ddrees art

My art work and thoughts

Posts Tagged ‘natural history’

An inordinate fondness for beetles

Posted by ddrees on September 1, 2008

“The naturalist, J. B. S. Haldane, was asked by a cleric about what he might infer about the Creator, based on his wide-ranging study of life. 
: Haldane supposedly replied the creator had “an inordinate fondness for beetles” based on the then current count of beetle species at around 400,000.”

Inordinate Fondness for Beetles tan/blu ©2002 d drees

Inordinate Fondness for Beetles tan/blu ©2002 d drees

An inordinate fondness -blue © d drees

An inordinate fondness -blue © d drees

I like insects (and spiders) because they are so beautiful, symmetric and jewel like. I also like them because of their fascinating life cycles, long and short, their transformations, communications and industries. They come in any color you can think of and all kinds of spots and stripes. I remember, but not well enough to give the exact citation, that Carlos Castaneda’s Don Juan had decided to spend his next life as a bug because the bug he had chosen had such a great community life and was very happy.

Art deco and Art nouveau artists often used insects in their designs. E A Seguy at  NYPL, Seguy at NCSU, Seguy at Bibliodyssey (the real skinny,see below) Louis Comfort Tiffany , Rene Lalique, Emile Galle are examples. My Flickr set of my work relating to insects is here.

e a seguy plate

e a seguy plate

Dragonfly, L C Tiffany

Dragonfly, L C Tiffany

Rene Lalique Brooch

Rene Lalique Brooch

Emile Galle

Emile Galle

There are quite a few great beetle, butterfly and insect books old and new. Lots of people like them despite the maligning of some of these creatures by shortsighted sci fi and other stories. Many groups on Flickr devoted to insect pictures attest to this interest.

Bugs do at times seem alien but are anything but. My source pictures for the beetles are from hand colored engravings in Entomology: Beetles, edited by Sir William Jardine, 1843.

Jardine Beetles Frontispiece

Jardine Beetles Frontispiece

Jardine Beetles Plate 26, hand colored engraving

Jardine Beetles Plate 26, hand colored engraving

A later edition of this whole book can be downloaded as a PDF albeit a poor quality one, from Google.

I bought a copy of the Jardine book and a butterfly book, Berge’s Schmetterlingsbuch, 1842 and a few disbounded plates from Cramer’s butterfly book, which is really high priced intact.

Berge's Smetterlinge Plate 11

Berge

I love Antiquariat Junk’s site and bought a great but soiled butterfly book from them at a reasonable price. They have a beautifully organized site and you can see plates in the books. You can sometimes get these wonderful antiquarian books at lower prices when they are dirty or poorly bound because high roller collectors want them as close to perfect as they can get. I am in it for the pictures and can expertly clean them up in Photoshop. So I want the real books for the line detail and I start out with 1200 ppi scans and play around with them from there. Most anything that you can get on the Internet is too low in resolution but some libraries are doing excellent scanning jobs if your bandwidth can handle the large downloads. Here are some links but be careful you do not get stuck in them. University of Strasbourg, University of Wisconsin,

A picture blog coming out of Australia, Bibliodyssey, often finds and posts links to these good picture sources. It is on my check every week list.

I also have collected a few specimens but not with scientific rigor. I have found more than one Luna moth and noticed how different the individuals are. I suspect this is often so. But that is another large subject for another life. I do not want to kill any of them to catch them anymore. There are enough other ways to get models.

Luna Moth, watercolor and marbling ©d drees

Luna Moth, watercolor and marbling ©d drees

Some of my artworks here are from specimens, some are from my photos and some are from engravings. I avoid contemporary photos because of copyright issues.

black and gold striped creature designer, digital ©d drees

black and gold striped creature designer, digital ©d drees

Inordinate fondness/red ©d drees

Inordinate fondness/red ©d drees

Inordinate fondness/dark blue ©d drees

Inordinate fondness/dark blue ©d drees

Inordinate fondness/sand ©d drees

Inordinate fondness/sand ©d drees

noiseless, patient spider, watercolor and marbling ©d. drees

noiseless, patient spider, watercolor and marbling ©d. drees

night vision, watercolor ©d drees

night vision, watercolor ©d drees

Anne's Butterfly , watercolor and marbling © d drees

Anne's Butterfly , watercolor and marbling © d drees

Bug Pals, digital © d.drees

Bug Pals, digital © d.drees

Butterfly and Pinecone Mandala ©1994 d.drees digital

Butterfly and Pinecone Mandala ©1994 d.drees digital

Butterfly mandala-blue © d drees

Butterfly mandala-blue © d drees

Butterfly vortex ©d.drees digital

Butterfly vortex ©d.drees digital

blue and white © d drees

blue and white © d drees

Grasshopper pattern © d drees

Grasshopper pattern © d drees

Waterskeeter pattern © d drees

Waterskeeter pattern © d drees

Illuminator's Butterfly assembly  © d drees

Illuminator's Butterfly assembly © d drees

Is rapture the treasure © d drees  digital

Is rapture the treasure © d drees digital

Palimpsest © dedree drees, digital

Palimpsest © dedree drees, digital

caterpillar © dedree drees , digital

caterpillar © dedree drees , digital

This caterpillar from Diderot, then worked in Photoshop channel ops. My students do not tend to like the abstraction level of channel ops. I really do like channels and they fit into my procedural art area.

