02 July 2008

Don't Get Stuck On Stupid

I suppose an alternate title that is just as appropriate is "Stupid Is As Stupid Does". However, which ever title you prefer, they both fit just as well with after reading the latest OT post. (Note: the latest at the time I started this, there have been a couple of subsequent posts)

After a two month period of long hours at work out of the office, I finally have a more normal amount of free time to devote to useless diversions, such as reading in depth the OT posts. The latest one didn't disappoint in sinking to new depths of idiocy and lack of professionalism. I was planning on writing about UF 5, so their latest post gives the the opportunity to do that and address their stupidity.

First I want to address the comment in praise of Ultra Fractal by me that they chose to feature in their post.

“This program is the most versatile and easiest to use of just about any program I have used, not just fractal programs.”
Yup. That is exactly what I said. However, what they didn't say because they couldn't have known it, is that I said that in an email to UF's creator, Frederik Slijkerman, nearly 10 years ago after trying version 2. Compared to Fractint, which I was using at the time, UF 2 was so much easier to use it wasn't even a fair comparison. The user interface was unequaled at the time, and hasn't been since. The formula language was more advanced than Fractint's. The additions since then have only extended UF's capabilities beyond any other program. What has made UF harder to use than many other programs has been the increasing complexities of the formulas people have written for UF. Some formulas have 100's of parameters. Fractint allows six. Lots of parameters means lots of choices and can be confusing.

Over the past 10 years, UF has had three more version releases culminating with version 5 this past week. It left Fractint in the bit bucket of history years ago. I've tried many programs over the years, and always return to UF because I actually find it the most versatile and easiest to use of any fractal program I've tried. Others have had similar experiences. But, others have not. That isn't important. What is important is that each artist use whatever tools allows them to produce the art they like to produce.

They continued to critique my comment with,
Oh really? No learning curve at all, huh? Easier to use than either MS Paint or Elf Bowling, is it? Then why does the main UF page suggest users could perhaps benefit from preparatory coursework by highlighting a salient link to UF classes taught at the Mississippi School of Anti-Fractal Art™?
To any reasonable reader, one can see they are being intentionally obtuse. As I mentioned above, formulas have increased dramatically in their capabilities and difficulty in mastering over the last 10 years. That is what is primarily the learning curve with UF. UF's basic functions are the easiest to learn of any fractal program I've ever tried. Making art is the difficult part, as it is with any program. The classes offered for UF are simply from one person's point of view for getting more out of UF to improve your art. That person just happens to be one of the premier fractal artists today in the eyes of many. But, if you don't want to learn, or don't think you need to learn from a very good artist, or would rather learn on your own, no biggie. But, why the need to ridicule? I think those ridiculing are rather insecure in their own art and methods.

UF has a large, and active, user community. I suspect the user community for fractal mangling with filters is rather small. Perhaps the critics of UF feel left out somehow. Who knows? Criticizing the existence of classes to learn is rather silly.

However, returning to the focus of the OT post, what is apparently important to them is to trash UF. I don't know what their motivation is. It may rooted in jealousy that UF is so popular, and costs money. Or, perhaps that so many people use it and that many who use it get recognized in exhibitions or calendars or other venues that exclude the OT authors.

While they decided to praise Paul for his creativity in being able to approximately reproduce several images done by a famous Norwegian artist in UF, they now accuse Paul of using the new image import feature of UF 5 to simply import an image of the original and claim he created it using other features of UF. I don't know if Paul did this or not, as I have not asked him directly. Apparently OT didn't either. I have seen the parameters for a couple of his other images that he duplicated from the Norwegian artist, and they were NOT done with the image import feature. Personally, I doubt that Paul did the image this way. But, it is clear that OT would rather make accusations without facts that try to find out the facts. Is that professional or ethical?

