Further Fractal Frenzy

OK, you may have noticed I’ve been focused on the fractals lately. This is a hallmark trait of ADD known as “hyperfocus”, in which an individual who usually can’t pay attention the entire way through the sentence “Dave, do you think you could please take the trash out when you get a chance?” can suddenly, miraculously, spent hours or even days completely obsessing on a topic of interest. I would like to take this opportunity to apologize on behalf of all my fellow ADDers to all of our friends, coworkers, and life partners,  for whom this trait invariably produces fits of apoplexy. Sorry guys, we’re really not deliberately ignoring you, it’s just that OMIGOD LOOK WHAT THE IMAGE DOES WHEN I DO THIS TO IT!!!

I’m sorry, where was I?

Oh, yeah, the fractal thing.

While the artwork I am producing may not be “fractal” in the strictest mathematic sense, I am using concepts that I gleaned from my studies on fractal geometry. I am creating complexity from relatively simple images by repeating, scaling, flipping, and rotating them, then producing further complexity by layering them one atop the other, with the layers reacting to the layers beneath them in different ways.

A concept that I did not mention in my earlier posts is that one quality of fractal objects is that they exhibit “self-similarity across scale”. This is a fancy way of saying that if you look at a small portion of a river, say a creek or other tributary, it will have a shape that looks very similar to what you see when you zoom out and look at the river as a whole. If you look at a single branch of a tree, you may see that the way the smallest branches divide looks very similar to the way the main branches divide from the trunk. Repetition and alteration of scale of a simple pattern achieves the same self-similarity in my fractal-inspired pieces.

Here are two pieces I did in the last couple of days, one being a self-contained piece, and the other designed for some iterating into different versions. I tried for something a little more painterly than the strict geometry of the “Kaleidomorph” series.

First, the self-contained piece, “Spiral Intersection”. I started with a drawing of some spiral roll forms, which I colored in. Then I duplicated the image on several layers, which I flipped and/or rotated to change their orientation. Next, I set up the layers to react with the other layers, experimenting with different settings until I found something I liked. Finally, I painted over portions of the image on a final top layer, to isolate the parts I liked and create the impression of a figure on a ground.(you can see it’s got a little of that Cubist flavor that I love so well.)



I created “Echoes 1” using techniques similar to the ones I used making “Spiral Intersection”.

Echoes_1webI then made a merged copy of the final “Echoes 1” image. I rotated, flipped, and scaled it, and set it atop the first image. I played around with different ways of making the two layers interact, and ended up with “Echoes 1A”.

Echoes_1AwebI liked this image for its added complexity, but I wanted to see if I could make a lighter version, with a bit better color range. This is the result, “Echoes 1B”.

Echoes_1BwebAlthough I like the way the results look when I print them out, the colors are not quite as brilliant as they look onscreen – doubtless an issue with color gamut (meaning that I have colors in the file which will show onscreen, but the printer is unable to produce that color on paper). I hope to figure a way around that; it will probably involve having to work in something like Photoshop, as Procreate (the iPad program I made these pieces with) does not give one much control over the color space. That is NOT a knock on Procreate…I paid less than $10 U.S. for it, vs the $120 a year that I pay for the privilege of access to Photoshop, and it is far and away my favorite art-making app on the iPad, as you can see by the number of pieces I have created with it that are featured on this blog. Shout out to the Tasmanian devils at Savage for their excellent product! Learn more about it here:


Thanks for visiting! Please take a moment to share your thoughts below…


Kaleidomorph 2 – More Iterations

Here are a few more iterations of the Kaleidomorph 2 file. As I discussed in my last post, this is a file with multiple layers; it generates different images depending on which layers are turned on at the time, yielding a very large number of potential images.

I have developed a naming protocol that identifies the active layers used to make each image. The name of each image starts with the artwork name (in this case, “Kaleidomorph 2”), followed by a space, after which each active layer is listed, separated by a dash.

For example, this is “Kaleidomorph 2 1-4-7-11”. Note its similarity to an image from the last post, “Kaleidomorph 2 1-7-11-13”. They both have layers 1, 7, and 11 active, then each has one other layer added, layer 11 in this instance.


Here is “Kaleidomorph 2 2-3-5-7-10-11”.


Turning off layer 10 from the previous image yields “Kaleidomorph 2 2-3-5-7-11”.


And here’s one I especially like, “Kaleidomorph 2 6-7-8-13”.


