Tag Archive: digital art

A 3D rendering of a Viking shield along with a battle ax and spear hanging on a rough wooden plank surface, perhaps the interior wall of a longhouse. The shield is decorated with a black raven (Corvus corax) painted on red leather.

There are many misconceptions about the Vikings. For example, no horned Viking helmet has ever been found. Such a helmet would have endangered the wearer in combat. And dragon-headed ships were rare. Only one has ever been found. The dragon head did not survive, but the ship is decorated in such a way to suggest there was probably a detachable head.

The stereotypes and cliches began with German Romanticism in the 18th and 19th centuries. The actual Vikings, or Norse, were much more interesting. Even the word “viking” did not denote a people, but a profession. The Norse would “go a Viking”; to sail in search of lands to settle, trade opportunities; and, if commercial conditions were not good, to steal anything that was not nailed down.

Here I’ve rendered a Viking axe and spear, along with a shield, hanging on an interior wall of a longhouse. Click on the image for a full-sized view.

Methods and materials used in the construction of Viking shields varied with place and time. This reconstruction is based on known examples. Norse shields, in contrast to those made by other groups were often made from relatively soft woods such as poplar and birch. Intentional or otherwise, this helped the shield absorb blow without failing. And, instead of a solid piece of wood, horizontal planks were joined – as is indicated by the bolt heads seen on the front of the shield – to prevent spitting along the grain. Metal for shield rims was difficult and expensive for early viking Age inhabitants of Scandinavia to obtain as they had to rely upon bog iron. As a result, to further reduce the possibility of damage the face of the shield was often covered by leather and a leather rim strip was added. Both absorbed blows, protecting the underlying wood. The bowl-shaped metal boss in the center protected the warrior’s hand.

As usual, you can find a number of variations of this image, appearing on various backgrounds, at one of my Zazzle stores.


An icy moon orbits a frozen world. You can decide which is which.

mandelbulb 3d fractal landscape example

An Icy Moon in Orbit Around a Frozen Planet

The mountains in the image above are merely a rendered 3D fractal. If you are not familiar with fractals they are never-ending patterns, infinitely complex patterns that are self-similar across different scales. In other words, as you enlarge a fractal you will see the same, or very similar pattern emerge repeatedly ad infinitum as you enlarge the original fractal. This is called expanding symmetry or evolving symmetry. You are already familiar with fractal patterns, the natural world is full of them. Take a tree, as a simple example. The pattern of the trunk and branches and secondary branches is repeated as you move to the scale of branches, secondary branches and twigs. Another example would be the tiny rivulets of rain or melting snow water running onto successively larger flows until they are a large river emptying into a sea. Physical laws dictate that flowing water moves in similar ways at all scales. The same thing is true for coastlines at any scale; similar patterns reappear over and over and over as you look at ever smaller scales. As a result it is practically impossible to actually measure the exact length of a coastline.

The math behind fractals is very complicated, and I don’t understand it anywhere well enough to explain it. Even the experts are not in complete agreement as to how they should be defines. Even Benoit Mandelbrot, who is generally credited with developing the modern idea of self-similarity, fractals, in nature, once characterized them as, “beautiful, damn hard, increasingly useful. That’s fractals.” If you want to impress people at a party with how smart you are repeat Mandelbrot’s 1982 definition: “A fractal is by definition a set for which the Hausdorff-Bescovitch dimension strictly exceeds the topological dimension.”

So, enough with the heavy-duty science. You can find much more about the science of fractals on the Internet. I generally think of fractals as coming in 2D and 3D varieties. I do some work with both types, examples of which have appeared on this blog. 2D fractals are generally backgrounds or some other element; with the 3D fractals often being the mountainous terrain generated by various software packages.

Abstract, 2D fractals can be generated by a computer calculating a simple equation over and over. Here are a few examples, all made with the Apophysis fractal generator:

multicolor apophysis fractal


swirling, multi-colored apophysis fractal

Gravitational Blueshift

orange and green apophysis fractal with a starry background

Quantum Entanglement

multi-colored apophysis fractal

Structural Iridescence

Then there are 3D fractals. I used a free software package called Mandelbulb to create the examples in this post.

This is a very simple one in which the 3D nature is evident:

simple mandelbulb 3d cube fractal

Simple 3D Cube-Style Fractal

Of course, 3D fractals can be much more involved:

blue mandelbulb 3d fractal

A Blue Hatch, A Red Atmosphere

red-toned mandelbulb 3d fractal

Alien War Helmet

And one I like very much – a habitat on a rocky moon or asteroid. The fractal reminded me of the cartoon-like atmosphere of some of the stories by the great Polish science fiction writer Stanislaw Lem, author of Solaris, The Cyberiad, Tales of Pirx the Pilot, and many others. I added a few elements to complete the scene including a spaceship Pirx would have been proud to fly.

modified mandelbulb 3d fractal in memory of stanislaw lem

Stanislaw Lem Station

Science and art! Cool, eh? You can do this too.

Another example of the amazing landscapes which you can make with Dogwaffle Howler. And an unknown something in the air over the mountains.

