Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Realistic Fractals by Rich Jarzombek

Senorita's New Attire by Rich Jarzombek.  Click for larger image.

The general field of Fractal Art abounds in pictures that may be largely described as beautiful random designs or geometric shapes. It is rare to find Fractal Art pictures that strongly portray substantive images such as people or specific objects. However, it is the intent of Realistic Fractals to restrict itself solely to the creation of such substantive images.
(from http://realisticfractals.com/introduction.html)

Arab Granny and Child by Rich Jarzombek.  Click for larger image.

Each Realistic Fractal picture was created by its own single mathematical expression. No overlays of multiple fractal pictures are used. Most of the pictures are shown in the 'as is' condition directly from the fractal generating software. In some cases, selected areas of the fractal pictures may be slightly 'enhanced' using other software in order to permit easier visual interpretaion. However, in these cases, the original basic fractal image is left unchanged.
(from http://realisticfractals.com/introduction.html)

Near East Prelate by Rich Jarzombek.  Click for larger image.

Realistic Fractals consists of Art Galleries created with Fractal Art pictures which have a strong visual relationship to each picture's title. These pictures are sorted into three types of galleries: People Gallery, Objects Gallery and Religious Gallery.
(from http://realisticfractals.com/index.html)

Bishop's Invocation by Rich Jarzombek.  Click for larger image.

Rich Jarzombek says:
At present my fractal art interests are in creating equations which, when inserted into Tierazon, have a 'relatively high probability' of generating images that are easily perceived as 'real people' or 'real objects'. I do appreciate and respect traditional fractal art forms. From the standpoint of 'artistic beauty' they far surpass my crude images. Hopefully, I simply am attempting to show that there may exist a new (?) potential in 'fractal art' for the benefit of viewers who might prefer more 'realistic' images.

In mid 2007 I designed my own website, Realistic Fractals, which I've sorted into People, Objects, and Religious galleries. Each of my fractals is based on its own unique mathematical expression that I created and inserted into Tierazon. In some cases I 'color enhance' selected areas of the fractals for easier interpretation while leaving the original underlying single fractal image unchanged. No overlay of multiple fractals, photos, nor other artwork are used.

Bee Keeper by Rich Jarzombek.  Click for larger image.
(Bee Keeper?  Or grizzled old salt decked out in a Sou' Wester?)

Who is this Rich Jarzombek?  Is he the latest young new face at Renderosity or Deviant Art?

Oh, no.  He's a self-proclaimed "Old Geezer", 80-something, retired Chemical Engineer and a Grandfather too.  He claims to have no formal art training, but that's pretty normal in the Fractal Art world.

Rich, I suspect, is just another one of us folks who've discovered something exciting about fractals and pursued it with a passion that comes from imagery itself, plain and simple.  However, he's headed off on a unique path because that's what happens when you don't hang around the losers and back-slappers that cling to the virtual walls of the Cloning Facility at Renderosity and Deviant Art, oozing useless tips and dripping with venom.  That's right.

Parting of the Red Sea by Rich Jarzombek.  Click for larger image.

I haven't made any images quite like this in Tierazon myself.  But one thing I've learned about fractal programs is that they're very similar to musical instruments in the sense that they can be made to produce things that the author of the program may never have anticipated.

It just goes to show that you're never too old to do something new.  And sadly, for all those youngsters at Renderosity and Deviant Art, caught in that fractal House of the Rising Sun, wearing that "ball and chain" it shows you're never too young to become old and stuck in your ways.  Ain't that the truth...

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Mandelbrot: The Fractal Bear

I'm not your Daddy's Care Bear...

Mandelbrot, The Fractal Bear by Mouse

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Curiouser and Curiouser

And don't let the door hit your software on the way out!!

Ultra Fractal: Bailed or Booted from its Home?

[Photograph seen on Recession Profession.]

Hmmm. Odd events are piling up.

