Fractal art is mathematical art. Art formed by the interaction of multiple mathematical formula to plot points in three dimensional (3D) space. A fractal artist manipulates the formula and their properties to produce various abstract models. These 3D models are then rendered by a computer to form a two dimensional picture which can be viewed on a computer screen or printed on paper.
If that sounds complicated, it is. Fractal art could not exist in its present form without a computer to do the heavy lifting. My computer has just rendered a fractal I designed; it made 5,942,263 calculations per second and took 4 hours and 42 mins to complete. That's over 100 billion calculations for a single fractal image - a feat hardly possible without a computer.
Though fractals are mathematical, fractal artists today do not need to be mathematicians (I certainly am not!) As well as the mind-bending volume of calculations, computers help the artist by providing a visual environment in which mathematical formula can be represented by graphical objects. The artist positions and sizes the objects in relation to one another and modifies their properties, while the approximate results are displayed on the computer screen.
Despite such technical help, the journey to a finished fractal image is anything but straightforward. Fractal pictures can rarely be previsualised, except in the broadest of terms; the artist launches into the fractal void on a voyage of discovery. It can be a frustrating voyage - for some time nothing usable is revealed then, when finally something interesting does form in front of the artist, the task is to coax that embryonic image towards something worthy of being called a fractal image. Often it never makes it and the artist must start over.
|In the beginning|
Even with these difficulties, there is something about fractal images which draws the artist onward. A good fractal can be breathtakingly beautiful and the combination of creativity, discovery, and craft involved in producing fractals, quite addictive. But fractals also seem to have another quality - the ability to connect with something that lies just outside our normal comprehension - visual analogies that communicate at a metaphysical level.