The Art of Math

2014 January/February Edition
Many children have followed in the footsteps of their fathers, but significantly fewer fathers have taken the lead from their children. Stephen Poirier is a nuclear engineer with a lot of the interests one might expect him to have; he’s a math whiz and an avid lover of science fiction. However, it wasn’t until his college-aged daughter began posting her artwork on an art website that he began to toy with the idea of creating visual art himself.
Today, Stephen combines his mathematical and creative talents to create fractal art images and designs in his spare time. Fractal art uses mathematical formulas to create images and colors, and to manipulate shapes and lines that often come out looking quite cosmic. While the genre may still be unfamiliar to those less tech savvy, this digital art form was introduced in the 1980s and continues to evolve as a rather sophisticated new media art.
“There are so many things you can do with fractal images. I have as much control over the images as I want to have, but often the results I achieve are not what I initially expected,” said Stephen.
When Stephen begins his work, he often starts with a simple sphere or line. He then uses algorithms to alter and manipulate the object into something more three-dimensional. Color plays a large role in the design Stephen creates. At just a glance, one might assume that Stephen used a sketch or a drawing to create each piece. However, in reality, everything that he creates is achieved through mathematical formulas that he enters into computer software. The formulas create the images, the depth and the colors that the viewer sees in his work.
One may be curious as to where fractal artists gather inspiration for new work. After all, mathematical formulas don’t seem to be all that inspiring. However, the fractal art community is very open to sharing their ideas and accomplishments with others through established online art communities.
“We share ideas and techniques with one another,” Stephen says. “I can learn from the work of others and am challenged to do new things by observing what they have achieved.”
Stephen never imagined that he would begin creating art in his late 40s. After retiring as a commander in the US Navy in 1990, he and his wife moved from San Diego to Paducah where Stephen was employed as a nuclear engineer at what is now USEC. While that continues to be his career, his work in fractal art has opened the door to other creative pursuits outside of the office.
Stephen recently finished writing a young adult science fiction novel called Calliope. The book is part of a trilogy of novels that Stephen plans to write and self publish.
“I was never one of those people who wrote just for fun. I wrote because I wanted to see if I could do it,” Stephen admits. “I see other people doing something and I think ‘I can do that.’”
Stephen’s fractal art can be viewed at His novel is available at


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