Posted in Art

Button Pushing?

Is fractal art ‘button-pushing’? Is photography, come to that? What is art — does it only count when you have developed some skill… whether in pushing the right buttons or in some other way?

I found a button-pushing discussion on deviantArt just now!

A couple of years ago I wrote a post called How Do We Define Art? but maybe someone has fresh insight on all these weighty questions… :mrgreen:

Posted in Computer Graphics, Music I Like, My Cats, TV and Films


When my blog was hosted by Blogigo, there was a section at the top of post where I could specify what kind of mood I was in, and what I was listening to. Remember…

Mood: Sad
Listening to: Ghostly song in my head – Dream a Lie by UB40 mixed with Butterfly by Danyel Gerard.

If I could do that here, I would be saying… well, what I did say.


I made this Apophysis picture tonight while watching Forrest Gump. I thought I would be getting tired of the film by now, but I every time I see it I like it more. I love the way it constantly circles round on itself… like Dorothy Harris the school bus driver, meeting the young Forrest Gump for the first time.

He got lots of fishing boats, all called Jenny (‘the most beautiful name in the world’), but I wondered why one or two weren’t called Momma. I would like to think they were.

‘Momma said dying is a part of life.’

You watch that, and feel like a shrimp in a net, pulled away from all that is warm and friendly and normal. The sky is white, with the spreading trees a stark black silhouette. Under the canopy of green summer leaves lies the cold dark soil. It feels more real than anything – life starts there, and ends there. Like Forrest, you wish it were not so, but it is.

It’s one of those films that make you laugh and cry; Gump cushions you from it in a protective way that’s all his own, but you sense the loss and fear beyond… and the way life cycles on and on, starting and finishing in little loops and random encounters, and in the end you’re back with that feather, drifting away on the breeze.

My little red cat Delilah is a bit of a cushioning Gump too, I reckon. I was away in a world of my own, and she came and sat beside me, washing her coat. Then she leaned forward and craned her neck round to look into my face… her green eyes wide… and it was a stare that seemed to say “Hello? Is there anybody in there?”

Butterfly… my butterfly… stay a little while with me.

Posted in Agoraphobia, Blogging, Books

Bide a Wee

Och, scurrying past my window? Jist bide a wee… copying these older posts across is a chore and I need a break.

Tapping into the Past: “Playing these songs now makes me feel as though I’m tapping into myself as I used to be…”

The Missing Notepad: “We had our conversations in it; our shopping lists, house-letting plan of action, room measurements, blog notes, and anything else we needed to jot down in a hurry. I didn’t notice the moment it slipped from view – just one day I reached into my wheelie bag and wasn’t there.”

I Talk to the Trees: Letting out my house… “Funny how my home still lays claim to me. I go inside and the door shuts. Peace steals over me like treacle.”

The Light and Shade of Computerspace: In other words… FRACTALS! “Mum appeared in the doorway looking disgruntled, and said ‘I thought you’d died.’

The Relentless March of Time: death of a fractal artist.

They Don’t Make ‘Em the Way they Used to
: there are no blue carpets, green carpets, red carpets, pink carpets, orange carpets, purple carpets…

About a Scottish Poet
: George Mackay Brown, and understanding people.

Posted in Art, Computer Graphics, Technology and Software


I’ve been spending more time than I meant to in Apophysis. Downloaded Apophysis-J for the Mac. It doesn’t do everything I would like it to do, but it’s still being developed. It renders a lot quicker than the Apophysis on my old PC.

I gave the Mac something last night which would have tied up the PC for a week, turned my back for 5 minutes, then returned to find it saying it would be finished in 15 minutes. I was almost dismayed… If it does it that fast, it’s hardly worth leaving it to render overnight as people advise. It’ll be done before I’ve finished kicking off my slippers.

Problem is, it doesn’t do transparent PNGs, which I prefer. It’s supposed to be able to, as the setting is there, but maybe it won’t unless I export the flame. Unfortunately I can’t find any clear information on how to set up a flam3 renderer on the Mac.

The information on setting up the Apo-J is a little unclear; it took me a while to figure out how to install the extra plugins! It’s easy with the normal Apophysis because you just put the plugins in a folder in the right location for Apophysis to find them, but Apophysis-J is a different kettle of fish. You have to learn its language and issue your commands in a confident manner before it will do your bidding… or perhaps get the help of a nice bottled genie from somewhere.

Just in case you found this post because you were trying to do the same thing, the following is what worked for me:

1) Run Apo-J
2) Close Apo-J but not the terminal window
3) Into the terminal, type:

cd . apophysis-j/plugins/apophysis
open .

