Gurney Journey | category: Rabbit Trails


Gurney Journey

This daily weblog by Dinotopia creator James Gurney is for illustrators, plein-air painters, sketchers, comic artists, animators, art students, and writers. You'll find practical studio tips, insights into the making of the Dinotopia books, and first-hand reports from art schools and museums.

Soft Robots

Soft robots make use of pliable structures instead of hard forms like gears, pistons, and hinges.

(Video link) Engineers can now design flexible artificial creatures inspired by the octopus, earthworm, starfish, or jellyfish. Most prototypes move by means of air pumped into sectional chambers. Although the current soft robots are small and clumsy looking, tethered to their air supplies, they have a striking "alive" quality.

new paper in Science magazine demonstrates how they can change color for camouflage or display. Other morphing blob-like bots can squeeze through narrow spaces.

Whether the soft forms are used alone or combined with hard forms for armor or skeleton, these breakthroughs suggest new possibilities for concept artists and mech designers who are trying to dream up organic-looking artificial beings.

Imagine creepy slug-bots, graceful gas-bag air floaters, or (ahem) sexy robots.
Image from Innovation News Daily
For other striking advances in robotics, check out:
Big Dog
Nano Quad Rotors

Backpack Blower

Here's the scene outside my window (sketched from life). 

Backpack Blower
A guy with a backpack leaf blower is blowing some dust and gravel around.

Backpack Blower
His buddy, a mower guy, goes past. The leaf-blow guy starts blowing his hair, and the mower guy doesn't seem to mind. He stands there and seems to enjoy it.

Backpack Blower
Then the mower guy leans over and lifts up his shirt a little.

The air velocity of a backpack blower is about 200 miles per hour, enough to put a rippling dent in the mower guy's butt.

Then they go back to work. And so do I. 

Our heads are getting larger

According to a report in National Geographic, our heads are getting larger.

Our heads are getting larger
From 1825-1985, the span of the skull has increased by about a third of an inch. The size amounts to about a tennis ball worth of additional volume. This doesn't necessarily translate to greater intelligence.

Anthropologist Richard Jantz, shared the findings at a meeting of the American Association for Physical Anthropology. Scientists aren't certain why this might be happening, but have suggested some possible explanations: increased c-sections, vaccinations, or changes in diet or exercise.

Spectrum Expedition

I just completed this little video about the long journey to attend Spectrum Fantastic Art Live, which ended yesterday.

(Video Link) The whole experience seems like a dream now that I'm sitting in a hotel room along the highway, waking up and heading home.
Spectrum Fantastic Art Live
Book: Spectrum: The Best in Contemporary Fantastic Art
Announcement of Spectrum 19 award winners.

Credits: Music by Kevin MacLeod, Images and artists in the video include: Phil Hale Jon Foster (poster), Arnie Fenner, Jeff Preston, Paul Tobin, Greg Manchess, Thomas Kuebler (full-size figure sculpts), Tim Bruckner, J.B. Monge, Paul Bonner, Mike Mignola, Donato Giancola, Brom, Omar Rayyan, Michael Whelan, Vanessa Lemen, G. Manchess, Bruce Mitchell, Bobby Chiu (diving).

Elaine's Romance Covers

Elaine's Romance Covers

If I had to give a prize for the most delightfully weird romance cover, it would have to go to "The Hungry Ones" from 1966.

Whatever his pickup line is, she seems to be taking him seriously. Should be an interesting date. What he hasn't told her yet is that she's got to fit into his VW with 19 of his friends.

The cover is the work of Elaine Duillo (b. 1928), a prolific and talented artist whose cover paintings defined the look of paperback books from the 1960s through the 1990s.

Like all of her contemporaries: James Avati, James Bama, Pino Daeni,  and Bob McGinnis, she was adept at crystallizing a book's appeal into an arresting image that made you itch to pick it up and start reading. As a woman working a field mainly dominated by male artists, she overcame many discouraging remarks and kept producing work of the highest caliber.

Elaine's Romance Covers
Her work and career are spotlighted in an interview feature in the current issue of Illustration magazine, Issue #37.

Elaine started doing gothic covers, which evolved into the familiar genre of romance covers, where a half-clad, muscle-bound hero with long flowing locks embraces a wild woman in an exotic or historical setting. Elaine helped to make the model Fabio famous. He posed for 19 of her covers.

She worked from black and white photographs of professional models in real costumes. Her painstaking painting process used acrylic paint in fairly transparent layers, which made changes difficult. She retired in 2003.

The current Illustration magazine also features 1950s glamour illustrator Coby Whitmore, one of the Famous Artist School instructors. [Edit--he actually wasn't in the FAS, that would be Jon Whitcomb--thanks, Steve.]
Thanks to Mark Frauenfelder of BoingBoing for mentioning this post.
More GJ posts about pop culture rabbit trails.
Illustration Magazine (preview the whole issue in thumbnail form)
Elaine was inducted into the Society of Illustrators Hall of Fame in 2003 

Vintage streetlight collection

Joe Maurath stores his collection of vintage streetlights in a maze-like museum behind his home in Abington, Massachusetts.

Vintage streetlight collection
Ever since he was a child, he has always been fascinated by telephone poles, streetlights, and insulators—all the so called “street furniture.” He worked as a meter reader, and he has befriended utility crews, who often given him retired lamps and housings. 

He loves seeing streetlights in their element close up from a bucket truck. “You gotta go up in a truck and look at these in the wild,” he told me. “It’s a whole different world up there.”
Vintage streetlight collection

He has a special fondness for the “cobra head” style streetlights from the 1950s. I was struck with how big the housings appear when they’re brought down to eye level. They look like weird metallic mushrooms or UFOs.

Vintage streetlight collection
Here's a Westinghouse OV-25 Separate Ballast from 1963 in the wild. Maurath's collection focuses on streetlights and insulators, but he's also got high voltage signs, switches, and police call boxes. Movie companies rent them from time to time to use in period films.
The older mercury-vapor illumination, with its pleasant cool color tinge, has almost entirely been replaced by the orange-colored high pressure sodium lamps. The traditional mercury vapor lamps are friendlier to trees, and they make better economic and environmental sense, he says, because the lamps last longer. 

Mercury lights also have the aesthetic advantage of a fuller color spectrum. High-pressure sodium (HPS) spikes almost entirely in the yellow-orange, and has an abysmal CRI (Color rendering index). “Sodium vapor light at night has that city-crime look to it,” he said. “And it makes the snow look dirty.” Hopefully, the new LED street lights, which have superior CRI, may eventually replace HPS.

Joe's website: Vintage Streetlights
Previously on GJ: Multi-colored Streetlights
Ladies Dressed as AppliancesBeard and Moustache ChampionshipsSoft RobotsCardboard BicycleBackpack BlowerOur heads are getting largerColonel Sanders resembles ConfuciusSpectrum ExpeditionElaine's Romance CoversVintage streetlight collection

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