Gaze Into The Crystal

I don’t have a crystal ball. I don’t know what is in the future. But the world out there is looking a little bit scary. I open up my computer and am bombarded with news of a world gone crazy—politics, gun violence, climate issues, terrorism, race, greed, corruption and more. My Facebook feed will give me nice things to look at, even beyond cute kitten videos and baby’s first steps, but I still have to wade through the muck of frightening stories. The internet is a hard place to find peace.

Animation showing the base image and layers of Magnolia Focus

I create art on my computer. Each of my pieces represents hours spent in competition with Tweets and updates and news. My calendar reminds me to make blog posts (like this one). Banners flash across my screen letting me know I have a new communication. The whole world screams for my attention.

It takes steely self-control to actually make my art. But once I begin, once I have really dived into the crystal display, magic happens. The lights blinking for my attention melt away. I find total focus. Hours go by without me even thinking once about the latest poll numbers. Amid the noisy outside world, I am able to channel inner calm and create with abandon. I am transported into a state of total focus, of joyous celebration in the act of creating.

So now, you are reading this on your device desktop. I am begging to be the distraction in a small slice of your day. The irony is not lost on me. But it is my dearest hope that you find my artwork and animations more peaceful than the news and more relevant than puppies in flower pots.

Magnolia Focus_merch

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Yummy Vegetables

It’s been a little over half a year since I have started eating only plant based foods. Yes, that means I’m vegan. Most of my meals now start with fresh vegetables. So these pea pods were probably about to be be combined with some mushrooms for a tasty stir fry.

Base image for Sliced Pea Pods
Base image for Sliced Pea Pods

Look carefully and you will see my favorite santoku knife in the upper right corner. These snap peas were too beautiful to just eat, I wanted to make them into art too. So before they made it into the pan, they made it into my camera. Of course, from there, I spun them kaleidoscopically!

Sliced Pea Pod_animation from Karen Hochman Brown on Vimeo.

Click on this image for more information on Sliced Pea Pods and how to purchase.


Where did it all begin? Part 1 – The Software

Many people ask me how I started this series of kaleidoscopic artworks. There is no short answer, but I’ll try to address it here. As to my background, you can read about it in my About Page. But briefly, I love kaleidoscopes, geometry and unusual plant forms. My background in graphic design got me well versed in image based software. For example, I was using Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator from their inception.

My curiosity led me to some pretty amazing programs that modify images by applying advanced mathematics to alter their original structure or to generate images from scratch. These programs go way beyond fractals. The ones I rely on most are Synthetik Studio Artist and U&I Software’s Artmatic Designer, with the latter being the one mainly used in my kaleidoscopes. I have another, completely different body of work that was created using Studio Artist, but I not going to talk about that at this time.

When I purchased Artmatic in 1999, I spent a lot of time working with fractals. The program has a randomize button that is useful when learning the software. There are hundreds of parameters (tiles) that can be strung together in different structures, or trees. There is no limit on the number of tiles that can be placed in the tree. Each tile has one to four sliders that can be adjusted. So using the random button and pre-designed trees are good jumping-off points.

Magen David – Jewel Tones

It wasn’t until 2005 that I came across the small corner of the program that worked with center-based mirrors. I was working with Judaic themes at the time and I experimented a lot with six-pointed symmetry to relate to the Magen David star that has been adopted as a symbol of the faith. These artworks were created entirely inside the computer. I wasn’t yet using photographs for the source. In 2010, I had enough of these images that I decided to put together my first calendar. This means that in six years, I had created only 12 pieces like this, or enough for me to consider them a series.

It was in early 2011 that I began using my photographs to create the stars. I had already been using Photoshop to alter what Artmatic generated–cutting up several images, layering and weaving them together to make new artworks. As an example, the piece shown here, Magen David – Jewel Tones, is made from four variations of the same Artmatic tree, each with different surface decoration. When I discovered what using photographs did for my art, I ran forward with the idea and never looked back.

At the moment, my series of photographic based, kaleidoscopic artwork numbers in excess of eighty. Next, I’ll discuss the very first one.