Don’t miss out the single space before each dot. (I hit return after the first line and it waited for me, which was encouraging… up till then it had just been saying “file or folder not found”).
This should open the window you’re looking for (it was called apophysis); put those extra plugins of yours inside.

The mistake I was making to start with was that I didn’t realize there was also a space between the cd and the dot. Once I cottoned onto that, the right folder opened and I poured those plugins in. Next time I ran Apo-J, I looked in Options, Variations tab, and the number of variations had increased from 40 to 81. Success. 🙂

Despite the difficulties, it’s fun and I’m enjoying it; the more I learn about it, the more there is to learn… but a challenge is always good, giving us a world of colour and infinite possibilities…

Credit: I based the tiled fractal on this tutorial.
NB: It wasn’t working in Apophysis-J: the image disappeared from the window and other strange things began happening… so I started again in Apophysis 2.08 beta.

Posted in Computer Graphics, Dreams and Nightmares, Lost in Thought, Technology and Software, TV and Films

In the Mood for Art (but not difficulties of terminology)

The arty sites have a plethora of contests, just for fun, and I’ve been finding them a source of inspiration. I’ve only entered one so far, but got an honourable mention. I’ve been working with others in view, and it’s had the effect of making me even more prolific but not actually posting anything… just in case I post something I could have put in one of these small contests. Most of them say “only new images please.”

I’m usually reasonably pleased with the pictures I turn out, but something unsettling has occurred. The last four pictures I made… I didn’t just like them; I loved them. I was using techniques I avoided before (drawing and painting) and didn’t set out meaning to; it just happened. Even stranger, I only wanted to make one of them, and that was in the nature of a quickie (to try out a Photoshop tutorial).

A short aside: I have a bit of a mental block when it comes to talking about this particular hobby. I don’t like saying ‘my art’ or ‘my artwork’ as it sounds so pompous, and usually alternate between ‘my pictures’ and ‘my images’… but that gets old quite fast. Another mental block I have is when it comes to digital stuff, I can never say “I painted” or “I drew,” as I see those being for traditional media only (real pencils, paints, paper). I know that ‘painting’ and ‘drawing’ are accepted terms in digital media too… isn’t drawing with a mouse or a tablet pen just as much a physical process as drawing with a pencil? And it’s not even as precise, half the time. Still, I avoid it, as I know if I said “I painted a picture today,” most people would assume I’d had the watercolours out.

That leaves me with the problem of how to describe the process… “I made something, created something, did something?” Icky. Overtones of school and Blue Peter.

About the four pictures I made that I liked more than I expected to… I was fairly sure none of them would work, and if they did, it would take some hard slogging to make anything of them; wouldn’t it be easier to make a vector picture with gradients and layer styles? I was in two minds about trying these projects at all. Even worse, I disliked the raw material I started out with… two ugly fractals, an artificial vector flower (made by myself in Paintshop Pro), an untidy Photoshop brush (still be to superceded… deliberately spelling that with a ‘c’…) and a shaky drawing with the small El Cheapo tablet dating from the Year 2000 which I recently dug out from a plastic bag. (It doesn’t go with Mac System X, so I had to put it on the PC… and even then the installation was a bit iffy).

The tablet is supposed to make drawing easier, but my first effort was messy and not worth a second look. I thought “never mind, I’ll send it across to the Mac so the little white Mac-mouse can clean it up.” That’s not what the tablet is for… but the shaky drawing is now in one of my Golden Four pictures.

The thing is, you often hear people say (usually of photos) that if it was bad to start with, you can’t make it good. I disagree. You could take the worst photo in the world and turn it into a thing of beauty, though it probably wouldn’t be a photo any more.

To start with, it’s all I can do to keep on with these tough projects, but as time goes by and I see signs that something good is emerging, a sense of wonder creeps in… and you couldn’t drag me away.

This might not seem to be connected, but we were watching Stargate after missing the beginning. It was about an alien city in a dome; the citizens were linked to a main computer and were being brainwashed. People were being killed to keep the population small and manageable, and the survivors’ memories were altered so that they wouldn’t notice their fellows had vanished. I was convinced the Council (or some higher body) were the villains, but they were as much victims as anybody. At the end, I said to Mum, “who was doing it?”
“The computer,” said Mum, squinting strangely at me.
“I just thought… someone must have programmed it to do those things?”
“It was the computer. It got into their minds, like it’s got into yours, and makes them all unseeing and unheeding…”

So, the computer’s the villain. Such a weaver of fantastic worlds and things that don’t exist… even pictures that aren’t on paper. Though, the other day, someone I was talking to said it wasn’t till she had one of her fractals professionally printed and held it in her hands that she realized it was real.

