Strange how it is,

…that some images look better without anti-aliasing.

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They lose the vintage, hieroglyphic, sandstone cloud from outer space when anti-aliased.

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The frozen, crystalized crust of sugar disappears when dipped in anti-alias solution.

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There’s a million moving pieces that just don’t work the same way when anti-aliasing lubricates them.

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And when it comes to lines and strings and things like that, anti-aliasing should make them fine and shiny, but I like the old ballpoint pen, spirograph effect which comes quickly and cheaply from doing nothing at all.

June 5, 2006

Beauty is in the eye of your monitor

Digital art has a unique problem.

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For instance, do your images look the same on other people’s monitors as they do on yours? Have you ever viewed your website or online gallery from another computer, or more specifically, from another monitor?

Traditional art, like painting for instance, produced an image whose appearance was fixed and changed only with the lighting of the room, the fading or darkening of the pigments in the paint over time, and in rare instances, the color blindness of the viewer.

In traditional art (ie non-digital) we see with our eyes, which never need to be calibrated and need no configuring. With digital art, we see with our monitors, and the artwork is an image file, a set of digitized instructions from which the monitor re-creates the artwork. It could look quite different from what the artist intended.

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In other words, a fractal that you’re all excited about, with stunning color and subtle shading might just look like garbage to everyone else because you’ve carefully created the whole thing on a monitor whose image display is faulty.

It’s like working with sunglasses on. What you create might look awesome, but it won’t look that way to anyone else unless they put on sunglasses too.

Making sure your monitor display is set up correctly, or configured to some sort of standard, ought to be of primary importance when making digital art. It should be the first thing we do.

Would we look at Van Gogh’s paintings differently if we knew he painted them under ultraviolet light conditions using special UV pigmented paints? Yes, of course; those would be the same conditions the artwork would be displayed in.

Would you read a book differently if you knew it was written in a foreign language? Yes, you would read a translation of it in your own language in order to understand what the author was saying. Our monitors translate the foreign language of jpg files and display to us what the artist made.

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A good translation is what the author would have written if they spoke your own language. A bad one is a distortion of what the author wrote because the translator cannot express accurately what the author originally said.

A good translation of a good book is a good book. A bad translation of a good book is a bad book. Similarly, if your monitor displays an artist’s work in a distorted and inaccurate way, you end up looking at something bad or boring and wondering what on earth the artist ever saw in such a piece of garbage.

Of course, if you’re the one with the distorted monitor then everyone else is wondering what you ever saw in your artwork which appears to them to be garbage.

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Anyhow, it’s something to think about. Digital art is not a fixed medium like paint on canvas, so we ought to give some consideration to this unique challenge if we want to avoid filling up webspace with stuff only we ourselves can appreciate.

Here’s what I do:
-Use the color setting, 6500K
-Leave the gamma setting at default or 1.00
-Set contrast and brightness to what looks good.
-Accept the fact that the average monitor is limited in its ability to render the full range of colors (especially darker tones) that printers or traditional art methods can and that this is a characteristic of digital art and work around it.
-try to view your work on as many monitors as possible, because in the end, it’s all about standardizing digital display, not perfecting it.

I could be wrong.

June 2, 2006

Fractal Stiltskin

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I failed grade 11 Math, but I did alright in the other stuff. It’s funny because fractal formulas seem to be more about the other stuff than Math.

The trigonometry means nothing. Give the program a poem and it draws a picture.

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They’ve always wanted to do this. For centuries mathematics dreamed of the theater, the stage and the circus.

Who spotted the hidden talent of math? Who saw them trying to dig under the fencing of their cage and let them out?

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Bored with rocket science, math wanted to join the circus, or just run through the world.

Straw into gold. What else describes the transmutation of grey numbers into dreamlike fractal worlds?

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Anyone can do it. That’s strange, because up to a few years ago no one could. Artists copy, but fractals create.

Exponents are the exclamation marks of fractal poetry. Other than that, who knows what fantastic foliage will grow from the poetic engineering of fractal genes.

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I think fractals are old fashioned; they like formulas that rhyme:


Fractals are the rebellion of math. Math has grown up, done its military service and finished school. Now it wants to grow its hair long, ride a motorcycle and chase the horizon. When it runs out of money for gas it will join a commune, give itself a neon name and rediscover agriculture.

May 31, 2006

What is art for?

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I used to have an answer for that. But just as it says in the old saying, “The more you know, the less you know” I know a lot more about art now and I feel my answers have become inadequate.

