Distort and Contort

You know, once you’ve allowed yourself to be photographed you’ve really given the world free reign to distort and contort your appearance.  I think of all the political news stories that feature photos of public figures that appear to be good illustrations of the contents of the story and yet predate the events depicted and were taken under circumstances often unrelated or even conflicting with the events of the news story which they were chosen to illustrate.

The old expression, “the camera never lies”, seems like a reasonable thing to say in the context of the written accounts of eye-witnesses which often conflict with regards to important details, but what we see is often misunderstood and for that reason, the camera can deceive.

I’ve blockwaved a hundred-year-old tinted photograph of a famous person off the Wikipedia.  That noble, inspiring man whose contribution to history has benefited hundreds of millions of people has been distorted here by me into some frightening creature of cold and cruel intent.

Well, they don’t call them distortion filters for nothing.

October 22, 2008

Snapshots From a Cannon

A sequence of four still images from a rapidly exploding digital cannon blast.   Each image was rendered in crisp B&W using Extractor 1 and derived from the same image which was made with a whole bunch of filters like Overlap 4 and starting out with a Tierazon fractal.  Post cannon-blast commentary to follow, below.

Extractor 1, although producing extremely simple, 2-color images, can be very creative when you have an image with a lot of detail and ironically, a great deal of color depth.  It’s almost like shining a bright light at various angles over a surface with a high degree of detail; there seems to be no end to the interesting variations that one can make.  Other times?  You get what looks like big ugly splotches of India ink.

It just goes to show that you never know what a simple filter can do until you try it out on a variety of images.  And when you combine it with others, the possibilities multiply and the results are hard to predict and, once in a while, quite surprising.

I’m quite sure that this sort of digital creativity will be pursued by many others once they get a grip on how to use it effectively; it doesn’t produce imagery that can be used in the same way as the traditional hand-made stuff.

October 21, 2008

Bubble Fish

The loneliest living species known to science was found inside a gold mine.

Desulforudis audaxviator, or bold traveller as it is known in English, relies on water, hydrogen and sulphate for its energy.

The rod-shaped bacterium was found 2.8km (1.74 miles) beneath the surface of the Earth in the Mponeng mine near Johannesburg, living in complete isolation, total darkness and 60C (140F) heat.

It was identified in DNA extracted from water-filled cracks in the mine.

The bug’s name is partially based on a sentence in Latin from Jules Verne’s novel Journey to the Centre of the Earth: “Descende, Audax viator, et terrestre centrum attinges”, which translates as “Descend, Bold Traveller, and attain the centre of the Earth”.

(Story from BBC NEWS Oct 10, 2008.  Image made from a fractal and a bunch of filters.)

October 20, 2008

Clicking to pieces

In addition to seeing the occasional interesting image, another exciting thing about making art from pushing buttons and turning dials is observing the graphical progression (or decay) of an image as it evolves into something (or nothing) after being filtered through numerous effects and plugins.

Consider this innocent, innocuous fractal made with Xaos:

First we India Ink it (below):

Ah. How delightful.  Next (below), we do something to the color and India Ink it with Ostromukhov.

Here’s a variation (below) with some color filtering and the Mosaic Toolkit to add the square effect.  Not bad.

I forget what did this (below), but it’s a variation of the mosaic image above.  Things are getting “different”.

Somehow, this “happened” (below).  More general coloring filters applied.  (Why did I ever bother saving this?)

This (below) is from using the Odd Kind of Pastel filter by Andrew Buckle, the prolific filter maker.

Hmmmn.  (Below). More unidentified clicking.  It’s not unusual to forget how you made something (especially when it looks like this).

This (below) is what I affectionately refer to as the dishtowel effect created by the Tradewinds filter by Andrew Buckle.  Cool eh?  It’s an intriguing effect although it may take some time getting used to.  It speaks to me.

Well, that’s a typical gauntlet of graphical, “photoshop” filters.  It’s as much a process as it is a goal.  It’s fun sometimes to just keep working away until you’ve made something that has absolutely nothing in common, or bares any resemblance to, the original image.

October 19, 2008

Thought Disease

22 And the Lord God said, Now the man has become like one of us, having knowledge of good and evil; and now if he puts out his hand and takes of the fruit of the tree of life, he will go on living for ever. 23 So the Lord God sent him out of the garden of Eden to be a worker on the earth from which he was taken. 24 So he sent the man out; and at the east of the garden of Eden he put winged ones and a flaming sword turning every way to keep the way to the tree of life.

(Text from the Bible, Image made with a whole bunch of filters but started out as a fractal.)

October 18, 2008


It’s all about rendering — how you render or flesh out the bones of a formula — and less about what that formula itself can do.

It’s taken me a few years to see that, although it ought to have been pretty obvious.  You can see it easily when you compare the outputs of several different fractal programs: similar formulas produce things that look very different.  Or to put it in more practical terms: what produces something great in one program can produce something mediocre in another.

In InkBlot Kaos, the main menu has a category called, “Filters”.  This selection is what really makes or breaks the image.  The RGB color sliders are similar; they determines whether you get a fractal Vermeer or a fractal Ver-junk.

I guess that means it’s important to have a program that gives you many rendering options.  But InkBlot Kaos, surprisingly, only has one!

