Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Hello (again) World

Don't know if anybody's still out there reading, but just in case...

This was a useful sketchbook in its time, and now I'm closing it and starting some new ones. Not thinking so much about Art (which still always makes me feel like I've crawled through a sewer pipe), or even just art (which is less overwhelmingly slimy).

Instead, I've been playing with toys. Got out the remaining pieces of my old Spirograph earlier this year, messed with them for a while, was given a much more deluxe Spirograph than I'd ever had as a kid, messed with that a whole bunch, and eventually decided it was time to learn how to get things laser-cut. So then I spent a couple of months designing my own version of a spirograph. I made the pieces bigger, and fixed some small problems with pen-hole-alignment that had always bugged me with the original. The process of laser fabrication opened up lots of really cool and exciting possibilities that I hadn't been expecting when I started out, so that's been fun.

It's still a work in progress, but the first three-fifths (of stage one) are available here: Velocipede's Cycloidal Scribbling-Engine.

Some pictures, Scribbling-Engine and otherwise, are available on Tumblr: mrvelocipede.tumblr.com. I've even been doing a few fractals again lately.

So that's where I am, if anyone's wondering. Thanks for visiting, everyone!

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Not known at this address

...Whereupon our correspondent disappeared from the internet without a trace, and was never seen or heard from again. Poof.

A large number of real-world complications have kept me away from posting, actually. And I'm increasingly dissatisfied with both fractals and art in general, which means that I'm not likely to come back to it anytime soon. At this stage of things, I can't really tell if I've given up in disgust, and am entirely done, or if it's just that I need a serious break after the relentless grind of school and the burst of activity that followed it. So I'm telling myself that this is a sabbatical. A sabbatical of indefinite duration.

And maybe eventually I'll start making pictures again.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Hilarious is my middle name

It's probably a little early in the season for this, but there keep being delays and problems with the project I've been working on, so as a short break I've added a bunch of Valentine fractals to the gallery. There were a few there already, but I've discovered that I had a surprising number from way back when. I think they were mostly made for an e-card site that a friend of mine ran for a couple of years. And then, in opening and rendering the parameter sets, of course I ended up messing with them and making a few more.

The standard Valentine heart is such an iconic shape that it's tricky to put into fractals. It doesn't take very much distortion before it turns into a liver or a spleen or something instead. And it's kind of inherently cheesy and mawkish, full of memories of grade-school Valentine parties with messily hand-glued paper doilies and those chalky, inedible conversation hearts. Or worse, the high-school version, where you might actually hope for chocolates-and-flowers romance, and of course that doesn't happen so you wear all black and spend the day being sullen and everyone makes fun of you. Ahh, nostalgia.

These days I find that I quite enjoy the campy exuberance of sticking fat red cartoony hearts into my pictures. I tell myself that it's out of character, but I think I'm probably mistaken.

This one didn't make it onto the main gallery, though, because it turned out to be a little too foil-wrapped and sticky. So it's going in the sketchbook instead.

Harlequin Valentine

Friday, January 1, 2010

A project for the new year

The Professor and I have been writing code for several days now, and have gotten most of a very rough version of my Exciting Fractal Project assembled. It's almost far enough along that it could be considered alpha-test, though beta is still some ways off.

Having gotten this far, I am now reaching the stage where I start to completely panic and second-guess myself. What if this is a completely stupid idea? I ask. What if no one wants to play with my internet toy? And the huge, glaringly obvious question of How do I prevent this from turning into a horrible snake pit bunch of tedious longwinded squabbling?

Because the whole point of this thing I'm building is that it should be pleasantly entertaining (or indeed quite silly), and should provide a small, steady dose of interesting pictures and a small amount of feedback on same. I don't want to build it and then have it turn into either a sad ghost town or a battlefield. Neither of those is the kind of fun I'm interested in, so I'm struggling with questions of how much participation is enough for people to be interested, and how much is too much, and allows loud shouty people to just take over. I worry that what I'm planning is the equivalent of going down to the bus stop and inviting all the hobos (and that dude who appears to smoke crack every day at lunchtime) to come visit me for tea.

But at least I'm working on it! Progress is being made. This is me reminding myself to dive in, and worry about hypothetical stinging jellyfish later.


Thursday, December 31, 2009

Running out of oughts

We've made it to the end of another year; time to fill the air with showers of confetti and sparks. The blue moon is already up there, quietly taking care of itself.

