Carter Hodgkin

Carter Hodgkin
From a comment on my previous post about Fractal Images (thanks, Cedra), I learned of Carter Hodgkin, an artist working on one of those wonderfully fuzzy borders between art and science.

Hodgkin’s paintings, drawings and prints are inspired by the tracings of “exotic” particles, strange bits of matter born in the miniature cataclysms created in the bubble chambers (or “cloud chambers”, I love that phrase) in the heart of the great atom smashers like the Tevatron at Fermilab or the Large Hadron Collider.

These particles, the examination of which is one of the gateways to our understanding of the fundamental nature of space/time, exist for only the briefest blips of time, increments so small they defy understanding.

The tracks that trace their fleeting expression in this world are the paths they take out of the collision, usually in graceful spirals and curves with their own strange beauty (you can see a couple of actual images here and here).

Taking these spirals, curves and lines as a starting point, Hodgkin creates images that are partly digital, then inkjet printed at a fairly large scale and painted into with oil enamel or watercolor.

The resultant images carry some of the mathematical geometry of the original cloud chamber inspiration, imbued with the artist’s range of color and value choices, and are somewhere in between representational and non-representational, as well as in between art an science, and in between nature and imagination.


60 Fractal Images

60 Fractal Images
I just love fractal generated images. These computer based images, crafted out of mathematical formulae, carry with them some of the visual characteristics of both natural forms and of abstract mathematical beauty. At their best, they resonate with a brain-tingling hint of infinity.

Dainis Graveris has collected 60 prime examples, in this case all generated using a freeeware flame fractal program called Apophysis (Windows only, unfortunately), and posted them on the 1stWebdesigner blog. The article is listed as “Part 1”, with the rest presumably to follow soon.

Many of the images are linked to larger versions, frequently on deviantART, that show some of their intricately recursive worlds-within-worlds details (see the detail of the last image, above).

Credits, in this case, are often just screen names. (Images above, Gibson125, babymilk and parablev.)

For more on fractal images, see my previous posts listed below, particularly my article on Benoit Mandelbrot.

Update Part 2 has been posted and is a list of links to 33 Apophysis tutorials.


Genetic Programming: Evolution of Mona Lisa

Genetic Programming: Evolution of Mona Lisa
Trial and error.

What artist has not at some point resorted to “I’ll just try this and see if it looks better.“?

You might say that, in light of Darwin’s model of natural selection, nature itself does the same: make a genetic mutation or two, or a billion, and see what works.

Swedish programmer Roger Alsing has created a playful experiment in “genetic programming” applied to image making, in which he wrote a small program for rendering 50 translucent polygons into an image area.

He set it to mutate slightly with each iteration, so that each pass of the program produces a different distribution of the polygons (the “genetic mutation”).

The fact that the polygons are translucent allows for many smaller subtle shapes within the composition, produced by overlapping areas of color, like laying an area of yellow glaze over both blue and green shapes in an oil painting.

At the end of each rendering sequence, the program uses a “fitness function”, basically a small routine to compare the resultant image pixel by pixel with a target image, in this case an image of the Mona Lisa.

Based on the “fitness” of the image, the program keeps either the new “dna” or the existing “dna”, whichever is more like the target, as the basis of the next mutation and iteration.

Trial and error. Survival of the fittest.

There is a selection of images on Alsing’s blog showing various renders, from which I’ve pulled a few representative samples, above. (For those who are programmatically inclined, there is also a faq with some of the basics.)

Under each of the sample images is a filename that shows the number of times the program had to run to reach that particular image.

The one at bottom-right shows 904,314 incidences of “I’ll just try this and see if it looks better“.

[Via Kottke]


Analog Photoshop Interface

Analog Photoshop Interface
As a long time Photoshop user, I just love this version of the Photoshop interface as represented by real-world objects.

It’s a poster for, the creative credits are: creative director : Hendra Lesmono, art director : Andreas Junus & Irawandhani Kamarga, copywriter : Darrick Subrata and photgrapher : Anton Ismael.

The mock up is actually quite large, as you can see in the accompanying Flickr set that shows how they assembled it. Be sure to view the full size image to get the real effect.

I love the little details like the fact that the grabber hand glove is smudged.

[Via BoingBoing]


More Fractals on COLORlovers

Fractal images on COLORlovers (Apophysis)
The COLORlovers blog, which I mentioned in this post and in my post on the History of the Color Wheel, has posted an article with a nice collection of Fractal Art.

