Posts Tagged eye-candy

My thoughts on a certain calendar

I hope this post doesn’t bring any negativity or haters. I’ve seen this happen when the subject was so delicate (to some people) like this. But here we go.

I had read in another blog – which I won’t mention here which one  it is just because of these fights and haters, but it has been mentioned here a couple times and I do share many of their thoughts about how and where the fractal art is going – about how the Fractal Calendar was becoming sort of a… how to put it lightly… commercial product supposedly open to the fractal artists community to participate, but a project where just a few people had the chance to participate. And it’s always been the same people over and over, year after year. This is what I had read, remember. As I’m not involved with these groups, I just know the names of some of these artists and saw that there was really some sort of repetitive list of fractal artists that seemed to appear quite often. Then, it was also commented that the images chosen to appear in such calendar were getting more and more boring and common and were not displaying the “good” fractal art (whatever that is), but just the eye-candy, with the same style that is typical of that specific group of “chosen ones”.

Today, when I was going to the Fractal Forums website to get the latest Mandelbulb version for my other computer, I typed a wrong address that took me apparently to the official site for the Fractal Calendar. And they had 3 galleries for the 2009, 2010 and 2011 editions with the images. And now I could see with my own eyes that this was very much true, the images are indeed boring and repetitive. They aren’t ugly, though. But 12 images of common spirals and Doodads? I can do that too. Sometimes better. Many others can do that as well.

I think that the last time I had checked for the images in that calendar was around 2003, when I even submitted some images (silly me…). The same group of people seemed to dominate the choices of approved images back then, but the images were much more better and diverse. Now, they’re just as I’ve said, common spirals and Doodads. Sad, really.

Not that these artists aren’t talented and can’t make good images, the problem I see – IMHO – is that the images are far from being fresh, creative and daunting or even “updated”, they are just something that seem to have been done to fit a certain commitment, “we must do the calendar, you are the chosen artists, just send me anything in time and that’s fine”.

With the huge ammount of fractal softwares – and fractal kinds  so to speak – now available, it’s sad to see that they have chosen just common spirals done in Ultra Fractal. No Apophysis, no old-school Fractint images, no new styles like the Mandelbulbs. And just spirals. While the time in the calendar goes on for all of us, the quality of its images seem to be going back in time. Or the clock seems to have stopped in 2002 for the people that are responsible to choose the images.

A small disclaimer: I don’t know any of the artists involved in the making of the images chosen for the calendar in any way other than occasionally viewing fractal galleries where their images are displayed, in their own websites or in other galleries in other websites. I don’t have any particular “hate” for any of these neither had any personal fights with any of these artists and this wasn’t a personal attack on anyone (before any of these haters that like to keep starting flame wars in the aforementioned blog find an excuse in this post to start some more of these wars), this was just my personal opinion on the Fractal Calendar (to which you are entitled to disagree) and my comments are mostly made about the way it’s made and conceived and how its images are chosen, not about the talent or the quality of any of these fractal artists involved.

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Why I don’t use Photoshop or Gimp?

There’s a big discussion involving fractal images and Photoshop, with several different points of view, but the main one usually is that if a fractal image is manipulated in Photoshop (or Gimp, or any other software like that) “it’s not a true fractal image anymore”.

I’m not interested in this technical discussion – each side of it has its own correct assumptions, but I’ve decided not to use Photoshop or any other image manipulation softwares because to me I feel that with them it’s much simpler to create something interesting with virtually no effort, I guess this is the same way I don’t like how Apophysis is misused by most of its users nowadays – the random, automated way to create an image or a batch of images. With Photoshop/Gimp etc. sometimes I feel the same happens.

Yesterday I gave Gimp another try (I really can’t get used to that interface!) but mostly to try something like the Droste effect which is quite interesting. I found that there is a plug-in for Gimp that does that effect (and many others) called MathMap, and it can give some interesting fractal-like results in regular pictures. I couldn’t make it work (I need an older version of Gimp it seems, and I’m using Windows), but I found some other quite interesting plug-ins that can make very nice effects and changes to your fractal images in a very easy way. I might even post some of these attempts here just for fun, the map to sphere stuff for example is really interesting mostly because I need some fractal that can look like a planet/world for a logo/icon to be used here, and an animated ” fractal planet” spinning using one of my own images will definitely look nice. But the easiness to make a fractal look “better” with a few default settings of a plug-in is what makes me go away from these image editors and not even try to use them. Not even for a simple sharpening, which gives a nice effect with images that have lots of details.

