The very first fractal I ever saw was this one, made by Robert Carr:
Heaven's Gate, by Robert Carr, 1994, used with permission
I saw this image around 1995, back in the pre-internet days when people who had computers and modems would communicate via bulletin board systems. I was using a friend's CompuServe account and was looking through the graphics area. Carr's image had won their weekly graphics contest, so I saw it featured on the opening page. I remember how stunned and excited I felt. This image seemed utterly beautiful to me, beyond anything else I had ever seen. There was no question that I was going to learn more about fractal art.
A relatively small group of people were using Fractint, a 256 color DOS program, to make fractal art. I began to collect other people's images, and I still have that collection today. One artist stood out from the pack, Linda Allison, known as Gumbycat. Her fractals seemed to be particularly artistic in color and form.
Linda encouraged me to give fractal generating a try, even though I was convinced the math would be beyond me, and finally I downloaded Fractint and made my first fractal:
Untitled, by Alice Kelley, 1996
It isn't much by today's standards (and even standards back then), but I was ecstatic. With the help of other community members, such as Linda and Les St. Clair, I learned quickly and began to make images like Snowstar. Within about a year after I started, the editor of a fractal calendar chose two of my images to be published in the 1999 edition. Snowstar was one of them.
Snowstar, by Alice Kelley
The computer I used to make my first fractals was a 486 running Windows 3.1 and DOS. I've upgraded my way through a couple of computers since that time, as I began to experiment with Stephen Fergusen's programs (such as Inkblot Kaos and Tiera-Zon) in addition to Fractint. Today I use Ultra Fractal and Apophysis to make my fractals, and I antialias them in Paint Shop Pro.
I'm always happy when someone else enjoys my fractals as much as I do.
Customer Tom Allen, with Hatchling
One way to view the progression of my art is by looking through my calendars through the years. I have further information about my art here.