When it comes to making art by pushing buttons and turning dials, you just have to try things out if you want to learn anything.  Success is often not where you’d expect it to be.

(Image made in InkBlot Kaos and India Inked with Bayer and Queen settings.)

October 17, 2008

Lightless and Unplumbed

What had happened afterward we could only guess. How long had the new sea-cavern city survived? Was it still down there, a stony corpse in eternal blackness? Had the subterranean waters frozen at last? To what fate had the ocean-bottom cities of the outer world been delivered? Had any of the Old Ones shifted north ahead of the creeping ice cap? Existing geology shows no trace of their presence.

Had the frightful Mi-Go been still a menace in the outer land world of the north? Could one be sure of what might or might not linger, even to this day, in the lightless and unplumbed abysses of earth’s deepest waters? Those things had seemingly been able to withstand any amount of pressure – and men of the sea have fished up curious objects at times. And has the killer-whale theory really explained the savage and mysterious scars on antarctic seals noticed a generation ago by Borchgrevingk?

(Text from At the Mountains of Madness by H.P. Lovecraft, 1931.  Image made with the blockwave filter in Showfoto.)

October 16, 2008

King Solomon’s Cistern

It was all very well for Ventvögel to say that he smelt water, but we
could see no signs of it, look which way we would. So far as the eye
might reach there was nothing but arid sweltering sand and karoo
scrub. We walked round the hillock and gazed about anxiously on the
other side, but it was the same story, not a drop of water could be
found; there was no indication of a pan, a pool, or a spring.

“You are a fool,” I said angrily to Ventvögel; “there is no water.”

But still he lifted his ugly snub nose sniffed.

“I smell it, Baas,” he answered; “it is somewhere in the air.”

“Yes,” I said, “no doubt it is in the clouds, and about two months
hence it will fall and wash our bones.”

Sir Henry stroked his yellow beard thoughtfully. “Perhaps it is on the
top of the hill,” he suggested.

“Rot,” said Good; “whoever heard of water being found at the top of a

“Let us go and look,” I put in, and hopelessly enough we scrambled up
the sandy sides of the hillock, Umbopa leading. Presently he stopped
as though he was petrified.

Nanzia manzie!” that is, “Here is water!” he cried with a loud

We rushed up to him, and there, sure enough, in a deep cut or
indentation on the very top of the sand koppie, was an undoubted pool
of water. How it came to be in such a strange place we did not stop to
inquire, nor did we hesitate at its black and unpleasant appearance.
It was water, or a good imitation of it, and that was enough for us.
We gave a bound and a rush, and in another second we were all down on
our stomachs sucking up the uninviting fluid as though it were nectar
fit for the gods. Heavens, how we did drink! Then when we had done
drinking we tore off our clothes and sat down in the pool, absorbing
the moisture through our parched skins. You, Harry, my boy, who have
only to turn on a couple of taps to summon “hot” and “cold” from an
unseen, vasty cistern, can have little idea of the luxury of that
muddy wallow in brackish tepid water.

(Text from King Solomon’s Mines, 1886. Image made from an InkBlot Kaos fractal, India Inked (Bayer) and Mirror-Mirrored.)

October 15, 2008

Sierpinski Sketches

A modest, but stylish, white concrete country house in Valencia, Spain perhaps?

Or is it the mutant spawn of the chewing, sierpinski-toothed photoshop filter, multicrystal.8bf by Ilyich the Toad?

(Above image)  Interesting modern rendition of the bright, summery, peaceful and pleasant scenes of Claude Monet?  Or Quilt of Chaos; Crushing by Numbers; Sierpinski Monster Eats It’s Young; Don’t Sleep in this Field Dorothy!

(Above)  Quaint Victorian engraving of two towers guarding a harbor entrance somewhere along the ancient Mediterranean coast (Alexandria?) on a lazy sunny afternoon?  No, no.  They’re all just examples of the unpredictable creativity of mixing graphical effects and filters to make something completely new from another digital image.

You take any image, preferably one with a nice color scheme, and then “grind it up” a few times in multicrystal.8bf to get the sierpinski, square pattern.  They you India Ink it to give it the engraved, black lines texture.  Finally you work your way through anything that might help things out and stop when the image looks finished.  I call it “Clickism”.

October 13, 2008

Something that was Art

Art is a snake continually shedding it’s skin.  Crafts are snakes that continually repair and perfect their skin.  Crafts are not creative, and craftsmen are not creative except within that tiny space of stylistic variation they give themselves to wriggle.  Craftsmen are perfectionists and their goal is to create ideal things; they fix up old stuff, they don’t make new things; they polish old doorknobs and varnish worn stair railings; if their coffin gets a scratch they come back to life and repaint it.

On the other hand, art is a snake continually shedding it’s skin; changing; transforming; moving on; wiping the slate clean; reanimating itself in a lightning storm, and sees the craftsman’s perfectionism as the mere worship of tradition; dead and lifeless;  wheel ruts;  sketching their own shadow; cut off from the very thing that created it in the first place — something that was new and exciting, something that was Art.

(The image started off as a fractal made in InkBlot Kaos and then got the little squares added in Mosaic Toolkit by Lance Otis, and was then India Inked using the wave pattern.  I don’t know how it got the orange and red color to it.)

October 12, 2008