My weblog ELECTRON BLUE, which concentrated on science and mathematics, ran from 2004-2008. It is no longer being updated. My current blog, which is more art-related, is here.
Tue, 27 May, 2008
Back from Balticon
I love my art collectors. These are people who are not satisfied with just one piece made by me, but keep coming back for more. I don't quite understand them. From the other end of the paintbrush (or screen) all the art I do seems the same, a kind of colorful patterned plastic sheet cut up into separate pieces. But they must want more than one example of it, because they keep buying it. Naturally, I'm not going to stop them. One of my best collectors, who only buys the very good stuff for good prices, bought "Kosmograd," which you saw in my last entry, at Balticon. I am very pleased that it is going to his collection.
Some of the other pictures that you have seen on this Electron were sold as well, including "Trigonometric Earth," the one where the Earth has a Unit Circle inscribed over it. At Balticon I got to meet with my Friendly Mathematicians who told me that I didn't have to go over every bit of trigonometry again before I could return to doing calculus. Well then. I am still trying to find time to do all the things I want to do. I will be working on time management and motivational activity (as well as producing stuff) for the rest of this year.
I find it interesting that people of many different groups like my geometric paintings. Just a hundred years ago, at the beginning of the twenty-first century, such abstract work was considered shockingly avant-garde. It certainly isn't now. In fact, it's sometimes nostalgic, retro-inspired by Art Deco. I have done quite a number of these pieces now, and as I work on designing my new website I'll have a special online gallery just for them.
Posted at 2:33 am | link
Thu, 22 May, 2008
I have just finished my latest painting which I am taking with me to the Baltimore Science Fiction Convention this weekend. The painting is called "Kosmograd," in Russian "City of the Cosmos," and it is based on early twentieth century Russian Constructivist graphics. Russian Constructivism was kind of like a Soviet Socialist Art Deco. In my image you can see the stylized City of the Future which Socialism will bring us, where everyone lives in harmony and the workers control the means of production. There is also a tower (on the left) where the old church steeple has been replaced by a symbol of secular aspiration: a missile. Cultural workers of the world, let us follow our five-year plan!
Acrylic on canvas, 16" x 12"
Posted at 4:30 am | link
Mon, 19 May, 2008
I Need a New Website Design
It seems unbelievable, but I launched my Pyracantha website ten years ago, in 1998. Some of the material on the site dates from even earlier, in the mid-nineties when I was doing a lot of research and writing on Zoroastrianism. The Nineteen-Nineties era doesn't seem that nostalgic or remote, but in Internet years, it is ages ago. My website, which was designed in a simple fashion for people on dial-up accounts before the era of broadband, is just plain OBSOLETE.
I mean, it still works, and it still delivers text and images, but its organization and its presentation are dull and hard to navigate by modern standards. I also have not yet added a "buy-over-internet" feature which I have acquired from Google Check-out. I am waiting for some divine revelation from above to descend on me and turn the old Pyracantha website into a beautiful, easy-to-visit, well-designed website which is not dependent on Flash or other bandwidth-eating gimmicks.
I am not a web designer. If I were, I would have already re-designed the site. I kind of know what I want but do not have the technical expertise. My Webmistress, on whose kindness and generosity and skill this whole site depends, is not a professional web designer either, and is too busy with a major day job to spend the time it needs.
Therefore I call upon the few remaining Electron readers to suggest where I might go to find a good design resource for the re-modeling of the Pyracantha site. That would include this Electron weblog as well. I need to create easily accessible art galleries and more showplaces for my art. There needs to be online ordering so people from all over the world can buy prints. I get many inquiries about buying prints, but have not been able to do the transactions either because the inquirers are not in the USA, or because no one under 40 uses ordinary old paper checks any more. I found that last bit out to my surprise when I asked someone why I was losing so many customers when I asked them to send me a check.
See how much the world has changed since 1998? I am perhaps the only person left who does not have a cellphone stuck to their ear all the time, nor do I have a PDA or a Blackberry. (If you don't know what a PDA or a Blackberry is, you are even worse off than I am.) I refuse to succumb to technophobia. If I can't find a web design resource, I will have to somehow acquire enough webskill to do it myself. If I could learn algebra and trigonometry and first year calculus, I could probably learn web work. But there is always the matter of time, priorities, and time management, which is increasingly becoming a pressing issue for me. I could use a lot of help on that, too.
Posted at 9:00 pm | link
Tue, 13 May, 2008
Art and Entertainment
I've been looking through the websites and web portfolios of countless digital artists this year. I pore through them looking for inspiration and ideas on how to render my own subjects and imaginations in digital media such as Photoshop and Painter. There's a short list of links to sites like these on this Weblog page, so you can see what I'm talking about if you want to. These artists' work doesn't always go into print. Nor does it grace the walls of galleries and museums. They work for what is generally known as the "entertainment industry," meaning films, videos, commercials, theme parks, and especially video games.