Sometimes I wonder what will happen when I die… will all these pictures, including the Golden Four, be zapped? My diaries burned, disks shredded, words lost? My whole life on computer, deleted.

Mum says she doesn’t care what happens after she dies. The whole planet could blow up; it wouldn’t make any difference to her. But it matters to me. Apart from caring what happens to cats, trees, and dolphins, I want to feel I’ve left some kind of mark. If the planet implodes, so do my pictures. Maybe I will be the only person (apart from Mum and the Computer) to have seen them.

It’s funny how the subconscious mind operates. The other night I dreamed a young student was procrastinating by churning out fractals and Apophysis scripts instead of studying for his exams. His study topics included fractals but he was wasting time on fractal art instead. He even wrote a little poem which he put on his site… and this is it, word for word, not a woolly half-memory of a fading dream:

If I don’t do fractals,
They will turn up, lovingly wrapped,
In my hand.

The breaks are in the wrong places but it has exactly 17 syllables… like a haiku. Yes, I suppose the computer has got into my mind.

Posted in Computer Graphics, Lost in Thought

Meandering Past

I keep writing blog posts and not posting them. I’m not even sure where they’ve got to.

I’ve discovered I can add simple elements (letters and symbols) into Apophysis to be rendered as beautiful fractal art… it’s just as well I can’t add photos and things, as I would be rendering fractals of the cats. There is now a version for Macs called Apophysis-J… I’ve not tried it yet as I’m trying to hold off. Partly for my sake, partly for the Mac’s.

A couple of nights ago I made 16 pictures. They weren’t straightforward renders or ‘snapshot fractals’ as I’ve seen them referred to; but they seemed so easy. It could be I’m feeling a little tired of it now… not forever, mind you. I always come back to this.

Last night I was amused because somebody wandered past one of my art pages and said “Really crazy work you have… out of the ordinary.” I imagine that was a compliment, as he added one to his favourites (not the other crazy stuff, mind you). I don’t think I do anything different; I’m trying all sorts of things and haven’t settled down to anything in particular. Today I’m doing fractals, tomorrow it could be airbrushing. It depends on the genres you’re used to viewing.

I came up with a picture a while ago using Photoshop brushes which Mum said were like hat pins. The person who made them requires permission if they’re used commercially, and someone sent her a photo of a pizza box with her ‘hat pins’ all over it. They hadn’t asked her first.

I feel in need of a megamug of very hot strong mocha to clear the fog I’m in. I hope I find what I’ve done with the other blog posts. Maybe they fell into Apophysis by mistake, and are spilling out as floods of spirals, curls, swirls and Julias.

Posted in Computer Graphics, Lost in Thought

The Relentless March of Time

I don’t know why, but my comma keeps eluding me today. I keep trying to include it in everything I type, and it just oozes away and says “not today, thanks, I have a headache.” GET IN THERE. “Alright, alright, take it easy, can’t you?”

Maybe I’m typing too fast, stabbing at the keys.

Earlier I said to Mum that younger people (myself included in long-ago days!) tend to take things too seriously – sort of “this is all such a big deal!”

Mum said wisely, “do you know what my granny used to say?”

I waited breathlessly, as this great grandmother is such a shadowy figure to me – I’ve seen a photo of her in a long winter coat and a dark hat, looking away as though to check the door was locked. That’s all I really know about her. What sort of things did she think?

“It will all be the same in a hundred years.”

I rocked on my feet, thinking “but that’s what I say! I had no idea it was my great-grandmother’s expression.” Maybe it was her expression because it was something her great-grandmother used to say? I heard my father say it more than once, though I don’t know where he got it from. At any rate, now I say it… and it’s true.

Moving on…

The other day I was looking through my wallpaper site and there was a message that one of the other fractalists had died. It wasn’t anybody I had spoken to, though I seem to remember getting a message from her in answer to one of mine, but maybe I’m getting her confused with someone else… How can I not know? These little things turn to mud in my mind after a matter of weeks, when in my teens or early twenties I would have been crystal clear on that point.

She had distinctive wallpapers; some were in my ‘favourites’ gallery. It took me by surprise how shocked I felt about it – and she was only a couple of years older than me.

