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Magic on a Plane: Lenticulars

Not Just for Crackerjacks Anymore

Those little stamp-sized cards in a box of Crackerjacks introduced this technology to many of us. The card bore a surface of fine parallel plastic ridges on the front; a cartoon would move when the card was tilted at varying angles.

The technology of lenticular printing like this has become more sophisticated over the years. There are a variety of visual effects that one can achieve, from 3D to morphing to animation. These effects are set up using image-editing software, such as Adobe Photoshop, that allows for layered files. The resulting product can be a great attention-grabbing device for delivering a science message or for inspiring the imagination of a young scientist.

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Painting with Gouache

Editor’s note: The 2010 reissue of this article is a modification of the original. Two of the illustrations are replaced with different subject matter for purposes of better color reproduction. All illustrations in the original print edition are in black and white.

The field of Scientific Illustration often demands the production of highly detailed, accurate renderings that must survive the less-than-perfect world of photographic reproduction. The collaborative efforts between artist and researcher/author require the illustrator to adopt a most flexible approach so as to accommodate the likely revisions that are inherent in such arrangements. Additionally, it is the nature of the illustration field to impose deadlines that preclude the use of time-consuming approaches and techniques, favoring instead those media that can be handled with relative speed. Gouache is a medium that addresses these concerns and is an excellent choice for scientific illustrators finding themselves challenged by these considerations. Gouache is perfectly suited for precise, detail-oriented paintings in both full color and black and white. Its predictable tonal quality, vibrant hues, and fast drying time combine to make it a popular choice among designers and commercial illustrators. Opaque qualities allow for the layering of details that permits multiple revisions, and because of the picture's flat surface it is easily reproduced photo-mechanically.

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Scanning, scanning, scanning

This installment of Ripped from the List reviews three recent listserv threads that dealt with techniques for converting traditional art to digital media, preliminary considerations, and subsequent manipulations of the scanned images.

Scanning Large Artwork

Rick L. Simonson: Does anyone have a good method for getting large (maybe 24” x 36”) traditional artwork into the computer? Scanning seems like a good idea, unfortunately, large format scanners are quite expensive. I suppose I could scan it multiple times and stitch it together in Photoshop. Or send it to a large format scanning service?

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Sharpening Colored Pencils

This installment of Ripped from the List reviews a recent listserv thread that dealt with techniques for sharpening colored pencils.

Question from Bruce: Glendon, have you ever had someone burst into the store you manage announcing loudly, “I found it!” A way to sharpen color pencils without the leads breaking!” If so, would you kindly pass along the specifics of this person’s discovery? Many of us, I suspect, are not amused by this constant annoyance. It appears that a bump forms somewhere along the sharpening line that causes the pencil to wiggle. I should probably note that I use the little red General sharpeners. Does anyone have any experience with the Dahle pencil sharpener? If it works as stated it might be worth the $50.

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Cleaning Clayboard

This installment of Ripped from the List reviews one recent listserv thread that dealt with techniques for cleaning clayboard.

Question from Jeff: Does anyone have experience cleaning smudges off of clayboard? Specifically, I put a thumb print of newspaper ink into one of my projects.

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2010 GNSI Educational Series Workshop: review

CLASSROOM OF STUDENTS AT WORK. PHOTO BY D. K.B. CHEUNGThe Smithsonian Natural History Museum was once again the setting for the 2010 GNSI Educational Series workshop, which took place March 18-21, 2010. Here, at an institution “dedicated to inspiring curiosity, discovery, and learning,” a wide diversity of participants from traditional media illustrators to scientists to comic book illustrators, gathered to engage themselves in new techniques that will help them succeed in an increasingly digital world. Many previous students returned this year to further refine their skills and take advantage of the diverse learning community.

Lessons were organized and led by Marie Metz, GNSI educational director and former Smithsonian Illustrator, Jennifer Fairman, a professor at Johns Hopkins University, and David Clarke, president of the Washington D.C. chapter of GNSI. The workshop began with a talk about the synergistic relationship between science/technology and illustration, by guest lecturer Dr. James Giordano, University of Oxford. Beginning with a discussion of prehistoric cave drawings and our innate human ability to communicate visually, Dr. Giordano explained the role illustration plays in the communication of scientific knowledge. He also gave examples of how illustration furthers science and vice versa. Participants left the lecture inspired and ready to begin learning.

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Shipping Artwork

Artists love to show their work: it’s an artist’s stage and performance. Transporting artwork to a local gallery is comparatively simple, usually involving only the time to carry the pieces to an exhibition. Shipping to a distant location, however, can be more difficult. And more disappointing if the artwork is returned damaged. Or not returned at all. A modicum of planning should make this process more successful, and relatively anxiety-free. However, one should remember Murphy’s Fourth Law: Mother Nature always sides with the hidden flaw in the system. Since the “system” includes a huge transportation network, one should be prepared for the occasional, often incongruous, surprise.

