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  • My Creative Process and A New Site Design

    When I first set out to update and re-style this website, I knew I wanted a different kind of home page from the one I had for many years. This was, for many years, my previous entrance page, with image rollovers linked to the various sections of the site: 

    The previous inner pages were built with lots of white space, fixed-width images and columns of text, and were best viewed on a computer screen. Although I realized that tablets, smart devices, and varying sizes of screens necessitated incorporating responsive designs and re-thinking old html page layouts, I had resisted updating this site for far too long because I was not fond of the design trends in those intervening years. This is an artist's site. It should be beautiful. It should reflect my aesthetic. And it should be as unique as the art it presents. 

    Very few people with personal websites have the skills to write their own code and/or the money to pay for a custom design, so most resort to using canned services, hosts, and design templates. That is why so many sites look alike. Blog sites have similar layouts, and photography and fine art websites have a clean presentation, but not the variety that the artist's voice deserves. Even though I have some experience designing and coding websites, it's a lot of work to redo a site as big as this one, and I didn't want to do it until I had good design ideas and the time/skills to do it right. So the complete re-do kept slipping lower on my list of priorities.

    Then a year ago, my website host retired and I needed to move my domains to a new host. Of course that brought up some compatibility issues and suddenly some key parts of the old design didn't work right anymore. Fortunately, I have the best brother in the world—someone who loves a programming challenge, has a bit of unclaimed time on his hands, and is evidently a sucker for helping me bring my many crazy ideas to life. He offered to help problem-solve and get the old site functioning again. Then, whilst combing through the old code (which was a third-party CMS system I purchased many years ago), he kept saying "This code is a mess; there's got to be a better way." So thanks to his help, what I've ended up with, nearly a year later, is a custom site that does exactly what I want and need it to do, and looks terrific!

    After we got the backend working again, we started to rework the design and functionality of the gallery and individual image pages, the writing sections, and improving the image search. In terms of overall design, dedicated home (landing) pages aren't so common anymore, and those sites that have them mostly take a different approach: often just one long vertical page divided into sections. That doesn't work for either my aesthetic or the amount of art I want to present here. But I still didn't have a good plan for the home page design so we put it on the backburner and attacked the other sections first.

    As we were re-working the inner pages—the galleries and the individual image pages—I realized that I really love seeing my art on a white background (resisting all my natural instincts to add color and texture). Many sites these days choose colors, and dark themes are quite popular. And although a black background makes most of my images really "pop," I find myself quite drawn to the clean, minimalist look of white. We settled on white as a background for the galleries and black for the image overlays. 

    Once the inner page designs were finished, I returned to the question of what I should put on the landing page that isn't just a logo, or a set of links to the different sections within. What would have enough importance and interest to deserve a page all its own, serve as an introduction to my art, and entice the visitor to explore further? 

    Since fractal art is still a not-well-understood medium, I thought it might be fun and informative to demonstrate a condensed walk-through of my creative process—how a new work starts, and what its development looks like along the way to its finished form. I also wanted to introduce the signature colors we had chosen for the site. So I created this first Julia set image with all this in mind, and then deconstructed its evolution in a slideshow-type animation.

    I begin every image in grayscale and focus first on finding the fractal structure I want to work with before I even consider adding color. I collect several layers of shapes and textures and then slowly begin adding color. For this image, I kept the colors simple with the aqua blues and caramel golds I've used throughout the Infinite Art site. The last step is to add subtle textures and slight variances in color throughout the image.


    Another idea I had was to show the iterative nature of fractals. If you take a simple shape and the repeat it at diminishing scales, the structure quickly becomes quite complex. In this case, each iteration also includes a 90° rotation.


    After the first two animations worked out nicely, I decided to branch out a little bit in my color palette, and to demonstrate some of the artistic choices I make along the way.

    The nature of fractals is such that each iteration and repetition of a shape uses the same coloring, and appears in proportionately varied sizes and rotation. By default, each iteration of the shape is a perfect replica of all the others because the computer is rendering them from the reiterating mathematical formulas. But I find that level of precision and sameness to have a mechanical, mundane feel. Rather, I want to see the hand and heart of the artist, and I have developed many techniques to simulate human choices that introduce deliberate imperfection into my work.

    Here's an example of an image that I manipulated in such a way that the predictable replication of shapes is sacrificed:


    At this point, I was really enjoying creating these homepage slideshow animations, and I decided to branch out and demonstrate some different fractal structures. Here is an example of the Nova formula, in a limited palette presentation:


    It's interesting to see the shapes change and evolve, but I couldn't resist adding color, this time breaking out of the constraints of the website palette:


    I got a little bit addicted to making these animations, so I did a few more in varying styles. A minimalist approach...:


    An image packed with detail and texture...:


    And algorithmically-generated petals and leaves with fractal textures...:


    These animations are now served up randomly when you enter the site via the Home page or click the "Home" link in the upper left corner. 

    There are also a couple of other posts about my creative process here and here.


    Category: News