Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Do the tools matter?

This morning I made an image with Ultra Fractal that wasn't fractal at all. This is not the first time I've done something like this, although with tools like DeluxeClipping and glyph it was much easier than it used to be. But as you can clearly see from the image above, this would have been trivial to do with something more appropriate for the task, something along the lines of Adobe Illustrator. To create something like this purely within UF is a peculiar kind of masochism.

This just makes me think of hyper-realist painters, people like Bert Monroy. Monroy creates his fine art with Photoshop and Illustrator and, if I didn't tell you that first, you would just assume they are photographs. Why would someone spend so much time creating something by hand that is indistinguishable from a photograph? On his site, Monroy states "To me, it is not the destination that is important—it is the journey. The incredible challenge of recreating reality is my motivation."

Hmmm. I can certainly say, as one who has merely modest skills with Monroy's preferred tools, that his skill is breathtakingly extensive. For him, the process makes all the difference. But should anyone else care?

And why am I picking on Monroy, when clearly the man can wield a mouse with panache? Because he reminds me of a dancing bear. If you ever see a dancing bear, you will be duly impressed; not because the bear dances well, but because the bear dances at all. So it is with hyper-realistic painting. So it is with doing rudimentary vector graphics in Ultra Fractal. It is only remarkable because it can be done at all. Remove the means, and you have little of interest.

This morning's non-fractal was not a serious attempt at art. It was a quick sketch to have a bit of fun. At least I know that. The really interesting stuff will be from combining these vector graphic tools with real fractal manipulation.

(UF parameters for the above image)


Blogger Tim said...

It's interesting. Just today I was looking through a site by Cecil Touchon, a painter, collagist and other things, and he had paintings that looked like collages. An example.

They looked exactly the same as digital images made with a chopping, slice filter effect, like in my last post. They looked like digital images rendered in paint on canvas. In fact I took one and opened it up in my image program and applied the "slice" filter to it. The result could have been uploaded to his website and no one would have suspected that it was a digital manipulation and not another one of his paintings. (Not quite as good, but would make a fine forgery)

So I would say the tools don't matter. But people do regard hand-made artwork as more valuable or noteworthy than computer-made "art". People have to make a conscious effort not to favour one process and its tools more than another. We're too easily influenced by the "pedigree" of piece of art.

12/06/2006 11:14 PM

Blogger Paul said...

I periodically put myself through similar fractal torture, attempting to create realistic-looking images using only UF. Here's an example, and here's another.

these images are only approximations of reality, and they could no doubt have been much better executed with Photoshop or PSP.

But, my Photoshop skills are next to nonexistent, so I work with the tools I know. And have a bit of fun with it in the process.

12/06/2006 11:56 PM

Blogger Philip Northover said...

Difficulty (whether or not from tools) can be a factor for some people when deciding if they like a work of art. I remember it being pointed out to me that a symphony I'd just spent about an hour listening to took the composer several years to write. (Oh, really?!? well that puts it more in perspective! ;-) I did like the symphony more. It was a Beethoven, I think. Then later, I heard John Lennon saying in a TV interview that it seldom took him more than an hour or two to come up with a song. That diminished his music somewhat for me. But maybe Lennon was a much better composer than Ludwig van, and you can't compare songs to symphonies! :-)

12/09/2006 12:22 PM

Blogger Garth Thornton said...

If one is results-oriented, the tools don't matter except in contexts where there is an agreement that the tools do matter. But the real question is, matter to whom? Artists are invested in process for a variety of reasons and what matters to the artist is both the result and the process.

Software developers generally try to make it easier to do things, so there's some irony in people choosing to do things the hard way. OTOH, choosing constraints is a traditional artistic challenge, and the developer and artist are united in one phrase, "Because I can."

And the best tools for one person are not the best for another. As soon as you go beyond trivial examples, you find your own compelling reasons to use this tool or that.

12/10/2006 4:46 PM

Blogger Keith said...

Tools matter to the people that they matter to.

I think that I mentioned a comment that I got from a drawing artist when he looked at my fractal image, "that's just Photoshop". He wasn't impressed with my tools. I was impressed with his drawing from a technical perspective, in the I-could-never-do-that sense, but I wouldn't hang it on my wall.

If the tools didn't matter then there would be no sense in breaking up an art show into categories, like water media, oils or sculpture. Tools matter because it takes a certain skill set to use them. Respect is due to anyone who masters a skill, even if it's a drawing skill.

I do wonder about the strange loyalties that people have about their tools, especially fractal tools, and more specifically Apophysis. There's almost a cult like religion going on in that world - at least there used to be. Lately I have stayed out of it so maybe things have settled down.

12/18/2006 3:03 PM

Blogger aartika said...

Damien wrote: To create something like this purely within UF is a peculiar kind of masochism.

The flip side to this is, having gone through that torture, you can work on it small then render your picture to a very much larger size, something that would be difficult to do in Photoshop etc.

12/26/2006 12:53 PM


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