Thursday, August 30, 2007

Sea Spirals

I know that a lot of people "out there" enjoy a good spiral. These "Nautilus" images are dedicated to them.

Dawn Nautilus

Dawn Nautilus

Glass Nautilus

Glass Nautilus

Of course if spirals are not your thing, there are plenty "spiral free" wallpaper images available over at my personal blog.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Fiends without a Face

Fiends without a Face

Fiends without a Face (2007)

Weird for the sake of weird...
Moe Szyslak, The Simpsons

We know fractals are said to be supposedly infinite, highly recursive, and sometimes interpreted through aesthetics. But can the exaggeration and irony of camp be one of those aesthetic crash dives?

The critters in this image reminded me of the "monsters" from that psychotronic gem Fiend without a Face.

Brains.  More brains.  Oh wait.  I am one...

I ain't got no/body since she left me
And I don't know why
But I'm startin' to cry
I ain't got no/body...
--"Ain't Got Nobody", Grand Funk Railroad

Another one of those remarkable strings of nuclear accidents in the 1950s unleashes a rash of caterpillaric brainstems snaking through the Canadian countryside and snacking on the locals' left and right hemispheres. Viewer empathy begins to leak into the mix as many of the spine-sucking creatures are dispatched with macho gusto by pistols at point blank range. When shot, their brainstems curl like ribbons, and their cerebrums emit leaking oil sounds as strawberry preserves dribble out of their lobes. Once the bumbling technicians have their skulls drained like unwanted swamps and the responsible nuclear plant is destroyed, each rampaging neck-clinger becomes a literal no-brainer and melts into what looks like bubbling custard.

Necking on the first date?

Hi there. You're only the peripheral romantic interest in this film. So you won't actually be needing your brain for this role.

And you thought all you had to worry about were Chernobyl collateral damage and truly infinite waste storage in Yucca Mountain and elsewhere.

I've argued previously on this blog that fractals have attributes associated with fine art. I guess the reverse is true, too. Fractals can also take the low road. As we learn from hey I coulda written that crap on Wikipedia:

Camp has been from the start an ironic attitude, embraced by anti-Academic theorists for its explicit defense of clearly marginalized forms. As such, its claims to legitimacy are dependent on its opposition to the status quo; camp has no aspiration to timelessness, but rather lives on the hypocrisy of the dominant culture. It doesn't present basic values, but precisely confronts culture with what it perceives as its inconsistencies, to show how any norm is socially constructed. This rebellious utilisation of critical concepts was originally formulated by modernist art theorists such as sociologist Theodor Adorno who were radically opposed to the kind of popular culture that consumerism endorsed.

So can fractal art now be considered postmodernist? After all, someone once told me my art(ifact) was "all surface."

And, yeah, I think this post could be seen as a metanarrative...

Until someone totally deconstructs it in the comments...


Image rendered in QuaSZ and mildly post-processed until my brain went missing and I stopped.

Rooms with a View
Blog with a View

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Saturday, August 25, 2007


If you've ever driven on a highway in a snowstorm you probably know that the best way to stay on the road is to drive with one wheel just off the edge of it. I think that's a good technique when it comes to creative activities: stay half off the road. It's slower, but ironically, you never end up going off the road completely.

While trying to find the outer creative edge of the Block Wave filter from showFoto, I discovered a rather interesting effect that mimics the natural effect of trying to scratch something to pieces. Not everyone may enjoy this pulverized effect, and I had my doubts too, but it gives a delightfully decayed and overgrown feel to imagery that is all too often polished and recognizable.

There's such creative potential in distortion filters once you've discovered where the road ends and where the ditch starts.

Tim Hodkinson

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Silly Picture Story - Saturday Night Special

Well, it all began on a ...

Starry Night

Bright Star Wallpaper

I had a bit of ....

Artist's Block (actually blocks, but you get the idea)

Floral Cubist

Decided to see what happened when I tried to relax and then had a ...

a Ball!

Pink Ripples

The End :)

Well, not quite the end. All the images above are available as desktop wallpapers. As usual, they'll feature on my personal blog in due course.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Artistic Progress

Today someone commented on one of the first works that I posted for critique over here at the Fracfan Forum.

