Tree Tuesday

Gnomish Runes, ©voyager, all rights reserved

Recently, while talking with a couple of gnomes, I discovered that many of the markings we see on fallen trees and branches are actually a form of map-making done by the little people of the woods. I was told that they are mostly made by Gnomes and Elves, who are terribly forgetful, as a way of remembering where their caches of food are stored. I commented that they look convoluted and, after having a good laugh, I was told that they are convoluted for humans, but the little folk travel in circuitous routes because they like to see the sights and visit other little folks along the way. Well, then, I guess that explains it.

Vetch

Our Monday flowers from Nightjar are  here,

I think this vetch is Vicia angustifolia, a wild relative of fava bean and pea plants. Even though I can only do short walks near my house now, I don’t think I will run out of wildflowers any time soon. There’s a lot of diversity around here right now. I hope you are all well, stay safe!

©Nightjar, all rights reserved

©Nightjar, all rights reserved

Corona Crisis Crafting VIII: The Dragon Egg

After lots of sanding and polishing and some more sanding and polishing and then dropping it on the concrete because it’s so smooth and getting a dent in it which I won’t sand out again, the dragon egg is done.

©Giliell, all rights reserved

What you can see in this picture is that I didn’t get it completely round. For one thing, I don’t have a lathe on which I could actually turn it. The other one is that I wasn’t willing to remove so much material. The piece of burl that I used was a triangle and if I’d gone for a really round design, I would have lost about an estimated 30% in size. Also I don’t think that most people will notice anyway.

©Giliell, all rights reserved

There’s that damn scratch on top. Clearly not my favourite side. One thing about the resin I’m currently using is that it allows for rather thick pours without many bubbles. Usually the maximum in fast curing resins is 1cm (though it depends a lot on how you’re mould is. The other eggs I posted a while ago have more than 1cm in any direction, but they also have a large surface that allows for cooling). This block had a lot more than that in any dimension and actually I’d speculated on getting bubbles, which I thought would look cool. But as you see, nothing happened. Sure, it got warm and cured super fast, which allowed some of the gold leaf to stay afloat, but no bubbles. Definitely a good resin for dragon eggs.

©Giliell, all rights reserved

OK, I got one bubble, probably from when I stirred the darker blue resin that you can see in this shot in. The burl got a bees wax coating to make it shine.

©Giliell, all rights reserved

Here you can see the odd shape of the burl. The remaining bottom is clear resin. While the biggest part was poured in one go, I actually did three castings: the first one to create a solid bottom, gluing the burl into the mould. BTW, I used an old milk carton for that. The second casting added one thin layer to the burl:

©Giliell, all rights reserved

Fluorescent pigment, here under UV light. In normal daylight this is just blue as you can see in the pic above. It glows white under UV light and then…

©Giliell, all rights reserved

…it glows green in the dark.

I think I’ve proved to my own satisfaction that you can make dragon eggs without a ladle and it#s definitely something I want to repeat, probably with a somewhat larger piece, though I already dread the sanding…

 

 

 

The Art of Book Design: The Violet Fairy Book

Andrew Lang. The Violet Fairy Book. Illustrated by H.H. Ford. London, New York, Longmans, Green, 1906.

Andrew Lang published a series of 12 Fairy Books, all identified by colour. The books were illustrated by H. J. Ford, and they’re filled with detailed black and white line drawings, plus a series of coloured plates. These books are amongst my favourite in the Fairy Tale genre and I’ve been saving them for a special occasion. I think the pandemic qualifies, and so for the next 12 weeks, Children’s Book Saturdays will feature the Andrew Lang series. We begin with the Violet Fairy Book, and it was difficult to choose which illustrations to share because there are so many that I like. I”ve attached all of the colour plates, plus many line drawings that include dogs, cats, snakes, lions, bears, boars, horses, dragons, plus a mermaid, because I know at least one mermaid fan out there. If you’d like to see the entire book, you can check it out at the link to The Internet Archive here and below. During the pandemic, The Internet Archive is allowing all their on-loan books out with no waiting lists, so now is the time to check them out. It’s easy to register (find a book you want, click the “borrow” button and the site will ask for your email – that’s all)  and they have millions of things you can check out all for free. Any book that isn’t offered for loan can be read at the site. The site also carries music, magazines and artwork. There’s a lot of good stuff for adults and children. Enjoy!

