Gregory B. Searle is a digital computer artist with a Bachelor in Fine Arts
from the University of Lowell (now U-Mass at Lowell) and a computer
programming background. He combined these seemingly opposing skill-sets
to create unique computer-generated “fractal” imagery using his own
custom computer code. This allows him to explore a whole world of
mathematically-generated imagery, carefully crafting the limitless
parameters to produce one-of-a-kind, high-quality fractal prints.
This page is intended as a space to explore computer-generated fractal
imagery as an art form.
At this time I am concentrating on extended variations of the
Mandelbrot set. In the future I may explore other types
of fractals. The extended set provides a huge world of form and
texture to explore. See the About Fractals page for more
About Fractals provides more information on this medium.
Gallery shows finished works that I have printed for sale.
Fractal Generator is a link to the tool I built to explore and create.
Math & Art goes into more detail on various subjects.
Resources lists other pages of interest on this subject.
Wallpaper is available for downloading for your phone or tablet.
Contact me through the links on this page.
A few pieces of my artwork are on display at ArtHub,
the Nashua Area Artists Association gallery.
This application now supports extended precision
calculations for deeper zooms into the fractals. Normally, the
image starts to break down into blocks when you approach the
double-precision limit of the CPU when zooming in. This occurs
at about 1014 magnification (1 followed by 14 zeros),
or 100 trillion times.
A technique called double-double precision allows
this limit to be extended to around 1030 magnification
(1 followed by 30 zeros), or a nonillion times. This
provides a lot more headroom for exploration! The above image was
found deep in the “Burning Ship” fractal at one
septillion, or 1024 zoom.
A variant of the Mandelbrot set takes the absolute value of
the formula on each iteration. The result is very different.
This is a deep magnification of the “Burning Ship”
fractal. It looks like you are looking upward through rippling
water at an old cityscape. This fractal tends to be noisy, so
rendering required 16X supersampling to smooth it out.
“Special Merit” and “Special Recognition”
Champagne received Special Merit and Bluebird received Special Recognition in the the March 2017 Light Space & Time
Online Art Gallery's 8th Annual Abstracts Art Exhibition. Following are a couple of excerpts from
“The gallery received 887 entries from 36 different countries from
around the world. In addition, the gallery received entries from
38 different states.”
“The gallery also included Special Merit awards and Special
Recognition awards for outstanding art. Many of the artists in either
of these groups could have easily been included in the upper tier of
our winners, as their art was also exceptional.”
Previously, Dragon Scales, also won Special Merit in the October 2016 “Open” exhibition.
Download fractal wallpaper for your phone, tablet, or other device
free from my new Wallpaper page!
The word fractal roughly means “fractional dimensions,”
referring to the mathematical tendency of a fractal shape to form
somewhere “between” classical geometric dimensions.
Fractals are created by iterating a mathmatical formula,
geometric progression, or another repeating process to generate an
increasingly complex, often beautiful result.
A classic example of a simple, geometric fractal is a Koch Curve.
This fractal shape is formed by overlaying an isosceles triangle
on top of an inverted isosceles triangle of the same size, creating
a six-point star. This forms six more triangles. Repeat for each of
these triangles, and again and again... This ultimately creates a
sort of fuzzy-star shape, somewhat organic-looking. The figure shows
an example of the first two iterations of this process.
The Mandelbrot Set was discovered by the mathmetician
Benoit Mandelbrot at IBM in 1979. He discovered
that repeated application of a deceptively simple formula, z=z²+c
produced an increasingly complicated result. The value of z
starts at zero, and c is a complex (imaginary) number. The
“set” is those values of c where the formula
result never exceeds 2, (or “escapes”) no matter how
many times the formula is iterated.
The colorful graphics that can be generated by a computer are
created not by the points that exist in the set, but by those
outside that escape the formula. Each escape point took a certain
number of iterations of the formula to escape. Different colors can
be assigned to the different iteration counts, such as a color
gradient or an interference pattern (sine waves). Since complex
numbers consist of two axes, real and imaginary, this can be plotted
on a two-dimensional graph to create a fractal image.
The Mandelbrot set can be extended into three dimensions by
adding another variable, the exponent. This exponent is traditionally
fixed at the value two (or squared) in the Mandelbrot
formula, z=z²+c. Since c is a complex number, the results
are mapped onto a two-dimensional plane, with the real component
mapped to the horizontal axis and the imaginary component mapped to
the vertical axis.
