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.
6×6″.
$175.00
Lianne Todd

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

Turbulence & Bubbles.
Watercolour on Gessoed Paper.
20×20″.
$650.00.
Lianne Todd

The Experiment

This series of four paintings was an experiment.  Not a very scientific one but I did try to control variables and make predictions.  My hypothesis was that since all pigments are different in their molecule size, shape, and hydrophilic and hydrophobic qualities, they would all move differently through the medium of water, and as they interacted with each other, and that their movement would be fractal.  In other words, I expected them to appear, at the end, as if they were something like a cloud, or some other natural item that is already known to be able to be modelled using fractal geometry.  A coastline, for instance.

All four pieces were executed and controlled in the same way (I won’t give away all my secrets!), the only differences being the pigments I used and the order they were used in.  I tried to reduce the effects of gravity by levelling my table but it is kind of obvious there was a tiny bit of gravitational effect.  I changed the orientation of the final products so that when they were hung together, it would be aesthetically pleasing.  Other than that, the results you see here are basically the raw data.

I called them Negative Nebulae, because I looked at all the white space around them and imagined if it was black, and the colours were reversed, they would look a bit like those photos you see from NASA of distant nebulae.  In other words, these would be like the negatives of those photos.

Here they are – what do you think?:

Nebula Negative I Watercolour on Yupo 10x10" Lianne Todd

Nebula Negative I
Watercolour on Yupo
10×10″ (sold)
Lianne Todd

Nebula Negative II Watercolour on Yupo 10x10" Lianne Todd

Nebula Negative II
Watercolour on Yupo
10×10″ $125.00
Lianne Todd

Negative Nebula III Watercolour on Yupo 10x10" Lianne Todd

Negative Nebula III
Watercolour on Yupo
10×10″ (sold)
Lianne Todd

Negative Nebula IV Watercolour on Yupo 10x10" Lianne Todd

Negative Nebula IV
Watercolour on Yupo
10×10″ (sold)
Lianne Todd

Here is what they looked like at the exhibit:

KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERA

 

 

Curious to know what they do really look like when you invert the colours?

Non Negative Nebula I (the inversion) Lianne Todd

Non Negative Nebula I
(the inversion)
Lianne Todd

Non Negative Nebula II (the Inversion) Lianne Todd

Non Negative Nebula II
(the Inversion)
Lianne Todd

Non Negative Nebula III (the inversion) Lianne Todd

Non Negative Nebula III
(the inversion)
Lianne Todd

Non Negative Nebula IV (the inversion) Lianne Todd

Non Negative Nebula IV
(the inversion)
Lianne Todd

 

Fried Eggs

This is just one of my favourites.  It’s only little, 6×6″, but like most fractals it took a long time to paint.  So many tiny little fried eggs!  It’s framed in a black lacquered shadow box frame so that it floats in the frame.  The total size, frame and all, is roughly 12×12″.

Yet again, we see a natural shape.  Well, natural, in that we are natural and we naturally like to fry eggs. Sometimes I find that it isn’t so much the repetition on smaller and smaller scales that makes me think of natural objects or phenomena when I look at fractals, but the shape that is being repeated.

As usual, it’s copyrighted and watermarked.

Fried Eggs Lianne Todd Watercolour on Aquabord 6x6" $175.00

Fried Eggs
Collection the Artist Lianne Todd
Watercolour on Aquabord
6×6″

Patterns

This piece is called Looking Through.

"Looking Through" Digital Art printed on metal, single edition 20x20" $325.00 Artist: Lianne Todd

“Looking Through”
Digital Art printed on metal, single edition
20×20″
$345.00 Artist: Lianne Todd

Looking through what?  A microscope?  A telescope? A porthole?

In a fractal universe, it doesn’t really matter.  Similar patterns are present on multiple scales.  Use your imagination!

This image is actually a combination of fractals – one for the thing we are looking through (the self-similarity on smaller scales provides the illusion of perspective and depth here), and one for what we are looking at (this is a flame fractal – more about them later).

As illustrated here, fractal geometry is quite versatile.  I’ve seen some discussion on ‘true’ fractals versus ‘near’ fractals and I would like to address that here for a moment.  There seems to be an opinion out there that for a fractal to be ‘true’ it must be a)infinite and b)exactly the same no matter what scale you look at.  Having read most of Benoit Mandelbrot’s Fractal Geometry of Nature, I have a problem with these stipulations.  First of all, the equation for Mandelbrot’s set is z_{n+1}=z_n^2+c, with as the number of iterations, where c is a complex parameter.  

There is more to explaining the Mandelbrot set than that, of course, but that is the equation, and if n is a given number, then it’s not infinite, is it?  Perhaps the possibility of an infinite number of iterations exists, but that’s an argument for another day.

And even Mandelbrot’s set is not exactly the same on multiple scales. The PATTERN is there, it’s just slightly altered at different scales.  It is self-similar.  This is one of the things which makes fractal geometry so suitable for modelling the universe.

In my understanding, there was never a suggestion by Mandelbrot, the founder of fractal geometry, that a “true” fractal had to be infinite OR exactly the same on multiple scales.  Rather, a fractal is strictly defined as “a set for which the Hausdorff Besicovitch dimension strictly exceeds the topological dimension.”

So, perhaps I’m getting it all wrong, but if you would like to argue I would welcome your discussion.