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What Remains After

Because I have so many links about art saved (>200), I’m trying to group them by themes. Today’s theme is abandoned spaces, and although the title seems a bit dark, it’s not a commentary on current events in the world. 

What remains after we are gone? After the life industrial has faded and transformed into its modern, shiny, robotic cousin? (Well, that’s how the moving pictures show it…)

The end of everything? The slow decay of silent things, with no one to witness their passing? The carcasses of once-great buildings, now uncertain in their unstable uselessness and sharp aura of danger? There is potential in these abandoned and lost spaces – but a melancholy potential, the complete opposite of new beginnings, a potential that is meaningless and only full of the possibilities of what could have been, what never was, what never will be. A lot of never will be.

From THE END OF EVERYTHING, by Jan Erik Waider.

Still, what it can be is a whole lot of art.

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Corona Crisis Crafting VII: Finally Finishing a UFO

In crafting circles, a UFO is an Un Finished Object and they tend to be common. You may remember that some time back voyager sent me a giftbox that contained lots of pressed leaves and I wanted to do something special with them. I had bought a set of small couch tables from IKEA and wanted to turn the larger one into a resin covered table. If you look at the pictures from Ikea, you can see that they’ve got a rim around them and I didn’t want to fill that with resin during the first casings, so I carefully taped around the rim using gaffer tape.

Well, let met put it like this: there’s still resin on my kitchen floor. Also some of the leaves very stubbornly refused to take on any resin. And removing the now resin glued gaffer tape took off parts of the white coating.

Now of course I needed something else to construct a barrier around the table and I decided that I could hotglue some firm plastic round it. Once it was finished I would heat the glue with a hairdryer and remove everything. This created a resin proof barrier. To hide all the horrible things that happened to the tablerim I poured some orange there. and tried to persuade the damn leaves to please let themselves be coated. In the end, the hot glue removal involved sharp knives and took off a lot more paint and I think you can see why I lost a bit of enthusiasm. Because I don’t have a router I needed to carefully round the new sharp rim by hand. Also the orange hadn’t managed to hide the damage completely, so I decided to leave it matte, which actually does look quite nice. At this point i was so fed up that the table went into the Lego room unfinished until I took it out again this week.

I painted the sides again where the colour had parted with the wood, and looking at it in the sunlight I noticed that my top was anything but nice. now I probably only have myself to blame. When mixing resin you have to make sure it’s well mixed. There are certain amounts that mix well in a 0,2l cup. Too little and you stir in too much air. Too much and you can’t mix thoroughly anymore. If you want to do it right you mix, pour it into a different container and mix again. Usually I am too lazy for that and when working with small amounts of coloured resin it doesn’t matter, because you mix it again when you add the ink and then you see perfectly well if you need to keep mixing. This time, not so much. I tried polishing it out with chrome polish, but that didn’t work. I tried 2000 grit paper to no avail and then decided to go back to 800 grit and you know how much that hurts. I got most of the “stains” removed and it does look ok when not seen in direct sunlight. Thank goodness the window in the Lego room is quite small…

©Giliell, all rights reserved

©Giliell, all rights reserved

©Giliell, all rights reserved You can see the spots here where no resin ever stuck.

I do have ideas fro the second table in that set, now with a lot of knowledge about “how not to do it”. When I do that one I’ll probably give this one a well mixed top coat, but until then I#ll call it finished. Of course I#m less than totally happy with the result, but it’s still a pretty and unique piece of furniture.

 

The Importance of Having Soft Tissues

Everybody knows dinosaurs are awesome, but it’s also commonly known that scientists and artists are extrapolating heavily from the available fossilized remains – in other words, reconstructing the Jurassic past requires a lot of guesswork. What we think dinosaurs look like is a carefully estimated probability of which muscle attached where, based on the (sometimes very) few bones that are found.

However, from time to time the circumstances align just so and some soft tissues are also preserved – as formerly squishy soft things and also in the bones of dinosaurs.