To see all these images together with the ones from my last post, head over to my Artist’s Page on Facebook:


Look under “Photos” for the album, “Kaleidomorph 2 Iterations”. I will add more images there if I do further iterations.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on these images! Which one is your favorite, and why? (don’t worry, there won’t be a quiz later!) 😉


I have been interested in fractals and fractal geometry for some time now. A very simple explanation of fractal geometry is that it is the mathematics that explains how the shapes we see in nature – mountains, trees, rivers, animals – get their shape. A less simple explanation is that it is the geometry of regular, but non-repeating, patterns. This is why all oak trees look very similar, but no two are exactly alike…they are expressing a regular, but non-repeating pattern, that can be explained by the concept of fractal geometry.

Now before you run away in terror that I’m about to start going all “math” on you, and I’m gonna start spouting highly technical gibberish, relax. I don’t know anything more about the math of it than you do (unless you know about the math of it, in which case you are miles ahead of me).

The general concepts of fractal geometry are what excite me, and what I use as the inspiration for my “fractal art”. One basic concept is that complex systems (like an oak tree) can arise from a very simple type of formula, repeated A LOT of times (known as “iteration”). You take the answer that you get from the formula, plug it back in, and run it again, over and over and over. Eventually, voila… you got you an oak tree! [WARNING: VAST OVERSIMPLIFICATION].

OK, I can see that I am losing your interest already…let me get to the art part. I have been experimenting with building biologically-inspired forms, what I call “biomorphs”, constructed of shapes which I vary slightly in contour and scale, and combine into larger shapes. From simplicity, through iteration, to complexity.

I got the idea to start getting more complexity by layering these shapes in an image editing program (such as Photoshop), then changing how the layers reacted to one another…different settings such as Overlay, Subtract, Exclusion, etc. all make the layers do different things based on the layers beneath them. When you stack up several layers of different shapes, with different settings, you can get some very interesting results.

What I did for my second Kaleidomorph (kaleidoscope+biomorph) was to start with a simple shape. Here it is, repeated twice, in a very early stage of the process:


I then started to build up more complex shapes from this basic shape. I did this on a total of thirteen layers in my piece titled “Kaleidomorph 2” (there was a crude earlier experiment from some time back which I decided was the first Kaleidomorph). As I mentioned before, I put different settings on the layers to make them react differently in response to the other layers.

OK, this is where it gets really good. By trying out different combinations of the layers (iterating again!), I was able to generate several images from this one piece:








Yes, that’s right folks… all these images came from that one simple shape – copied, flipped, rotated, and scaled, then stacked into interacting layers. The different images are just different combinations of those layers. As I stated earlier, I am not particularly gifted in mathematics or science. I do know that with 13 layers, each of which can be on or off, and the ability to combine as few as two or as many as thirteen of them, that the total number of possible images is…ummm, let’s see…approximately a Metric F*ck Ton! (if you are reading this, and are good at math, I would love to know a more accurate number!) I don’t even know if it would be feasible to see every particular combo…certainly not by manually trying out different combinations like I did here.

I am very excited about this new development in my fractal art! I am looking forward to taking this even further. I would love to be able to get a program where I could have these layers rotating, and randomly switching on and off, to produce an ever-changing piece of dynamic art. Unless that program already exists, though, I am not likely to come up with it on my own. 😦

What do you think of these pieces? Do you consider it “cheating” to get this many images from one artwork?

Robot Of The Day

imageThis is a work in progress. It’s a box design for a wind up robot being designed by robot wizard John Riggs for the folks over at the Alphadrome. I’m trying to make it look like a vintage robot box.

artwork done in Procreate, text in iDraw.


Robot A Day April 11

Today was the first day of the Atlanta Dogwood Festival in Piedmont Park. My partner Babs and I went to check it out after I finished working, as it’s conveniently right down the street from where we live. We had a great time, met some cool folks, and had some excellent conversations about art (with several people), quantum physics and fractals (with potter Don McWhorter), and the ins and outs of working the festival scene (with pastel artist Jack Brumbaugh). Then Babs and I went to happy hour, which became happy evening, and consequently I failed to produce a robot for the day. 😦

Instead, let’s take a look at some art from the cool folks I met, and then I’ll show you a robot from the vaults.

Don McWhorter is a ceramist from Carrolton, GA, who is currently making some amazing pieces featuring imagery of leaves and vines, which he creates by both freehand drawing, and enhancing images he makes by pressing actual leaves into the clay with additional drawing.