Blue New

It's amazing to think that's it's going to be 2010 tomorrow. When I was a kid, the idea of a year with a 2 at the beginning of it seemed impossibly far away, some kind of fantastic science-fictional future. Now that we've had ten of them, the future has become the present, and an awful lot of it is disappointingly ordinary. But then I have to remind myself that I can type things that appear on a magical glowing screen, and push a button, and then people on the other side of the world can see them more or less instantly. And if I want to, I can carry around a thing smaller than my hand, that lets me access the world's largest and most random reference library. That's pretty awesome.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Turn the crank

This is a small offshoot of a project I'm working on: a distraction which turned out to be quite nice on its own.

untitled [mecha-noir]

Friday, December 25, 2009

Silent night

It's been a beautiful clear day, not really cold enough to be icy, but with that perfect winter clarity of light. I love how quiet and deserted the city is on holidays: empty streets, empty parking lots, strange but restful stillness in every direction.

untitled [winterurban]

Merry Christmas to the internet, and to the internet a good night.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Happily, the snow is on the other coast

Oof, I seem to have abandoned fractals lately in favor of typesetting, furniture-moving, and hibernation. This is always my least-productive time of year. I'll be awfully happy once we get past the solstice and the light starts to increase again.

Here is a picture made during some weather that seemed especially dark and inexorable.

Event Horizon

Friday, December 11, 2009


Finally, with some help from my able assistant (who knows how to talk to the terminal window) I've gotten the process working, and put a large zoomable fractal online. If this one seems to work out all right, and doesn't give my web host trouble, I'll do some more.

Rusting Dragon

This was one of my contest entries. I like the metallic texture that becomes visible when the picture is magnified, and I also like the sort of hunched, brooding quality of the thing. It reminds me both of the shipping cranes down in the industrial end of town, and of my cat, when she's tensely coiled and watching pigeons. Motionless, but with the sense that it might do something if you turned your back and didn't watch it too closely. Or that it's only standing still because it's been there for an enormously long time, in all sorts of weather, and all its gears and pulleys have corroded and fused themselves into immobility.

Here we are again

Home again, to all my favorite domestic conveniences. Here is a picture in honor of our beloved Coffee Engine (although strictly speaking, it refers equally well to tea, chocolate, or even cola).

Dark Stimulant

I'm completely torn between Pittsburgh and Seattle lately. Pittsburgh is where I grew up; it has wonderful decaying-industrial architecture, rents seem ridiculously low, and many of my favorite people live there. Seattle, on the other hand, has a huge amount of delicious local food, a lovely temperate climate (only it's cold lately!), and plants that don't make me sneeze & itch for ten months out of the year. Now that I'm done with school, it's my big chance to decide where I want to end up establishing myself, and I can't decide where I want to be. Somewhere else entirely, perhaps.

Friday, December 4, 2009


All is madness and chaos. I'm slinging a couple of quick pictures onto the internet before I leave town. Man, I mostly can't stand holidays in their usual overwhelming & commercial form, but that doesn't stop me making pictures of them.

Evergreen Holiday
Aluminum Holiday

Fortunately, this upcoming trip isn't actually for the holiday. So I'll be able to get home and go back into hiding before the full onslaught hits.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Great works of art and the miserable books about them

Oh man, this horrible book. I keep wishing I could somehow just sum it up in a couple of pithy, brief paragraphs, but so far it hasn't worked. And the more energy I spend thinking about it, the less I bother to make pictures, so that it threatens to cut off my productivity altogether. (Although it has also gotten me away from the computer for a bit, so maybe that's not so bad.)

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

No bulbs, just flat

Wow, I've finally finished reading Great Works of Art and What Makes Them Great. By the end it was more like skimming than reading, and even more like picking through a sticky heap of chicken entrails in hopes of reading someone's fortune. An unpleasant bunch of prose, especially when taken in large continuous doses. I definitely have one more installment to write about the book, but I'm taking a break from it for now.

There seems to be all sorts of excitement lately about the Mandelbulb formula. Lots of interesting pictures to look at. I tried one of the formulas myself, but my computer is way too old and slow for me to do any reasonable exploring. The eighth-power bulb pictures did make me curious about what an eighth-power regular old-fashioned Mandelbrot would be like, and since I've never done much messing with higher-power Mandelbrots I thought I'd have a look.