Click on the image for a full-size view.

Another new toy! Twisted Brush Tree Studio from Pixarra. More thanks to Philip Staiger at thebest3d.com for telling me about it. With Tree Studio you can quickly create 2D trees of several deciduous and conifer species.

A few trees made in Tree Studio added to the recently-posted image of a de Havilland Otter flying over snow-covered mountains gives it an entirely different look and feel. With a bit of work you would have a very nice forest at feet of the mountains. Tree Studio allows you to adjust the colors of the leaves as I have done here so that the birch trees can be in their autumn colors.

Click on the image for a full-size view.

For added realism a few of the png tree images generated by Tree Studio have been warped with another application.

Here is a screen shot of Tree Studio. The leaf color had been changed from the standard green to yellow. Tree Studios works with layers. A layer for the background, a layer for ground cover if, a layer for the trunk, a layer for the leaves. So that trees in the foreground will appear more realistic I suggest deleting the ground cover layer and adding another leaf layer behind the trunk as in this screen shot.

screenshot of Pixarra twisted brush tree studio

Twisted Brush Tree Studio

Further exploring Howler’s capabilities I rendered the very same landscape in Puppy Ray GPU as was shown in the last post, having been rendered in 3D Designer. Oh my! Taiga forest, I lived there.

Click on the image for a full-size view.

I’m always trying to get better at what I do. It takes tome to learn new tricks and techniques and improve old ones. This rendition of a Russian AN-2 in flight somewhere over Siberia in the 1950s is much better than the one I did a few years ago. This is sort of a doodle for a couple of other images I want to do which will include an AN-2 or two. The AN-2 was built by the Antonov Design Bureau which is still in existence in the Ukraine.


As the AN-2 is a biplane, making it more complicated to portray than single-wing aircraft, I first tried out a few things I learned to do on something simpler. Two Dassault Super Mystère B2 fighter bombers from the Israeli Air Force (IAF) 105 Squadron (Scorpion) in flight over a mountainous desert landscape; circa 1967.


The Super Mystère was the result of progressive improvements in earlier Dassault aircraft which were also flown by the IAF. The Super Mystère went into production in 1957. Israel acquired its first aircraft of this type a year later. They saw service in both the 1967 Six Day War and in 1973 during the Yom Kippur War. It was the first aircraft flown by the IAF which could attain supersonic speeds in level flight. IAF pilots liked the aircraft feeling it was a good match for the MiG-19.

The image of the Super Mystères is available on various products at one of my Zazzle stores. The AN-2 should appear there at some time in the near future.

De Havilland Otter

A de De havilland Canada DHC-3 Otter, sporting the logo of mythical Flying Moose Aviation of Talkeetna, flies somewhere over Alaska.

Click on image for full-size view.

de havilland dh-3 otter

de Havilland Canada DHC-3 Otter

The Otter, originally intended to be known as the King Beaver, was conceived as a larger, more capable follow on to highly successful Beaver. The Beaver referred to by de Havilland as a “half-ton truck;” the Otter would be the “one-ton truck.”

The Otter was used by the militaries of many countries and is also popular in  with skydivers; it can be found in many drop zones throughout the world.

It was a gray and cloudy mrning as we approached Bellingham on the last day of our ferry trip from Alaska. The top of volcanic Mt. Baker could be seen rising above the cloud deck.

This picture is from a photo I took of the scene.

Click on image for full-size view.

The volcano Mount Baker near Bellingham. WA.

Mount Baker

Known as Koma Kulshan (white sentinel) by one Native American tribe, Mt. Baker dominates the skyline from Bellingham, Washington, and Vancouver, British Columbia. At 10,781 ft, it is the third-highest mountain in Washington State and the fifth-highest in the Cascade Range. It is visible from much of Greater Victoria, Greater Vancouver, and, to the south, from Seattle (and on clear days Tacoma).

On cold, clear winter days, dramatic increases in the steam plume rising continuously from Sherman Crater can alarm local residents. This apparent increase in plume vigor occurs because of condensation of steam in cold, calm air.

The mountain, an isoloated stratovolcano, is the most heavily glaciated of the Cascade Range volcanoes after Mount Rainier. Mount Baker Ski Area set the world record for recorded snowfall in a single season—1,140 in.

Mt. Baker has the second-most thermally active crater in the Cascade Range after Mount Saint Helens. While volcanism has persisted here for some 1.5 million years, the current glaciated cone is likely no more than140,000 years old, and possibly no older than 80-90,000 years. Older volcanic edifices have mostly eroded away due to glaciation.

Mt. Baker has been very active over the last 10,000 years and has erupted 13 times in recorded history. Its last eruption was in 1880. A release of steam occurred at in 1975-6, but no eruption followed this event.

The first written record of the mountain is from the Spanish. Spanish explorer Gonzalo Lopez de Haro mapped it in 1790 as the Gran Montaña del Carmelo, (Great Mount Carmel). The explorer George Vancouver renamed the mountain for 3rd Lieutenant Joseph Baker of HMS Discovery, who saw it on April 30, 1792.