Blown Away by Mandelbulb 3D
I have been fascinated with computer graphics since I first saw it many years ago at a graphics trade show in Los Vegas. I was then using a program that was one of the state of the art products available on a PC platform. Of course my eyes were bigger than my wallet and I ended up mortgaging the house just to get in on the ground floor. This was in the early days of consumer versions of computers such as the IBM personal computer and the Apple Macintosh. The mid to late eighties.
Then really serious graphic machinery and software was mostly the domain of corporate empires or the very rich and savvy. $200,000 graphic wonder machines that were very bulky were the norm. Yet many of us have the equivalent of that and much more on our home desk and laptops now in greatly compact form.
Although I've plodded through a lot of disappointments and very glitchy software, those days seem like another planet. My endeavor to at least justify my investment in the trade, did earn me special inroads to software development and marketing. I did debugging for one company that then was about the best creative art software out there. Many of my new colleagues these days weren't even born, when I first managed to whack out some profitable and useful forms of graphics that could pass for technical or commercial art, as I was then a freelancer in that trade.
The emergence of this fascinating new era of 3D digital dreams, has lead many of us to a land of smoke and mirrors that is pulling at our sacred norms or concepts of art in the usual sense. It has a way of hooking the id into submission. Even to the point of budgetary abandon. It's like some strange new and powerful opiate that sucks you into the vortex of exponential advances in consciousness. That part of us that we regard as especially creative or artistic.
The late development of 3D fractals, replete with all the subtleties of real life, like three dimensional structure, reflective surfaces, shadow, focus, depth of field, texture, ambiance, atmospheric effects, etc., throw up a mind bending illusion of reality. Yet these intricate worlds play with our assumptions about natural reality in ways that seem on the fringe of descriptive language.
This new art form has a particularly evocative feel to it. Especially as it seems to reflect some of the most astounding parallels to natural structures. The examples of fractal-like structures in some plants such as Leaves, trees, ferns and especially the Roman Cauliflower as seen here (See Fig-1), have an almost mechanical symmetry to them.
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(Figure-1) (Figure-2) (Figure-3)
The Roman Cauliflower in particular has what seems to be an almost infinite repetition of identical substructures, that continually appear to be arranged in diminishing spiral patterns. Especially when viewed from the top of the plant. Similar to the central hub of a sunflower seed pod (Fig-2) or pine cone (fig-3)
We are already beginning to see the use of fractals in some movie special effects. Things like jungles full of thick stands of plant life and some clouds or atmospheric elements. Fractals are even used to generate wave patterns in ocean scenes. What seems almost chaotic up close can appear quite symmetrical at a distance. In some cases just the opposite. This wave effect is often present in aerial photos of the sea. The higher the altitude, the more symmetrical the wave patterns seem.
I have already been able to mimic tree-like foliage and trunk structures that have intricate leaf-like appendages. Some seem to even bear fruit-like nodules. These look impressive when combined with other formulas in Mandelbulb 3D that appear to yield soil or ground-like backgrounds. Some like rolling hills, mountains, water, etc. When fog or atmospheric effects are added, the landscapes seem to take on a world of their own that one can pan and zoom through, as if moving through some realistic dreamscape. Especially when skillfully animated.
Not only have I begun to discover this new development along with the masses, it has pitched me into what feels like a new awareness of things long hidden in the human id. Things that our new tech toys of cosmic exploration have only begun to reveal. Of course, revelations like this tend to provoke more questions of where human intelligence is taking us. It's certainly so far a fascinating ride.
Fortunately for the typical domestic or low end artist, there is opening a vast vista of affordable new choices and creative paths to follow. Much like those other worldly landscapes in the movie Avatar. Avatar being of course, one of the latest displays of just how far 3D graphic technology has come. If we manage as a species to keep from pulling the ugly triggers of that other side of the human id, we just may be on our way to paradigm shifts in consciousness that elude our current ability to describe, not to mention explore and actually experience. Contributions of freeware by programming genius is certainly a huge blessing to the rest of us. There is already quite a collection of talented exhibits in Fractal Forum.com, as well as many other fractal art sites that dazzle the viewer on the web.
For me personally, it has been a long and daunting history of discovery, fascination and angst. Perhaps this is due to my particularly sensitive mind with regard to deeply felt and awestricken inner connections. Trying to even share this has also been somewhat difficult as a left-handed artist in a right-handed world, with dyslexias and the resulting academic drawbacks. To my surprise, I have begun to meet and find other artist and creative types who have similar legacies. That now more appreciated right brained side of consciousness. This has been somewhat a comforting and healing new development. I thought I was pretty much a loner in that sometimes isolated space, where really astounding and seemingly magical things can and sometimes do happen.
Facing people who tend to be aloof and renowned in the area of creative arts can be intimidating, yet this holds the potential for the rest of us to learn to fly, when it comes to that part of us that calls like some spiritual avatar. Like the canyons, valleys, structures, etc., of those marvelous manifestations we are starting to see in Mandelbulb 3D. Our mind spaces get buffeted, and the cobwebs of any previous notions we had about truly creative processes get swept out, to usher in experiences we never dreamed of before.
