Tuesday, January 30, 2007

One-eyed Madonna

Alright, it's not historically accurate. Traditionally, I think, Mary has always been portrayed with two eyes. None of the Bible accounts mention how many eyes Mary had. Da Vinci's Madonna had two eyes. Of course, if Da Vinci was such an expert, the Last Supper wouldn't have been painted with table and chairs.

I took a break from Inkblot Kaos and decided to try out Tierazon again. After trying out the formula parser in Inkblot Kaos, I had the confidence to use the one in Tierazon, something I'd never done before.

"z*c-c^z+c" I don't know if there's any procedure or method that helps to create interesting fractal formulas. Perhaps there's a way to add an extra eye to this image. I'm always stunned by the amount of work that can be accomplished by even a short formula.

There's still this magical quality to fractals. Stick a few letters and numbers together, wave the fractal wand, and things appear. Add a few photoshop filters to the process and soon it's weird scenes inside the goldmine, as Art Linkletter would say.

Tierazon 2.7 parameter file

This is a weird scene, isn't it?

Tim Hodkinson

Monday, January 29, 2007


A chess players forum I frequent recently had a poll on whether there is such a thing as free will. A slight majority seemed to think so. I know of only one famous player, long dead now, who thought there was no free will. Oddly enough, he was a bundle of nerves. Strange, since if one is fated to win or lose a game, what's there to be nervous about? It's all been preordained since the beginning of time. Were you preordained to make your fractal art?

Philip's Home Page
Philip's Blog

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Mixed Media - Fractal Style

Mixed Media in art usually means combining two separate media in a piece, such as a work that contains paint and pastels. In the image below, I have combined several fractals with a background, text and some other objects to create a 3D scene.

Tu B'Shvat 5767

About the Graphic

Tu B'Shvat is the Jewish New Year for trees (this year it falls on Saturday 3rd of February). The graphic incorporates both Apophysis and Chaoscope creations. It was put together in PSP.

This graphic will feature on my blog on Tu B'Shvat and was designed to commemorate the holiday. The large version of the graphic allows the text to be read easily.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Four quotes on the conquest of space

"Space travel leading to skylife is vital to human survival, because the question is not whether we will be hit by an asteroid, but when. A planetary culture that does not develop spacefaring is courting suicide. All our history, all our social progress and growing insight will be for nothing if we perish. No risk of this kind, however small it might be argued to be, is worth taking, and no cost to prevent it is too great. No level of risk is acceptable when it comes to all or nothing survival."
Gregory Benford and George Zebrowski, Skylife, 2000

"We must turn our guns away from each other and outwards, to defend the Earth, creating a global and in space network of sensors and telescopes to find asteroids that could destroy our planet and create the systems to stop them. It makes no sense to dream great dreams while waiting to be hit by a train."
Buzz Aldrin and Rick Tumlinson, Ad Astra Online, 2006.

"The question to ask is whether the risk of traveling to space is worth the benefit. The answer is an unequivocal yes, but not only for the reasons that are usually touted by the space community: the need to explore, the scientific return, and the possibility of commercial profit. The most compelling reason, a very long-term one, is the necessity of using space to protect Earth and guarantee the survival of humanity."
William E. Burrows, The Wall Street Journal, 2003

"Since, in the long run, every planetary civilization will be endangered by impacts from space, every surviving civilization is obliged to become spacefaring--not because of exploratory or romantic zeal, but for the most practical reason imaginable: staying alive... If our long-term survival is at stake, we have a basic responsibility to our species to venture to other worlds."
Carl Sagan, Pale Blue Dot, 1994

“Sooner or later, if we migrate into space, others will die there. And I am not sure that the widespread attitude toward this inescapable fact is any more realistic than it was in 1986. Death on the highway, in the air, and on mountaintops is viewed as tragic, yet hardly as grounds for abandoning cars, planes, or dangerous sports. Death in space alone has been perceived by the public as a peril that shouldn't be allowed to exist. We won't become a spacefaring species until we realize that in venturing beyond our planet, we will not leave behind any of the natural consequences of being human--of which our mortality is indisputably the most certain.”
Sylvia Engdahl, Tragedy in Space, 1986. (on the loss of Challenger Seven)

The quotes above are from Sylvia Engdahl´s Space Subsite
Sylvia´s text Tragedy in Space.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Profiles of Fractal Artists

There is kind of a history of the fractal arts and the people that have been around for years mostly know who all the players are. There are some very smart people with mathematics degrees and others that are not so smart but sometimes get noticed for their artwork rather than their mathematics knowledge. And then there are some people that I think are very smart and creative people that go mostly unnoticed. The people that do the art because they really do enjoy it and create art that they themselves like and don't care about what other people think are in a different category than those that do what they think other people like because they are trying to impress other people and possible out to make some money. It is nice to get noticed and make make some money, but this is a very hard world with a lot of competition.