The original picture (below) was posted back in April. At the time I really, really liked it. Now, I'd put it firmly in the "OK / not too ugly" basket, but certainly not my best / most memorable work.

Rainy Day

In fact, compared with recent work, its positively dull. The criticism received back in April certainly helped the process along. For one thing, after that I stopped framing my work.

Subsequent comments / requests have lead to incorporate "icon space" in the graphics designed for desktops. Below are two of my most recent efforts.

Blue Perspective

Blue Persepective

Fading Idea

Fading Idea

I wonder what I'll think of the above two works six months from now.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Three Cheers For Jock!

Browsing fractal sites usually leaves me with a feeling best described by the fancy term, "Ennui". There just isn't much originality. I don't know why. Maybe most fractal artists makes fractal art for reasons other than creative expression or any of the usual motives that lead people to produce artwork. There's a few notable exceptions, maybe, I guess.

Jock Cooper is one. Let's just jump to his fractal animations --his latest stuff, I suspect. I discovered these following a link in the comments section of the recent Orbit Trap post, Video Links. Personally recommended links are still the only reliable way to find great things on the internet, especially where art is concerned.

2266 has the best piece of fractal music I've ever heard. Fractal music is a very difficult artform, probably because music is more complex than visual art and for that reason doesn't provide much potential for algorithmic (mechanical) creativity. Music is just different. But as I watched this fractal video the first time (I've seen it almost 20 times, now) I just assumed I was listening to something by Erik Satie which Jock had used for background music. It wasn't until I noticed the " * with fractal music " written under some of the thumbnails, that I realized, that Jock had made the music too, and not just the fractal animation.

Anyhow, you can all judge for yourself, but as far as I'm concerned, that's the Mona Lisa of fractal music, so far, at least. Speaking of Da Vinci, the next best thing on Jock's site is his machines, his Mechanical Gallery.

I've known about these for a while. I suppose they're not for everyone, but what is? Who would ever have thought the insides of electronic equipment could become an artform? This is very unique, almost surreal, like some sort of alien technology. Many look like photographs, that's how well the 3D effect has been done. Since the sign says there are 271 images, and I know some of you are pressed for time, I will direct you to some of the Mechanical Gallery's highlights:

Jock's got a unique style and that's something you don't see much in the Fractal Art world where there's just so much of, so much of.... Here's a few examples of this from his Miscellaneous Gallery:

In keeping with his "Renaissance Man", "Jock of all trades" style (that's awful, isn't it?), Jock has a very intriguing, Zoomable Gallery that recreates the awesome depth to fractals that one usually experiences only when using a fractal generator (or when skydiving). These zoomable images display the rich, elegant, spiral-laden artwork that Jock has raised to high level in his Traditional Gallery. Quite a wide range of fractal artwork and styles for a single artist to produce.

As is the case in all high-class galleries and high-class guided tours, we finish off at the Gift Shop. For a mere $20 you can get Fractal Recursions, "the long-awaited collection of Jock Cooper's fractal animations. Twenty exquisite segments representing over five years of design and rendering have been compiled for your viewing pleasure. The animations you are about to enjoy are the frame by frame calculations of math equations strung together in a digital format to produce unearthly beauty." At Customflix or Amazon. Jock's website says that the DVD contains high-resolution versions of the animations (720x480) and also some of his other work. Don't wait until Christmas, you'll be sorry.

Tim Hodkinson

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Saturday, August 11, 2007

Video Links

Here's a few links to interesting fractal videos. To me, they all seem to share a similar, glitchy, abrasive aesthetic - though as far as I know they have nothing technically in common.

'Gestalt', by Thorsten Fleisch

It's an 80MB download, but it's really quite stunning.

'Gantz Graf', music by Autechre, video by Alexander Rutterford. OK, so it's not exactly a fractal. So sue me ;-)

CLUT, by Joe Gilmore and Paul Emery:

Don't know how this is done. It looks at least partly procedural so I guess it's not totally off-topic.

I'd be interested in any other nifty videos anyone would like to post...

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Ant Works

It's always amazed me how careful and disciplined insects can be. One of the many wonders I saw when visiting the tropical Gulf coast of Mexico were leaf-cutter ants. Up here in Canada (Toronto), ants don't do much except crawl around and occasionally make an anthill. Leaf cutters make Canadian ants look primitive.