In related fields of deep psychology with regard to the learning process and creativity, new breakthroughs in how the mind works and its relationship to consciousness are emerging and becoming more widely accepted. This makes the rather daunting prospect of connecting in new art realms a more realizable proposition. So the timid on the perimeters of our norms tend to cautiously emerge from the shadows, to show the world some really unique and profound examples of creative force and consciousness that boggles the mind. This also challenges established mindsets about what constitutes real art. It certainly tends to open up previously unknown and unappreciated worlds of human experience.
When I first saw some examples of 2D and 3D fractals, especially 3D animated fractals, I was blown away into some kind of kinky world that only my dreams had eluded to previously. I also have good reason to believe that those who share this with me, have perhaps some grasp of what this means, and how it can affect the advancement of consciousness in ways yet unimagined. I trust that here I will be at least partially able to convey what it is I am alluding to. This new universe of artistic and scientific discovery is such that it tends to be like exploring some otherworldly, extraterrestrial landscape, where nearly all the norms we take for granted in the carnal form, are at a loss to describe. Fortunately the imagery tends to speak for itself.
Here we get close to how it is that imagery of this ilk is so powerful and profound. It's like trying to describe a vague and abstract dream we may have had in the night. Yet we are also awestruck and bewildered with typical human norms of mental and linguistic limitation to get a serious handle on it. Something our dreams drive us to want to explore further and hopefully share with friends, fellow artist, philosophers, lovers, etc.
There seems to be something mysteriously powerful, almost mythical or even spiritual about 3D fractals. Something culminating at the onset of the age of Aquarius, that speaks volumes in languages and visions that are difficult if not impossible to place. Especially in our new awareness of the cosmic scope of things. This may seem spooky and strange to the typical mind on planet earth, but so are beliefs in ghosts, the paranormal, etc. Things that typical society and culture seem to embrace in increasing numbers.
For the visual scientist, this new realm of Mandelbrot's beloved legacy is casting a long bar of light in into the ancient recesses of human evolution. Put it to music as so many have already done, and it gets really deep under our well weathered skin of human concepts and habit. To me this is very good. It feels like a real block buster of conscious development, the likes of which the human race has never seen before. Of course its emergence as a byproduct of the computer age just makes it that much more fascinating.
So as we step onto the threshold of this new creative space, we should prepare ourselves for a seemingly sacred trip into realms that we never knew could exist. Yet, one of the more fascinating aspects of this, is that it apparently really doesn't seem to exist. The main fabric of this art form seems to mostly reside in digital space. Unlike late developments in more sophisticated 3D graphics, nearly all our normal perceptions of shape, form, texture, light, shadow, atmosphere, etc., seem to elude our senses in all forms except visual. How unfortunate for the blind, unaware or sensually deprived. Here Geordi's special glasses would really come in handy.
Where this may take us in virtual reality technology is yet another space waiting to be explored. This seemingly intangible realm is where the usual tactile and visual feedback may be starkly challenged. For those well seasoned in the technology and science of 3D graphics in the traditional sense, this is sure to be an area that will change our collective norms and concepts about what constitutes real 3D constructs. Those who are familiar with traditional approaches to highly sophisticated 3D software and the resulting imagery, may with 3D fractals to be faced with changing trends in the use of 3D meshes, etc., to express their creative selves as a matter of math based structure.
I am still reeling with awe at how it is that points, vectors, vertices, camera paths, polygons, faces, etc., seem to be of little if any consequence in 3D fractal constructs. Because of my long standing experience with typical 3D mesh structure in depicting natural and technical realities, my first introduction to 3D fractal structure was a mind bending experience. How, I thought, is it that such things can appear to exist at all? They seem to have no need for the typically accepted norms of things like meshes and the usual math expressed 3D form. In fact, just to try to get 3D fractals into some form of real mesh based object oriented space, seems more like parlor magic. Yet some artists and scientist are now finding ways and new software is becoming available just for this purpose.
The conversion of 3D fractal formulas and parameters into seemingly solid objects, is apparently now a reality and just opens up more profound frontiers of exploration in 3D space. Shapes that defy any known or readily accepted ideas about what constitutes real tangible form are often challenged. Yet there they are, ready to be plucked like over ripened fruit or eye candy, to be built into our basic fundamentals of everyday human experience, in ways that we can at last touch and manipulate.
To me, there is still something that needs to be addressed here. That is the mind-bending and awesome ability of the programmer's art. How does one weave in code and math, these amazing conduits to new realms of artistic discovery? I am impressed enough just with the advances in traditional 3D graphic constructs, but this is something that takes me away to spaces that challenge typical creative norms. Those who can do this, especially as it is made available to the rest of us, seem to be breaking the trails up mountains and into dreamscapes that boggle the mind about the creative process.
So hats off to the geniuses who have revealed to the masses, these astounding and seemingly magical forms of graphic expression. I bow in awe and appreciation as a graphic artist. I, like many I have been introduced to in this new paradigm, feel very fortunate that we don't have to figure out the mechanics or code, to simply get our minds and arms around this fantastic new candy store of creative possibility.
Jim Thompson is an award winning freelance graphic artist residing in Talent Oregon.