Sunday, September 30, 2007


As a kid, my interest in OMNI magazine faded away when the subscription ended. Time passed, and when the first Borders opened in my Detroit suburban enclave, I came upon a new magazine that sparked my interest: LEONARDO.

LEONARDO is a great journal that studies the interrelationship of art and science. It's an ideal reference that collects research data that is pertinent to each seminar group. For example, their on-line version, the Leonardo Electronic Almanac, has a great article on computer-assisted choreography ( A Dynamic Life of Cause: A Concept and Models Used for Computer-Assisted Choreography) that could be of interest to Kinetics and Character Animation group ). They also have a sound journal as well ( Leonardo Sound Journal ).

Here is the mission statement for Leonardo Journal:

Vision Statement: Science and Technology dominate our current landscape, emerging with an intensity and velocity never before experienced. This intense intellectual creativity needs to be integrated with the humanizing activity of creating art, to bring balance to how we experience our current existence and imagine our futures. Over the course of history, art has been both an organizing and integrating role with our emotional and intellectual lives. Art serves as a means of presenting, questioning, understanding and creating order out of chaos and change. Imagination often leads the way of discovery in science. Innovation of art, science and technology will allow for new ideas that may be important economically and socially. Leonardo/ISAST serves as the organization that nurtures and fosters this alliance between the arts and sciences, proactively bringing these social networks together leading to greater creativity and social change in both areas.



Wayne Barlowe

I was introduced to Wayne Barlowe in the pages of OMNI magazine - a qausi-science/entertainment magazine I subscribed to when I was 13. His work caught my eye immediately. I faintly remember the magazine spread featuring his work. In it were his illustrations of dinosaurs.

His illustrations were unlike other dinosaur illustrations I was use to - they incoporated the theories (remember this 22 years ago - this theory is now generally accepted) that dinosaurs were the genetic predecesors to birds. Also, unlike the grey-green dinosaur illustrations I've seen, Barlowe's dinosaur hides had bits of color (i.e stripes, spots, etc...).

His most fascinating illustrations were rendered in 3d and made into TV special by the Discovery Channel. Here is the link:

Here is a snippet of his biography from the web site
Born in Glen Cove, New York to well-known natural history artists Sy and Dorothea Barlowe, Wayne Douglas Barlowe attended the Art Students League and The Cooper Union in New York City. While in college he apprenticed in the Exhibition Department of The American Museum of Natural History. During this period Barlowe collaborated with his parents on his first professional book assignment, the Instant Nature Guide to Insects (Grossett & Dunlop).

In 1979 his first self-generated book, Barlowe's Guide to Extraterrestrials, was published by Workman Publishing. The Guide, which Barlowe conceived, illustrated and co-authored, was nominated for The American Book Award and the science fiction community's prestigious Hugo. It was chosen Best Illustrated Book of 1979 by the Locus Poll, and a Best Book For Young People by the American Library Association. The Guide, considered by many to be a contemporary classic SF work, has 270,000 copies sold to date. A Japanese edition has recently been released.

Barlowe's next book followed after nearly ten years, during which time he created over 300 book and magazine covers and illustrations for every major publisher. He has also created editorial paintings for Life, Time and Newsweek. His artwork has been seen on television on Walter Cronkhite's Universe and Connie Chung's Saturday Night as well as on the Discovery Channel. An interview with Barlowe appeared on the Sci-Fi Channel's Inside Space program. Portfolios and interviews in print have appeared in TV Guide, Starlog, Realms of Fantasy, Science Fiction Age, Starburst, TV ZONE (UK) and Filmfax.

Barlowe's second book, Expedition, a natural history journey to another world, consisted of forty paintings, one hundred black and white illustrations and two hundred pages of text, and was published in 1990 by Workman Publishing. It received extremely favorable reviews and was nominated for the Association of SF Artist's 1991 Chesley Award. Expedition was voted a 1991 Best Book for Teenagers by The New York Public Library.

And here is another Google Blogger's blog, from a biology student from the University of Maine featuring Barlowe's work.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Journeys amongst the Internets

While I was on a search for creature creation online, I found this fascinating website in Japanese. It is an online museum for the study of deceased animals. This now reminds me of how our group had been discussing the differences between reality and unreality(?) or how easily science could be misrepresented or misconstrued. Both of our speakers for the seminar stressed the importance of being scientifically accurate while still being able to communicate the ideas properly. This website is on the exact opposite of these goals. This is in fact a fake museum, with fake animals. All the animals are made of paper, modeling paste, and bamboo. They are amazing creations, many of them seemingly real or realistic enough (with exception to the "human face fish," the ones with horned tails, and the one that looks like a facsimile of the aliens from "Independence Day." The artist does post that this museum is a fake, but you have to go to the bottom of the page to a link that tells you about it. Anyways, I encourage you to enjoy this treat and remember that things are not what they seem online...they are much cooler.

Monday, September 17, 2007

The Future of Pedagogical Methodologies in Creature Development: How procedural tools can help facilitate creature development and design.

The pedagogy of scientific visualization began well before Leonardo Da Vinci and the Renaissance. Cartography is the most elementary of data visualization, Ptolemy’s world map being a primary example. Scientific visualization grew from world based mapping systems to Carolingian Constellation maps to J.G. Heck’s Bilder Atlas zum Conversations Lexicon. Such visualization depended on the cooperation of scientists and artists – although some individuals were gifted in both areas of study.