Although leaf-cutters can probably be a problem when they decide to remove all the leaves off a tree you'd like to keep, they can be quite inspiring when you consider how tiny they are, and what enormous achievements they can make just by being cooperative. The Block Wave distortion filter from showFoto and the digiKam project, makes me feel I've harnessed a colony of digital ants to dig and chew old images into astounding new things.

This image resized to 600x800 and zapped with Block Wave, default settings, gets the above image

Perhaps, "harnessed" is not the right word. Unleashed is a more accurate one. The ants march to the beat of their own drum, their own set of instructions, which I rarely understand, but gradually learn to work with.

And to appreciate. Nothing is more pleasant than to be able to just watch insects work away without the fear that they might be threatening you. Well, actually, I suppose there is something more pleasant than that: it's the expectation that they're working for you, creating something of such curious appearance, that you could never even begin to imagine, much less produce on your own.

I think the label "artist" is an offense to the great machineries that make these things. These block-wave ant-drawings are more than the results of human effort. I think of it as a digital beekeeping. There's the hive, and here's the honey. I slide a blank sheet of digital paper into the hive, and the bees do their thing. Later, I take it out and either start all over again or save it, as is. I don't change a thing. How can you sweeten honey?

Tim Hodkinson

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Sunday, August 05, 2007

Who Dissected Roger Rabbit

Who Dissected Roger Rabbit

Who Dissected Roger Rabbit (2007)

The function of art is to disturb. Science reassures.
--Georges Braque

Andrea Yates believed that cartoon characters told her she was a bad mother who fed her children too much candy...
--Court TV News

For some reason, disembowelment and bloodshed is a helluva lot funnier when it's animated. We have no idea why. It's just the way it is.
--Atom Films

This image has, well, guts.

There's been quite a bit of talk on this blog about breaking the traditional assumptions that fractal art is grounded in an aesthetics of beauty. Fractals are abstract. So how can they "mean" anything? And, if they are non-referential, does this imply they can only be wildly pleasing to the eye? Exhibit A: Another saturated spiral explodes from its slick paper as one turns over each new month in a Fractal Universe calendar.

Still, there has also been plenty of talk here lately about "ugly" fractals. Fractals "with dirty faces." Fractals that refuse to be eye candy. Fractals that assault rather than soothe the senses.

Is my image today in bad taste? Or merely a comment on the exaggerated violence found in many cartoons. After all, a far worse fate usually awaits Tom in every Tom and Jerry short. Lawnmowers shaving him from tail to skull. A falling iron transforming the top of his head into a landing strip.

Wile E. Coyote gets today's picture -- even if Itchy and Scratchy feel it doesn't go far enough.

One of Tex Avery's whistling wolves getting smashed with a frying pan that turns his face into a dinner plate is funny. Cartoon characters whispering to Andrea Yates and telling her to drown her kids in a bathtub is not funny.

And fractals, as art, can steer viewers either way.

So is my image today disturbing? Or as funny as being pulverized into an accordion shape by a falling anvil? Or is it just silly or pretentious or bland. Whatever. You -- the viewer -- get to decide.

But I'm betting it's not pretty.

Detail of: Who Dissected Roger Rabbit

Upper left corner detail of Who Dissected Roger Rabbit


Image made with Sterling-ware and post-processed until I chased it off a cliff, waved goodbye, and disappeared downward leaving only a small cloud of smoke behind.

Rooms with a View. Please note the new address. Regular readers will know why I was forced to move.
Blog with a View

Saturday, August 04, 2007

The Downward Spiral

In the Japanese horror movie 'Uzumaki', a small town is overtaken by a mysterious plague of spirals. The inhabitants start seeing them everywhere and are gradually driven to insanity - one woman suddenly realizes there are spirals in her inner ear with predictably grisly results.

You could be forgiven for thinking that something similar is going on in the Mandelbrot set and other fractals. There are spirals everywhere - is something sinister going on?

Well, sort of. The Mandelbrot is infested by spirals because they are the natural result when you repeatedly perform complex multiplication, as you do when constructing the M-set. This becomes more obvious when you represent complex numbers in polar coordinates.