Anyway, the whole point here is that I like to look at paleoart. But how do we know they are right? (Spoiler: we don’t, not really.) What C.M.Koseman has done is examine some modern day animals and try to reconstruct them from the point of view of a fossil hunter millions of years in the future (personally, I think there might be a multi-leg bias in future interpretations, but Koseman has done his best):

C.M. Kosemen is an Istanbul-based artist and author (along with John Conway and Darren Naish) of the 2012 book, All Yesterdays: Unique and Speculative Views of Dinosaurs and Other Prehistoric Animals. A long-time creature designer, Kosemen had always had an interest in dinosaurs, but he embarked on his book with Conway after they began to realize that something was a bit off. “We were both dinosaur geeks, but the more we looked at these skeletons, and the more we looked at the pictures, we noticed that most mainstream dinosaur art didn’t look at dinosaurs as real creatures,” says Kosemen.

Most serious paleoart bases itself on the detailed findings of paleontologists, who can work for weeks or even years compiling the most accurate descriptions of ancient life they can, based on fossil remains. But Kosemen says that many dinosaur illustrations should take more cues from animals living today. Our world is full of unique animals that have squat fatty bodies, with all kinds of soft tissue features that are unlikely to have survived in fossils, such as pouches, wattles, or skin flaps. “There could even be forms that no one has imagined,” says Kosemen. “For example there could plant-eating dinosaurs that had pangolin or armadillo-like armor that wasn’t preserved in the fossil. There could also be dinosaurs with porcupine-type quills.”

I think he undervalues the vast majority of the artists who do draw prehistoric art, because the process involves a lot of imagination and creativity, with the added pressure of scientific accuracy. Certainly we don’t know the outer shapes of dinosaurs or other prehistoric creatures, so artists must work with what little scientific information they do have, and look at animals existing today, and then add layers of interpretation – not easy by any stretch. If Koseman is just arguing for more flamboyance, though, I’m 100% on board.

Anyway, the Atlas Obscura article has some examples from C.M.Koseman, and they are suitably creepy:

How a baboon skeleton might be interpreted by future paleoartists. via Atlas Obscura

My favourites are the swans, though – not going near those anymore!

Swans imagined as though they were featherless dinosaurs. via Atlas Obscura

Are these overexaggerations? Maybe. But until we see some real dinosaurs (someone invent that time machine and make it back alive, please), there is no way to know how accurate today’s interpretations (which have already changed so much).
The closest we can get, though, are the afore-mentioned paleoartists, and one of my favourites is Mark Witton:
Two main aspects of my life have, for as long as I can remember, been art and palaeontology. I’ve been drawing since I could hold a pencil and have stubbornly refused to grow out of the dinosaur/palaeontology craze that afflicts most children. The latter proved so hard to shake that I studied for a degree in Palaeobiology and Evolution between 2002 – 2005 at the University of Portsmouth, UK and stayed there for my PhD studies between 2005 – 2008. I have since held a research position at Portsmouth. In 2010 I was honoured to be part of a joint University of Portmsouth/Royal Society exhibition which installed several models of giant flying reptiles in the centre of London (image of me and Bamofo, one of our giant azhdarchid models, right). In 2013 my book, Pterosaurs: Natural History, Evolution, Anatomy was published by Princeton University Press to critical acclaim. I now make a living as a technical consultant on palaeontological documentaries, palaeoartist, graphic designer and author.
He’s got a great collection of prints and books, and… household products. There’s a certain appeal to hiding behind a large T.Rex while enjoying a hot shower, I have to say.
Do check out his gallery, I will end with a small sample here:

Go look at more.

Mountains and Dreams

This is a small piece (finished painting 10x15cm) for a colleague-friend, who I have now known for a couple of years but who only recently asked for a painting. Since I used his expertise to find out interesting information about my mitochondrial DNA at no cost, I figured it’s a fair trade.

Now before anyone comments on the fact that this scene is astronomically impossible, I would like to say that this scene is astronomically impossible. The mountain is a real mountain, but in real life its orientation is such that the constellation Orion would probably not appear above it at that angle. I think the same about the full moon.

The main reason for drawing a scientifically inaccurate scene, however, is because the original sketch idea is based on Mount St Helens, where this astronomical alignment is perfectly possible.  At least, possible enough for my artistic license (except for the full moon again, I think – not both together like that). But since Friend is from some other mountains, it would not do, so I had to substitute in something from the Alps.

First, a teaser – a by-product of the process, the process below the fold.

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