Long ago, on a quiet day In 1920, Swiss-born painter, printmaker, and draughtsman Paul Klee fired up his new-fangled self-filling fountain pen and famously tweeted
“Kunst gibt nicht das Sichtbare wieder, sondern macht sichtbar” (“Art does not reproduce the visible; rather, it makes visible.”)
Later, in 1938, British philosopher R.G. Collingwood noted in his blog that
“The making of a work of art…is a strange and risky business in which the maker never knows quite what he is making until he makes it.”
These two quotes beautifully summarize the blindly fluid journey one experiences when creating fractal images and animations.
Hmmmmm. “… fractal …” (frāk’təl) …
Yes, I know, it’s not a very warm or inviting word, is it? Never has been, and never will be. More often than not, the word can’t even be uttered in casual conversation without necessitating some brief and awkwardly over-simplified discourse on self-similar shapes, repeating patterns, infinite surfaces, and (whoa, dude) Really-Cool-Psychedelic-Colors.
I also feel that there’s a harsh mental darkness that sticks to the very word itself. The abrupt voiceless velar plosive in the initial “frac” elicits Very-Bad-Feelings of something vaguely hard, brittle, and unlikeable, while that surreptitious suffix “tal” throws everything into the terrifying land of Very-Difficult-Words-To-Deal-With (i.e., dialectal, distal, transcendental, digital, rectal, marital [insert smiley face here], etc.)
When voiced aloud, the word confuses, alienates, and actively shoves the listener outside of their comfort zone, making it a challenge, rather than an invitation, to appreciate the hidden beauty described by the word itself. I imagine that fractals as an art-form might be significantly more popular today if they had been formally named something softer and cuter:
“Hey, wanna see the latest bunnybelly I rendered?”
“Oh, its sooooooo pretty! I love the colors! Are you going to animate it?”
But, while we may wish that other choices had been made, “fractals” is the word that we’re stuck with to label this uniquely modern art-form.
Whereas traditional art rose from organic inspirations that visualized you, me, our animal friends and the world we live in, fractal art did not. By its nature, fractal art is inorganic, transcribing the mathematical metadata that hides within the aether of our reality into a humanly visible experience one pixel at a time.
While a painter, a sculptor, a designer, or even a craftsman might have a clear vision of that which they hope to create, a fractal artist is forever exploring, capturing, and coloring new, undiscovered objects and terrains. For me, this is a critical distinction, as it explains the “why” of what I do. The creative satisfaction of fractal artistry lies not in the construction of the vision, but rather in the discovery of the Never-Seen, Never-Known, yet Was-Always-There. We fractal artists do not “reproduce the visible;” rather, we make it visible. We are day-tripping, button-pushing risk-takers who ride the rapid CPU, navigating down alternating formulas until discovering the strangest, coolest, freakiest manifestation of shapes and colors yet to be viewed by human eyes. We’re never completely certain of where we’re going, but we certainly think we know it when we see it.
Wanna see my latest bunnybelly?