Say you multiply z1 (= r1 e^(i a1)) by z2 (=r2 e^(i a2)). The result is  r1 * r2 * e ^(i a1+a2) - in other words, you've made it a bit bigger and rotated it a bit - and if you keep doing that, you'll create a spiral.

This is fine if you're a spiral fan. But what if, like the unlucky folks in Uzumaki, all these spirals are getting a bit much. Is there any escape?

Well, pretty much any fractal based on multiplying complex numbers is going to have them in there somewhere. But if you ensure there isn't any 'straight' multiplication in your formula, that will help.

For example one of my favorites, the 'Burning Ship' fractal, 'absolutifies' the value after each iteration (z = |z^2 + c|), which serves to break up the multiplication:

A zoom-in to the lower left of the Burning Ship fractal, showing a

This has some nice 'tapestry-like' detail if you zoom in:


Other functions which can help stamp out spirals include conj & flip.

Something in Common

Sometimes, creating fractals can be an exercise in frustration. Most who are familiar with the medium will probably be able to recall many unproductive sessions where nothing "worked". And then, every once in a while, it all comes together. The images below all share the same basic Apophysis parameters.

Ocean Song

Ocean Song

Ocean Symphony

Ocean Symphony

Dusty Rose

Dust rose

and finally,

Same Skin

Same Skin

All of these will feature on my blog at some point in the future. If you want the large (ie: desktop wallpaper) version, you can get it from my flickr stream.

Friday, August 03, 2007

showFoto 0.5.0: Doorway to the 6th Dimension!

Made from the original, below, using Block Wave with default settings on a resized (enlarged) version

I wonder how many of us, capable of doing so many things, would be reduced to only one single, useful, function if the people we live or work with could custom configure us? That's the way I've come to look at the digital camera program, showFoto. Sure, it's probably useful for handling digital photos (I think that's where the name comes from) but it's distortion filter, "Block Wave", is all I think of when I use the program.

Actually, I guess it's not really a feature of showFoto but the digiKam filter plugin that installs the incredible block wave filter. These are both Linux programs, but I don't think it matters much since these are fairly plain and generic functions that can be found on any operating system. Although I'm not a programmer or math person, I suspect the block wave filter I've used, while not as common as the circular wave, implements algorithms that are relatively simple and have been in use for some time.

That's where I, the digital coach comes in; paying attention to what works and what doesn't, and directing the efforts of the passed-over, and laughed-at, filter effect and guiding it onward to Olympic, NBA, and World Cup glory. Another digital Cinderella story.

Original, India Inked fractal from Inkblot Kaos

A few notes:
-I don't know why anyone would ever want to apply this filter to a digital photo, not even me, but that's where I found it.

-The image needs to have some fine texture or outlining in it (such as the patterns produced by the India Ink photoshop plugin) in order to produce freaky details, otherwise it just makes globby stuff, which is what most distortions usually do.

-a simple recipe is this: take any image, apply the India Ink plugin (unless it already has clearly defined details), then let 'er rip!(apply filter).

Block Waved in showFoto using default settings

It's the most creative graphics filter I have ever found; good example of what I like to call "click-art", simple transforming effects. Better than multicrystal.8bf or uscomic.8bf (and that's saying a lot). Most distortions filters produce predictable, distorted (ie. ugly) effects, but the effect of this one can be quite creative, although it's probably a very simple, mechanical process. The "reaction", or combined effect of the image and the filter, produces something neither of them can really take credit for. (The "Dick and Perry" effect.)

"Block Wave" doesn't really describe the effect very well, although it may be a good description of its function. Here are some better labels I hope the developers will consider for the next update:

Melting Fog-Cloud Bejeweller

Martian Hieroglyphic Dither

Mayan Secret Script Revealer

Onion Dome Crystal Freeze Pillarizer

Amoeboid Diode Circuit-Board Generator

Alphabet Dissolving Ray

Secret Snail Machine

Alien Fingerprint Spray

Micro-Circuit City Shaper

Martian Undersea Resort Builder

Bubble Pillar Ghost Cloud

Aztec Schematic

Ant World

Liquid Light/Dripping Mind

Tim Hodkinson

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