Caterpillar 8 © d drees

Caterpillar 8 © d drees

Caterpillar 9 © d drees

Caterpillar 9 © d drees

And do not forget this one.

scarab

scarab

Posted in art | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments »

Leaf Art

Posted by ddrees on August 2, 2008

I 56 like leaves too. Here is my leaf art set at Flickr. Before personal computers I collected them and pressed them in things like old telephone books. Leaves pressed can mess up a book, so telephone books are perfect except space consuming. I would transfer them to boxes when they were dry. I still run across the boxes in the house, but I throw them out despite the nostalgia for years of leaves gone by. One problem is, as every botanist knows, that you lose the live color in pressed specimens, hence the need for scientific illustrators and photographers. The Smithsonian has cartloads of dried plants, many of which have likely not been seen since they were collected two centuries ago. They had warehouses of such stuff, at least when I was studying scientific illustration there with such greats as Elaine Hodges, author of the main scientific illustration book.

My colleague, Bob Creamer, has made a stunning body of work utilizing some of these stores in his photos.

I also used to photocopy some plants, for their structure. That was better than nothing but the paper took up space and different versions of machines smelled, aged and printed differently. I rarely touch a photocopier anymore. I cannot think of the last time I did. People xeroxing too much used to be a big issue at school so we had to have ID numbers to get into the copier. I have not heard any grumblings about that for a while. Now there are issues about digital color printers. But times change subtly and inexorably. Now I scan the leaves. I have quite a collection, but they do not take up space and they do not make me sneeze.

I also have lots of slides taken with my Zeiss Contaflex which had three close up lenses that could be screwed into an attachment. Now I need to scan the slides to use in the computer. I would like to buy a slide scanner since it is hard being at the right place at the right time to use the school scanner.

So far scanning slides and film has been slow and boring but the scanners are getting cheaper and the speed better. I am no early adopter. I adopt some tools that others have forgotten about like etching, marbling and papermaking. There is a special artistry to all these things. But I also like computers.

Some of my leaf art was made by looking hard at the subjects and rendering them naar het leven. Some were projected slides that I sketched with pencil on the paper tacked on the wall as a screen, as I imagine Vermeer did with his camera obscura or in our middle years with a lucigraph or lacy Lucy or still with the camera lucida.

Jungle plant watercolor ©ddrees 1987

Jungle plant watercolor ©ddrees 1987

After I got the trace I would study prints of the slides, whose color was never right, and watercolor them from there.

Now the computer is added to the mix but I have yet to use my new digital camera. And then there are Flash movies.

I like leaves for the same reasons I like shells and trees and cats and skies and bugs. They have beauty of shape, color, structure, transformation in life cycle and they are emblems and representatives of the vast wonder of it all.

Sweetgum and leaf tiles ©2002 ddrees

Sweetgum and leaf tiles ©2002 ddrees

Posted in art | Tagged: , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Fish and Fowl Show Preparation

Posted by ddrees on July 27, 2008

I 13 have been making pieces on the subject of fish, for an October show in Berkeley Springs, West Virginia in which my former colleague Jane Morais invited me to participate. The show is to be called Fish and Fowl or something close, and Jane is making ceramic chickens. She has some ceramic pieces up at the Maryland State Arts Council site. I had been making shell pieces for a while before she asked and have quite a few fish and shell subjects dating back. Actually I made some cast paper shell pieces with marbling while taking Jane’s handmade paper class, I think in 1992. I made shell molds from my shell collection for the paper shells.

Terra Cotta Shell  ©1992

Terra Cotta Shell dd ©1992

My “stuff” is like a wunderkammer collection with shades of Andy Warhol and Joseph Cornell. Not as much stuff as Warhol, but if I had the money it might be. This is my OCD heritage. I would love to do more handmade paper work but the labs are not set up now and my house is too much of a mess already. Too bad Pyramid Atlantic is not closer so I could make paper there. I met Helen Frederick, the founder and leader, back in the seventies when she had started her atelier in Baltimore, but she moved to DC for more traffic. She has made it a superb place and has managed to retire from it recently.

wunderkammer engraving

Some of my artworks for the show will be all digital and some will be watercolor and marbled paper. The marbled paper is a good fit because it is so watery. I can scan my marbled papers and use them repeatedly and they also can be tricked up in Photoshop. But I like the look of the actual paper, with raking light catching the paper texture and all.

My marbled paper samples

My marbled paper samples


I have been collecting public domain fish pictures along with other natural history pictures for quite some time. I have a few old engraving books on the subject, the first of which I inherited from my grandfather many years ago. I love these old natural history books for not only their science but for their reverence and wonder at the creatures that were being discovered and catalogued. There is way more to the planet than people.

Here is a watercolor and marbled piece, not digital, that i made this spring.

Seafoam green fish ©2008

Seafoam green fish dd ©2008

Here is a digital piece I made this past winter.

Shellhead ©2007

Shellhead dd ©2007

I am currently playing with some Adobe Illustrator pieces that shall emphasize the gorgeous variety of fish styles. I think of them as decked out in couturier clothes. I am hoping to have time to make some flat shape oriented fish pictures that will be finished in time and also to do some dimensional things with my scanned marbled papers. The design concept of repetition and variation fits well here. Visual comparison of fish types held together by their being a set of fish. One can expand the meaning from there.

Posted in art | Tagged: , , , , , , | 2 Comments »