After months of admiring this art, and knowing just how much work goes into it, I mentally stepped back and wondered to myself. I had never conceived how much of this material there was. I never knew how many artists, many of them spectacularly good, worked in this medium and industry all over the world, from China and Korea all the way through Eastern and Western Europe, and all over North America, including many immigrant artists who have come over to the USA to find their fortune.
And then I wondered why all this effort, all this talent, all the toil of thousands and thousands of international artists with amazing technology in their hands, was spent in the name of ….entertainment. Mere entertainment: video games, comic-book and fantasy movies, science fiction and fantasy illustrations, role-playing games, anime and manga cartoons, much of which will be obsolete in a few months. So much work, so little ….substance.
I was raised in a world of cultural Puritanism. In the "modernist" world of high art and classical music, I was instilled with an Augustinian revulsion for "entertainment." Art was for serious purposes. It was either for religious worship, as with Bach's great choral works, or it was nationalistic, such as the music of Dvorak or Verdi, situating the listeners in a proud cultural heritage. Or, in more modern times, art and music were instruments of forcible enlightenment, shocking the listeners and viewers into what should be a higher moral and spiritual state, whether political or personal. It was anything but entertainment.
Entertainment has the connotation of frivolity. You go to the movies not to be given moral and spiritual uplift, but to be swept away for a few hours into the world of Tolkien or Star Wars or Fred Astaire. You don't learn how to be a better human being by playing "Grand Theft Auto 4." A cultural puritan wants art to somehow mold the listener or viewer or reader into a better person. This is not (generally) what entertainment does.
In ages past, it was the Churches that hired the artists to convey morality and splendor. That was where the money was. And now, of course, entertainment is where the money is, which is why there are thousands of these artists striving to get the bucks working there. The default job for "serious" artists is not working for a game company (horrors!) but teaching in a university, college, or even a high school, where there is still a sense of didactic moralism in academic art. (For instance, the heavy-handed social messages in many of the "installations" that populate modern galleries.) In my younger days I remember musicians looking down at even famous American composers like Copland and Bernstein, because they dared to write music for movies or Broadway. That is, popular entertainment. And yet, some of Prokofiev's greatest works were written for films, such as Alexander Nevsky. Is that piece redeemed by the wartime nationalism that helped the Russians resist the German invasion?
The times, obviously, are very different now. There are far more cultural "niches" (borrowing from the language of ecology) for artists nowadays. Postmodernists will say that the old divisions of high moralist art versus low entertainment art no longer exist. And yet it still haunts someone like me, old enough to have grown up under the shadow of the Puritan regime.
Posted at 3:26 am | link
Thu, 08 May, 2008
Graduating in Annapolis
Sam Jones, son of one of my best friends, was nineteen when I did this sketch of him. I helped raise Sam and have many happy memories of him as he grew up.
Now Sam is graduating this weekend from Saint John's College in Annapolis. I am so proud of him! I wish him the best as he moves on to the next phase in his life.
Posted at 2:27 am | link
Sun, 04 May, 2008
I recently experienced my first acupuncture treatment. I had certainly heard of it, but never thought it would do me any good. I want to be a righteous rational scientific type, and thus I shouldn't spend time with something which falls under the heading of "alternative medicine." But after four years, my menopause symptoms, especially the hot flashes, have not abated or even gotten a little better, and my doctor did not want to put me on hormone replacement therapy, for very good reasons. Therefore I was willing to try something a bit out of the ordinary.
A very good friend who has benefited from acupuncture recommended me to her acupuncturist. The practitioner is an American, who learned the technique (or art, perhaps) in the USA, from Chinese teachers. It took a while to arrange an appointment, but finally we settled on a time.
The initial appointment took more than two hours! Conventional doctor's visits are a hurried fifteen minutes. The acupuncturist took a very thorough medical history, interviewing me about things which conventional doctors would not have asked. She said that these details were important in Chinese medicine. She also looked closely at my tongue, saying that internal conditions (according to the Chinese system) were reflected on the tongue. After examining me, she said that my situation was very common, even "textbook" familiar, and easily treated with acupuncture.
She had me lie down on a nicely cushioned bed, in a peaceful environment with soft music playing, scented potpourri, and translucent curtains drawn over the bright window. The needles are sterile, very thin and are one-use only. She found the places on me, swabbed them with alcohol, and popped in the needles. Most of the points were not painful, no more than a slight pinprick, though one or two were a bit sharper. Those subsided in a minute or so, and didn't hurt during the treatment. I lay quietly on the bed for about fifteen or twenty minutes while the needles did their work. The acupuncturist left me alone but came in to check on me halfway through the session.
When it was done she pulled out all the needles and I sat up and put my clothes on. I felt refreshed and relaxed, without the thought that I had been pricked by needles. We made another appointment for about a week later. I was told not to expect instant results, but I did feel "cooler" and less stressed. I still got hot flashes, though, and even with acupuncture they may never go away altogether. But I am willing to keep on with this, even if modern science, which thinks it always knows better, doesn't quite know how it works.
Posted at 1:03 am | link