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The high resolution flame fractals of Dr. Bob Jansen are not just mathematical monsters: they could be serious fine art.
The high resolution flame fractals of Dr. Bob Jansen are not just mathematical monsters: they could be serious fine art.
52 backers pledged $1,998 to help bring this project to life.

About this project

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$1,998

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Help the mad doctor build more monsters.

His limbs were in proportion, and I had selected his features as beautiful. Beautiful". Mary Shelley, Frankenstein

The high resolution flame fractals of Dr. Bob Jansen are not just beautiful monsters: they could be serious fine art.

Rewards for supporting R. D. Jansen’s work include downloading the 25 new high resolution (6750 x 4500) images in Folio #9, or choosing from the 255 images of the previous Kickstarter campaigns. Unlimited non-commercial printing is allowed for your own personal art gallery, or as gifts or greeting cards, calendars, etc. There are also large canvas and vinyl prints available as rewards.

Campaign goal of Folio #9 is $500, to support further experimental art work and allow printing for gallery display.The eight (8) previous Jansen Kickstarter campaigns received as much as twenty five (25) times their goal amounts. It could have something to do with the quality of the rewards.

Campaign duration is 40 days, and, as usual, pledges exceeding the goal amount will be used for additional gallery printing and mad artistic exploration.

Here is a video slide show showing the 25 new images of Folio #9.

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To view all the previous Jansen Kickstarter projects and all their images just put Robert Jansen into the Kickstarter search box, and all these former projects will pop up. Rewards for supporting the Folio #9 project can include downloads of any of the 255 images in all these projects.

The short video at the top of this story briefly describes how my art work is done. If you want more detail you can read the longer article that follows.

How my experimental art work is done, and why.

Since the 1967 Summer of Love I have been searching the edge of chaos for the Deep Structure of Beauty. I have used paint brushes, knives and trowels, airbrushes, sponges, squirt guns, shot shells, firecrackers wrapped in paint, paint dropped from second story windows, paint dribbled onto spinning canvases or run over with a bicycle. I can’t remember everything I tried in the Haight-Ashbury, but, as Robin Williams once said, if you can remember the sixties, you probably weren’t there. Picture below is me playing street-flamenco at Ghirardelli Square cir 1972, an early form of crowd funding. Moustache was shaved in 1975, guitar was stolen, and I don’t know what happened to the beret.

Bob Jansen, cir 1972, San Francisco
Bob Jansen, cir 1972, San Francisco

By the eighties I had gotten a Ph.D. studying visual imagery and, because of a silly article about stress reducing wall paper designs I published in Ad Age, goofy cash-rich software people in Los Angeles recruited me to carry on experimenting with imagery. There is a lesson to be learned here: always publish silly articles.

I switched to experimental video; bought a couple of Ikegami cameras and recruited a videographer from Andy Warhol’s Factory and a Hollywood coke-head who duplicated VHS porn tapes in his garage. In a skyscraper on Wilshire Blvd. next to UCLA we taped tropical fish swimming languidly to hypnotic bubble sounds, shot dry ice clouds with colored lighting (looks just like fire), or ran compressed helium into gallons of detergent to make huge floating bubbles. We were making fractals the hard way, of course, and all this was jolly good messy fun, but recorded only in low resolution analog tape format, best we could do at the time. We got mentioned on Johnny Carson and I got interviewed on national radio for a tape we released called “Video Fish”: my fifteen minutes of fame.

Messy analog fun notwithstanding, it turns out that nothing works quite as well as mixing geometric functions on a chaotic digital image plane. The ultra high resolution digital algorithmic method I use now was invented by Scott Draves in 1992. Called flame fractals, it can create images that are very different from the curly starfish-like Mandelbrot fractals one sees in math books. Draves’ method is based on the idea that highly complex shapes can be slowly created by combining or integrating various non-linear alterations of a digital image plane. Think of it as a digital image synthesizer.

Using the open source software, Apophysis, I set 93 values for each variable and permute any and all subsets of 49 function-variables. That is a lot of artistic ownership. And once the set up image is rendered, (the IFS also has many programmable settings), it can be translated, rotated, zoomed, mutated through other functions, cropped, and colored in Photoshop or Illustrator.The likelihood of another Apophysis user duplicating one of my generative images is the same as opening a safe with a four thousand (4000) number combination.

The result can be stunning, transfixing the viewer with unbelievable complexity that looks organic, like it was grown. Human and animal faces and body parts keep appearing in this chaotic mixing of geometric-mathematical functions making it tempting to imagine that real life forms are strange attractors which arise in chaotic Nature.

The Horror, from Folio #9
The Horror, from Folio #9

Often the sheer complexity of flame fractals is what is most impressive to viewers. Axon 2 from Folio #9 pictured here highly reduced in size, used only 12 interacting functions.

