This interview has been edited for format and clarity.
I see your first post on Renderosity was last February, however, I’m guessing you’ve been at this for a bit longer than that. When did you start creating renders, and what inspired you to do so?
The story began in the late 90s when I first saw Apophysis – my first fractal flame editor. Since that time, fractals have always been the object of my interest in the world of computer graphics. But I always lacked a sense of realism, because Apophysis generated images, mostly of something cosmic… some kind of starry space, very abstract. Then, in 2014, I was first faced with Mandelbulb 3D, and it was love from the first sight to me. A huge number of formulas, many settings, working with texture and light – all in one editor! I was completely fascinated. I’ve always dreamed of a fractal editor where all this will be implemented, and my dream came true. But to be honest, I don’t remember exactly how I found Mandelbulb. I think it happened through Google search.
Also, my great inspiration was fractal works of Hal Tenny. Sometimes, people mistakenly think that my fractals are done by Hal. But personally, I think that my images have more aggressive shapes than those which Hal usually does.
Your art seems to straddle a line between surreal and abstract. Some of your work has wholly recognizable shapes, while others are completely obscure. How would you categorize your art?
Good question! And hard to answer unequivocally and confidently. I think my fractals are some sort of “proof of concept”; that math language of digits and numbers can be somehow beautiful. The fractals to me are science and technology, rather than the art itself. But in terms of shapes, it’s mostly kind of heavy industrial/sci-fi objects with architectural origin.
You are quite prolific, regularly posting several images per-month. How long does it take to create one of your renders, and what is your process for completing them?
You know, fractals are tricky stuff. It’s more like a casino game for me, where good luck is a key. You can be fractalizing a whole week and not get anything interesting. But sometimes, you spend 10 minutes and get like 5-6 nice images. Some images I’ve done in 10-15 minutes (except rendering times, which can take additional couple of hours). For example, images like In Observation Mode and Building Platform were done in 10 minutes. Just 10 minutes of fractalizing, texturing, applying lights and colors. By analogy with “speed painting” I call it “speed fractalizing”.
Some of your work seems to have traces of a narrative, or at least a continuity, in terms of setting. Is there a grand universe where your constructions exist?
No. I think no. No special universe. The feeling of continuity comes from the fact, that I very often use the previous fractal as the basis for my next fractal. I open the saved project file and from this point, I begin to move further in search of new interesting shapes and forms. But generally speaking, all my pictures exist in that endless fractal universe, somewhere between digits and variables, formulas and 3-dimensional coordinate axes.
Your work’s texturing, or sometimes lack thereof, is quite powerful. I’ve seen hints of everything from Gothic architecture to retro-futuristic molds. What goes into the process of texturing these fractal works, and how long do you usually spend exploring them before settling on vantage point, lighting, and texturing?
Texturing is easy when you’ve got large and clean planes. But when you got complicated fractal geometry with overload of tiny details (it happens quite often) – it’s painful to apply any texture. Fractal details and texture details together create heavy details overload, so it starts just piercing your eyes. In that case I use no texture at all, and I have to use limiters of some formulas to decrease amounts of details.
Usually when my third cup of coffee finishes, I’m ready to start working with texture and light. Well, if serious, I’m not a “hardcore-style” fractalizer. I never spend hours trying to find some nice shapes. Usually I spend 10-20 min. surfing through fractal space and if I didn’t find anything interesting within 20 minutes, I just leave it for an hour or two, or go back to it tomorrow.
There are traces of life in your work, like the occasional shuttle or statue, but we never actually see any people. It’s strange, because though your constructions are decipherable, they don’t seem overly hospitable to humans. Is it fair to say your work taps into the subconscious more than it tries to be science-fiction or fantasy landscapes?
Yes, no people and other life things. It’s because I do what some people call “raw fractals”, means no any post-render photo manipulation. I’m some kind of a fractal purist. I don’t use photo manipulation to add anything else. But I’ve seen a lot of artists who use photo manipulation techniques to bring fractals to life and to make them more realistic looking. But in my case, if I want to make a complete scene with people and natural surroundings (trees, grass etc), I prefer to do it in a traditional 3D editor (Blender is my favorite).
What attracted you to fractal imaging, and what does Mandelbulb allow you to uniquely achieve with your art and worldbuilding?
Basically, I’m fascinated by the inhuman and even otherworldly beauty of fractal world. And Mandelbulb gave me the ability to create complex graphics in a fairly simple way. Yes, I think making fractals with Mandelbulb is pretty simple and relatively easy, compared to 3D editors such as Blender or Cinema 4D. You can spend months of work creating a scene in 3D editor, whereas in Mandelbulb you can create your image within 5-10 minutes!
What programs, if any, do you use for post-processing or after-effects?
I use Adobe Photoshop just for minor post-render correctable purposes. Usually, I play with Levels/Selective Colors or Brightness/Contrast options. Also, I use Photoshop to reduce noise, as some combinations of Mandelbulb formulas can be extremely noisy, even in high quality rendering settings. So, to finish my images I usually do noise reduction.
The motion blur and distortion you apply to some of your images, like Hanger, is curious. Have you ever experimented with animating your art, or do you think it works better as still renders?
As still renders, yes. I have always imagined my fractals as static images and never experimented with animation. I see my fractals as illustrations to a science fiction book that hasn’t been written yet. Looking at my fractals, of course, I think this will be a book about a sad, bleak future of humanity. Something similar to Aldous Huxley’s novel Brave New World.
As for the Hangar fractal – there’s no any blur or distortion. It’s just fractal on its own.
There was a brief period around the beginning of 2019, with works like Fine Machinery and La Figura, where you seemed to move away from megastructures and focus on smaller constructions. What spurred this change?
Actually, the images like La Figura are from around 2016-2017. That was my first experiment with some Mandelbulb formulas, which can act as a “container” to hold Z-buffer (also called Depth Map) to incorporate 3D models in fractal environment. If you see my first gallery at Deviant Art you’ll see that I uploaded them around 2017. Then, I moved further, trying to explore new formulas (and new combinations of formulas) in search of something that reminds me of real world architecture. But since the very beginning, my primary goal was megastructures with industrial/sci-fi feel, done with fractals.
…all my pictures exist in that endless fractal universe, somewhere between digits and variables, formulas and 3-dimensional coordinate axes.
If you’d like to see more of Erabyterum’s work, you can visit his gallery and shop.