What could be appealing about a simple sine curve?

Download parameter file trianglevine.loo

That’s one of the mysteries of algorithmic imagery: just a few parameters can produce a world of possibilities.

When I first saw these sawtooth, bicycle chain, sailboat pennants, I thought they had a nice look but were too simple to have any artistic potential.

Once I got more comfortable adjusting the color settings I began to see real possibilities.

From glowing shells and metal teeth to blurry watercolors, the simple sine curves added a design feature to fractals in the same way that beads of water do to closeup photography.

Also, it was this render setting that taught me to use anti-aliasing. The numerous curves take on a polished shine when anti-aliased which makes it an essential part of the creative process.

The sine teeth respond strangely to color adjustments, which makes them even more intriguing.

They certainly are a unique part of Sterlingware.

I guess there’s not much left to say except “look.”

February 8, 2006

The many faces of Cuttlefish

Each theater has it’s own style.

Download parameter file cuttlefish01.loo

Try an encyclopedia. You’ll see a line drawing or maybe a color photo of some ray-like creature in a sea of words.

National Geographic magazine portrays them differently. They move gracefully and even shimmer in the underwater, full-page, flash photography.

Dried up like leather and crusted with salt is the way I usually see them, hanging from the wall in the chinese grocery.

I’ve never seen anyone buy one.

I think some fragrant metamorphosis occurs when they’re taken home and cooked.

In the past, people would try to pass off all sorts of common sea food creatures as sea monsters. Cuttlefish were the most popular.

It wouldn’t have fooled anyone in China. The hoax would have been eaten before it had a chance to draw even a small crowd.

They’ve been used in sci-fi movies too. Slightly enlarged but otherwise dressed in their everyday clothes. Lillies and Cuttlefish, there’s no need to gild them.

And now here we are, in fractal-ville, the last theater on the street. Do these Newtonian formulas think they can scare us with this Cuttlefish imitation?

Don’t they know we’ve been down the whole street and walked all the way here on our own?

Mathematics is so naive when it comes to horror. We aren’t afraid of their teethy transformations or awed by their endless iterative powers.

We came in here because it looked so peaceful and safe. To get away from the war.

February 6, 2006

Jurassic Fractal

New fossil discoveries shed light on fractal origins.

Download parameter file skeleton01.loo

I think it’s a backbone, but the curved, clawlike bones suggest something with more flexibility, like maybe a wing.

Maybe I need a vacation, or therapy, but I find these bone-like structures interesting, especially here where they have this structured arrangement.

This is the second sine-trap render method using color 15 or 24.

Once again, something new in Sterlingware. This program has so many dials to twist and buttons to push that you may be able to spend a lifetime experimenting with it.

Without anti-aliasing the tiny bones look like fuzzy hairs.

There’s something intriguing about bones. Bones imply flesh and flesh implies form just like a footprint implies a foot and a foot implies a person.

What did the prehistoric creature actually look like, why was the person walking here?

I saw a dinosaur book that took the bold step of portraying dinosaurs with wild colorful stripes. It was outrageous and fanciful, but looked a lot like lizards and birds today.

Maybe the past was stranger than we can imagine.

Wait a second, I can imagine flying reptiles breathing flames and using Svengali-like mind control while glowing aliens use the earth as an experimental ranch for the study of DNA mutations.

So think twice before you throw that “imagine” word around. You don’t know what sort of freaky, neon-vistas some of us folks can dream up.

February 3, 2006

Ancient life of cities

Modern skins for old programs.

In electric caves and synthetic clothes, our hearts beat like Cain’s.

Unfamiliar with the sun and the wind, blind without our glasses, we hunt as well as Esau.

Jacob lived in a tent and raised sheep, but he’s still the kind of executive companies want.

Abel is here too. His goodness and his blood are in the streets.

And Noah, with his backyard boat and laughing neighbours.

We see the cloud by day and the fire by night, eat manna and wander the city.

Jonah sends email to Nineveh. The Babylonians wear watches.

Bandits on the expressways and samaritans in SUVs.

Another Ruth finds another Boaz. The gleaners go back to picking the garbage.

February 1, 2006


They want so badly just to sing.

Download parameter file strings01.loo

I read something about an abstract artist called Kandinsky who contemplated the similarities between musical and visual art.

Some of this is sure to be wrong, but I think he felt that abstract art could be just as expressive as music since, if you think about it, music is also abstract and, as we all know, it’s a very popular and powerful artform.

Some musicians were even influenced by Kandinsky’s ideas.

Yeah… well it sounds interesting, no pun intended, but most of what I’ve seen by Kandinsky is not too exciting. There’s a few intriguing ones. What a troglodite I am.

I think art and music have similarities and can complement each other and sometimes express the same things but they’re also as different as two languages.

Rock videos illustrate this quite well: seeing and hearing often don’t mix. When they do it’s the result of hard work or accident.

It’s good that pictures are silent. Their’s is a quiet kind of music.

January 30, 2006

Amazing Wonders

When you’re the only one on board, you’re the captain.

It started off as a photo of a glacier, although that might not be obvious.

Original Photo

This is the type of image that I find interesting. It challenges me. It compels me to ask, “Will I come to my senses and delete all this tommorrow?”

In some abstract art, I see the DNA of imagery become unravelled and recombined to make things that defy explanation and reveal the machinery of visual experience.

I may see something attractive in the image and yet I can’t justify it or explain it. I often doubt my own judgement.

It’s easy to comment on conventional things, things that fit into established categories. We know how others will respond to what we say because we’ve heard them respond to the same things before. It’s safe.

