What first got you into Fractals?
My father bought me the famous book “The beauty of fractals” shortly after it came out,I was 13. At the same time my cousin who was an Amiga geek programmed the Mandelbrot set in assembler, it was fascinating. My programming skills were not sufficient, so I started to draw fractals by hand, starting with the Pythagoras tree. I soon discovered an original method to draw by hand the Levy dragon (at that time I thought I had invented a new fractal!)
In your opinion, which programs for both 2D and 3D fractals are absolute must-have’s for any aspiring fractalnaut?
Ultrafractal is a must for any beginner in my opinion. For 3D, Mandelbulb3D is my favorite.
Any other programs worth mentioning?
Mandelbulber for the quality of its renders. Apophysis is quite popular and flexible too, but I’m not a flame fan.
Incendia is a great program too, I really should find the time to learn it.
How did you learn how to create such beautiful 3D fractal art?
Curiosity is my engine. I have always been interested in the convergence of computers and arts.
The Amiga was a great tool to that end, for graphics and for music as well.
I was an early user of Ultrafractal 2, but it was mostly for exploration. At that time I had not fully realized fractals could be an artistic expression medium. When the Mandelbulb was discovered, I was a fractalforums member for a few months, and I quickly became a beta tester of Mandelbulb3D. I think the success of any fractal artist stems from a combination of computer skills and artistic feelings. Fractal art is not only about tweaking number, artistic culture is quite essential.
What do you know of the maths behind fractals? (Or are you only into the art side of it?
I have been studying quite advanced academic maths and physics (I have a master’s degree in mechanical engineering). I understand most of the basic maths behind fractals, both from a theoretical and programming perspective. Mathematics are not a must, but they help a lot, because you can find ideas much quicker than if you work only by trial and error. Understanding what an orbit trap, a Misurewicz point is or how you can get a buddhabrot is not mandatory, but I would say that the sum of all this knowledge and culture is helpful to find new ideas and inspiration.
What goes through your mind now as you begin a new piece? Describe the creative process…
I like to try what’s new, and to combine old recipes with new features and formulas.I usually start from scratch, I’m not too much into reusing existing parameters.It does not mean I don’t look at others’ parameters, because they can help to understand specific techniques.When I have found an interesting shape, then I explore it till I find a nice viewpoint. At the same time I adjust colors and lighting. This is a very long and iterative (!) process.
Sometimes I leave an image idle for a few weeks, then I come back to it to do a second, a third version…
People who are not into fractals often ask me how long it takes to create an image. Some of my best images have ben done in 30 minutes straight away (not necessarily including render time!) For others, I think I spend much more time, but it’s very difficult to quantify, could be several tens of hours, especially if we talk about videos, which are one of my specialties. But it all depends on experience. If you know what you do, that can go quickly, but the prerequisite is hundreds of hours of exploration!
Do you earn any sort of income from your fractal art?
Yes, but this is not my main goal. I started, in 2010, to have my best images printed on high quality materials, but it was only for my own pleasure. I soon realized that I should do an exhibition, which I did thanks to my membership in the European Society for Mathematics and Arts where I met fantastic people.Since my first exhibition in January 2011, I have sold about 30 pieces, mainly to family, friends, and work colleagues.I did not really make any money out of it since I have printed a lot more, I still have some stock! I have sold a few books too, about 15 copies. I have also sold some videos to independent film makers or scientists, mainly thanks to my Youtube channel. Deviantart has not brought me any business. A lot of the contacts I got came from fractalforums and Youtube, and also because I have some marketing and sales skills. For example I will soon be doing an exhibition in a 4* hotel, simply because I stayed there a few days and I asked the manager if he was interested. The physical world and face to face relationships are to me more important than the internet to promote my art.
Any inspiring words of wisdom you could give to all fractal newbies out there (myself included)?
Read a lot: books, all kinds of sites, and of course fractalforums, where members are always willing to help newbies.
And of course practice!! Try, test, again and again. Be curious, be patient, work by analogy. Try strange things (very low or very high parameters values for example) and persevere!Try all buttons, all functions, even if you don’t understand what they mean. Use others’ parameters, but please, do not post every image you do, there are so many similar images already Try to find you own style, your favorite colors combinations. It takes time and experience.
This interview was first published on the great fractals site http://mandelubber.blogspot.com/