First, as I previously reported on Orbit Trap, every scrap of information pertaining to the Benoit Mandelbrot Fractal Art Contest, both the 2006 and 2007 iterations, were suddenly deleted recently from their web home on Fractalus. Fractalus, of course, is hosted by fractal artist and BMFAC co-director Damien M. Jones. I would think, at the very least, the competitions' winners* deserve some kind of explanation as to why their successful entries are no longer being showcased. To date, Jones has provided no reason as to why both competitions were inexplicably expunged.

And now, to further muddle the mystery, there was this recent entry by Frederik Slijkerman, the creator of Ultra Fractal, on the Ultra Fractal Mailing List:

Today the Ultra Fractal web site was moved over to a different provider, which was supposed to be a smooth transition -- but unfortunately there were a few hours during which downloads and support via e-mail were not available.

Also, the formula database is temporarily off-line.

Like the BMFACs, the Ultra Fractal site was hosted by Jones at Fractalus.

One has to wonder why sites are suddenly evaporating or jumping ship from Jones' Fractalus domain.

It would almost seem like some kind of deliberate purge is taking place. But surely not. The idea that perhaps Slijkerman disagreed with Jones over some little something is ludicrous. And it's preposterous to presume that Jones would inexplicably find Slijkerman irrational and a rampaging security threat and surreptitiously give him and UF the boot. Really, such a scenario is completely...um...absurd...and...

Wait. Something's coming back to me now. Some vague memory of an email Jones once sent me. I think it's actually in the OT archives. I believe it went something like this:

Wed, 11 Jul 2007 20:55:11 -0400
From: Damien M. Jones
To: Terry Wright
Subject: Re: Eclectasy Hosting


I wrote Lynne [Edel] earlier today to let her know that I would no longer be able to provide you with access to my server. She is the owner of the eclectasy.com domain. I know that she is not responsible for your actions; however, I knew that I would not be granting you further access (except as necessary to download a copy of your content) and that would likely mean eclectasy.com would need to be moved.


She did ask why I had taken this step, and I indicated that your recent Orbit Trap postings have destroyed a lot of the trust I had with you.

One such hosting boot from Jones is curious enough. Another would be curiouser -- especially when added to the curious evaporation of the Benoit Mandelbrot Fractal Art Contest sites from Jones' server.

*By winners I mean the BMFAC contest entrants who were actually selected for physical exhibitions and not BMFAC's judges who also hung their own works in the same shows leading some people to suspect both contests were deliberate self-promoting publicity stunts designed to suggest to the undiscerning that the judges had also been chosen to appear in juried international art competitions.

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Monday, April 06, 2009

More Thoughts on Good and Bad Fractal Art

And I've commented until I'm just skin and bones...

Too much "good" fractal art is killing me.

[Photogragraph seen on silive.com.]

I liked Tim's last post. I think he's right. And I figured why not carry on this conversation a bit more.

Maybe so-called good fractals truly are bad because they're made for the wrong reason. In a way, fractal art got off to a "bad" start. Fractal images were first shared on Usenet with its threaded comment structure. Consequently, fractal art (unlike, say, digital photography) initially only had one primary outlet for mass distribution. So images were posted with comment threads in mind. This led to institutionalizing the following criteria: The longer the comment thread, the better the image. So, almost by design, fractal art became about making art to please others more than creating art to please yourself. Vision isn't what you see but how you see others seeing you. This model still holds sway and is embraced by Fractalbook today -- only with many more bells and whistles.

Worse, certain fractal artists cooked up contests that skirted ethics and deliberately rewarded their own work and that of their friends. What then happened? Their aesthetics eventually became the rubric for "good" fractal art -- first with the Spiral Swirlies School (Fractal Universe Calendar), then with the layered fractal pancakes that privilege more recent versions of Ultra Fractal (Benoit Mandelbrot Fractal Art Contest).

But truly good art rarely wins the People's Choice Awards -- that is, generates the longest, gushing comment thread at deviantART or Renderosity, serves as a FUC headstone/eyecandy for a month, or wins that "big" contest like BMFAC. In fact, truly good art is often deemed ugly. Such a designation, of course, labels such art as bad, at least in the conventional wisdom and in the eyes of the undiscerning. So, it's shunned. After all, to acknowledge it, even as strange or different, would call the established order into question.