Art is for the enjoyment of beauty. Art is the enjoyment of beauty. Therefore the purpose of artists is to add to the worldwide, pan-historic collection of beautiful stuff.

But it’s not that simple. I see on the internet and elsewhere a great interest or passion for making artwork that isn’t necessarily worthy of being included in the Louvre, and was never intended to be.

What is that art for?

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I also sense that there are many people who enjoy making artwork that seems to have little appeal to the majority of people around them and yet this rejection or indifference doesn’t discourage them one bit.

Why are they making such bohemian things?

I don’t know. All I do know, or rather, all I know now, is the art world revolves around more than one thing or purpose.

We all know the big purpose; the great gallery of excellence, the artistic Tower of Babel. One of the other ones (there could be many) is just having fun.

This other motive is different because it doesn’t matter so much what other people think about what you’re making because your creative activity is it’s own reward and needs no justification.

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Of course if you like the junk you’re making, then other people who share your taste in art will also like it. Will it become famous and respected by the “world?” Or should I say, will you become famous and respected by the world?

Maybe. Who cares? How can the opinions of critics add to the value of your work?

May 29, 2006

Fractal Plates

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Behold, the Fractal Plates.

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Gentlemen, the Plates are among us.

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Truly, these are the Plates of legend.

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I fear for the plates. Is it safe?

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What hath man wrought?

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Who am I to approach these plates?

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Why do they ridicule these objets d’art?

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Yea, the Plates shall defend themselves and reveal the baselessness of these accusations.

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(sung to the tune of The Beverly Hillbillies theme)
“Binary clay, Fractal fire
With machines like these
We can all retire”

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In the marathon of art, the machine never wins. But only the best can beat it.


May 26, 2006

He laughed until,

…a door in his head opened and a signal shot out, relayed by satellite to all his friends.

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I don’t know why, but this image just says, “Poster” to me.

I used to scrounge images off the internet to make seamless tiles using a kaliedoscope filter. I began to realize that the best kaliedoscope images came from any kind of image that had an interesting color scheme.

I focused on vintage posters because they were non-photographic and made a great source of color blocks and lines.

Many of them were advertizements, meant to be glued to walls or hung up in businesses. It was an advertising format that, while still around, particularly in travel agencies, is not so common today.

Anyhow, this image reminds me of some of them; bright, simplistic, but artistically interesting enough that people will keep them on display for decorative reasons and thereby broadcast the message of the advertisers.

Who knows what the final impression will be of an image as the picture bounces around in our brains, resonating deeply with the thoughts it connects with and harmonizing with the ones it contrasts.

Perception is such a funny thing; ten people look at one picture and each one sees something different; distorted and colored by their thick lens of personal experience or emotional baggage.


…do we all see exactly the same thing, reflected perfectly on the mirror of the mind which is still unchanged since the time it was made, that is, before we were even born, but each of us, expressing it uniquely, as if with a different language, shattering the possibility of discovering that we have anything in common with anyone else, as in the way the Tower of Babel scattered the collective efforts of humanity, returning the great mosaic of human accomplishment to a heap of fragments dispersed in a herd of tiny, silent minds.

May 24, 2006

I am forever falling apart

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Although Inkblot Kaos allows you to render your own formulas, you can’t make your own filters and can only choose from the built-in ones.

I’ve only found one that seem to work well, the first Stalks one. So I was pleasantly surprised when I made this images using the dual bubbles filter, number 11.

As is often the case with fractals, you can’t make any assumptions. This filter didn’t look too good when I first switched from the first Stalks one.

Upon lowering the iterations it started to show some promise and finally I got down to only 15 from the default of 128.

Strangely enough, the next image is the same dual bubbles filter but at 128 iterations.

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So, you never can tell what will work. It’s an exciting mix of hit and miss.

One of the advantages of lowering the iterations is the image is generated much quicker. This can be very important when using a “parser” or “compiler” to enter your own formulas as they require extra processing that the built in formulas don’t.

I’ve also learned that simplifying the formula can speed things up too. The images just above and just below are both from this formula, (z^(2^c)), and at 128 iterations calculate faster than the first image whose formula is this, z^2^(z)-z^z+c and only has 15 iterations.

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That’s the whole formula. I find being able to write your own formulas adds a whole new dimension to making fractals. And you don’t need to understand anything about the formula’s components. It’s just a matter of shaking up the pieces and seeing what happens.

May 22, 2006

Victorian Florian Fractals

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For those of you who have just joined us, the blog is now anchored off Inkblot Kaos Island.