When I read about it, the silence stretched and became heavy. I hurried to put my little hi-fi on, as I needed some life around the place. I’d intended to have fun making fractals… and there I was, surrounded by whispering shadows.

Later I went to her gallery to look through her wallpapers, and got a few more for my collection. There were lovely ones I’m surprised I missed on previous visits, and I chided myself for not paying more attention. Now, when those wallpapers show up on my monitor, it feels as though she’s not so far away.

Tonight I posted something I thought was quite good on the wallpaper site. One of my regular visitors said “that’s lovely!” and then it all fell quiet, so I felt rather flat. Then one of the other girl’s wallpapers showed up on my monitor. I thought, “she would have known what that felt like, too,” and felt comforted.

Comment for this entry (during its previous life on Blogigo):

1. kateblogs wrote at Oct 20, 2007 at 12:05: A couple of years ago a member of a community I visit sometimes also died very suddenly. I didn’t know her that well, but it was a shock. I remember feeling quite subdued for the rest of the evening, and, like you, needing music to lift the atmosphere. Even now, from time to time I come across some of her work – she was a talented digital artist – and I always pause and feel a little sad.

Posted in Art, Computer Graphics

The Light and Shade of Computerspace

Mood: Happy – just found a half-eaten Mars Bar on my desk
Listening to: ‘American Pie’ by Don McLean

After visiting Planet Zog on business, I seem to go through a severe backlash, disappearing off to Planet Diddums to play. It was so quiet up here that Mum appeared in the doorway looking disgruntled, and said “I thought you’d died.”

I was exploring fractals. I’ve already tried Tierazon, Fractality, Xaos, Chaoscope and Fractal Explorer with varying degrees of success. Now I’m sucked deep into the vortex of Apophysis v. 2.06. beta.

No wonder I feel giddy.

Giddy Apophysis
Giddy Apophysis

Fractal liberated and prettied up by Diddums
using a Paintshop Pro gradient applied in Apophysis
and two Photoshop gradients in the background.

The thing starts up with 100 random fractals (randomly generated, not randomly chosen from a library). I didn’t get the distinction at first; I thought they were samples of other people’s artwork, though some seemed pretty spartan… I assumed they were there to display what different effects and shapes could be achieved. When I discovered from some tutorials that they were untouched by human hand, I was both awestruck and horrified. I feel it’s my duty to go through each of those one hundred fractals to make sure I don’t lose a beauty from the world. It also causes me to think, uneasily, that every minute not spent checking lists of random fractals is a minute wasted.

On the other hand, every one I save is a bonus – if I had never tried Apophysis, all those fractals squirrelled away into my hard drive might never have appeared to mortal eye. Is this why I was born??

Then I spent ages collecting, creating and organizing gradients. A long while ago I was delighted to discover that Paintshop Pro gradients could be used in Photoshop Elements, some of them based on favourite gradients I created in ClarisWorks, way, way back in the mists of time. I probably used the eyedropper tool to save those ancient shades – it’s the best invention since sliced bread.

Now I find I can use all those gradients in Apophysis, though through a rather laborious process. In fact I can use photos and pictures to generate brand new gradients in Apop. This sounded such fun I trotted off and opened up lots of my pictures for Apop to chew over. My bears, fractals, books, even a screenshot of my blog… everything was grist for its mill.

This went on for a number of days, and then I made a discovery that stopped me in my tracks. ALL those gradients were automatically saved into a file called smooth.ugr – not just the ones I saved myself into a file of my own. So now I had one file full of hundreds of gradients, both wanted and unwanted, and another file containing many duplicates.

Most of you would think “fine, I’ve got the gradients I want” and delete one file or the other, but my brain doesn’t work like that… I’m the one who feels obliged to rescue all the poor little fractals, and now I had these unique gradients clamouring for a good home. I couldn’t recreate any of them – if I opened the same picture again to be processed, the results were somehow different – I accidentally overwrote a few nice gradients because I didn’t realize that.

Then I realized something else – and a frisson of horror tingled down my spine. If I were to accidentally process a picture I’d already processed weeks or months before, I might be destroying a favourite gradient, possibly even affecting the saved parameters of completed fractals. I might be wrong about this, but anything seemed possible all of a sudden. The only way to be sure of avoiding that was to save them myself as I had been doing – with different names to a different file. While I was at it, they should be organized into separate files with names such as didsphotos.ugr, didsabstracts.ugr, didsscreenshots.ugr, didsPSPgradients.ugr etc. Just so I could search the gradients by source and not overstretch any one file. In other words, don’t put all your colour schemes in one basket.