Axon2, from Folio #9
Axon2, from Folio #9

One school librarian in Maine wrote to me that so many of her students had mentioned my work that she wanted to put my images up in her library so that all her students could see how beautiful math and science are. Wow, that almost made me cry. But, on more reflection, it made me wonder if the dominant attraction of fractal based art is simply to justify technology. IT nerds, mathematicians and scientists used to be seen as cold and sterile. Early programming was simple, so simple that androids like Mr. Data, and scientists like Mr. Spock were portrayed as colorless and without emotion. Enter Benoit Mandelbrot, the Messiah of Fractal Geometry, who demonstrated that the irregularity of Nature and biology can be described mathematically.

Fractals warm things up nicely for techies. One IT client said he has put one of my huge fractals on his wall to remind anyone who looks at it that writing code is a fully human endeavor.

Viewing abstract art as a mathematical-scientific process raises some interesting questions. What exactly is an abstract image anyway? Are there a limited number of them, or can we go on forever creating them? The genome state space for 50 ! graphic variables and all the possible ways they can be weighted, combined and positioned in a two dimensional array is unimaginably large. But complexity theorists like Stuart Kauffman suggest that within huge combinatorial state spaces like biology or chemistry there are probably basins of attraction, gravity wells, as it were, that reduce combinatorial complexity to much smaller numbers. In the proverbial monkeys at typewriters randomly churning out Shakespeare scenario, which would take more monkeys and more time than is available in the universe, the task would be shortened considerably if there were basins of attraction, for example, if the monkeys were all high school English teachers.

After a few years of generating random combinations of non-linear graphical variables I am beginning to sense that there might be attractors in the state space of algorithmic Art. Not such a strange idea, perhaps. Human senses efficiently filter what is necessary in the environment to reproduce; reproduction is an attractor, in effect. As I choose one abstract image over another in my process of selection, I cannot help but wonder if my eyes have feet of clay, so to speak. Do I choose shapes and colors because they look like the organic curve of a woman’s body, the shape of a human smile, a cluster of fruit in a distant tree? One artist wrote to me that he uses his arm and hand as a strange attractor. As odd as that sounds, he was not the only analog artist to say this to me.We draw or paint what we are physically able to see and manipulate. When we paint with a brush we are filtering what we intend through the limits of our fractal neuro-musculoskeletal systems: Apes and even elephants have painted some awesome gestural abstracts, one could suggest because they too have fractal musculatures and perceptual systems. But algorithmic computer aided methods expand all that. Thanks to Scott Draves et al I am able to manage far greater complexity.But selection, call it human selection rather than natural selection, still flows through the bottleneck of my fractal sensorium.

Kaleidoscopes using colored crystals and a mirrored tube can make some beautiful geometric patterns. What we would not expect from a kaleidoscope is a meaningful pattern. Freeware like Apophysis generates complex images like a fractal kaleidoscope, only with non-linear variables doing the colliding (kaleiding?) on the digital image plane. My own selection process does not pause until something meaningful “appears”. It is certainly okay for a graphic to just be pleasing, and some of my images are nothing more than that. But I believe that graphic patterns, Euclidean or fractal, become fine art only when the artist chooses images which are psychologically meaningful and powerful, perhaps not pleasing, but disturbing. The best fine art should do something to the viewer, to change the way we see the world.

I believe the larger message that fractal algorithmic art derived from chaos delivers is philosophical: that Art is not sent from the gods nor is it a mystical madness; Nature has its own inherent order and humans and all our artifacts are an emergent part of that deep structure. Art is built into Nature and emerges from it. Nothing is outside or above Nature, including what we see as beautiful. This humanistic idea, although brilliantly described by Epicurus 2500 years ago and later by Lucretius, has never been accepted by people with ontological delusions of grandeur. But seeing a beautiful complex image formed by the mere juxtaposition of mathematical functions is enough to knock the hubris out of any artist. If the viewer understands what they are seeing, it may do so for them as well.

Robert Dennis Jansen, Ph.D. ,Georgetown, Texas, 2014

Risks and challenges

As this is my ninth successful Kickstarter project all the delivery logistics have been worked out. Here are some comments from backers of former Kickstarter projects.:

As you may know, I think you are amazing. As a photographer (who also spent time with Ansel Adams), holographer, optical engineer & actuary, YOU are one of my heroes! Your greatest fan,
Steven Landau

Your pictures are truly amazing - I have viewed your sample images on youtube and the more I see the more impressed I am. Your work should be in museums - have any art museums displayed your work? Fred Abboud

Hi Robert!
My name is David, i'm a video game/ film composer from Round Rock. Just saw your page on here and was blown away! incredible art. truly inspirational. They are so deep I can literally write music to them! :) Best of luck
David