Note: Since I wrote the above, I see that Paul posted the parameters for his version of the image as a comment to the post proving that he did not use the new image import feature of UF 5. The ethical and professional thing now is for OT to devote a post to correcting their error and apologizing to Paul. Will they? (Additional Note: I am encouraged to see that OT acknowledge the error and apologized, sort of.)
Now compare my results to DeCelle's image-of-the-week above. Aside from the Fresco effect, can you really tell an appreciable difference between the images -- other than some minor gradations? Would you say I was engaged in making "fractal art"? No? What if I reminded you that Photoshop filters run using algorithms? You still say no? Then, you tell me, why is DeCelle's image fractal art, and my quickie exercises above are not?
Did Paul ever claim his duplication of the image was fractal art? Not that I ever saw, and I doubt he would call it fractal art. All he did was see if he could approximate the image using UF. It no doubt could have been done more easily in other non-fractal programs, but Paul challenged himself to do it in UF. I saw it as nothing more than an exercise in the power of the program. This is just another ad hominem attack from OT that they are becoming famous for. Paul's image isn't any more fractal art than the filter processed images. He never claimed it to be, unless posting it in a fractal gallery is similar to making that claim. It's not, but I'm sure that is a valid enough reason for OT to justify themselves for making the charge.

Are fractal images, post-processed beyond recognition of any fractal qualities, fractal art? I think this question might shed some light on the angst exhibited by OT. Because someone uses UF, by default people may consider their images fractal based whether or not actual fractal formulas are used by the artist. A fractal image destroyed of any fractal qualities by churning through filters may not have the say defaults applied to it, especially when it originates in some other program than UF.

Perhaps the time has come to drop the labels on your art and just consider it art and see if it can stand on its own merits. Or, perhaps just use the more generic and universal label of digital art. It appears that there are just too many people with their own definition or criteria for "fractal" art to try to please. It's probably best to quit trying and just worry about your own art and its merits and judge other's art on its artistic merits than some label.

Additionally, there are accusations that other UF artists are using the image import feature in their images. Of course, there is no proof or evidence offered in these cases either. Not very professional from the self-appointed arbiters of professionalism of the fractal art world, eh?

But, what is really hypocritical about the OT post is their criticism of the new image import feature of UF 5. It's especially hypocritical coming from artists who take fractal images and mangle them beyond recognition with various filters. Haven't they repeated railed against those claiming that one program or another, or one image or another, produces more "pure" fractal images or is a more "pure" fractal image? Haven't they complained when some speak out against post-processing or criticize those who post-process their images in some ways?

Obviously, some will use the image import feature in kitschish ways. But, I've seen block wave filters used in kitschish ways too. So what? Some will rise above this and create new and innovative styles and techniques. It's simple enough to ignore what you don't like. If you think that the kitschish, or the mundane, or the common, affects your art, then you'd better learn to get over it.

Personally, I've never given a rat's rosy little behind about how any particular image is created or what program is used or what filters are used to mangle the image. I can appreciate the skill required of the artist to use certain programs. But, I care about the resulting image. I like it or I don't. Isn't that really the bottom line?

Then, why the long diatribe against UF 5?
Ultra Fractal has now become just another paint program -- or, more precisely, a rather expensive Photoshop filter.
Obviously, this comment is one of the more stupid comments made by OT. But, it is telling. For ones who like to mangle their images with filters, wouldn't UF 5 be more suited to their work flow? Obviously it would, but it is their hatred of the "
Fractalbooking masses" that prevents them from ever being able to admit, publicly anyway, that UF could actually be useful to them. Or, perhaps it is the virtually infinite artistic possibilities that intimidate them? One OT author essentially admitted that in a previous OT post.

Ultra Fractal 5 now gives fractal artists a program that has no peer. With it's object-oriented additions to its programming language, formula writers can build upon the work of others in ways never before possible and create combinations that are not possible any other way. The top of the class always is the target of pot-shots by others. That's the way of the world. It doesn't change the facts, and it is sad that people think they need to tear down the successful, but that's life. I'm sure Frederik doesn't really care, and UF users don't really care. I don't really care other than finding it a fun diversion to point out the flaws and hypocrisy of these particular critics.