It sounds a quick and simple process; normally you drag and drop the files into organized folders, but Apop gradients do not work like that. As far as I know at this stage, the only way to get one gradient into another file is to save a copy into the new file and then delete the original gradient from the old one. Or maybe duplicate the files many times over and…

Anyway, that’s why Mum thought I’d fallen off my perch. I was saving millions of computer pixels from eternal oblivion.

Comments for this entry (during its previous life on Blogigo):

1. Pacian wrote at Oct 10, 2007 at 14:32: Pixels have feelings too, hidden deep in their RGB values.

2. geosomin wrote at Oct 10, 2007 at 16:11: Their little CMYK hearts will thank you for it…

A friend of mine used mathematical fractals to design leafy floral patterns for a mural…I’m constantly amazed at the endless variety of them all. It’s why I haven’t delved too deep into the fractal graphic design…being a lab rat I get too little suna s it is! I do love listening to music while staring at my fractal music generator tho…

3. Diddums wrote at Oct 11, 2007 at 01:17: Fractals (and pixels with feelings) are definitely morish. :-). I used to have one of those – a fractal generator. Not sure what happened to it. I think it was on the PC but the Mac plays all the good music now.

Posted in Art, Computer Graphics, Observations

Abstract Thoughts at Bedtime

The world isn’t black and white, and there isn’t always a perfect solution to problems, just as there isn’t always someone to blame – not even yourself.

That annoys me. I want everything to be neat, logical and fair – but it’s not.

It could be that we’re all just part of the colour spectrum – we make a grand light show. Or we’re the cells of a larger organism – maybe a giant rhubarb that grows ponderously in space. When I see the repeated patterns and shifting hues of fractal art, I can’t help but wonder…

Twirling fractal design that looks not unlike a rhubarb plant
Cosmic Rhubarb
Posted in Desktop Pictures, Fantasy and Science Fiction

Dressing up the Desktop

I went looking for some nice new desktop pictures. I found this elegant phoenix and fell in love with it; not just as a design but as a living presence! You sense there’s a real bird there, even though it’s the white hot heart of the flames. If you reach in to touch it, it won’t burn you – it’s soft and warm. Gorgeous. Who said there are only three ways of beating the winter blues?

Here are links to other pictures I liked – there should be something for most people here:

Blue Rain – if we had scenery like this around here, I’d never get any work done. Oh, wait…

Compass of the Soul – a luxurious, expensive looking desktop.

Galaxy Wars – an amazing abstract in blue.

Guardian of the Darkness – this one will worry your office colleagues.

Impatient Jungle – Now I want a little zoo too…

Innocence (quack!)

Liverpool Echo – did Rapunzel’s prince fall into a rose bush like this?

Misty Sunset – lovely snow scene for your winter desktop.

Sydney Bridge at Night amazed me, though I usually avoid city scenes.

What! An individual who would outmatch our cats, glare for glare and talon for talon.

Wild Blue – it would be an extra special dream, flying over a land like this.

Going Home – I have a special affection for this fantasy scene. I also love the song of the same name by Runrig.

Land of Nod – where I keep fetching up. I don’t see anywhere to spread my duvet, though.

I reckon I was a locust in a former life. Humming through the verdant stretches of cyberspace, when I hit a desktop picture site or similar, I gobble it up till nothing is left but bare stalks, then off I flit to the next place. The trouble with is that I’ve met my match. It’s like trying to drain a goblet filled with the sea. I’ve browsed the images till my Mac is burping, and I’ve barely scratched the surface. The gallery for new images boasts over 300 items and they’re still coming in. The three pictures featured on the main page refresh randomly. There’s a voting booth, which is horribly addictive – you don’t get to choose which to vote for; it’s chosen for you, and you always wonder what’s coming next. The main bad point with this is that sometimes you see a picture that has plenty of votes but is underrated (or deliberately voted down, maybe) but because it’s high enough on the vote map, you won’t get the chance to redress the balance. And then there are pictures which (in my opinion) have been rated too high – will they always be at the top of the charts?

I saw something on the site saying that you can only upload a picture after you’ve voted for ten images in the voting booth – interesting idea. I wondered if it would work on a blog site, but I don’t think it would. By the time I’d commented on ten Blogigo blogs, I would have forgotten what I was going to blog about.

Dishing out TLC to unloved images is not easy. You sit staring at a distant stick insect on an over-exposed stump surrounded by dry yellow grass, trying to think of something encouraging to say about it. I’m sure my forebears (whether human beings or locusts) never had this problem.