And now, because I was once a biologist and if you’re anything like me you need a more highly magnified look at that thing, here is a zoom of what you were “looking through” at:

sea creature zoomed in

 

The Photographs

It isn’t difficult to spot natural fractals all around you, if you know what you’re looking for.  It’s quite probable that you just don’t recognize them because you haven’t looked at enough computer generated fractals, at enough scales, to realize that even if something in nature doesn’t look like a whole fractal, i.e., you don’t really see the repetition of a pattern on smaller and smaller scales,  it will look like part of one.

Before Benoit Mandelbrot came along, nature was regarded as a rather chaotically influenced version of Euclidian geometry.  The artist Paul Cezanne said as instruction to young painters: “Everything in Nature can be viewed in terms of cones, cylinders, and spheres.”  But Mandelbrot’s famous quote “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” contradicts this, and rings very true. 

Some mathematical experts are able to generate entire landscapes, or, small parts of nature like a fern leaf, just using fractal formulas.  Benoit Mandelbrot gave a few examples of these in his book, The Fractal Geometry of Nature.  Indeed, the generation of natural looking landscapes, textures, etc. using fractals is quite common, in video games.  Ever wondered how the game manages to keep up the appearance of the surrounding landscape the character is travelling through?  That’s how.  They are also used in movies, creating alien landscapes.

Some examples of fractals in nature are depicted in the photographs that were part of my exhibit this summer.  The patterns of ice crystal formation, mountain ranges, clouds, branching patterns of trees, growth patterns of mosses and lichens, flower structure, butterfly wings and their coloration, fur growth and patterning… on every scale you can recognize fractals, not just on earth but in the entire solar system and universe.  (More about that later).  For now, have a look at these, and look at the world in a new way the next time you go outside.

Top to Bottom, Left to Right: Freezing; Mountains & Vapour; Mossy Branches; Reiterated Beauty; Nature's Drapery; All the Markings of a Bandit.  Digital Photography.  10x10" Prints, framed  $125.00

Top to Bottom, Left to Right:
Freezing; Mountains & Vapour; Mossy Branches; Reiterated Beauty; Nature’s Drapery; All the Markings of a Bandit. Digital Photography. 10×10″ Prints, framed $125.00

As they appeared in the exhibit.

As they appeared in the exhibit at The ARTS Project.  Thanks again to the Ontario Arts Council!

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
20×20″
$345.00

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
20×20″
$345.00

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
12×12″
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
16×16″
$240.00

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:

Happy3croppedwm

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!

The ‘rose’ and the creation process.

See the “rose” in the header of this blog?  It’s a selected portion of one of the first fractals I ever generated, using one of the many programs available for such purposes.  It was a completely random occurrence, really.  I was playing around with formulas, and voila!  One of nature’s most recognizable shapes, noted for its beauty, appeared before me.  A little colour tweaking, some removal of extraneous image parts, and there it was.

This is the wonderful thing about working with fractals.  It becomes readily apparent that mathematics is truly the language of the universe.  The fractal rose is not one of the pieces of art I’ll be showing at the upcoming exhibit in London, but it symbolizes the exhibit very well, which is why I have chosen it for my promotional materials.

Mathematicians have spent a good deal of time and effort to demonstrate the fractal geometry of various parts of nature, tweaking formulas for the very purpose of modelling it.  This has (in most cases) involved an analysis of natural shapes and distributions prior to the effort of coming up with a formula.  I, however, am not a mathematician.

Most of my images start on a whim. I should qualify this with the statement that I am standing on the shoulders of the people who have created the software I use.  Without their brilliance I wouldn’t be able to do any of this.  So… my images start on a whim, and they continue with further whims (what happens if I change this?), and even further whims.  The possibilities really are endless.  If the image strikes me, I render it in high resolution and save it.  Sometimes I save the parameters as well, sometimes I don’t. So, in a way, I am the natural selector, deciding which image survives, which parameters get passed along to the next selection process.  It never ceases to amaze me how often I am confronted with an image that triggers recognition of something that exists in our universe – or at least, the universe within my imagination.  These are the ones that are most likely to be selected for the creation of my art.  The next step is the editing that occurs before I consider a digital piece finished (sometimes several images are combined into one piece), or, the painting of the image that I was inspired by.  The paintings require a great deal of patience to execute.  I draw them on the paper (or gessoed paper, or aquabord) freehand, but I start with very precise measurement of the positions of the largest features.  I decide which pigments are best to represent what I like about the digital image, and if there is any element I don’t like and wish to change or omit.  Then comes the sorting out in my brain of the pattern, and how it repeats on smaller and smaller scales, and exactly how small of a scale it is possible for me to keep painting this pattern.  It is like a puzzle and I’m drawing the pieces and fitting them inside each other, to the limit of my brush size and my eyesight (and my resolve).  The results are very satisfying but I am usually at the end of my rope by that point and have to switch to my traditional paintings for a while just to retain my sanity!  This is one reason why this upcoming show is the culmination of three years of work.

Ultimately, all of my fractal art, digital or paintings, or photographs of nature, comes from the place in my brain where reality meets imagination.  A place where the universe seems to reveal itself to the part of my brain that can imagine both its most vast and its most infinitesimal features, and how they relate to each other.

I hope my fractal art will trigger your imagination as well!  Stay tuned (follow my blog  please!) and don’t forget to save the date:  July 8, 7-9 pm for the opening, and the exhibit runs until July 19, at The ARTS Project in London, ON.  (See previous post for more info)