Altering the formula to z=zn+c, we now can vary the
exponent, n. A Multibrot simply changes the
exponent to another fixed value and draws the resulting set.
However, the exponent can be mapped to a third axis, creating a
three-dimensional “Multibrot space” for further
How do we explore such as space? One possibility is to define a
plane, or a “slice” through this space and calculate
the resulting set on this plane. This is the approach I have taken,
allowing a plane of arbitrary angle and position to be requested.
See the “Multibrot Slice” formula option in my
fractal generator. The image at the left is rendered with the
real value on the horizontal axis, the imaginary value fixed at zero,
and the exponent on the vertical axis.
Please see the Math and Fractal Generator
pages for more details.
This is a fractal generator application that will run in any
modern web browser. Browser technology has advanced far enough to
allow efficient, intense number-crunching of the calculations
required to create fractals right in the browser. The application
currently renders the Mandelbrot set and variations.
The link below will bring you to the full version, the same
version that I use to create the pieces in the gallery. A painter
uses paints; I use a CPU. I am giving you access to my paints!
Please be aware that this is always a work in progress. It will
change at a whim.
By using this application you
agree to the following terms. This application is provided
“as-is” and “at your own risk” without
warranty as to suitability of use. I am sharing access without
asking for compensation. No support is provided. I retain complete
ownership and copyright on the code. The application does not track
usage in any way above the normal web-host statistics typical
of any and all other web sites. Your clicks and results within the
application are not recorded. Any images produced are the sole
property of the user under international copyright law. It is the
user's sole responsibility to store and preserve any results.
This CPU-intensive application will place a high demand on your
battery. If your tablet overheats from CPU load, contact the
manufacturer, not me.
There are multiple interesting variations of the Mandelbrot set
that arise through modifications to the underlying formula. You may
switch the formula in use under the Details pane.
Mandelbar creates a three-lobed figure by
using the complex conjugate of the traditional formula,
which calculates the real portion minus the imaginary portion.
Burning Ship calculates the absolute value
(positive only) of the formula. The result looks like a ship at sea,
on fire. Magnifying behind the “ship” reveals some tall
ships, also seemingly on fire. This pattern appears to the left
of the Multibrot set rendered with the y-axis mapped to the exponent
instead of to the imaginary component. (See Multibrot Slice,
Cubed raises the power of the formula to three,
instead of two. This creates a mirrored-image of the set, with some
Multibrot* allows you to set the exponent of
the formula to something other than the traditional second power. Larger
numbers create a fringed circle effect, while non-integer values
add some interesting complications. Negative values change the
behavior altogether, and utilizes period mapping instead
of the traditional escape method.
Multibrot Slice* takes a cross-section, or
“slice,” of the multibrot set rendered in three-dimensions.
The real and imaginary components are still mapped to the x- and
y-axes, and the exponent is added for the z-axis. To take a
“slice” of this form, extra parameters are available to
define the plane of a cross-section.
This is a superset of almost all variations presented on this
page. There is so much to explore, even without changing the
First, an Offset defines the distance of the center of
the plane from the origin (0,0,0). Angle determines the
angle of the plane from the z-axis (the exponent). Rotation
specifies the rotation of the plane around the z-axis. Angles are
in degrees, (0,0) facing “down” at a traditional
multibrot rendering, in which case the offset is equivalent to the
It is very easy to get lost and end up with a blank screen! If
this happens, zoom out, or reduce your offset to single digits, or
Reset the parameters to start over. The active set is a
narrow, vertical column. Keep in mind that you are rotating your
thin render plane around the column, and not all solutions
intersect. At this time, the parameters rotate around the origin
Negabrot shows what occurs when the exponent
is changed to -2. This implementation utilizes the same escape
method as the Mandelbrot (though technically incorrect and somewhat
Negabrot (Periodic)* sets the exponent to
“-2” in the “Multibrot” formula to see the
Negabrot variant rendered using period mapping.
Ripples* inserts a sine function into the formula,
creating an underwater effect. This is not part of the multibrot
Feathered* uses an arctangent function to create a
feathered, or windy, effect. This is not part of the multibrot set.
Select an image to go directly to the live
* Some of the formulas are more calculation-intensive
than others, and will take more time to render.
