Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Time-and-motion studies

...Or I could get completely sucked into Apophysis (and also distracted by side projects in mold-making), and not post anything for weeks on end. Bah, phooey.

Apophysis really is nicer to use than the last time I tried it. I've been using the 2.08 3-D Hack version, and it's now to a point where I feel like I'm starting to have some control over the image, and can start thinking about things like composition and framing and color placement, instead of just blindly pushing triangles around, hoping something good will happen.

The nature of flame fractals is such that once you've made a good image, the obvious thing to do is make many small adjustments, to generate more good images. It often doesn't take much adjustment of a transform-triangle to change the image quite a lot. So you can quickly end up with a whole series of related things. Changing the color palette also has a surprisingly large effect, and pretty soon the whole evening has gone by and the hard drive has filled up with a ridiculous number of pictures.

This has got me thinking about the question of How long does art take? For some reason, this is one of the most frequent queries about a given work of art: "How long did that take?" The possible answers are as infinitely variable as fractals themselves.

  "About fifteen minutes."
  "About fifteen minutes, plus an hour of render time."
  "A week of preliminary sketches, plus fifteen minutes and an hour of render time."
  "A couple of years learning to use the program, a week of preliminary sketches, fifteen minutes, and an hour of render time."
  "A decade of studying fractal mathematics, a couple of years to learn the program, a week of sketches, fifteen minutes, and an hour of render time."

...And a partridge in a pear tree.

To which the response is often something like "What the hell? Fifteen minutes? And you think this thrown-together crap is worth something? You're an idiot. And a fraud."

And I don't know. Sometimes I feel like a fraud. But then I think about photography, in which the actual image-capturing part takes a fraction of a second. Or those beautiful Japanese paintings done in ink on silk, that happen so quickly and fluidly, and are breathtaking.

Flame fractals make really lovely elegant curves. I find many of them aesthetically pleasing. And I'm even starting to have enough control over what I'm doing that I think it counts as intentional. But somehow, it still seems too easy and quick. Is it art? I have absolutely no idea.

Ink in Water
by mrvelocipede on deviantART

Sunday, July 5, 2009

It's not that kind of contest

I've been frustrated lately with the internet, and with fractals. I keep wishing there was some good source for news or commentary or criticism about fractal art. Once in a while, the Orbit Trap guys have a review of somebody's pictures (they even mentioned my stuff once), but too often the result of their writing is that people are irritated and the whole business degenerates into pointless fights. I really don't know what their intentions may be, so I suppose it's possible that they are genuinely trying to be interesting and/or useful, but they don't seem to have had much success generating an atmosphere of friendly exchange.

And maybe it's just that there aren't any current events to be interested in. The last major contest was years ago. There's apparently a steady flow of new stuff onto Renderosity and DeviantArt and such, but the balance of stuff posted vs. comments on same is lousy.

There are some specific reasons that fractal art is difficult to talk sensibly about. It lends itself well to the category of things generally referred to (derisively, dismissively) as "decorative arts." The current fashion in art and architecture is to leave most decoration out entirely, but even in times when everything was heavily decorated, there wasn't a lot of critique for that aspect. "Say, Joe, those are some totally sweet acanthus leaves on the third column from the left." It also seems like the vast majority of fractal art looks quite similar, so it's tough to come up with any comment beyond "Nice colors on that spiral." I'm all in favor of nicely-colored spirals, but I find myself longing for something with more depth, more intention, more layers of meaning, maybe some entertaining allusions to classical motifs or mythological themes or popular culture.

I've been largely ignoring the fractal world for the last five years while I concentrated on school, and now that I'm back, and all ready to be interested and enthusiastic, I'm finding there isn't any there there. So I'm thinking about giving myself the assignment of writing a brief essay every so often, to talk about fractals and art and decoration and color theory and whatever else seems like it might be worth thinking about. I would love for there to be responses, if anyone else out there is interested as well. I would also love for it not to turn into the kind of nit-picking, side-taking, back-biting tedium that Orbit Trap so often generates.

For now, here's some more Apophysis.

Prizes Will Be Awarded