Ruminations from the Mad Scientist™
I have been an artist all of my life. While I might not be the next Rembrandt or Picasso or Michelangelo, I have always felt that as long as my art brings just a little bit of happiness to someone’s life, then I’m content. That my fulfilment comes from creating something that someone (anyone really) likes in one way or another is good enough for me.
While not actually painting, drawing, illuminating, sculpting, being a ceramicist/potter since leaving high school (having followed my path into computers after being introduced to them in high school and programming on the TRS-80), I continued to dabble when I could where I could and whenever I needed a creative outlet for whatever problem I had been working through at the time. I remember being introduced to the first fractal making program back when I first owned a 386 computer in the early 90s. It worked on Mandelbrot’s main formula (with some added computations and variations), but it lacked the depth and resolution I had seen of CGI and technical effects I saw on the silver screen. But it had promise as it was the first stages of programs for the home user to create works of art based on mathematics (something I was adept with), computers (which I had excelled in) and was a taste of things to come without the exorbitant price tag of some CGI programs on the market at the time… I forgot about it and programs like Bryce (and also Ray Dreams), focusing my attention on programs and mediums that furthered my skills in writing and socializing.
Then came the mid-to-late-90s. A programmer from the UK created a program called Terragen that took the ideas from the more complex terrain and CGI programs on the market and allowed end-users to play with landscapes of their own and do so for cheap or free. It allowed me to create landscapes near enough to what I saw on the Silver Screen and do so from the comfort of my home on my own computer and allowed me to produce something like this to wow friends and strangers alike while demonstrating both my inherent artistic abilities with how I harnessed the “magic” of computers:
More time passed: another decade in fact. I stumbled across the program Chaoscope from one of the tech e-papers I used to read for work and after downloading it gave it a try.. It produced the exact qualities that I wanted to create: vibrant colors on a dark background and coupling it with mathematics, did so at speeds I had been accustomed when I had done speed sketches into my diary. It also gave me the inspiration (and feeling) of when gods of lore harnessed the gases of the sun and infusing it in silicon, allowing me – a mere mortal – to create images of wonders to behold like this:
While Chaoscope had its potentials, it wasn’t quite for me. It lacked the complexity that I was familiar with in database programming. It also didn’t create imagery quite the way that I wanted: taking up the majority (or the whole) of the monitor screen and do so in wondrous colors, shapes and patterns. I kept at Chaoscope for as long as I could, until the day I had met Damion and he introduced me to Deviant Art. That’s where on a random impulse, came across a piece of fractal art created by a program called Apophysis. My fascination in that program started with this:
And the rest was – as we say – history.
Apophysis allowed me to combine the wild impulses of artistic creation, mathematics and programming. It allowed me the ability tinker and tweak the “guts” of the fractal (though the use of manipulating the “triangles” within the editor) until I was satisfied with what I was seeing; then to render what it was I wanted to share, and (in my hope) to confer the same feeling(s) to others I experienced in the creation of the piece: the wonder that comes when maths are made into art. Apophysis also opened up avenues that allowed me to marry an image created with words and apply it to an image of chaos made manifest, much like this one:
And so, the Mad Scientist™ was born… Well, he was already born… This was the time the Mad Scientist™ matured into the adult.
And now for the change of direction (albeit briefly).
I have also been on the Internet since before its popularity with the home user. A full decade before. I remember the various poor man’s Internet — the BBS system — sharing files, and pictures and sounds and programs at a whopping 150 baud (to 300, to 2400 and on). I remember finding the Internet when working at a college and keeping that account for as long as possible. I remember and became familiar with Eudora, Gopher, Usenet and FTP. I remember tools that helped convert binaries to text and back again. I remember the birth of IRC and the World Wide Web. I remember when businesses were introduced to CompuServe and the home users being introduced to Prodigy and AOL through GeoNet. I remember the birth and death of Netscape (and rebirth to Firefox). I’ve seen the gestation of social tools like MSN Messenger, AOL Instant Messenger, Yahoo Messenger and ICQ give birth to the social media explosion that brought us Deviant Art, Facebook, YouTube, and on and on and on…
I am one of the few ancients that continues to make his presence felt online — at least with this incarnation — since at least 1994. Well that and still boast about being from the early days, anyway. There are others, but I’ve learned they don’t admit it as quickly or as readily as I do (without prompting such as this).
From the two, I’ve learned interesting lessons in the creation of my art, it’s attraction of others that see (and even download) and occasionally the offers that I’m offered for showing a greater audience (and always graciously turn down because I feel it would take from artists that need that attention more than I would as this is only a hobby and a great experiment for me).
I had to take a walk to sort the next part out. There was an impact I was hoping to make and felt I wasn’t going to be making it the way that I wanted. I couldn’t shake the feeling… was the very thing I loathe seeing from “people” following my blog on WordPress (e.g., the Advertisers trying to sell their “wonderful” little-work-yet-great-return-so-you-can-live-the-good-life product) or worse, the pontificating fool… The fact is, I’m not trying to sell anything. I give away what I’ve learned freely and though one person did in fact sparked the muse that inspired me in this (yes, that’s you Mr. R.), it is in good spirits and in kind heart that perhaps something can be learned from it. Both for the person that inspired me to make this post and anyone else wanting to use and utilize the tools we have today.