Timing

Whenever possible, give the preparation, packaging, and shipping of artwork the time it deserves. And well before the deadline so you won’t be hurrying. Uh-huh. And the rest of us humans should seriously consider shipping to an exhibit at least a month before the opening. Imagine a gallery operator receiving a hundred pieces of artwork the same week as an exhibit opening, and I’m certain you can also imagine that some of the artwork won’t receive the care and attention it deserves.

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Book Review: The Multifaceted Life and Books of Arthur Guptill

All of us know of the American Artist's Magazine, its American Artist's Book Club and their publisher, Watson-Guptill Publications (ownership now is in Billboard Publications). This article is about Arthur L. Guptill, co-founder, co-editor and co-manager of these businesses in art, with his longtime friend, Ernest Watson. Together they undertook many art enterprises under the Watson-Guptill umbrella.

Arthur GuptillGuptill the Polymath

The word I have used goes back into early Victorian history: a person with multiple interests and vocations who pursues all of them vigorously at the same time. Guptill's major occupations were artist, architect, decorator, teacher and finally author with the Watson-Guptill firm thrown in between. At all of these things he was good; to them all,l he brought a strong artistic sense; and in them gained an enviable reputation for his work.

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Space Art by Lynette Cook

Lynette’s illustration of the newly discovered “Goldilocks” planetAstronomical artist Lynette Cook works in the world of science news deadlines. Lynette’s illustration of the newly discovered “Goldilocks” planet was made on an especially tight deadline. It ended up being featured in a number of news venues, including the NBC Nightly News (West Coast edition), AP, NPR, Reuters, the NY Times, USA Today, space.com, astronomy.com, Astronomy Picture of the Day, Yahoo, and Seed Magazine online.

Lynette writes:  "I was traveling with my mother for a couple of weeks and arrived home to find a request from astronomer Steve Vogt, one of the discoverers, asking if I could do a rush job. I was back in the nick of time to say ‘Yes!’ So I buried my face in the computer for a few days, working quickly from rough through the final stage, communicating back and forth with Dr. Vogt several times each day. The press conference was held at the National Science Foundation on Wednesday, September 29, and the news story and image began showing up on the web and on television broadcasts that evening. One never knows what will happen when a press release like this goes out. Over the years I have been involved with several and remember that some received little attention and others really excited the media and the public to the point of 'going viral.'

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In Memoriam: Hedvig Ostern

Nancy Halliday with Hedvig Østern, GNSI conference, Washington DC, 1996.It is with profound sorrow that I inform you of the death of my friend, nature illustrator Hedvig Østern of Norway. Elaine Hodges introduced us at the GNSI conference in 1988, and we have remained pen friends since. Hedvig came again to the GNSI conference in 1996, and in 1998 I visited her at her home and studio near Drammen. Only then did I realize the full extent of her artwork. Despite physical disabilities and poor health, Hedvig had nevertheless documented much of Norway’s alpine flora in watercolor. Hedvig did not limit herself to flowers: she also painted fungi, fossils, and butterflies, teaching herself by making models of butterfly wings.

> Nancy Halliday with Hedvig Østern, GNSI conference, Washington DC, 1996.

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Copyright and Fair Use

This is an edited virtual roundtable discussion held online. Transcribed for the September 2010 GNSI newsletter column "Ripped From the List "- edited by Stephan DiCerbo, and now edited for online presentation.

Gail Guth emailed the list about a fellow who wanted to avoid the cost of repro rights on someone else’s images by tracing them and was concerned—with good reason—if he was infringing on copyrights. The thread brought out various takes on the issue, some of which you might find surprising. This thread also touches upon “fair use for educational purposes” and “government use and public domain.” – Stephen Di Cerbo

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Book Review: Manual of Leaf Architecture

Leaf Architecture Cover

A new book on the architecture of leaves, Manual of Leaf Architecture, by Ellis, Daly, Hickey, Johnson, Mitchell, Wilf and Wing, goes into great detail, assigning names and descriptions to important characters that distinguish different leaves. Size, shape, lobing, surface texture, apex and base and margins all are fully described and named and are characteristics we should be aware of as artists.

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GNSI-DC: Mammals on Parade!

One of the highlights of the year for the GNSI D.C. chapter was a tour of the newly renovated Mammal Hall at the National Museum of Natural History (NMNH), Smithsonian Institution. We had a great turn out on March 16, 2004, of approximately 25 members for the fabulous tour led by Sally Love, NMNH Exhibit Developer assigned to the renovation of the hall.

Sally led us not only through the new hall, but through the trials and tribulations of designing the hall, demolishing the old, contracting design firms, major construction, fundraising, scientist/designer/writer meetings (“pencils were thrown”), and all the ups and downs inherent to a large project such as this.

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