My suggestion to all fractal artists is to continue and research what is being done in the art world and really study what is being done in some of the active digital art newsgroups and forums. Communicate with these people and make some friends and learn from them. One active group I know of is flickr.com. On flickr.com, just do a search for fractals or apophysis and you will several recent postings.

My specialty is mostly in programming and trying to keep up with new technologies in creating dynamic web pages. I also like studying the flame fractal algorithm. Some of my recent interests are in the new AJAX frameworks that have recently evolved for creating dynamic web pages.


Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Dragonfly Saloon Girls

Dragonfly Saloon Girls
Dragonfly Saloon Girls (2001)
We had gunslingers in
deluxe tuxes and knit jackets
with shoulder straps.
We had military
girls and sailor girls but
sexy Red Riding Hood
was a no show. Smothered
in daisies she came out
of the planet of green
love in the late
90’s. Her cowgirl costume
tanked in Jamaica but
in Miss Kitty’s parlor
her fringe dress seemed
sassy as her faith dance
bombed like a laughable
Day of the Dead. Her wings
were pulled off artfully
by redneck plebes. Was that
indiscrete? Rockette like
she kicked off her slippers
as the trail boss dove
off the technological bronk
into waterbeds of whiskey.
A found poem re-assembled out of phrase strings from a Google search of "dragonfly saloon girls." The image was originally rendered in Fractal Zplot and post-processed in multiple graphics programs.

Monday, January 22, 2007

The Wells of Abraham

I saw a documentary on Middle Eastern wells. A well is a big deal there. Everything happens because of water.

Some of them are quite old, even supposedly dating back to the days of Abraham. A well is so important that there are men who dive down into these narrow tunnels and remove debris when they're plugged. It's the ultimate claustrophobic experience.

Abraham named his children and he named his wells. Political deals were associated with wells. From the well flowed water, and from the water grew a city. Beersheba flowed out of a well.

In the desert, life is a plug and the well is the socket. Sheep, goats, men; they all orbit the well. Our eyes see the stars, and by them you can navigate the sea, but your feet travel from well to well, in the desert.

There were many tribes and clans, but they all drank water. If a well can be dug, and water can be found, then a well can be plugged, and the strangers move on.

In the Australian movie, Mad Max, they coveted the stockpiles of gasoline that ran their cars. In Abraham's day they coveted the wells that watered their camels and livestock.

Inkblot Kaos parameter files

To find water, to dig a well that has water, is to re-write the land, to redraw the map. Water runs like a cable, deep below the ground. Every well is a node, a network in a world that ebbs and flows according to the water protocol.

You dial-up, there's a handshake. When they connected, they washed their guests feet. No ID? Wrong password? Your sheep will not drink at this well.

Tim Hodkinson

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Fair or not?

'Who's In My Garden?' Fair entry - summer '06

Last year I entered a Fractal in the Art Fair. I guess we are kinda backward here, there were only 4 entries for 'Computer Generated Art' (which was classed as 'handicrafts' rather than 'fine arts'.) I came in 4th...hey it was a $2.50 premium! Sadly, when they were hanging my picture, they dropped it and smashed the glass, messed up the frame, scratched both the print and the mat... a total of about $75 worth of damage. But I got a yellow ribbon. Someone encouraged me to do it again, lol! So I did...