But to look at what no one has seen before and determine its value requires us to think for ourselves. We have to possess our own standards, our own measuring tools.

They way I see it, the longer your work still looks good to you, the more likely it is to have real value and not just be something you’re imagining. Others might see value in it too.

I mean, how long can a blinding stupor of senselessness last?

January 27, 2006

Convergence of Art

Could music, writing, visual art and every other creative activity be different parts of a single thing?

Download parameter file double.xpf

I can see all artforms coming together, converging into some all-inclusive sphere of creativity.

Inside, one single artistic, creative essence spreads out from the center of the sphere. Manifesting itself as poetry, and at the same time, in another part of the sphere, as fiction, paintings, sculpture, music.

The creative flame, the core and source of every type of art, giving life and utterance in a thousands artforms.

The sphere, now floating in space, fills with creativity and becomes pure white. It starts to turn, slowly.

Look, off in the distance, out of deep space, something is coming.

It’s like a golf-club. Get out of the way!

Oh! What a swing, art is gone!

No, it’s coming back. It’s a comet now, forever passing through space. An endless journey of brilliant, blazing light and beauty.

No. It landed in a black hole.

Now we’ve got to start all over again. That’s going to be tough. But, let’s skip all the boring stuff in the development of art this time and go straight to fractals.

And no art critics either.

Except for me.

January 25, 2006

Ville de Colour

That’s funky-talk for Color Town.

I came to a real road-block in colorizing photos. I used to do this a lot, but now it just wasn’t working.

I did something very cerebral and mature, for a change: I went back and looked at the good ones and asked, “Why did it work?”

Naturally, at first, nothing came of it. Then as I reasoned my way through the mental brambles I came to the old pathway.

Original Photo

Open any image in Irfanview. If it’s color, make it greyscale or desaturate. Reduce color depth to 8.

You now have a BW photo made of 8 different shades of sand. The Irfanview dithering or indexing “algorithm” creates a wonderful sand-like texture while maintaining the original image’s structure quite well.

The graphics program I use, the GIMP, has a greater choice of indexing algorithms but none of them look as good as the single one in Irfanview.

Continuing down this well-worn path we first switch the image to RGB mode from Indexed mode. Next, I may adjust the contrast and see if it makes for a more promising starting point.

Now we gradient map. It looks good or it doesn’t look good. Try inverting the color (negative) it might look better. If it doesn’t look great, move on to another gradient. Don’t save the kinda-nice ones, wait for one that has a flash of excitement in it.

If it does look good, index the image choosing 8 colors and select “no dithering.” If you dither, then the original Irfanview appearance will probably be destroyed by the different dithering algorithm that the GIMP uses and also in turn mess up your colors.

And it’s all about color and dithering. If your graphics program doesn’t do this or if you can’t figure it out, just copy the image to the windows clipboard and paste it into Irfanview and reduce it to 8 colors there.

I downloaded a whole truck-load of gradients compliments of Adrian somebody who took a bunch of Fractint map (palette) files and converted them to GIMP gradient files.

The colors include just about every combination and hue, and that’s where most of the creativity in my colorized photos comes from. Thanks, Adrian and thanks Fractint users for giving me the keys to Color Town.

January 23, 2006

In search of…

Fire Snails from Alpha Centauri.

Download parameter file fountain01.loo

Perhaps you know something about coral, or even sea snails, but I’ll bet you’ve never even heard about sea slugs.

Some are quite big, and they are of course fleshy and unprotected as they lack a shell just like regular slugs.

What was I talking about?

Sea slugs. They have no enemies because they taste bad. And they have wild far-out colors although they themselves are blind or something.

Yes, the fractal here looks like one. In fact sea slugs eat by dragging a jagged tongue over whatever they are moving across. The curved pattern there looks a bit like the mouth and tongue.

Anyhow, they stick out like orange pylons on the sea bed but nothing bothers them because they have an extremely bitter taste but aren’t actually poisonous.

But I don’t know, just because they taste bad shouldn’t be enough to deter all potential predators. What if some shark is starving? Wouldn’t even a sour slug taste better than nothing?

The animal kingdom is weird. They can be so dignified and stubborn sometimes. They’d rather die than eat sea slugs.

Look at humans. We’d be eating each other if it wasn’t for the police.

January 22, 2006

Something completely different

Photographic post-processing

Hey, you can’t get excited about fractals and not have some interest in other art stuff. I like tinting old photos in my graphics program.

I don’t actually tint them by hand or anything. I experiment with various filters and effects until something good happens.

If not, I move on to another.

Original Photo

What I like about the whole thing is that it’s so simple and yet the results can be really amazing.

There isn’t a whole lot of talent involved, but it does help if you’re familiar with a number of basic graphical effects. Other than that, the computer does all the work.

Many fractal artists use a fractal program as just the start of their creative process and not the final step like I usually do. They then process the image further in a graphics program.

This is the same thing but with photographs.

Mostly it’s a matter of using a good dithering algorithm to reduce the number of colors in the image to like 6 or 8 and then gradient mapping.

Edge detection filters can add a batik or cracked wax look, but in the end the coloring is accomplished by experimenting with various gradients (called swatches in Photoshop, I think).

Corresponding colors from the gradient are substituted for the colors in the image’s palette.

It’s a simple procedure but the combination of dithering and gradient mapping makes the outcome almost impossible to predict. Like fractals you have to enjoy the treasure hunting process or it’s just frustrating.

January 20, 2006