In the mind’s eye, a fractal is a way of seeing infinity. – James Gleick

I just finished reading a really good book called “Chaos – Making a New Science” by James Gleick.  It was recommended to me by the London Free Press photographer who took photos at my The Fractal Nature of Our Universe exhibit last summer.  (Don’t forget the reprisal of that show, A Fractal Universe, is currently at the Station Arts Centre in Tillsonburg until April 7!)

It was a really interesting read, full of insight into the difficulties scientists and mathematicians have had in the past, with certain problems they encountered.  Most of them involved non-linear dynamical systems – the kind you often find in nature.  They were so troublesome that these problems would be put aside, ignored, deemed unsolvable.  So many different kinds of scientists and mathematicians in the late 1960s and 1970s were separately converging on the same theories to solve these problems at the same time, while the tools (computers) to more freely explore these theories were also developing, one can truly say it was a science whose time had come.  That didn’t mean that it didn’t meet with resistance!  Sometimes even those who were essentially promoting the same ideas refused to acknowledge each other.

Fractals are a large part of Chaos Theory.

Wherever chaos led, Mandelbrot had some basis to claim that he had been there first. – James Gleick

However, there was much to discover even after Mandelbrot had provided this language for describing nature.  Scientists wanted to know the “why” – and they still do.  I am not sure how many scientists today are attempting to use chaos theory and the language of fractals to interpret systems from the smallest to the largest of scales.  Certainly many ecologists, medical researchers, economists, meteorologists, and some astronomers are.  But there is still some resistance.

Will those who are looking to complete a Grand Unified Theory give full consideration to Chaos Theory and Fractal Geometry?  I hope so.  Time will tell, and these are exciting times indeed.




Physical Phenomena

If I am postulating that the universe is fractal in nature, it makes sense that structures formed by molecules behaving in their natural way should be recognizable as fractals.  Such is the case with frost, turbulence, and bubbles.  Just do a little Google search with each of those terms alongside fractal, and you’ll see what I mean.  Mandelbrot made groundbreaking progress modelling turbulence, which had confounded mathematicians before him, using fractal geometry.

It also makes sense that in my random wanderings through the fractal universes I create, I encounter images that remind me of these phenomena.  Such is the case with these two fractals which I chose to paint.  I especially like the way the bubbles in Turbulence & Bubbles look like they are in the process of being blown, sometimes from multiple locations, and melding together when they meet, just like real bubbles would.

Hot Frost. Watercolour on Aquabord. 6x6". $175.00 Lianne Todd

Hot Frost.
Watercolour on Aquabord.
Lianne Todd

Turbulence & Bubbles. Watercolour on Gessoed Paper. 20x20". $625.00. Lianne Todd

Turbulence & Bubbles.
Watercolour on Gessoed Paper.
Lianne Todd

Imagining the Cosmos

As you may know, if you have been reading all of my blog posts, I like to dabble a little in cosmology.  Not that I really know anything about it, but it fascinates me, and I like the kind of abstract thought it stimulates.  I was given a Great Course one Christmas on Dark Matter, Dark Energy, The Dark Side of the Universe, which I’ve enjoyed a great deal.  Dr. Sean Carroll is great at explaining cosmology in a way that I, at least, can understand.  I also read Brian Greene’s The Hidden Reality, a fascinating book.  I subscribe to many Facebook Pages which post news about the latest pieces of knowledge in this field.  The abstract thought appeals to me, and I think I’m pretty good at it, but my math and physics skills are limited to helping out my children when they were doing grade twelve homework.  Which may be nothing to sneeze at, but is less than what is required for particle physics.

One of the things that really strikes me, is that the visual components, be they illustrations or actual data translated into an image, of almost every piece of news in cosmology, are recognizable to me as being fractal in nature.  Perhaps it is because I’ve spent so much time looking at fractals, zooming in, and examining them from every angle, that I notice this.  I am always mystified when no mention of fractals is made, in these cases.  I’ve written a  whole post (and another) about fractal dimensions before, so I won’t go into that here, but that’s another part of the puzzle I like to think about.

I know these two fractals don’t really illustrate anything in particular, but they make me think along the lines of particle physics, and stardust, and the early universe.

"Stardance". Watercolour on gessoed paper. 20x20". $625.00 Lianne Todd

“Stardance”. Watercolour on gessoed paper. 20×20″.
Lianne Todd

"Particles and Fields". Fractal Digital Art on Metal, single edition print. 20x20". $325.00 Lianne Todd

“Particles and Fields”.
Fractal Digital Art on Metal, single edition print. 20×20″.
Lianne Todd

This past summer, during my exhibit, I was told about a person in the same city (London, Ontario) who, it seemed, had a lot of the same thoughts I was having about the fractal nature of the universe.  She is a software engineer and has been studying fractals for much longer than I have!  Needless to say, her math skills are much better than mine.  I was fortunate to meet her (her name is Lori Gardi) this fall.  She has two websites, the first of which I’m going to direct you to Here, in which she has laid out some of her thoughts in a pretty clear way.  I’ll link you to the more recent one later… I think it’s a good idea to start at the beginning of her thought process. We (artists, software engineers, mathematicians, physicists, philosophers) may not all have the same thought processes or reach the same conclusions in our explorations of fractals and their role in the universe, but all avenues should be explored as long as they can exist within the rules that have been truly established by scientists and mathematicians in the past.  I am, unfortunately, not capable of judging whether anything follows those rules, but others who can, need to at least look at this work with an open mind and decide for themselves. ESPECIALLY if it may help solve any of the mysteries still out there.