DonMcwhorterPot1I am sorry that I do not know who to credit for this fantastic photo…it came from the Central Pennsylvania Festival For The Arts website. You can contact Don at potterysong@yahoo.com.

Jack Brumbaugh does pastel drawings on canvas, featuring images of ripples and reflections on water. The images are poetic and meditative, and I love his color palette and the visual texture of the pastel on canvas.

ariel'spoemwebYou can find Jack online at www.jackbrumbaugh.com.

Finally, my robot for today. This is a digital painting that I did back in 2011 in Corel Painter. I have always liked cubism, and like to play around with the style from time to time. This piece would most closely align with synthetic cubism, a later period of the style.

cubist-robot-1b-18x24webGet down to the Dogwood Festival if you can! It’s continuing today and tomorrow. www.dogwood.org


Robot A Day April 10

One of my favorite places to spend time on the interwebs is the Alphadrome (www.danefield.com), a forum for toy robot, raygun, and space toy collectors and enthusiasts, with a focus on vintage robots and space toys. If you ever have a question regarding these toys, this is a great place to go with it…they have an extensive database, and probably the greatest brain trust of information regarding these toys anywhere! The members have always been very generous in helping folks with their questions.

Once a year, the members get together for a gathering…BOTSTOCK! It’s a weekend of hanging out, catching up, and swapping and selling. This year will be the eleventh Botstock.

Today’s robot art is my poster design for this year’s gathering. Whereas in the past, the competition was pretty fierce, for some reason this year there were only two official entries…puzzling. They may end up just using both, rather than crushing the hopes and dreams of one artist. That’s fine by me, as I like the other guy, and no prizes are at stake this year (aha, maybe that explains the dearth of entries!). As this is a poster for an event that everyone attending already knows all the details about, I was able to keep the information on the poster to a minimum, and focus on the visuals. I executed the design using Photoshop and Inkscape. Inkscape is a free, open-source vector art program… If you can’t afford Adobe Illustrator, it’s a great alternative.

As the name “Botstock” is a play on the Woodstock festival, I decided to go with a psychedelic theme for my poster. I really love doing psychedelic lettering, despite the fact that it can be ENORMOUSLY time consuming. I think the face-melting results are worth the effort…how about you?

Botstock11DaveFullHere’s a detail shot:



Robot A Day April 8

Today I’m continuing my project of photographing my collection of chrome robots under colored lights. This is the limited edition chrome R-1 Robot released by Rocket USA – presumably in 2000, judging by the date on his chest. The “RUR” on the robot’s chest is a reference to the play “R.U.R.” by Czech playwright Karel Capek, in which he coined the word “robota”(based on a slavic word meaning “hard labor” or “slavery”) for the artificially created humanoids in his story; this was the root for the English word “robot”.

I again layered two different photos to produce this image, but this time combined it with a little bit of creative masking. Masking is a method of completely or partially concealing parts of a layer in Photoshop. Here are the two original images:

Purple_RUR_web RedGreen_RUR_web

I put the purple robot photo on top of the red-green image. I then used a mask to remove parts of the purple robot; the mask included a gradient blend, which is why you get all that cool color mixing. The mask makes the purple image completely transparent in a circle that is centered over the robot’s face; then the circle lets more and more of the image show as it expands outward. By the time you get to the bottom part of the robot, you are seeing all of the purple image, and none of the one underneath.

I also used the airbrush tool on the mask in order to reveal some details of the robot’s rivets and grills from the second picture, to heighten the illusion that the robot was being bathed in golden light from above. Here is the final result:


I did the photography for this project with an amazingly simple and cheap setup: A small softbox cube that I paid about 25 USD for on eBay; two gooseneck desk lamps from Ikea; some color-changing LED bulbs that I scored on eBay for around 13 USD each; and a Canon Powershot SX50HS, a great point-and-shoot camera that’s simple enough for a beginner, but has enough features to serve as a take-along camera for a more experienced photographer. You can get one at the time of this posting for about $350 USD, maybe even cheaper if you’re lucky. The results wouldn’t fool a real professional with their quality, but you can blow most anyone else away!

I would like to thank my new friend Steve Day for gifting me with this lovely robot, and also give a shout out to his business, The Little Robot Shop, based in the UK (but poised for world dominance!). They make fabulous greeting cards, wrapping paper, posters, etc. featuring cool vintage robots, and will be offering a few of my designs soon. Check em out! https://www.facebook.com/littlerobotshop