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A Little History

I first became interested in fractals in the mid 1980's. Since little software for fractals was available, I wrote my own and experimented with colors and formulas. In 1992 I started using Fractint, and was totally hooked on fractals and the artistic possibilities they provided. I was frustrated by the 256 color limitations of Fractint, and the inability to easily create smooth smooth coloring without borders at each iteration. In some cases this can add to the artistic impact, but in my opinion, not usually. In 1994-95 I wrote my own Windows fractal program which could use Fractint formula and parameter files, and it gave me the opportunity to experiment with a new coloring algorithm I developed called exponential smoothing. Exponential smoothing allows the artist to create images without iteration borders and to use a virtually unlimited number of colors. The Windows program was called Truemand and was available on my website for a number of years.

I purchased the shareware program UltraFractal in 2001. Ultrafractal provided a tremendous expansion of artistic possibilities, with flexible programming tools to create fractal formulas and fractal coloring formulas, Photoshop-like layers and even design fractal raytracing formulas. My old exponential smoothing coloring is now one of the standard coloring formulas that ship with UltrFractal. The most recent version of UltraFractal supports object oriented programming and the import of images, and currently meets most of my algorithmic artistic needs as far as tools. I have even been able to design some Photoshop-like filters such as Colored Pencil and Oil Paint.

Personal Art Manifesto

Art is what is perceived by the viewer to be art, and so it is a very personal concept. Some works appeal to a wide audience and so are touching upon something more universal, and yet still personal. For myself, art needs to provide a message. The message can be aesthetic (the general case), sublime, critical, calming, disturbing, comforting, warning, etc. Creating a mood is also sending a message. There must be enough complexity to keep drawing the viewer back to find something new or something seen differently, and enough simplicity so as not to overwhelm. Art does not have to be beautiful. “The Scream” by Munch is compelling and touches the personal, but is not what I would call beautiful. Art is not craft. Craft is interesting, art is personally touching. The gray fuzzy line between art and craft is also personal and changes with time. Most of the origins of art lie within craft, or so I believe.

The newest tool for the artist is the computer. Nature has long been a subject for art. In many respects nature is fundamentally fractal, and now with the computer and programs like UltraFractal, the artist can access these fundamental building blocks. This is a new medium for art. If Fractint is used as the real starting point, the fractal approach to art is only about 20 years old. I was fascinated with fractals before Fractint, having written programs in Turbo Pascal in the mid 80’s to generate Mandelbrot and IFS fractals. This fascination has grown into a long term desire to create fractal-based art that is personally satisfying, and hopefully appreciated by a wider audience.

As fractal artists we have a significant challenge in gaining acceptance with the mainstream art establishment. One of the main reasons for this problem, I believe. is the preponderance of “pretty pictures” created by the various software packages with little human intervention. We need to provide a convincing case that “real” fractal art is created using human insight and creativity, with the computer as a tool, that fractal ART is what humans do that cannot be done by the computer. Of course, ultimately, it needs to have that personal appeal.

For myself, I see art as the ideal medium to deal with messages about what mankind is doing to this world we live on, and to ourselves. If the world has strong fractal elements, fractal art should, at least in principle, be the ideal medium to render the message.

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