With today’s digital tools the bond between scientists and artists has grown. Images now proliferate on the web – ranging from interactive Flash diagrams to 3D Tsunami reenactments. In these examples, it is obvious that the artist has come to aid the scientists. But many may be unaware of when the scientists come to aid the artists – especially in the world of visual effects and creature development. More and more, creature developers are using scientific methods to create heightened believability in their designs. Therefore, a background in science or contact with a scientist is a great asset for a professional creature developer. For example, Tim McLaughlin of Industrial Light and Magic, has written a very interesting article on the subject called “the Taxonomy of Digital Creatures: Defining Character Development Techniques Based Upon Scope Use.” (here’s the link: This article takes an interested professional through a non-digital creature development workflow. It implores artists to explore scientific principles.

To be continued…

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Pieter Folkens' Illustration



Academic, environmental and naturalist circles worldwide recognize Pieters' work as among the finest, most accurate renderings of marine mammals. He is an important illustrator of marine mammal field guides with work published in over two dozen languages from Greenlandic Eskimo to Malagasy. The accuracy of the illustrations stems from extensive field experience-including lengthy treks up the Amazon River and on Arctic Ice. The quality of the work grows from a consummate attention to detail. Folkens is an accomplished writer, conservationist and naturalist as well. He spends summers studying humpback whales and orcas in Alaska as a co-founder of the Alaska Whale Foundation. He has contributed time and talents to marine research and conservation efforts in West Africa, Madagascar, Sri Lanka, Canada, Taiwan and Mexico, and at home in California. He has contributed unique scientific specimens currently residing in the collections of the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County and the California Academy of Sciences. He is the only living artist to illustrate a new marine mammal species for its scientific debut and to have presented academic papers at conferences of the Society for Marine Mammalogy of which he is a charter member and the founder of the Excellence in Science Communication Award. This native Californian spends his summers in Alaska with the Alaska Whale Foundation, for which he is a founding board member and researcher studying the feeding ecology of humpback whales.

Folkens' expertise in marine mammal morphology has appeared in twelve feature films as character designs and anatomicallycorrect stunt doubles as well as in four documentaries. His film work includes George and Gracie for Star Trek IV-The Voyage Home, the killer whales in the Free Willy series, dolphins for seaQuest DSV, White Squall, and others.
Ahoy hoy friends! While I was walking home the other day, I was thinking about scientific visualization, when out of no where this punk little kid came flying in on a razor scooter and nearly knocked the encyclopedia out of my hands! As I picked up my pocket protector a thought occured to me. Kids these days have little to no interest in science. Which then lead me to ask, why was I interested in science when I was younger? The answer to that was easy, Saturday morning television.

Growing up, there were shows like Bill Nye the Science Guy and Beakman's World. These shows not only portrayed science in a fun and positive light, they made it cool to want to be a scientist. For younger children, there were shows like The Magic School Bus, which taught kids science lessons while taking them away on fantastical adventures. It was fun to learn about science. Nowadays, there are shows where you follow a character who collects monster cards and battle each other with nearly inexplicable dialogue and no educational value at all. There are pretty flashing colorful lights, but little else. Children's programming doesnt offer the same type of educational entertainment it once did.

Many of us are entering the entertainment industry. We hold tremendous sway on what is seen on television, in the movies, and online media. I feel it is our duty to get the younger generation interested in academic pursuits, like science, to push future generations in the right direction. But how can we get children to be more interested in science? The answer is simple; Saturday morning cartoons that are not only fun and exciting, but that can teach and stimulate the mind.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Welcome to the USC's John C. Hench Department of Animation and Digital Art Visualizing Science and Art Blog

Following in the footsteps of Leonardo Da Vinci, The Visualizing Art and Science Research Team from USC's John C. Hench Department of Animation and Digital Arts invites you to use your imagination and post your thoughts regarding the growing field of scientific visualization, especially in regards to the historical and pedagogical approaches to science and art/animation creation.

As we focus on the beauty of science and the wonders of the universe, this ongoing discussion will draw comparisons between the world of fine art and the cognitive space where scientific curiosity is born. As we walk through this hybrid gallery of art and science, let us be inspired by the Hubble images of the Veil Nebula, the Bio-Artography of microscopic imagery, and the recursive rhythms of algorithmic botany. Are these works any less beautiful than the works of William De Kooning, Georgia O' Keefe, or Piet Mondrain? It is remarkable to think, that the abstract expressionists, and other visual artists, could capture the beauty Hubble's universe, long before the advent digital technology. But now that digital technology is in our hands, we can explore new visual realms while using animation to envision science and quantitative information. As practitioners of the science of animation, we are all disciples of Da Vinci, who tells us to "Study the science of art and the art of science."

Therefore, let's begin the debate and the explore the relationship of art in the world science. There are many questions to address in this discussion. Here are areas to explore: With the democratization of digital tools, is there a greater influx of misinformation in regards to envisioning scientific date? Is there a cultural impact resulting from new digital visualization tools on the world of fine art? Is there a metaphysical connection between the an artist's vision and newly discovered micro and macro regions of the universe? And, how do we use 3D software, such as Maya, SoftImage, and Houdini to visualize worlds and processes which cannot be viewed with today's technology? These are just a few questions that are relative to the discourse in this blog. These questions will also be asked in a live discussion on September 19, where DADA will host Dr. Judith Lemus and Science illustrator Pieter Folkens in an open seminar at the University of Southern California. In the meantime look forward to your input and creative comments.