I picked up the print in plenty of time this year, as opposed to the evening before it had to be framed, etc. and submitted. But being a procrastinator is my specialty. I was at the frame shop the day before it was due, begging new glass from the manager ($36! again), but he did offer to put it all together if I left it overnight. Lots of negotiating and discussion as to which end is up, etc. I picked it up the next day and upon inspection I found that they had placed the wire hangers in the wrong edge. They were showing it in portrait format when I had clearly instructed landscape. So I had to wait and wait for them to switch it over and then made a mad dash to be in line by the last minute... only to wait for nearly 2 hours, standing in a hot, dusty, mosquito-y area with 50 other people who each had 20 items to submit. Yes, I only had one item :(

They remembered me! Well, they remembered dropping my picture and smashing the glass. They promised to take better care of it, and luckily they did! The glass was still intact, and it was hung out of the reach of kids, so I get to actually hang this one on my wall. My competition? :( Not a single other entry in Computer Generated Art. So I win the blue ribbon (and the $4.00 premium) for persistence! Does it count? I don't know...

But I have a blue ribbon :)

Friday, January 19, 2007

Four Walls

ooh ooh lookie lookie! Cool pic! Here's 1000 more ... remember those individuals at Yahoo's Fractal World who used to post tons of images? Who'd they think was gonna look at all that? One person in particular I suspected of simply dumping and never looking at anybody elses. This came to light when FW stopped hosting the images. About 6 weeks later, a post appears asking what's going on (why can't I see MINE?!) Ah me oh my.

I like to think this image is suggestive of a claustrophobic atmosphere. I'd missed out on a lot of 80s music. So I decided to listen to a compilation. I liked best the ska song Mirror in the Bathroom by the English Beat, and the synthpop tune Tainted Love by Soft Cell with its rapid smooching sound effect near the beginning. Onomatopoeic. There was also Da Da Da, uh huh uh huh uh huh. Maybe soon I'll tackle a 90s compilation.

Philip's Home Page
Philip's Blog

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Hidden Agenda

Each fractal image I create has a purpose. There is a hidden agenda behind it.

The image is created thinking about some question that is important to me and the only criteria used to select it is its relevance for the purpose. When I am satisfied I will publish it and from now on, it will guide my action concerning the matter for which it was created.

For example this has been created for this post and is helping me writing these notes.

I appreciate the creativity of the other authors of this blog in using images mixed with narrative. This is a wonderful way to use fractal images and perhaps someday I will give a try at it. My use of fractal images is instead similar to the use done by buddist monks of mandalas. One or few monks will work for days building a large mandala with colored sand and when it is ready , they destroy it.
The mandala will remain in their heart and guide their action or ther meditation .

I don't know, before I start searching a new image, which criteria I will use to select it. I select an image because I like some of its features and I feel that these features can help me in the problem that has me prompted creating the image. For example in the image above I liked the mixing of simmetry and chaos and the central "dovelike" feature that keeps everything togegether giving a centre to it.

The title of the image is important. In this case the title "hidden agenda" indicates the purpose of the fractal. Also I have many dedicated to ... images obviously dedicated to people for which I care. Normally the title comes to my mind when I choose the image and , in this case, the title has a meaning that is ,for me, deeply connected to the problem I am trying to solve. For example Past, Present , Future : the Path or Three Steps to Enlightenment .

By the way , concerning the titles we give to fractal images, they are used by search engines like Google to classify the images. But these robots, up to now don't recognize fractals and so you have this amusing fact that your most popular images are popular only because of the title. In my case this happens for example with this flowers .

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Tierazon and the Rule of Thirds

Every so often I create something in Tier-azon (if you don't have it, you can download it from the link on this page). Its a brilliant piece of free software which can make some pretty "classic" fractals.

Below are some of my recent efforts, with a twist. All of them attempt to follow the "Rule of Thirds".

There is some merit in paying attention to the above rule, two of the images below have done reasonably well on Shutterstock.

Daisy Chain

Daisy Chain

Electric Essence

Electric Essence

Psychedelic Fractal Compass

Psychedelic Fractal Compass

Tier-azon does not have gridlines to help with composition, so I rendered the above graphics much larger than needed and then cropped them in Paintshop pro. In retrospect it would have been easier to approximate, but then why choose the easy way when the hard way will do.

Monday, January 15, 2007

"Fractals Don't Look Like Anything"

Alien Supplicant

Alien Supplicant (2007)

I go on a quaternion fractal kick for a few weeks almost every year. There's something very special about these sculpted, rolled in Play-Doh, Tootsie Roll forms. I find them fascinating because they seem more tactile and three-dimensional than most other kinds of fractals. They can also be more visually evocative. Maybe that's because they occasionally break the restraints of abstraction. Moreover, they sometimes share important traits with literary works: tone and mood.