Butterflies and Moths

Insects, and particularly butterflies and moths, are recurring motifs that I often encounter when I’m creating fractals.  Sometimes, it’s just the simple shape, and other times it seems to be a whole detailed creature.  Sometimes it’s done with what I call the ‘regular’ fractal generator and other times with the flame fractal generator (more on those differences later).  If a mathematical formula iterated over and over by a computer can randomly generate images like these in a matter of minutes or hours, imagine what the physical forces of nature and a few billion years of evolution can do with a periodic table of elements (and, shall I say, an underlying fractal structure?).  Oh wait, you don’t have to imagine.  You can go outside!


(All images are watermarked and copyrighted)

Butterfly Hub Digital Art printed on metal, single edition 20x20" $325.00

Butterfly Hub – Artist Lianne Todd
Digital Art printed on metal, single edition

Detail of Butterfly Hub

Detail of Butterfly Hub

Butterflire - Artist Lianne Todd Digital Art printed on metal, single edition 20x20" $325.00

Butterflire – Artist Lianne Todd
Digital Art printed on metal, single edition

Detail of Butterflire

Detail of Butterflire

Mother of Moths - Artist Lianne Todd Digital Art printed on metal, single edition 12x12" SOLD

Mother of Moths – Artist Lianne Todd
Digital Art printed on metal, single edition
SOLD. Private Collection.

Pollinator - Artist Lianne Todd Digital Art printed on metal, single edition 16x16" $225.00

Pollinator – Artist Lianne Todd
Digital Art printed on metal, single edition

A thumbnail of the raw generated fractal - just to illustrate part of the process.

A thumbnail of the raw generated fractal – just to illustrate part of the process.

Thoughts on fractals and dimensions

Back in 2012, when I had begun my study of fractals, and had begun painting them, I wrote a blog post on my other website, entitled Fractal Dimensions.  It contained my thoughts about the missing dimensions that some cosmologists would like to discover/elucidate in order to make sense of the equations describing String Theory.

While it may be a naive article to have written, given my minimal physics education, and I may be wrong in my approach, I do think there is still merit to the idea.  As it turns out, there is such an area of study as Fractal Cosmology, so I am not completely off the mark.  And since I wrote that post, I have read quite a bit of Mandelbrot’s The Fractal Geometry of Nature.  It turns out, (as I mentioned in my first post on this blog) fractal geometry is all about dimensions – specifically, a fractal is defined as:

A set for which the Hausdorff Besicovitch dimension strictly exceeds the topological dimension.

i.e. every set with a non-integer D is a fractal, but a fractal may have an integer D

So, it has been established that much of nature can be interpreted or described using fractal dimensions.  Can ALL of it?  That is a big question.  And when we refer to fractal dimensions, are we referring to the same kind of dimensions that cosmologists refer to in String Theory?  I wish someone would tell me.

For now, and since I am an artist, I use what my eyes tell me.  In July of 2012, the Higgs Boson was finally found at CERN.  Here is a recent article referring to that discovery and its validity:

Check out the image in that article.  At the time of the discovery, I was already working on a painting based on this fractal right here:


Do you see the resemblance of the black parts of this fractal to the yellow parts of the collision image?  Not a proof, by any means, but it makes you wonder.

Here is the finished painting, which was beside me in the video I posted in “Publicity”:

The Higgs Boson Collision

I think this may be the first time I’ve shown both a digitally generated fractal and the painting based on it, at the same time!

More thoughts another day… it’s thundering a lot outside and I could lose power any second!

My Fractal Art: An Introduction

A few years ago, in the fall of 2010, a famous piece of art (The Great Wave, by Katsushika Hokusai, 1760-1849) kept re-appearing in my life.  Though it contains fractal shapes, the artist, who lived more than 100 years ago, wouldn’t have called them that as the term hadn’t been invented.  However, it led me back to this fascinating topic which I had briefly been introduced to about 20 years ago.  I remembered my initial excitement, and the more I explored it, the more I felt this was the direction I needed to take to satisfy my artistic and my scientific nature all at once.  (I have been a watercolour painter for about fifteen years, and prior to that I worked in biology).  While the mathematical definition and the name (credit to Benoit Mandelbrot) are relatively new (circa 1975), the concept and patterning involved in them is hauntingly familiar.  The idea of dimensions as in 1-D, 2-D and 3-D is fairly straightforward.  A dot is 0-D, a curve or a line is 1-D, a surface or plane is 2-D, and a sphere or cube is 3-D, for example.  But as Benoit Mandelbrot said, “Clouds are not spheres, mountains are not cones, coastlines are not circles, and bark is not smooth, nor does lightning travel in a straight line.”¹  So, what if the best way to define something’s dimensionality is to use a non-integer, like, for instance, 0.6309, or, say, 1.2618?  Without going too far into the mathematics, which I myself barely understand, these are the situations where we use the term fractal.  Fractals are generally self-similar, on smaller and smaller scales.  There are many examples in nature, and also, many practical applications for fractal geometry in our lives.

Mandelbrot, sadly, passed away that same fall.  His legacy is a novel way to observe, appreciate, and replicate the natural world.  In fact, when I look at fractals, I often see everyday things.  And when I look at everyday things, I often see fractals.   My fractal art is an attempt to bring this idea of mine home:  Fractals may not be just a model for, but may be the underlying structure of our universe.

I hope you will join me in discovering a new way to look at the world.  Soon, I will add photos of my creations, but for now, let me invite you to the opening reception of my solo show, The Fractal Nature of Our Universe, which introduces my fractal art to the world and is to take place on July 8, 7-9 pm in London, Ontario, Canada.  Mark your calendar and follow this blog for more details at a later date!


1. MANDELBROT, B. B. 1977.  The Fractal Geometry of Nature.  New York: W.H. Freeman and Company.