Here are some more details on this application. First, it is
designed for functionality, not to be pretty. If you're using a
tablet or mobile device, touch support is rudimentary. The primary
goals are flexibility, quality of output, and calculation speed
(more below). I am always tweaking it with these goals in mind.
Flexibility A strong, customizable theming
engine is built in for theoretically unlimited color theming of the
fractals. It supports traditional gradient (ramp) themes, sinewave-
based (wave) themes, and more complicated (and hard to manage)
interference matrices. Many presets are provided to get you started.
You can also build your own, which are saved in your browser's local
storage. Note that if you clear your browser's storage, you will
lose your themes! The theme can be applied as a linear, logarithmic,
or exponential progression (see the Render menu) to control
complexity. For finished work, the resolution can be changed to
create print-quality results. There are many other parameters that
can be fine-tuned.
The depth controls the maximum iterations allowed before
the point is considered “escaped.” Without such a maximum,
the calculation would take forever. This is automatically determined
based upon the magnification. Several presets are provided,
Moderate being the typical setting. You can also specify
this number manually in the Details pane.
Quality. Oversampling performs multiple
calculations per pixel to create a high-quality image. You can choose
from Fast calculation with no oversampling to Fine
8x8 oversampling. For most exploration, you will probably stay in
Good 2x2 oversampling for a balance of speed and quality.
The calculation overruns by three extra iterations to smooth out
banding artifacts that are typically created by an iterated process.
Preview mode temporarily turns off calculation-intensive
enhancements for quicker rendering.
For extra detail on your screen, you can enable Subpixel
Rendering. Most LCD screens are set up with red, green, and blue
elements arranged side-by-side on each pixel. This option takes the
positions of these elements into consideration when rendering,
effectively tripling the resolution of your display on the
Detailed and Fine quality settings.
The oversampling adjusts slightly to 6x4 and 9x8, respectively.
Note that you should turn this off when rendering for print or web.
Speed. The calculation engine is fully-optimised
to run in the browser's asm.js compiler. This means that
the browser distills the core calculation into native machine code
(really fast)! The application contains its own benchmark, which
I've used to fine-tune the performance. You can adjust certain
performance parameters in the options. This application is multi-
threading, so make sure to match the core count to the number of
cores in your CPU, even if you're using a tablet.
Many factors will affect the overall speed of the rendering, CPU
power being the primary constraint. The deeper you go into a portion
of the fractal set, the more iterations are usually required to render
a result. Oversampling quality and smoothing also increase demand. You
can temporarily turn off all calculation-intensive enhancements with
the Preview option under the Quality menu.
Extended Precision for Deep Zoom
This application supports double-double-precision math
for zooming in beyond the CPU's double-precision limit. Normally, the
image will degrade into blocks if you zoom in too far; you've hit
the precision limit of your computer when this happens. This
application will automatically switch to extended precision
when you hit this limit. This requires extra computation, however,
and results in the calculation slowing down dramatically. You
will see a brief notification when this occurs, and there is a
“Precision” indicator in the “Details”
panel that will switch from “Standard” to
“Extended.” I'd recommend lowering
the quality setting to “Fast” when exploring
this deep. Expect long render times for finished fractals.
At this time, the formulas that require trigonometry don't yet
support extended precision. The application will notify you if
it can't do it. You can currently zoom deep into the Mandelbrot,
Mandelbar, Burning Ship, and Cubed variations. Eventually it
will have support for all variations.
Utilize the Coordinates link in the
Details pane. This is the coordinates of your current
rendering in the form of a URL that you can come back to. You can
save this to a bookmark in your web browser, or copy it somewhere
else. The displayed coordinates are compatible with any other
Mandelbrot set application, however, the options in the URL are
unique to this application. The Save Location
option under the Options menu will automatically
remember where you were when you come back later. Note that a saved
URL (bookmark) will override this option.
Printing a rendering usually requires higher
resolution output than your screen. You can manually set the pixel
width and height through the Resolution setting on the
Details pane. You will want to calculate the target width
and height by multiplying the paper size by the desired DPI.
Gamma is usually set to 1. If you are rendering
for a print, you may wish to change this to around 1.2.
