Friday, August 29, 2008

Quartz is the most common mineral in the crust

I just got home from a brief vacation in Montana, where I got to do a bit of hiking and admire the spectacular scenery and also dig in the ground in search of quartz crystals. I love the geometry of crystals, and I especially like the ones that are interestingly distorted or flawed.

There's always a sort of jarring transition when I've been out looking at natural phenomena for a while, and then look at fractals, and the fractals all of a sudden seem much too simple and perfect, and I despair of ever making anything that looks half as cool as the stuff that's outside. Over the years, I've tried to make fractal clouds, and fractal spectra, and fractal plants, and none of them is ever as good as the real kind. But they are, I suppose, interesting in their own way, and so I persist.

One of the kinds of crystals that can happen is called a scepter. (Some more nice scepter pictures here.) I only found one small example of this shape while I was digging, and sadly it was full of internal fractures, so much so that it started to break apart while I attempted to brush sand off it. But the name made me think of a silly pun, so I came home and made a picture to go with it. So, from the mountains of Montana, and the Scepter Valley of the Mandelbrot set:

Amethyst Scepter

Tuesday, August 19, 2008


Hooray, I've got my gallery pages into enough shape that I think they'll do for a bit. I'm hoping to get some more stuff added before I go back to school, but at least there's something there now.

This morning I was thinking about how to make pictures that looked like they'd been Photoshop-filtered, but could be rendered at high resolution, for printing. I did some experiments, and was going to post about them here, but it turned into quite a long-winded thing with a lot of pictures, so I made a separate page for it. So now the world can read all about my filter forgery.

I started with this fractal:

A New Era

And mangled it half a dozen different ways. Are any of them any better than the original? I have no idea; I've been staring at them all for way too long, and have lost all sense of aesthetic judgment. I do think it's kind of entertaining that typing up my notes on the process seems to have taken at least twice as long as it took to make the experiments in the first place.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Return to an unfamiliar place

I started my Oz series in the unhappy July of 2004, and finished (theoretically) the final image just about a year later. There were seven illustrations, to which I attached quotes from the book, although the slippers were ruby, referencing the movie. I did two major versions of the Emerald City, and was never happy with either of them: the first was too fluid, and looked more like a pile of seaweed draped over a rock than like buildings. The second was in some ways an improvement, but went too far in the other direction, and looked too right-angled and geometric.

Today, I was supposed to be working on something else entirely, and realized that the shapes I was looking at were much more the right kind of thing. So I tried making them green. I don't know if this will be the final version, but I like it better than the first two.

Emerald City (2008)

Architecture by Antoni Gaudi, clouds by Maxfield Parrish, formulas by all the lovely authors of .ufm and .ucl files. Whatever remains (after all those bits are subtracted out) is entirely my fault.

I'm getting close to being finished with the re-design of my actual gallery pages, so maybe I'll put up the Oz series again. It's hard to decide what goes into the real collection; I've gotten used to just sticking things on this blog, without much regard to technical merit or thematic consistency.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

It would have worked with a glass spring

I've just been re-reading Terry Pratchett's Thief of Time, so I suppose it was inevitable that I would make a picture based on this passage:

The glass clock ticked. It stood in the middle of the workshop's wooden floor, giving off a silvery light. . . Within the transparent case red and blue lights twinkled like stars. The air smelled of acid.

Now his point of view dived into the thing, the crystalline thing, plunging down through the layers of glass and quartz. They rose past him, their smoothness becoming walls hundreds of miles high, and still he fell between slabs that were becoming rough, grainy. . .

. . .full of holes. The blue and red lights were here too, pouring past him.

The Glass Clock of Bad Schüschein

This has, among other things, four layers of gears, three layers making up the bright spectrum lines (which mostly look white at small sizes), and two layers for the red and blue lights. The red and blue dots are arranged in hypocycloid and epicycloid patterns, respectively, each with three hundred and sixty dots making twelve loops. Just to be even more obsessively mathematical about it than I already am. (Possibly it should have been 365 dots, to make a year. I could try that, and re-render it. It would mean the spirograph patterns would lose their symmetry, but that might in fact be an advantage.)

There's a lot of messy detail in this one; it's arguably too busy. It looks lousy in this small version, okay at screen-size, and would probably be pretty good printed.