Out for the Season

Out for the Season (2003)

Because fractals are generally so highly abstract, generating a mood along with an image can be an added plus. And while it's true that other kinds of fractals, like L-System forms, can produce life-imitating shapes like ferns and branches, quaternions sometimes bear a resemblance to more complex living things. But these imitations, perhaps because of the 3-D nature of the forms, are far from flat planes or "stick figures." Rather, they can contain a powerful, emotionally-charged resonance.


Grieving (2002)

I'm sure none of this surprises many of you. We see ourselves in fractals all the time. It's not uncommon to find faces peering out from the tiled nooks and accidental recesses of our images. I still remember the first time I stumbled into the main page at Bill Rossi's Fractopia and saw him and his fractal family. And some fractal artists have produced stunning self-portraits -- like these by Jurgen Schwietering and Damien M. Jones. I've even made a few fractal replicas of myself -- like this one that Stan Hood once told me "looks like I've seen the movie The Fly one too many times."


Beyonce (2004)

I guess it's the semi-anthropomorphic, I-recognize-that features of quaternions that fascinate me. Maybe the image above doesn't suggest the pop diva of Dreamgirls to you -- but I see her languid body and graceful movements on display. Over the years, I've seen so many curious things cooking away on my computer: ravens, dictators, male models, meter maids. So, don't let anyone tell you -- as a painter recently said to me -- that "fractals don't look like anything." Quat nonsense.



Rooms with a View
Blog with a View

All images were made in QuaSZ and mildly post-processed in Photoshop and other graphics programs.


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I spent my future building a star

We worked as a team. A huge team of scientists and builders like me.

No one had built a star before. We were going to be the first.

How many angels can dance on the head of a pin? We know now. We built very special pins and we saw things that no one had ever seen before. The scientists knew how to make these pins. They were needed to help build the star.

It took years of work. When it was finished we all crowded together to get a look. The most important scientist was there. He turned the switch. We had made the very first star.

We're all retired now. We still like to talk about the old days when we built the star. Especially when our grandchildren visit. We wish they'd visit more often. We tell them how we built the star.

"The star that makes the electricity for our houses Grandpa? Did you make that star?"

"No, not that one. We made the other star. The star that kills."

Inkblot Kaos parameter files

Tim Hodkinson

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Chaoscope - Rediscover Joy

I have recently rediscovered the joys of chaoscope. The latest version agrees with my new computer and has some nifty features. For example, hitting <ctrl><r > will randomise the gradients which is cool. The other neat thing about Chaoscope is that if you have a particular gradient that you love in Apophysis, you can save it as a .map and then use it in Chaoscope. Brilliant stuff.

Below are two of my most recent creations:

Glass Bowl

Glass Bowl

Mystery Gift

Mystery Gift

My only problem with "Mystery Gift" is that in large size, the shadow and edges are quite "jaggy". If anyone out there knows how to get "soft lighting" or smooth shadows, please let me know (you can find my contact details via my blog). The background for "Mystery Gift" was done in Paint shop pro. Basically I chose a black background for the render and then edited the graphic after rendering. Its easy enough if you have the correct tools.

Hopefully this has inspired some of you to give Chaoscope a go.

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Saturday, January 13, 2007

If it exists, bar code it! (anonymous)

Barcodes are those ever familiar bars and numbers printed like a stamp in black and white, given into the consumer´s market in the not so remote year of 1973. Now they are added on virtually everything from bras, to cars, from weapons, to marshmallow, from panties, to burgers, from driver’s licensees, to single tattooed persons. It is commonly understood that its mere presence on an object gives a presumption for its consumption.

Did we say tattooed barcodes on persons? Yes! Read this:

A fascinating development took place recently. On March 2, 1999, patent 5,878,155 was issued to Houston inventor Thomas W. Heeter described as a "Method for verifying human identity during electronic sale transactions".
Heeter's patent "abstract" reads:
A method is presented for facilitating sales transactions by electronic media. A bar code or a design is tattooed on an individual. Before the sales transaction can be consummated, the tattoo is scanned with a scanner. Characteristics about the scanned tattoo are compared to characteristics about other tattoos stored on a computer database in order to verify the identity of the buyer. Once verified, the seller may be authorized to debit the buyer's electronic bank account in order to consummate the transaction. The seller's electronic bank account may be similarly updated.
On Aliens 3, the film, humans where identified with barcodes tattooed on their heads.