Why OT doesn't like the Photoshop-like features of UF doesn't really make sense. Photographers use layering all the time. Other digital artists use layering all the time. I suspect even the OT authors use or have used layering. Wait, is it because you can simulate filter effects in UF similar to image editing programs? Could be. But, isn't that what the OT authors like to do with their images? Well then, why criticize a program for allowing you to do natively what other programs require you to do externally?

Oh, wait. It's the ability to create non-fractal images with a program that has fractal in its name. But, aren't the images mangled beyond recognition with filters really non-fractal images? Yup. But, they can't mangle the images and say they were done in UF. Is that what pulls their chain? Perhaps. Sure, some people like to proudly proclaim their images were don't entirely in UF. So what? Personally, I think that is a bit silly, but it doesn't really bother me.
Face the facts. UF5 is certainly not exclusively a fractal program, and its use will no longer guarantee that the images made in it will be routinely accepted as fractal art and not some other sort of mixed media.
Well, since UF version 3 introduced formula language features that allowed creative programmers the ability to produce flame images, or implement ray tracing algorithms, or use the pixel formula to do line art, or use external programs like Sprite or BringItIn to use images, or use Glyph to use fonts, etc. UF has ceased to be "exclusively" a fractal program. But, this really isn't the point, is it?

The point is that "argument" if you can call it that, allows the OT whiners more reasons to complain about the BMFAC and Fractal Universe calendar. That's really at the heart of the issue.
At least there's one good offshoot from Ultra Fractal being downgraded to the status of just another image manipulation filter. No more will I have to listen to any self-righteous proclamations from UF users about how legit their fractal art is -- and what a cheat and a hack I am because I prefer post-processing fractals using various graphic programs.
Well, at least there is honesty in this statement. The OT author has had his feelings hurt because he has received criticism because he likes to mangle his fractal images with filters. Why does this bother him? Is it because his images start out as fractals, but can't be recognized as fractals after the mangling? Personally, I don't care how anyone creates their images. I've said it before and will continue to say it. Use whatever tools you want to produce what you want. If what people say about your work flow bothers you, then the problem is with you, not them.

But, OT is fooling themselves if they think UF is "downgraded" in any way. In fact, quite the opposite is occurring. The bar is being raised even higher for competitors to catch up. Hopefully, someone will try, and perhaps succeed. However, in the 10 years UF have been on the scene, no one has manged to equal it, let alone surpass it. I know that fact gets under the skin of some, but that's okay. The most innovative program that has come along since UF is XenoDream. They are totally different programs with totally different types of images that can be created. However, it is a testament to the power and versatility of UF when you realize that some XenoDream images can be duplicated in UF due to the creative efforts of formula writers. Yup, UF is surely downgraded.

You make your art legitimate or not, not what others say about it. If someone wants to proudly proclaim they made their image entirely in UF, why should that bother you any more than someone proudly proclaiming they destroyed their fractal with filters? People from either side getting upset at the other should probably concentrate more on their art production than what people say about how they made their art.

It's just as silly to claim your work is more "pure" fractal because it was done exclusively in any particular program. Because you used UF to create your image doesn't mean it is automatically more "fractal" than an image created by some other program. But, if you mangle your images beyond the ability to recognize anything fractal in it, you shouldn't be upset about someone claiming their image has more fractal aspects to it.

More later...


WelshWench said...

Oh dearie me, I smell sour grapes emanating from OT, and not for the first time. Judging by the comments you report here, I seriously think that their main problem with UF is that they don't know how to use it.

Ken said...

Well, one of them has said in the past that UF was too much for him to handle.

kymarto said...

Sour grapes can become fine wine in the right hands, but only with the correct knowledge...


"A poet more than thirty years old is simply an overgrown child."
--H.L. Mencken