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Thursday, October 21, 2021

Branch Autonomy Theory

By thinking of a tree as an individual organism, we misunderstand it. It's better to think of a tree as a colony of branches.

According to the branch autonomy theory, "1) No branch imports carbohydrate from its parent tree after its first year, and 2) Each branch satisfies its own material and energy requirements before exporting any carbohydrate to the rest of the tree."

"The conclusion drawn from these postulates is that where light is the primary limiting factor, critical characteristics of the branch's carbohydrate economy such as photosynthesis, growth, and carbon export are largely independent of the tree to which it is attached." (from the abstract by Sprugel and Hinckley).

The theory is mentioned in a podcast interview with Chris Earle, curator of the Gymnosperm Database.

Wednesday, October 20, 2021

Graphene Protects Paintings from Fading

In Vincent van Gogh's sunflower paintings, some of the red lead pigments have turned white because of the reactions of paint impurities with light and carbon dioxide. 

But artwork like this can be protected from fading and discoloration by applying a thin layer of a material called graphene.
It's completely transparent and just one atom thick. 

According to Artnet: "Graphene is a two-dimensional carbon allotrope whose molecules bind together through a phenomenon called Van der Waals forces. It is invisible to the eye but forms a honeycomb pattern under a microscope, and can be extracted from the surface of graphite using a piece of tape. Hailed as a “wonder material” since its isolation in a single-layer form in 2004, graphene has many potential uses. China appears convinced of its military and aerospace promise, and it is being used to protect roads in the U.K."

Read more at Artnet: Can Graphene, a One-Atom Thick ‘Wonder Material,’ Keep Precious Artworks From Fading? Scientists Say It Shows Promise

Tuesday, October 19, 2021

Pipeline of Meaning

Our eyes work with our brain to make sense of the world. 

At any given moment our conscious attention is fixated on one spot, but we're also guessing what's around it. This peripheral awareness cues the eyes where to jump next. That jumping or saltation happens about three times per second. 

By combining data from brain scans and eye-tracking, scientists at the University of Birmingham are trying to understand how we guess at what the next point of attention might be, and how different regions of the brain cooperate in this "pipeline of meaning" as "one object is established while another region of the brain is simultaneously deciding which next item is important."  



N.C. Wyeth (1882-1945), The Studio, ca. 1913-1915, oil on canvas, 16 x 20 1/4 in.
Collection of Mr. and Mrs. Frank E. Fowler. Photo Rick Rhodes

The scientists say: "Humans do not necessarily perceive objects simply one after another (in series), and nor do they perceive items simultaneously (in parallel). Instead, they establish a pipeline of observations, in which meaning from one object is established while another region of the brain is simultaneously deciding which next item is important."

A similar process happens when we read text. "The neuronal activity required to scan the next word in a sentence also increases according to the complexity of the word."

Monday, October 18, 2021

Thoughts about Bastien-Lepage from Breton



Jules Bastien-Lepage, Portrait of my Grandfather, 1874

In his autobiography, Jules Breton said: "[Jules] Bastien-Lepage (1848-1884) will leave a lasting fame. This young artist, cut down in the flush of his promise, was a true investigator. How conscientious was his work! He made his debut with a masterpiece, the 'Portrait of my Grandfather.' Touching familiarity, simple and accurate drawing, admirable truth of tone, strong and fine harmony, just relation of the figure to the background—all are there."

Sunday, October 17, 2021

Races in Skybax Canyon


Will and Cirrus lead the skybax races around ancient demisaurian monuments near Ebulon in Dinotopia's great desert.

The painting is 3 x 6 inches, oil on board, published in my illustrated adventure LOVEKUSH 50% Off Gemstone Jewellery 1 Strand Natural Multi Sapph (signed copies available in my online store).

Saturday, October 16, 2021

Northwest Art Mall BCF Blowing Rock North Carolina Bear Cub Fall

Watercolor can convey a lot of information with simple means.

Cornelius Varley

This looks like a practice sheet to try different ways of capturing those wind-blown shapes. Each sort of tree has a different silhouette shape and leafy character. 

The studies in this post are by Cornelius Varley (1781–1873), who was a scientific instrument maker by profession. In 1845 he wrote a Treatise on Optical Drawing Instruments.

He painted in watercolor for the pure love of it, creating many of his studies on trips to Wales. This sky study from 1803, making him a very early plein-air practitioner. 


Imagine the thrill of painting directly from Nature with very little precedent or tradition. 

Friday, October 15, 2021

Turner's Small Watercolor Kits




J.M.W. Turner's super-portable watercolor set consisted of a small set of cake colors in a leather pocket pouch.

He also had slightly larger sets with flasks. This is his paintbox, found in his studio after his death in 1851

(Tate Archive 7315.6)

To learn more about 19th century watercolor sets, check out the website whimsie.com or the Tate Archive

Thursday, October 14, 2021

How Sacrificing Detail Can Add Mood

In a new YouTube video I show how I painted this moody morning scene in gouache by sacrificing detail and emphasizing light effects.


My goal is to capture a fleeing light effect by using a warm priming color to achieve a "photographic" lens flare. Halfway through, I paint over the whole thing with a glaze to reduce detail. The glaze is risky because gouache reactivates when it's rewet, and to be honest, it's kind of a disaster for a while.


Here are some takeaway quotes about the theory of sacrifices: 

“Nature instills sentiments in the spectator through the selective sacrifice of details in order to improve the overall effect.” 
--The Theory and Practice of Water Colour Painting: Elucidated in a Series of Letters

“Painters without experience often weaken the effect they wish to produce by a prodigality which multiplies uselessly the figures and accessories of a picture. It will not be long before they learn that, the greater the conciseness and simplicity with which a thought is interpreted, the more it gains in expressive force.” 

Wednesday, October 13, 2021

Influential Landscape Painters

When the Artists Magazine asked "Who's a painter that changed the course of landscape painting?" the first name that popped into my mind first was Ivan Shishkin (1832-1898).


I said that I don’t know whether he changed the course of landscape painting outside of Russia, but he sure inspired me. He tackled one of the most difficult landscape subjects—the forest interior. 

The technical challenges include wildly fluctuating light levels and infinitely deep spatial layers of complex detail. Shishkin was an enthusiastic advocate of photography as a reference tool, but his paintings were anything but photographic or technical. He knew his botany and loved the wild lands. He managed to capture the deep mystery of the forest like no one else.


This Q and A is coming up in the November / December issue of The Artists Magazine.

Of course there are so many other great landscape painters who have affected the course of art history. Who would you choose and why?

Tuesday, October 12, 2021

Outline vs. Tonal Shapes In Face Recognition

 Which is more important for face recognition: outline or tonal shapes?

Jim Carrey (left) and Kevin Costner.

According to vision scientists Pawan Sinha et al, "Images which contain exclusively contour information are very difficult to recognize, suggesting that high-spatial frequency information, by itself, is not an adequate cue for human face recognition processes." 


By contrast, the tonal shapes, even if they're out of focus, are relatively easy to recognize. The experts say: 
"Unlike current machine-based systems, human observers are able to handle significant degradations in face images." Shown here are Michael Jordan, Woody Allen, Elvis Presley, and Jay Leno.

That's why it's good to blur your eyes when you're capturing a likeness.
--
Source: Face Recognition by Humans: Nineteen Results All Computer Vision Researchers Should Know About, Pawan Sinha, Benjamin Balas, Yuri Ostrovsky, and Richard Russell,