Students at my school discovered your most recent Kickstarter and would like say that your work is not just beautiful, but inspiring to both the art and mathematics departments. We intend to support your project and ask that we might display your work in our school library as the inspiration of a school exhibition inspired by science and mathematics. …Just know that you have some BIG FANS at Hollis Brookline High School in Hollis, NH. Christine Heaton, Librarian & ETI at HBHS

These "paintings" look really fantastic. Something I've never seen before. Erik Seur, Architect ( Netherlands)

I admire your artwork. I think it is absolutely magical and inspiring. Congratulations on all your projects! Alina Turek

You do awesome work :) Love them! Cathy Franchett

Your artwork is fantastic. Koby Wong

I am one who loves the neon bright colors. The Bioluminous and Geisha Bowing just had me memorized (sic). I think they are both beautiful. I think as well as wall art they will make beautiful screen savers.
Brenda Britton-Pitrowski

The Faces In Chaos are wonderful! I absolutely love them. I had no trouble downloading them either! Julsvern

Wow. They are HUGE. No problem downloading them in a zip file. Great work! What I appreciate most is that you are willing to give away the high resolutions images for practically nothing.
Richard Nollman

I was poking around as I'm new to kickstarter and saw your amazing fractal art. I am really sad I missed the opportunity to back this project and was wondering if any of this art is still available to purchase? If not please let me just say thank you for the incredible art you are creating.
Chris Wright

Just want to say, I really like what you are doing. Your art is, well, bitchin'...
Christopher

Fantastic work as always. The big print I have one my wall is always a favorite when people come over. Chris Dunlap

Thank you for continually providing quality scientific art through kickstarter. I have tried to support every one of your projects and love the style.
-Sean Callaghan

It is funny but to me this is kind of modern art, which I usually do not like. But I find your work mesmerizing in a way and the story behind it is so interesting. I will definitely be having a place print this for me and will have it mounted and framed. Any suggestion on the best size etc.? Thanks again. I look forward to receiving it.
Shari Zelman

Just found your Kickstarter page and I am hooked! I would have pegged you for a former math or maybe biophysics professor. Such an interesting use of computer algorithms.
Shannon Sauter

Love your work! My wife commented on it when I changed our screensaver that it was "nerdy art", but has taken a real liking to it. Chris Biro
Sydney, Australia

Awesome work, it makes a great case for art in science! DM

First of all beautiful art designs! I'm a Computer Science/Math undergraduate and am completely in awe from the beauty behind the algorithmic designs. Thank you for your time and your creations. Nick Kacena

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  1. Select this reward

    Pledge $5 or more About $5

    Download your favorite single (1) high resolution image, choose from all Jansen folios. Unlimited printing for personal use only. Choice obtained by survey at project's end. Delivered via DropBox.

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    Pledge $25 or more About $25

    $25, download any single Jansen folio (“folio” is an artsy way of describing a set of 20 to 25 images), Choose from the nine folios extant on Kickstarter. To view all the available folios, simply enter Robert Jansen in Kickstarter search box, and all former projects pop up. Folio choice obtained by survey at project’s end. Printing unlimited for personal use only.

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    Pledge $48 or more About $48

    $48, download any two Jansen folios, 50 or more images, Choose from nine folios extant on Kickstarter. To view all 255 images, simply enter Robert Jansen in Kickstarter search box, and all former projects pop up. Folio choice obtained by survey at project’s end. Printing unlimited for personal use only.

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    Pledge $69 or more About $69

    $69, download any three Jansen folios, 75 or more images, Choose from nine folios extant on Kickstarter. To view all 255 images, simply enter Robert Jansen in Kickstarter search box, and all former projects pop up. Folio choice obtained by survey at project’s end. Printing unlimited for personal use only.

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    Pledge $140 or more About $140

    $140, download all nine (9) Jansen folios, 255 images, To view all 255 images, simply enter Robert Jansen in Kickstarter search box, and all former projects pop up. Printing unlimited for personal use only.

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    Pledge $150 or more About $150

    Brilliant print, on washable vinyl with removable adhesive backing 20x30 inches; this reward level includes one folio download, your choice. Shipped rolled in a tough tube.

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    PETG thin transparent plastic 18x27 inch; includes any two folios download. Can be placed in a window for an awesome stained-glass effect.

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    Pledge $190 or more About $190

    Brilliant museum quality canvas 20x30 inch with 2 inch mirror borders, shipped in a tube unstretched; includes any three folios downloads.

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    Pledge $350 or more About $350

    Brilliant museum quality canvas 36x54 inch with 2 inch mirror borders, shipped in a tube unstretched; includes all nine folios downloads.

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Funding period

- (40 days)