I find these kinds of images, created by manipulating the paramaters by which certain mathematical functions are interpreted, to be endlessly fascinating; both for their intricate beauty, and for the intriguing relationship they have to natural forms, organic and inorganic.

Most of the images in the article are linked to originals on Flickr, where you can view large, high-resolution versions; and get an appreciation for the delicate latticeworks of color and form, and the descend-into-infinity nature of their recursive relationships .

Many of the Flickr sets are part of photo streams that are associated with the Club Apophysis group pool, named for the open source fractal flame Windows software, Apophysis.

The COLOURlovers article also includes some nice examples of fractal patterns found in nature, with images of plant forms, seashells, river basins and coastlines, and goes on to mention and show some of the winners from the Benoit Mandlebrot Fractal Art Contest 2007, named for the mathematician who coined term and created the original mathematical expressions on which images like these are based.

See my previous articles on Benoit Mandlebrot, the Benoit Mandlebrot Fractal Art Contest 2007 and Flame Fractals.

(Above: fractal images by longan drink, exper and Lynn)


Chris Jordan

Chris Jordan
In the course of writing about science fiction, fantasy and horror illustration and concept and production art for movies and games, I’ve come across lots of wonderfully scary Monsters and icky creatures, but rarely do I encounter images that are truly scary.

I find Chris Jordan’s images genuinely frightening.

The image above, an interpretation of Seurat’s pointillist masterpiece, A sunday Afternoon at the Island of Le Grande Jatte, was created by Jordan using digital compositing, and depicts the image as composed of 106,000 aluminum cans, the number used in the U.S. every thirty seconds.

In his series Running the Numbers: An American Self-portrait, Jordan has set out to convey with photographic manipulations and a few succinct statistics the magnitude of our consumerist society, an out-of-control rampaging monster that would send Godzilla, King Kong and the Cloverfield monster whimpering for cover.

As Jordan points out in interviews, the human mind isn’t wired to grasp numbers beyond a certain scale, so he has constructed images using the cast-offs from our consumer madness to create beautifully scary images that, once you understand the reference point of their scale, are shockingly visceral.

His images themselves have some scale when viewed in a gallery setting, displayed as large photographic prints about 5 ft (1.5m) high, large enough to see the whole from a few steps away and the individual elements close up.

Jordan started out as a straightforward photographer, searching for “accidental color” in places like container import shipyards and garbage heaps, but his images of colors found in large scale trash heaps started to elicit responses from people that made him realize the power they had to convey a bit of the enormous scale of what we discard. He eventually began searching for a way to communicate that more effectively and turned to digital compositing in Photoshop.

Jordan explains this more eloquently in this video from the Greener Gadgets Conference and a more extensive one from Bill Moyers Journal.

In the videos you can see some of his photographic prints on display in galleries and get a feeling for their size. He also places silhouettes against some of the images on his site for the same purpose.

Most of Jordan’s images are not versions of famous artworks like the one above, I just naturally gravitated to that one, but many form a recognizable image; like a forest of tree trunks composed of 1.14 million shopping bags, the number used in the U.S. every hour, a skull formed from 200,000 cigarette packs, and a series of tubes made of one million plastic cups.

He has broadened his scope to encompass other social issues, like a wall of large childrens’ alphabet building blocks, composed of nine million smaller photographs of childrens’ building blocks to represent the number of children in the U.S. without health insurance in 2007, and, in a recent addition, the top of the first page of the U.S. Constitution, composited from 83,000 photographs of the mistreatment of prisoners at Abu Ghraib.

Some of the earlier works in the series are more direct, like a field of 60,000 plastic bags, the number used in the U.S. every five seconds and a wall of 3.6 million tire valve caps, one for each new SUV sold in the U.S. in 2004, and many others in the Intolerable Beauty series. (His site is unfortunately in frames, so I have to pop you out of the site context to link to the individual series.)

The numbers are vaguely scary, but seeing the numbers in a way you can immediately grasp is much much scarier, and displays some of the power inherent in the skillful use of images to communicate ideas.

[Link and suggestion courtesy of Eric Smith]

Note: Some of the images linked to here, though they should be seen by every American adult, should be considered Not Safe For Work; particularly those from Abu Ghraib, which are unacceptable in the truest sense of the word.