They're less immediately satisfying to zoom into the the standard power-two image. They're so dense with little seven-lobed minibrots that there's practically no room for them to develop the intricate patterns that you usually see. But by zooming fairly deeply, some interesting forms do appear.

untitled [mandel^8]

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Anarchy reigns in the world of art today*

After four semesters of art history classes, one of the biggest questions I had was "Wait a minute, what exactly was such a big deal about Modernism anyway?" We had looked at a fair number of the better-known Impressionist paintings, and proceeded from there through Matisse and Mondrian and Picasso and the usual famous names, and it all seemed like just a bunch of familiar, slightly dull stuff. More dates to memorize. The teacher was telling us that it was really earth-shaking and revolutionary, but since I'd been seeing these paintings reproduced on a million coffee mugs and tote bags and umbrellas my whole life, that didn't make any sense to me at all.

(Good heavens, the ludicrous verbosity of the book I've been reading seems to have rubbed off a bit. Let me see if I can put this behind a cut.)

Tuesday, November 10, 2009


I've finally had a chance to take a better look at the contest, and I find that I'm left feeling a little bit let down or disappointed. Not with any individual image, necessarily (although as several people have pointed out, a couple of them aren't even really fractal), but that this year's selections seem to be heavily weighted toward texture-fields and minimalism.

"So, which one was your favorite?"

"Oh, I liked that one that was textured all over, mostly orange and white, with just a little blue."

"Yeah, that was my favorite too. We'd better make sure it gets printed."

The thing is, out of twenty-five winners, do there really need to be three that fit this description?

With the more minimal ones, I mostly just wonder what advantage there is in printing them very large, since there's not particularly any new detail to be revealed. Graphically, they will no doubt be quite effective, but they seem to ignore the specific potential of fractals to be full of interesting surprises when magnified.

It's all gotten me started thinking about the strengths and weaknesses of fractals as a medium, and why I like them, which seems to be maybe different than why other people like them, and what the implications are for my own future work and the fractal-art world in general. It's too much for me to process! And it's all mixed up with a book I'm reading lately, written in the early 1920s and intended to explain why Modernism was (a) degenerate & evil and (b) doomed to be quickly forgotten. There seem to be some possible historical parallels, but I suspect it's going to take me some time to sort them out.

Still, it does reinforce my idea that it would be really good if there were more fractal events than just this occasional big contest. I'm beginning to wonder if I might be able to organize some kind of small-scale thing. It's an intimidating thought.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Less grit, more dissolve

One more, the same flavor.

untitled [glowing phoenix]

And the contest results have been posted, so there's a big pile of new pictures to look at. Hooray!

I really do wish there were more fractal events. Not huge major contests, necessarily, but some kind of regular checking-in kind of thing. I'm not sure what format I would want it to have; the main thing is that I like when there are a whole bunch of new pictures to look at all at once, and I would be glad if it happened more often. Every so often I go look at the fractal section at DeviantArt, but it's not sorted out very well, and I get tired of wading through all the anime sketches on scanned notebook paper. And I hate the site's graphic design, so I don't go there very often in any case.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Hard gritty rainbows

I think a large part of the fascination with these grainy inside fractals is how difficult I find them. The Mandelbrot set, by now, is quite familiar: I've explored it very thoroughly, and learned a lot about how its patterns fit into each other. I know it well enough that I can fairly reliably navigate to any kind of pattern I decide to look for. With coloring methods, too, many of them have become familiar enough to be very precisely controlled, which is what allows me to make those literal, illustrative images that I still can't decide whether I like or not.

But these Nova insides are unknown territory, strange and foggy, and (at least so far) nearly impossible to get a grip on. Patterns stack up on top of each other, sliding in and out of focus as the maxiter changes. It's clear that they're following some kind of deeply-structured logic, but so far I haven't been able to understand it well enough to predict what it might do in any given spot.

So working with them is hard. And it turns out that I've been somehow craving something hard, something frustrating, something impossible to understand quickly. Maybe it's because I'm free of school. School was horrible in a whole bunch of ways, but it did at least give me a fair amount of hard stuff to bash at.

I have conversations with the Professor sometimes, usually around exam time, when his students are complaining bitterly that things are too hard. And I sympathize, except that when I'm only doing easy things, it's as though I can feel my brain cells shriveling up. Doing something hard helps keep me in shape, so that I don't turn into a sad dull boring person, full of complaints about how hard everything is.

With these two images, I'm trying to see if some of my comfortable, familiar techniques (like the three-layer spectra) can be used on any of these infuriating sandy fractals.

Dragon & Phoenix Soup

Chain Reaction