Old maps and rumours brought me here. As Long John Silver often said, “You’ll only find dirt, diggin’ where others have dug!”

Which for me raises a question, “Why after all these years, should fractal programs like Sterlingware, Xaos and now, Inkblot Kaos remain so relatively untouched that someone like me can find treasure after only an hour of coming ashore?”

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While fractal software has reached a state of advanced development, I think the artform is still in its frontier days or dark ages (frontier sounds more upbeat).

We ought to be driving down paved roads and looking at street signs and billboards, but instead we are more like conquistadors stumbling on cities of gold or explorers eating strange fruit.

I was reading some very enlightening information on the technical aspects of fractal programs by Damien Jones at his fractal website, I understand Ultra Fractal and Sterlingware much better now.

Stop me if I’m wrong, but Ultra Fractal is not really a fractal program at all, it’s a processor, an efficient, sleekly designed, platform which empowers or facilitates the instructions fed to it by the user.

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It comes with no built in formulas or rendering methods or coloring things (well, maybe it does, but not like other programs). It’s like what open architecture is to computers: modular and extensible.

It’s a facilitator, an enabler, a processor, an engine uniquely designed for fractal art, where creativity extends not just to making new images but also the formulas, rendering methods and coloring methods themselves. Users don’t just make imagery, they make the program too.

UF is just the hub that brings all these customizable inputs together and makes them happen. It’s a different way of making fractals, allowing the user to program the program.

The thing which allows you to input your own formulas, translates them, or something, into pentium assembler code which is like grafting or merging it right into the progam’s own flesh and bones allowing you to…

It’s like Frankenstein! Ultra Fractal is the torso of Frankenstein and the users stick on and swap legs, arms, feet and, and, and, brains even (formulas).

I’m not saying it’s a monster; smashing through walls, kicking down doors, setting fire to homes, terrifying whole villages, leaving the women and children shaking with fear while the men march off as an angry mob armed with pitchforks and torches to kill and destroy something they don’t understand and never asked to be born. That’s nuts.

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It’s a new category of fractal software design. UF is the screwdriver handle that the user sticks their own custom made bits into. Combinations and permutations unlimited! Or limited, rather, only by the user’s ability to craft new add-ons or aquire them from a growing public library.


I couldn’t get it to make stuff like this, so I’m sticking with Inkblot Kaos.

May 19, 2006

Mandel on a stick

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The Evil that Fractals do

Attack of the Fractal Cannibals

I Escaped from Fractal Island

Your head here. $20

Zor-tar: Fractal Warlord

Fractal Chainsaw Massacre

Boyunga, Terror of the Orbit-Trap

Ribs to Go: $10.99 (weekdays)


I should have been an empty husk, impaled on a thousand thorns.

Glowbar -the shield that shook the nations!

When I look at the trees, I see the wind

Trouble, trouble, trouble, to all on the earth, because of the other voices of the horns of the three angels, whose sounding is still to come


May 17, 2006

Freak me green

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That’s what I said when I made this in Inkblot Kaos 2.9.

It’s another program I’m rediscovering, just like Tierazon.

Written by Stephen Ferguson, who wrote Sterlingware and Tierazon and also the java applet that made the green flowery thing up in the top left corner of this page.

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Inkblot Kaos can be downloaded from the same place as Sterlingware and Tierazon as part of the same miniscule admission price of $25 USD.

What caught my eye was the coloring style. It’s just very easy to make interesting color with this program.

There’s not too many formulas, but it has a formula editor just like Tierazon (infact I think it’s the same one).

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I got a real thrill out of making my own formulas. It just opens up a whole new dimension to fractals. I got an even bigger thrill when I found a bunch of formulas on the internet written by someone who understands math.

Sometimes I think I’m lazy and greedy for using machines to make stuff and always scavenging for more instead of making it all myself, by hand. Sometimes I think I need a new word to describe myself.

Fractal programming is a very complicated and challenging thing. More so than the fractal mathematics that it attempts to render.

It’s the rendering that makes fractal programs each unique. The mathematical skeleton is just the start for the processing that creates the final image. They all have different ways of putting flesh on the bones.

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Inkblot has a real retro, sci-fi look to it. Actually, in many images the rendering resembles the layered ink printing of four-color comic books. Maybe that’s where the name comes from.

Anti-aliasing. It doesn’t do it. But you know what I discovered? Anti-aliasing is just scaling or resizing and you can do that in any graphics program or utility like an image viewer. I used XnView and got my choice of resizing algorithms; Mitchell works best, I think.

May 15, 2006