Resolution defaults to your web browser window
size, or the screen size of your mobile device. With Auto
Render enabled under the Options, your fractal will
automatically re-render if your window size changes. This includes
any bars that appear along the bottom of the window. To prevent
this, click on the Set or Screen link under the
Resolution setting to fix the resolution, ignoring resize
Saving your rendering is best achieved by
right-clicking on the image and selecting the option to save the
image from the menu. If your browser responds to the right-click by
sending a regular click to the application, click Lock Coords
next to the coordinates first. A Save Image link appears
on the Details pane when rendering completes, but this is
memory-intensive and has limited support by the browsers. Note that
some browsers will show a status bar at the bottom once you save an
image, triggering a resize (and re-render) on the window. On mobile
devices, use the Full Screen and Hide Controls
options to clear all user interface elements, then take a
Settings and custom themes are saved in your
browser's local storage. If you clear this, all of your customization
will disappear. There is no export function. However, custom themes
are copied into the URL on the Coordinates link, so if
you have saved a bookmark, your theme will be preserved. I take pains
during development to honor older bookmarks so they always work.
Math & Art
Wait, “Math” and “Art?”
If you've come this far, you may be thinking twice about these
apparent opposites. Yes, it's possible for the two to coexist and
even complement each other.
This is a space to discuss various topics that don't fit
elsewhere regarding art, math, programmatic details, etc. I
hope you find this interesting. Chances are, you arrived here
through a search result. If so, please explore the rest of the
site! I plan to add more to this page as my exploration
continues in this area.
How Is This Art?
When creating fractal art, the computer does all the work. Really,
You press a button and out comes an image. You may be asking,
how is this art?
The art is in the painstaking preparation. For example,
an exquisite bronze sculpture is created when a metal foundry pours
molten metal into a cast. The metal cools, the cast is opened, and
the sculpture is there! It isn't that simple, though. An artist had
to create the cast.
Computer-generated art requires an artist to set up the parameters.
This requires careful exploration of the fractal space and fine
adjustment of form and color. Like photography, framing and lighting
are critical. It can take several hours (or days!) to create something
that's worth rendering to print.
To continue the bronze sulpture metaphor, multiple copies of the
sculpture can be created simply by reusing the mold. This reduces
the value of each copy, unless the mold is broken after the
first successful cast. This creates a one-of-a-kind piece of work.
The same can be done with fractal art. If only one print is
created from the work, and the parameters are never shared, then
the work becomes unique. It's possible to “break the mold”
by securing the parameters file and the rendered image file after
printing. These become single-edition prints.
I have not had the courage to hit the delete button after
finishing a work. The prints are one-of-a-kind, yet the original
fractal provides opportunity for continued study. Unlike a mold,
it is still a “living” work of art that can be explored
Smoothing and Periodicity Texturing
Calculating a Mandelbrot-type fractal requires counting the
iterations required for the formula to escape beyond
a predefined value. This results in integer values, which when
mapped produces a marked “banded” effect. A little
calculus allows us to figure out how these bands are progressing
overall and to smooth out the quantization effect of an iterating
formula. The iteration cycles must overshoot beyond the escape
value a few times to collect enough samples for smoothing. This is
a small price to pay for a more finished result.
Rendering negative exponents “breaks” traditional
escape-time rendering of the inside of the set. Instead,
periodic rendering must be utilized to render under
negative exponents. Typically, this requires time-consuming
sampling of many iterations for each point. However,
developed a methodology to determine period-calculation without
Applying Lyapunov's work to the Multibrot universe, the calculation
is fairly simple: take the natural logarithm of the average result
and divide by the number of iterations run. No sampling, just apply
a formula to the final figures. We can collect the sum over the
iteration process without much extra CPU work.
Implementing this into a computer program, I realized that the
formula can be simplified, I mean really simplified, with
the goal of a satisfying visual result. The final periodic
calculation used by this application resolves the average
magnitude of a set of vectors. This provides a visual texture of
the periodicity inherrent to negative exponents. My piece
Sunset on Ice
is an example of how complex this texture can become.
Simplified Periodic Formula
1 + (∑r² + ∑i²) ÷ iterations
These calculations are also leveraged for rendering the inside
of the set for positive exponents, and the outer area for negative
The natural log of 2 and the log of the exponent can be
precalculated into a fixed constant in most cases.
The periodic formula may not be technically “accurate,”
but my goal is visual, not accuracy. And, it's fast!
Adding one to the denominator of the periodic function avoids
a runaway result to infinity for periods close to zero.
See the Wikipedia articles linked in the Resources
section for more detail about these two techniques.
Here are a few additional resources for more information.