Monday, June 5, 2023

Barge Graveyard

The wild bank of the channel is called Sleightsburgh Spit. This was once a busy passage for barges carrying bricks, coal, and bluestone over the D&H canal to Philadelphia. 

But the railroads killed the maritime traffic, leaving the carcasses of the wooden canal boats to rot in the shallows of the Hudson River near Port Ewen. At low tide you can see plenty of old timbers and iron spikes in the barge graveyard.

Sunday, June 4, 2023

Digital Bioacoustics

Animals are able to communicate in the realm of sound with much more complexity and nuance than scientists had suspected.

Using new digital tools, researchers have begun to decipher auditory communications from many non-human life forms, such as elephants, birds, bees, bats, and even plants. A few examples:

• Strawberry rootlets will grow toward the sound of running water, even where there is no moisture gradient.

• There are distinctive patterns in elephant vocalizations that correspond whether the elephant is in the presence of a friendly or unfriendly human, an adult human or a child, or a male or female.

• Owl hoots contain markers identifying both the speaker and the listener.

• A researcher using a voice-recognition program for bats vocalizations found that adults lower the pitch of their squeaks when they're communicating with babies, the opposite of us humans. Our baby talk is typically higher in pitch.

Male peacock displaying colorful feathers, Image via 123RF

• Most of us have assumed that male peacock displays were sending primarily visual signals, but in fact there's also strong acoustic messaging in the infrasound range, to which females are strongly attuned. What precise information is contained in the feather-shaking display is just beginning to be deciphered.

This work raises profound philosophical and ethical issues, arising from the fact that machine systems can generate sounds that animals clearly understand and respond to, even though we can't recognize those nuances with our own ears. Should we use machine-generated animal sounds to send specific messages to animals, such as warnings, greetings, or invitations?


Google blog: "Separating Birdsong in the Wild for Classification"
Book: "The Sounds of Life: How Digital Technology Is Bringing Us Closer to the Worlds of Animals and Plants" by Karen Bakker

Saturday, June 3, 2023

Francis Coates-Jones

Francis Coates-Jones (1857-1932) and his brother Hugh Bolton Jones (1848–1927) were born in Baltimore, but later studied in France under William-Adolphe Bouguereau and Jules Joseph Lefebvre.

Francis Coates-Jones, Spring Day, Oil on canvas

He set up his studio in the famous but now demolished Sherwood Studio Building on in New York City.

Friday, June 2, 2023

Albert Collins, Artist and Actor

 Albert Collins (1883-1956) was an Australian painter who worked in watercolor.

He taught at Redlands School in Cremorne, where his design course was popular.

He was also a radio actor, known for playing the character of "Joe" of the Children's Session in the long-running serial "The Wide-awake Bunyip," which later was called the "Muddle-Headed Wombat."

Thursday, June 1, 2023

Why Rembrandt Declared Bankruptcy

Despite charging high prices for his portraits, Rembrandt van Rijn was forced to declare bankruptcy in 1656.
Rembrandt van Rijn, Self Portrait, 1658

Part of the problem was that he often failed to receive payment, which contributed to his financial troubles.

But he lost his fortune primarily by spending too much on rare and costly things, including musical instruments, weapons, paintings (including his own), prints, animal specimens, shells, corals, and plaster busts.

Wednesday, May 31, 2023

Two Tugs Dockside

Two hardworking tugboats wait at dockside in this small oil study.

Two Tugs, oil on panel, 6 x 8 inches, plein-air

One is still running its engine, judging from the puff of smoke. Hazy sunshine comes in from the left, allowing me to lose the edges in the lower right of the picture. The pinkish priming color peeks through in a few places, but the rest is mostly gray. 

Monday, May 29, 2023


In Australia an unusual society of octopuses has congregated in Jervis Bay, which observers have dubbed "Octopolis." 

Octopuses are normally relatively solitary, so this tendency to group together is not fully understood. 

Marine biologist Peter Godfrey-Smith reports that he's noticed a lot of "ornery" behavior that resembles fighting, boxing, bullying, and even shooting shell projectiles underwater. He's not completely sure if this is just territorial squabbling or something else. 

More at Earth Touch Network.

Sunday, May 28, 2023

Russell Flint on Color Harmony

Russell Flint, Cordoba, watercolor

In his book Water-Colour for Beginners Sir Frances Russell Flint warned that a painting will lack color harmony if it has too many colors in it. He said: 

"You must aim at getting tone and harmony in your work, although it may not be easy. All pictures may be divided into masses of bright color or light, medium-strength color, and shadows. It may be difficult to trace the exact places where they occur in a picture, but they are there all the same. It is obvious that when you are working out of doors on a bright sunny day all the colors will be strong and bright in tone, and even the shadows and middle tints will be strong too. The opposite occurs on a dull day, when the whole scene is changed to one of low tone, when both colors and shadows will be soft and subdued. In each case the colors will harmonize and all complement each other in tone. Mix the colors of these two scenes together and the result is a discordant picture which will be unnatural and unbalanced."

Saturday, May 27, 2023

Resources for Art Styles

One positive outcome of the growth of generative AI is an awakened interest in art styles: how to learn about them, recognize them and name them. 

For example, I had never heard of chainmail art, but here's an actual piece by Dave Austin. It's made by hand from metal wire, link by link.

Here are some examples of AI-generated images inspired by chainmail art, courtesy Twitter user Anonymouse, who has compiled helpful lists of styles of art and photography to use as inspiration.

Anonymouse has got about five collections so far on various Twitter posts. In his collection #2, for example, he's got ASCII Art, polar panorama, mosaic style, and Fresnel Effect.

Another rich vein of styles is Aesthetics Wiki, which defines and illustrates everything from Barbiecore to Dark Gatsby. This online community seems to be fueled as much by cosplay, anime art, and toys as it does by AI, but apparently the team at Midjourney took a lot of inspiration from these communities when they were developing their tools.

Every art school—and especially every design school—should offer classes that explore these art and photography styles, putting them in context without judgment. 

Have you found other resources for learning about art styles? Please share them in the comments.