But isn't that what good art is supposed to do?

I guess I feel that fractal swans aren't choked because they are either over- or under-processed. They're choked while still cygnets by slavishly adhering to the BMFAC/FUC rules, aesthetics, and codes of artistic conduct. UF propagates the status quo, even makes replication of the prevailing “good” model easy, since only a few of the fractal programming wizards write the cardinal codes. The UF serfs gobble up the UF List crumbs, then fire up their photocopy machines. But, like copies, each successive tweaked dupe loses something and adds to an ongoing digital landfill glut. But what's more important? Making stunning, relevant art? Or keeping the pecking order in check? Everyone knows the drill. Emulate the (self-proclaimed) "most important fractal artists in the world" and they'll probably put their hands on you and let you into the temple. Just as long as you understand you'll always be a "grasshopper" that must never dare to question or challenge the masters.

And, as experience shows, if you don't deliberately imitate your "betters,” the result is a foregone conclusion. You wind up a perpetual “loser.”

How to break the cycle? Easy. Make the art that pleases you rather than the art you think other “good” artists want to see.

fractal, fractals, fractal art, fractal blog, benoit mandelbrot fractal art contest, fractal universe calendar, mississippi school of anti-fractal art, choking the swan, cruelanimal , orbit trap

Saturday, April 04, 2009

Can Bad Fractals be Good Art?


Good software makes images that are too slick.  It's hard to get good software to make smudgy, jagged, off-color stuff.  Purebred imagery is predictable.  Artists often make junk and crazy mistakes but it's a process of trial and error that leads to new styles.  Good software and professional skills is a toxic combination that gets everything right the first time and inevitably leads to the best fractals -- a dead end.

I've given the fractal world many bad examples to follow and, unless my disciples are all off in the desert hiding, no one seems to be following my liquid path down the drain.  But success and popularity are difficult obstacles to overcome.  The encouragement of others is sometimes all it takes to keep someone going down a fruitless path to a heartless goal.

If you want to help someone produce better art, not necessarily better fractals, challenge them with negative criticism and encourage them to give it up.  When the lights of success and encouragement go out, only the glow of your art will be left.

There is something that I call "Raw Style".  It's imagery that looks better when it isn't anti-aliased and when it's not cooked and simply presented "as-is".  As fractal software has progressed, it's become easier to process things and to do more to it.  One would expect this to be a good thing, and it is if what you want to do is make better fractals, but it's bad because users quickly fall into a routine of tidying and polishing everything they make like obsessive-compulsive cleaning maids.  Imagine what news photography would be like if before anyone took a photo of someone, the subject's mother appeared and combed their hair and straightened up their shirt collar before the photo was taken -- every moment would be ruined.  Good art is often ready-made; but we overlook it because we don't expect it.

The Great Seal

I'm not saying you shouldn't tweak and process fractals.  What I am saying is that you should ask yourself "Why?" and try to avoid it because it leads to much better fractals and really bad art.  Fractal art is the domain of the Ugly Duckling; stop choking your swans.

The death of contests is good because contests take artists with talent and creativity and turn them into approval addicts.  After just a few contests most artists already start to exhibit the symptoms of mental degeneration that accompany similar dependency disorders: restlessness; anxiety attacks; obsessive grooming; checking their mail every five minutes.

The anti-art tendencies of contests are easy to spot: judges who don't like art choose the best fractals and exhibit (no pun intended) an ingrained aversion to the bad ones.  A good fractal art contest will present a very pronounced dislike of good fractals and show a real affinity for bad ones.  But people like that don't run contests -- they run from contests.

A few rules of thumb: Great art is always unpopular because anything that's so intensely specialized and focused alienates at least 90 percent of its audience.   It's almost a law of mathematics.  But it's a good thing because it means that your own gut feelings about your work are probably more important and a more accurate measurement of it's value than the other 9 out of 10 people who may look at it -- if we can only stop deceiving ourselves.  The majority is always wrong because whenever a lot of people think they all see the same thing it shows they aren't really looking very closely.

Art is all about taking the trivial more seriously.  We can start by making bad fractals.