Three Articles on Fractal Art
By Pam Blackstone, Fractallicious.com
As a digital artist who specializes in fractal art, I was excited when Fred invited me to introduce this community to the design possibilities inherent in fractals. I always welcome the opportunity to share my passion for this sumptuous digital art form. We will be covering fractals in a three-part series of articles, in which we will explore:
the nature of fractals
the benefits fractal art offers the graphic designer
how to use a fractal effectively in your design layout
Part 1: What IS a Fractal Anyway, and Why Should I Care?
Fractal art presents infinite possibilities (literally) for graphic design, allowing designers to move away from the clip art vs. stock photo dilemma, to a third alternative — a resolution-independent medium that combines the subtlety of raster graphics with the crisp detail and scalability of vector drawings.
In fact, because they start life as vector art — to be ultimately rendered as bitmaps — fractals defy neat classification into either traditional category. Created with powerful software tools, fractal images probe the edges of infinity. The fractal artist uses mathematical formulas to plot a complex shape, then determine whether pixels fall inside or outside that shape. If they fall outside, they escape to infinity. That's where the artistry comes in, and the beauty of the end result lies in the application of color, pattern, and texture as pixels are calculated. View
Fractals are characterized by repetition and self-similarity at any level of magnification. Fractals occur in nature too. Think of a piece of broccoli or seaweed. Each floret or stalk is a tiny copy of the whole. Whether art imitates life or life imitates art, I can't say, but look at the example at left. You'll see that each motif repeats over and over on a smaller and smaller scale, in every element of the design, to infinity.
Where they come from
To give you an idea of how fractals start life, here is the famous Mandelbrot shape, with its infinite coastline, as plotted by the computer. When you zoom into this coastline in the software, you can zoom forever! What you see in this image is the raw output of the Mandelbrot formula — just one of thousands that fractal artists have available to them — before the artist has begun to apply his or her talents. From this point on, it is the vision of the fractalist that turns the raw awkward turtle shape you see here into an exquisite and unique work of art. Fractals were discovered by mathematician Benoit Mandelbrot, and this popular formula is named for him. Others are named for other scientists and mathematicians, and fractal artists also create their own as they become more skilled. View
The ability to create layers, tweak gradients, and apply and change formulas means, literally, an infinite number of possible outcomes, in the hands of a skilled fractalist. Like the seaweed image above, the fractal at left started life as a raw Mandelbrot shape. As you can see, the final result is very different indeed. Such overall repetition of design creates interesting and unusual possible backgrounds for a design piece, though you will probably find more utility in fractals output on a plain black or white ground. Fractal software can also be used to create mandalas, powerful archetypal symbols that are best employed as the central element of your design. View
Fractal images can range from the boldly vibrant to artwork of great subtlety and delicacy. This diversity means there's something for every visual aesthetic, color scheme, or communication goal. Have a look at the next example, at right. Created with a different software program than the two previous images, this fractal was rendered on a plain black background. It provides a calm, tranquil feel — and offers up completely different design possibilities. View
The totally versatile fractal
Because they are vector-based, fractals may be output at any size, with no loss of quality. Whether you just need a small image for a logo, or require the same fractal blown up large enough for tradeshow signage, a fractal artist can accommodate, with no image degradation. And at large output dimensions, especially, the results are truly astounding — fractal art is simply stunning in its beauty, complexity, and detail!
Watch for next month's article, which will explore the benefits that fractal art offers designers.
Pam Blackstone, www.fractallicious.com
Pam Blackstone & Fractallicious!
See: Fractallicious.com, the Internet's first royalty-free stock art site specializing EXCLUSIVELY in fractal art. Fractallicious has hundreds of unique images available for download, on a royalty-free, rights managed, and/or extended commercial licensing basis.
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Pam Blackstone is a fractal artist who sells her art in open and limited edition prints and greeting cards. She also sells online through stock photography sites, where her fractals have been sourced for projects ranging from book covers and business cards to web design templates and iPod skins. She has felt for some time that this distribution medium does not do the art form justice.
Contact Pam at Fractallicious