They’re sort of rules… And by rules I mean guidelines. The sort of guidelines that had been passed on to me, and passed on to everyone that has ever made anything for people to view, experience, witness, like and share within the community of artists, musicians, celebrities, bloggers, vloggers and those inspired by the energies that create harmony through conflict. That create beauty from the chaos within and without. That want to inspire in others the spark we all contain within ourselves.
1. Let your art sell itself. The first and best way you can make an impact is releasing that art to the wild. Be it to your followers, viewers, friends, to even the world at large… Put it out there without excessive tease, preamble or long introduction. Let the audience that it was shared with digest and decide for themselves whether to like share, comment, etc.* If you feel the need to hint – and people often do – let the hint go free and don’t hint at it anymore. When the time comes (and goes), release it. Hint at something too much and you might end up giving impressions you’re more talk than action. There’s some really interesting lessons to be said about this approach. You get an idea on the audience you’re reaching whether you do your art for free (like I do) or making money off of it (like some professional artists that I know and follow. For example, in six years I’ve learned that women tend to favorite/favor warmer colors in the fractal art that I create with men gravitating more toward the cooler colors… Or my personal favorite… What I personally didn’t like ends up getting a metric shit-ton more views than the piece that earned an award for production. Some art that I personally put in hours of work ends up being completely ignored. Others rush, loved, complimented, liked, downloaded. It’s from this that I learned the public has its own tastes and drives and no matter how much you might want the public to like something you’re proud of, the public has whims and tastes of its own.
2. To sell your art, you need to sell yourself. I learned this from my years on Deviant Art. It’s not about sending up messages advertising, “hey, I put something out, check it out..” No, it’s more about interacting with your community at large. Someone’s having a problem and you have advice? Share it! You like something they produced be it friend and/or stranger? Comment! Someone did something you could only wish you could? Congratulate them in their success (and don’t be afraid to ask for some advice)! They failed or had difficulty in the production of their art? Give advice and pointers on what you did to overcome the difficulty they faced in that art’s creation. Be effervescent in all responses (as my mother and grandmother used to tell me, “you’ll attract more bees with honey than vinegar.”) And always, always, always favorite/like the things that impacted you. You’ll find people that you’ve been following, watching, even commenting once or twice to, coming to check out what it is you’re producing. Make it feel like you’re part of the community at large.
3. Once you release your art let the social media in question work its “magic”. I’m not talking about re-sharing a compliment that you got for something they listened to, I’m talking about something said to me about having to repeat things already said because of fans and followers being in different time zones. This is the internet… In it we feel the closeness regardless of the distance and we as a whole are beginning to work out all the time zones one way or another because of those distances. Every bit of social media I have and had ever utilized has the inherent ability to filter. I missed/can’t see a comment from a circle of friends in Australia? A click or two later, all the other conversations in my timeline disappear and their comments/conversations come bubbling to the top. There they are, my friends in Australia are having a discussion on who’s got the best ass on screen. Another click and my timeline returns to normal.** Because the negative to this is if you find yourself having to reference the same piece time and again, you run the risk of alienating the very people would want to “sell” to or even could get you recognized.
** I’m finding that 5 years later I’m still getting saves (it’s like favorites/likes but for personal collections) for the piece that I received an award for on one site and still get offers on the various artwork that’s available for older work that can be found through WordPress, Deviant Art and even Flickr. How? They found it through my postings on Twitter, WordPress, Flickr and even Facebook. Not because I repeated them, but because it’s something that can be found in history. And besides, I’ve learned people like a good treasure hunt. It often gives people the feeling of accomplishment when they can find something memorable for themselves and want to treasure it.
When you’re properly working points 1, 2 and 3, you’ll find word of mouth will also in fact also work its magic. Want proof? Check out how Cosmo Jarvis’ Gay Pirates went viral.
Finally not necessarily a rule but I’ll number it anyway…
4. Know which social/media site will be the best place to showcase your art. And then reference it in some way in the places you like to visit and especially if have some sort of presence. Like how WordPress allows me to reference the last four pieces I’ve uploaded to Flickr. Like how you’re given the ability to create an about page that you can tell more about yourself (and even how to get in contact and/or reference other locations… Social sites allow for intermingling in some way or another. Utilize them to the best of your ability.
It’s a strange set of lessons there, one that I’m not sure how to explain without simply giving the information and allowing you to sort it out yourself… My Fractal Art tends to be primarily posted to Deviant Art and Flickr because of the visual art community at large. WordPress? One Drive? Google+? Well, I want to see how long it’s going to take before I max out the storage space after that I’ll be referencing/embedding from Deviant Art and/or Flickr. I get more likes/downloads and especially comments from Deviant Art and Flickr than anywhere else that my fractals posted to. Facebook comes in second because well, my friends and family are all as opinionated as I am so I look forward to their advice and comments. Everywhere else is just icing on my cake and gets me recognized either by comment/contribution or piece that I made for the week. And because of this… My art inspired other artists to try their hand in media they were more familiar with, here and here (to name a couple off the top of my head).
It accomplishes what I set out to do when I started making my art digital: make the impact I wanted. Inspire others to give it a try themselves. I’ve also witness that it applies to what I’ve seen of those Vloggers known as YouTube Personalities, Musicians, Celebrities and so on that have impacted my life and so many other lives in the process.
That’s it from me… I’ve said all that I can. Now I’m off to give Moe some attention and then read and to bed. Until the next time.
[Edit: Silly me. Up to my tits in a lot of things and forgot 2 links in the last section. Back and added…]
Activity Since Inception
Some of My Mad Scientist Work