing which basically allows a Windows program to think it’s on Windows when in fact it’s running on Linux (I even found myself fooled a few times). But it was slow, and although I was just testing it out to see what I could do on Linux, you can’t really compare two operating systems unless they’re running on the same hardware. It was time to put Linux on the front burner.

A relationship develops between a user and their tools. I found with fractals this meant becoming more proficient with just one or two programs. I think it’s just natural; we follow the path of least resistance, or pursue the things that work best, but by becoming more familiar with just a few programs you also become more awkward with all the rest. Five years ago, if I was going to switch to Linux, it would have meant leaving that huge crowd of Windows fractal programs (there’s a lot of them), and all the other unique algorithmic stuff behind. But today I only use about four or five visually creative tools and half of them were originally designed for the Linux platform, that being Xaos and the GIMP.

But there’s no Linux equivalent to Sterlingware, Tierazon, or Inkblot Kaos. Like most fractal programs, they’re one of kind, the result of the programmer’s own creative approach to rendering fractals. However, all three work on Linux now with Wine. Sterlingware works “out of the box”, meaning without any added configuration (meaning pain and frustration). The other two have an issue where you open the dialog box to change the image size and then apply the new image dimensions and the program disappears. I’m sure I’ll be able to fix it once I read up on Wine a little. Wine is closely related to Crossover, a program that allows the entire Microsoft Office Suite to work on Linux. A couple of small fractal programs shouldn’t be a problem.

Anyhow, after I got Ubuntu going on my new machine (it’s not complicated anymore) I headed off to explore the lush, Linuxian software forest (repository) from which so many exotic sounds were coming from. While searching on “fractal” I found Terraform. I think it’s got something fractalish in it’s inner workings. The small number of menu options quickly lead me to the 3D wireframe view and the Desert coloring scheme. Can concrete be beautiful? Well then so can a wire-frame image.

Is it just a small-scale Linux version of Terragen? Well, I’m not interested in making photo-realistic artificial scenes (and Terragen is pretty realistic), I want to see glowing webs spun by star-spiders. It reminds me of the landscape images from Fractal Vizion -rather advanced considering how long ago FV came out. Anyhow, I’ve got a cool new thing work with and that’s more important than the operating system it’s running on.

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April 25, 2007

Beautiful Empty Image

I think one’s mind needs time to grow before they can relate to some of the higher aims of art. Lately I’ve been sensing the emptiness of simply “nice” looking fractal images. It’s strange because I’ve always liked the pretty, eye-candy fractals and found that sub-genre quite inspiring.

My recent return to using Xaos in it’s new revision (3.2 from 3.1) seems to have brought to fruition the concept of art as more than something nice to look at. There’s nothing new about this; it’s one of the oldest themes in art, that being, ideas; turning the wheels of the mind instead of just the little pinwheels of the eyes.

Xaos excels at color, and color is the stuff of pretty pictures. But this time around using Xaos I’ve been a little bored with just making colorful, sugary things. In fact I’ve allowed a number of images, that I would have previously considered “great”, to fall onto the digital workroom floor and become lost because they just have this empty, more of the same, look to them.


The Apotheosis of Beauty: a sublime smudge; a dishtowel canvas; the image is mortal

This isn’t to say that I’ll never make another “nice” picture again, but it’s just not the apex of my hobby anymore. The fog has cleared, somewhat, and I can see there’s more to the mountain than I knew of before. Occasionally I’ll probably get homesick for the junk I used to make.

So often lately, I’ve found myself intrigued by how an image changes it’s “mood” while being twisted and zapped by graphic filters and effects. The images aren’t particulary pretty, but they’re interesting in another way, in the way they change, disintegrate; in the way they’re washed away.

Part of growing up is putting away childish things. It’s natural. We put them away because our minds have changed and the toys of childhood don’t excite us anymore. It isn’t necessarily total or absolute, but the newly built rooms of our mind compel us to leave the nursery and explore. Which ironically, is just what any child would do.

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April 22, 2007

Star of Arabia


log(1/z)*(c^3) (Parameter file: bulb30.ink)

This is actually the original image made in Inkblot Kaos with only a few minor alterations like: resize (anti-alias 4:1) with lanzcos; rotate right 90 degrees; sharpen (enhance detail -Xnview). Cosmetic post-processing as opposed to Burn Ward post-processing.