There is another film where barcodes are mentioned related with a superstition or at least a wrong interpretation on the meanings of the Mark of the Beast of 666:

What is the mark? Well the mark Brian, is the barcode. The ubitiqous barcode that you'll find on every bog roll, and every packet of johnny's and every poxie-pot pie. And every [expletive-removed] barcode is divided into two parts by three markers and those three markers are always represented by the number six. Six-six-six. Now what does it say? No one shall be able to buy or sell without that mark. And now what they're planning to do in order to eradicate all credit card fraud and in order to precipitate a totally cashless society. What they're planning to do; what they've already tested on the American troops; they're going to subcutaneously laser tattoo that mark onto your right hand or onto your forehead. (Naked, British movie, 1993, directed by Mike Leigh and starring David Thewlis)

Are the barcodes hidding the infamous mark of the beast? Probably not.

A bar code would make a poor candidate for the mark of the beast for the following reasons:

The mark is described specifically in Rev. 14:11 as "the mark of his name". Even the wildest imagination would have a very hard time turning a"barcode" into "the mark of his name".

In the world of "high-level" security and identification, a barcode is not reliable enough. The reason for the "self-check" digit on the barcode is the probability of the scanner misreading the barcode. The next time you go through the grocery line count how many "beeps" or misreads the cashier gets.

Because the human skin stretches, it would be virtually impossible to get the precision needed for a "reliable" barcode. The skin continually stretches with age, weight, wetness, sun exposure, etc.

There is much more reliable and easier to implement technology than barcodes, such as biometric IDs or even biochips.

A barcode does not match the Bible's description of the Mark of the Beast.

A Curiosity:

Porter Lee Corporation has invented a barcode system for the identifying and recording evidence for law enforcement officers. The title of the system is interesting — BEAST — Bar coded Evidence Analysis Statistics and Tracking.

Besides the daily uses for the barcodes – and mainly because of the supposition that a barcode printed on a product transform it into a trustable commodity – artists must/can propose novel and surprising concepts on taking it out of the original context.

The initial experiences show me that the unexpected use of a barcode on an image can add some sort of sarcastic “commentary”, as if the thing shown isn’t anymore a commodity to be bought and sold. Far from, it produces some sort of “repulse” before what is shown. We don’t want to buy it anymore! There isn’t given the possibility for a fair identification and the meanings are subverted. The idea of the consumer´s market is subverted by its natural adherence to an object. We are imposing instead a sort of visual reflection on the purposes of our culture of consume and on the essential superficiality of our culture of vanishing digits.

The quotes above displayed are taken from a very interesting page on barcodes and the Mark of the Beast.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

The Road To Chaos

Butterfly Dream - My first published image from 2002

I have read many stories about how various people became interested in fractals. Mine is a bit different. I have always felt that I had the spirit of an artist, but unfortunately, I have the hands of a klutz. My eye has always appreciated beauty, but my hands could produce only mud. Ok, that's not quite true, but nearly. I tried learning to play an instrument. I dabbled in oil painting. I labored at calligraphy. I attempted watercolor painting. As for photography, I was equally bad on both sides of the camera. I always had the vision, but I could never make the tools work. One day, I found out something about myself that I had never known. Mothers are always doing things to help their children in school. Another mother and I were getting props ready for the spring performance of the school chorus. One of the songs was to be concluded with each of the children holding the end of a rolled up streamer and throwing the rest of it into the air. She and I were rolling streamers. We chatted pleasantly as we performed this task and I was enjoying her company. I suddenly realized that she was rolling her pile of streamers much more quickly than I was. I nearly dismissed that by thinking that they must not be done very neatly done when I examined them a bit closer and found them perfect. Mine, done more slowly and with great care, looked lumpy and uneven. It finally made sense to me. You know that most of the time, no matter what your state of being is, it is normal to you. My epiphany was that I had clumsy and untalented hands, bad small muscle control. No wonder I struggled to perform small tasks when others did them with ease. Oh I could eventually learn to be adequate at some things, but it took much work and much time to get to that level.

