Romanesco Broccoli is an excellent example of a naturally occurring fractal.

What Are Fractals?

Fractals are created from mathematical formulas. They are shapes or sets characterized by self affinity (small portions of the image resemble the overall shape) and an infinite amount of detail at every scale. Examples of fractals include pineapples, pine cones, snowflakes, and the human cardiovascular system. The possibilities in the world of fractal art are literally infinite. To better understand what fractal art is, we need to look at what it is not.

Fractal Art Is Not…

  • something that anyone with a computer can do. Anyone can pick up a brush and paint. However, not just anyone can be a Salvador Dali or Pablo Picasso. Anyone can mold with clay. Again, not just anyone can be a Michelangelo or Auguste Rodin. Yes, anyone with a computer can learn to use a program to generate fractals, but not just anyone will excel at creating fractal art.
  • computerized art, in the sense that the computer is doing all the work. While it is true that the work is executed on the computer, it is done at the artist’s direction. Without input from the artist, there would be no art.
    random, in the sense of lacking rules. Fractal art is not simply pushing buttons and turning knobs. It is an art that can be learned and skillfully executed based on the rules of mathematics.
  • random, in the sense of unpredictable. Like any new pursuit, fractal art will have aspects that are unknown to the novice, but familiar to the master. With experience, experimentation, and education the techniques of fractal art can be learned. Just as in endeavors such as painting or chess, the essentials are quickly grasped but can take a lifetime to fully understand and utilize.

Fractal Art Is…

  • creative. The artist begins with a “blank canvas” and must bring together the same basic elements of color, composition, balance, line, etc. used by the traditional visual artist. The work can be representational, abstract, or nonrepresentational as the artist desires.
  • expressive. Fractal artists are equipped with all the essential tools of the traditional artist. Just as a painter uses colors, a photographer uses light, and a dancer uses movement, fractal artists are capable of using their medium as a similarly expressive medium.
  • requiring of input, effort, and intelligence. Calculation formulas, mappings, coloring schemes, palettes, positioning, parameters, and more must all be taken into consideration by the fractal artist. Each and every element can and will be adjusted and aligned in the effort to find the right combination. This process may be repeated for hours, days or weeks before the work is completed. The artist must know how to use each of the elements individually and then together in order to create an image. This understanding requires intelligence and thoughtfulness from the artist.

A simple explanation of fractals.