India Ink.8bf with queen merge or blend (add, subtract, difference…) mode; Ostromoukhov pattern.

Interestingly, the indexing, color reduction process added some interesting depth to the image by changing the steps in the orange-brown gradient or palette. Even something as “neutral” as indexing can become a creative filter when used improperly or without reading the instructions on the side of the can.

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April 16, 2007

Strange New Fruit

I remember talking to a guy who had lived in a remote part of the Phillippines. Where he was there were no roads and to get to the nearest store or settlement he would go by horse or walk. This area he lived in was around a large lake where the one of the largest crocodiles had been caught.

One time he was off in the jungle or forest or whatever, and came across an unusual root or vine. Pulling it up out of the leaves and dirt, he followed it to a large rock where it connected with a strange vegetable/fruit thing. This became one of his favorite things to eat. They only grew out in the woods however, and were hard to find.

And so it is with these glowing chain/netted curtains in the mandelbrot mode of the second barnsley formula in the 1/mu plane from Xaos using the squares incoloring mode and the first edge-detect filter. They’re not so hard to find once you’ve got the right configuration, but I’m beginning to wonder just how many people go walking off this far from the default places in Xaos and in this particular direction.

But that’s the way it is with fractals. There’s so many different ways to render them that discovery is part of the artform, just like photography. A photographer can present images of a newly discovered insect species in a remote rainforest or through a different series of photos, show us a new way of looking at something as common as the human face. Among other definitions, I’ve often thought that art is simply the things that are interesting.

Like the informant in the Watergate scandal who guided the investigators by telling them to, “Follow the money”, I would say to anyone who wants to get to the bottom of the thing called art, “Follow the interest”.

What is interesting about these netted things? Maybe you don’t find them interesting at all? Isn’t it strange how different people’s reactions can be? I think it’s important to ask ourselves what we find interesting about an image we like. Trying to explain your own experience when looking at artwork helps to make us more objective because we become more aware of the influence we have on our perception and interpretation of art.

Where there’s smoke, -there’s fire. Where there’s interest, there’s art. Where there’s a strange root… there’s a strange new plant.

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April 13, 2007

Icon

I’ve always been intrigued by Greek religious icons. Growing up and living in a predominantly Protestant and Catholic environment, I found the concept of revelation expressed in pictures to be one of the most interesting aspects of the Greek Orthodox “distro” (to use a Linux term) of Christianity.

I haven’t done much reading about it, but what is there to read? You don’t need to understand Greek to look at a Greek icon. That’s what’s so fascinating about it. Being a speaker of English, a relatively new language, there’s no layer of translation between my mind and the icon like there is with the Coinic Greek New Testament text. Although it might help to know something of the cultural and historical context of the icon maker, just as it helps sometimes to understand the context that some Bible passages were created in, I’m guessing that some icons deal with ideas that are within the grasp of all generations.

Can a fractal be an icon? If fractals are capable of expression, then they can be anything that the regular, hanging in the Louvre, stuff can. I would say that whatever properties can be posessed by photographs can also be attributed to fractals. Can a photo be an icon? Icons are just a genre of art. Enough questions.

It all happened when I downloaded the latest revised version of Xaos, which is 3.2 (up from 3.1). What’s new in 3.2? They added a couple of formulas. A formula parser would have been great, but I appreciate anything that increases the capabilities of this great fractal program.

I generally use the little triangle things called biomorphs for the outcoloring method, and the squares for the incoloring method. There’s not too many options in Xaos like there is in Sterlingware or Tierazon so I tend to try out even the most ridiculous things to see if it can add some variety to the images. Bailout is 4 by default. It’s just a number, doesn’t cost you anything to change it, why not say, make it 40?

Or 400. When the bailout is set to 400, the biomorphs become long bio-spikes. Freaky. Their circular arrangement around the central fractal image can sometimes cause them to take on the appearance of a halo. Or even a thorn-like crown.

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April 9, 2007

The Gold Mirage

Sometimes the past fails us, and we have to write our own ancient legends. The 8th voyage of Sindbad, and other things that were probably imagined, but never recorded. How many books could be filled with the things that are unwritten?

Ideas come and go. Swirling, returning. Maybe a story has to be told several times before it’s written just once.

There is a very old Arab legend, dating back well before the times of Sindbad, and even of Bagdad itself, about a mysterious sandstorm. Like a dust devil or tornado in size, it would swallow up lost travellers, even whole caravans and take any gold they were carrying. All it would take actually, was their money.