Other day I found one of these links named “amazing fractal images” (or some variation of that) and there was a bunch of images of “fractal animals” – lions, birds, dogs, whatever. All had a fractal texture applied to the original images of the animals and one that doesn’t know fractals might think that the fractal software generated a true fractal image that was shaped like a dog – it didn’t, it was just a simple dog image with some Apophysis image “pasted” on top of it working as a texture, blended with the original image. You can actually see some of these here. Is this person a good fractal artist? No, he’s just someone that knows how to work with layers in Photoshop, and this is much easier to find than someone that can really make a (traditional) fractal from scratch. I remember when I found these images. In the first image I was like “wow, that’s nice” and while looking at about the 3rd or 4th I was like… “boring!…”. It won’t take you more than a few minutes to replicate that kind of effect, much different than waiting 50 hours for a real fractal image to be rendered.

Edit: with a few more clicks, I found the culprit: a plug-in named Fractalius. Annoying, really annoying. I didn’t know it was that easy.

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You don’t need drugs to enjoy fractals

Some of these older images were made during a period in my life where I was taking a lot of strong painkillers (not for “recreational purposes” I can assure you), and people that knew that often asked me if some of these images were “drug-influenced”. I don’t know, really. I don’t think so. Maybe some were, some of these images that when I saw them 5 years later I just said “ouch, it looks like crap!”. When the “purple haze” went off, I saw the real image(s), I suppose. Not many images were like that, I should say. Those that were discarded when this new gallery format started, were discarded for a lot of different reasons, including plain old suckiness.

I never deliberately did anything “special” before making any image neither I did any image after doing something specific like finish reading a book for example and make an image inspired by that, or did drugs (alcohol also being a drug, of course) just to create a fractal. Some images were inspired by some other stuff, of course, mostly their names. But not deliberately. Neither I did any image to look “trippy” or “psychedelic” or something on purpose (this is why I’ve never used the “animation” feature of UF despite it costed me a few more bucks when I registered it). Fractals are just like that, sometimes.

I really have no idea if these images can or will enhance your drug-of-choice’s trip or if when you’re on something you will see something different than me. With a little or no effort you can see the same objects/things I did and get the same “feel” while looking at one image, and you will even understand most of the cryptic names, but as I’ve said some people will never see even the basic bits in some images.

These images weren’t made to be seen under the influence, but you can try that. But… in some cases, the results are really… weird to say the least, even without any “extras”. Like this image, done not so long ago (years after the painkillers, BTW):


It's alive!

Look at one of the spirals, either one. Noticed something? Cool, isn’t it? Now look at the text bits right above/below the image. See? No drugs required, I told you.

PS1. If you didn’t see it, I won’t tell you what happens, go find it yourself. If your mind isn’t open for new experiences, you won’t see it (OK, just kidding!). Hopefully it works in the smaller version of the image, but I’ve tested on both, the big original image and this one.

PS2.: I think that this effect depends on the combination of colours chosen for the image. I haven’t tried it with different colours, but I think I’ve seen similar images (some are quite popular) with similar effects and they all had unusual colour schemes.

PS3.: That was a lot of bullshit talk just to present a nice effect. Must be the drugs that did that.

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About the images, part IV

It’s also important to mention some other details about the images: what kind of images you can expect to find here.

I’ve discovered this amazing site, Orbit Trap, and I agree with their thoughts and views in many points and by reading some of these posts I decided to restart/resume my fractal creations. At some point in a certain post about “art” (or something) there they mention how most of the more appreciated images (in art “communities” sites like Deviant Art) by a certain “respected” group of fractal artists (doesn’t an amateur artist deserves respect as well?) aren’t really fractals. As mentioned in a certain previous post here, to be considered a fractal the image must have certain technical qualities (the more, the most “pure” a fractal is, I suppose), and to me, the most important visual characteristic of a fractal is the self-similarity. Whenever I see one image with that characteristic, immediately I tend to associate it with a fractal – be it just a picture of a cauliflower or something done in Ultra Fractal.

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