Meanwhile... I had seen fractals, had been seeing them for some years. I had not worked anywhere that allowed internet usage, and did not have a home computer, so I didn't know anything about the various fractal programs that were available, and I had limited computer skills anyway. Mostly I knew spreadsheets, word processing and accounting programs. I remember having a calendar with fractals for each month and marvelling at their intricacy and brilliant colors. I actually found it about a year ago, packed in a box of mementos, it was very basic 'classical' fractals, mainly mandelbrots, but to me when I got it, it was marvelous.

When I finally did get access to the internet, I spent about a year just exploring the 'information highway', and learning my way around. One day, I remembered fractals, and went looking for them. I found FracTint (actually WinFract) and played with it a bit, but was never happy with anything I made there, the colors seemed a bit garish to me and I never got the hang of using the gradient properly. I set it aside for a while, occasionally revisiting it. At some point, I found a reference to UltraFractal and went looking for it. I downloaded UF2 and fell in love. The gradient made sense to me! I actually felt in control. I went thru the tutorials, downloaded everything mentioned on the website and jumped in with both feet. Finally, I had found the tools that worked for me. I built up a folder of images and wondered what to do next. The logical step was to find somewhere to display my images so I could show them to my friends and family. I found that and more, a community of people who gave me tips on how to use the tools even better. I haven't looked back since. Very shortly after that, UF3 came out, and allowed me to use Apophysis, and now UF4 is here with the Explore function. Even without understanding the math, or writing any programs, I continue to be delighted with that 'Ahhhhhhhhhhh' moment that fills me with happiness.

I'm so delighted to have found a medium that I can manipulate easily and well. To find so many helpful people and interesting tools to work with makes it even better. Thanks to all the terrific formula writers and programmers for making it all possible. Following the Road to Chaos has enriched my life beyond my wildest dreams.
~Vivian (aka Tresamie)


Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Master your tools

Before starting, let's say that I don't consider myself a fractal artist but a programmer. In my opinion a good fractal or algorithmic artist should be , first of all, a good programmer. Only in this way he or she can really understand the tools used to produce fractal images.

We often forget that the art masters of the past were first of all high-level artisans exploring incessantly new techniques.

Although I have to say little about art, I have a lot to say about this problem of mastering your tools.

To produce my fractal images I use the following tools:
  1. Ufattr - A program of mine that produces random fractal formulas.
  2. Program 2 - In fact a series of small programs written by myself to do some simple fractal rendering of the previos formulas
  3. Ultrafractal
  4. Gnofract4d
  5. Gimp
Now let's show you the latest fractal images produced:

UltrafractalProgram 2
Program 2Program 2 + Gimp

All images were produced starting with (different) formulas produced by ufattr.

Only the last three images I consider to be really mine in the sense that I master completely the tools that produced them.

The other images were really produced by the algorithms in Ultrafractal (or Gnofract4d) with little or no control from myself. This is more or less what Damien Jones called fractal production by chimps. I have a simple recipe for this that I often use:
  1. Browse your parameters collection until you find an image that you like
  2. Replace in all layer the fractal formula with another formula (I use obviously formulas produced by ufattr)
  3. If there is no "inside coloring method" defined try to copy and paste the "outside coloring method"
  4. Delete layers that provide nothing to the final image
And voila' your fractal is ready.

I really would like to understand and master Ultrafractal, but unfortunately this means getting expert of at least four or five subjects that are very complex:
  1. Inside coloring algorithms
  2. Outside coloring algorithms
  3. Trasformations
  4. Colour palette definition
  5. Use of layers
Each one of these requires advanced programmer and also artistic competence to be mastered. In comparison the use of gimp/Photoshop techniques is quite straightforward. For example in image
number 8 I take a few images produced by program 2 and create a simple collage.

Having a ball (or two)

Having recently gotten a new computer with four times the internal memory of my old machine, render times on Apo fractals has been dramatically reduced. Which means that I am having a ball (literally). Below are two of my recent works for your viewing pleasure.

Galactic Golf Ball

Galactic Golf Ball

Window World

Window World / Cosmic Marble

Both the above graphics were rendered as transparent .png files and the backgrounds were added afterwards using Paint Shop Pro.