As the legend goes, this storm rages on continuously somewhere in the desert, becoming richer and richer as time goes by collecting more money from travellers.

As is the case with sea monsters and other terrifying things, enough survivors exist to keep the memory of this mysterious sand storm alive, but not enough to make it entirely credible to most people. This is where Sindbad comes in. Sindbad, although advanced in years and finished with travelling, is still as curious as ever and likes to hear of the fresh adventures of others.

Always hospitable, he invites to his home a man he recently met while downtown in the bazaar. The man appears to be slightly crazy but also harmless and more importantly, full of the fresh stories of adventure that Sindbad is craving to hear these days. He tells Sindbad the story of the Gold Mirage that lured him out into the desert and which turned out to be the mysterious sand storm.

Is it the money that entices Sindbad to travel? or does he just get bored of the comfortable, but predictable, experience of living in Bagdad?

But this is the 8th voyage of Sindbad. The one that never gets written. The one he never returns from.

If it’s any consolation, let me suggest that Sindbad finds the sand storm. It is apparently so full of gold that even when it’s far away on the horizon it gleams brightly creating the so-called Gold Mirage that others have seen and gone in search of.

It turns out there’s isn’t any gold in it. Sindbad reaches the center of the storm without injury and finds that it’s just sand swirling around, creating strange, fantastic scenes and sounds. He makes no attempt to escape and joins what he discovers to be thousands of apparently lost travellers who are content to just wander about gazing at the sights in the sand.

Tim Hodkinson

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April 1, 2007

I am become Klimt!

When Robert Oppenheimer witnessed the first nuclear explosion, a project which he personally managed, he apparently said, “I am become Death, the destoyer of worlds”.

When I first tried out this photoshop filter, I said, along the same lines, “I am become Klimt”. I didn’t say it out loud, just like Oppenheimer, I suppose, didn’t declare out loud that he’d become Death.


plain mosaic squares overlayed 50%

A mosiac filter is part of almost every graphics program. Sometimes it’s called “pixilate” or something like that, since a mosaic is essentially the rendering of an image in larger, simpler pieces (ie. lower resolution) resembling pixel blocks.

It’s probably an easy thing to program, like blur or sharpen. But this particular mosaic creates a variety of effects derived from that simple idea of the mosaic. Instead of just a square, you can have a box with a little square inside. The box and the square are different colors, based on the underlying image and some simple complementary or other color wheel relationship. The mosaic square can also be circle or ball (solid circle) or gear or flower. They save very well as indexed pngs since they’re already indexed to a certain extent, as long as you don’t include a gradient effect.

Layering too. Or blending, they call it. This creates some very interesting effects because you can make a “semi” mosaic image by overlaying the effect by degrees. Some look like squares of transparent tape stuck to the image. I like to use Square Rings or Gears, Cell pixel size= 10, Blend= 130 (half way), Normal/Overlay/Multiply/or Expose, and no gradient things.

It’s called, the Mosaic Toolkit made by Lance Otis, and is free. It ought to be called, Klimt in a Can. The webpage has a sample mosaic of George Washington, which can be viewed from 30 feet away for an interesting digital parlour trick. I have to admit, that image caught my eye and I might not have downloaded the filter if I hadn’t seen that because there’s a lot of free photoshop filters around and most of them are not too exciting. Some parts of our minds are pretty simple.

Mosaic Toolkit is in the “creative” category, meaning it “makes” things, and you don’t really know what the image is going to look like until you try it. Although the results from “creative” filters can be disappointing when used with “good” starter images, they can also be very exciting and produce something great from a “plain” starter image. I think the most important characteristic of a starter image is its color scheme, since that’s usually the only trait that will survive the transformational process (unless you use layering/blending).

It’s so simple.

Tim Hodkinson

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March 25, 2007

Little Images

There are the few that are Great, and there are the many that are Little.

The Great are classics, or well on their way. Everyone knows them. They have a following. They have names. They get stolen.

The Little are sparks. Bright, in a tiny way. A glowing grain of sand.

The Great grow from thumbnails. The Little are a thumbnail.

A frame is the fortress of The Great, and the gallery it’s royal domain. The legs of The Little are trapped by the frame, and die in captivity.

To be printed, purchased and analyzed, is the way of The Great. To be seen and not deleted, is the apex of The Little.


Tim Hodkinson

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March 19, 2007