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Archive for February, 2012

From Capricon to Floral Photography

Tuesday, February 14th, 2012

The Flyers of Fomalhaut b Digital Art Painting
The Flyers of Fomalhaut b Digital Painting

Part 1: The Capricon Science Fiction Convention

This year Capricon was a short affair for me. While the con ran Thursday thru Sunday, I only attended Friday and Saturday and then only until 6:30pm as I had made plans to attend the opening of a photo exhibition at the Prairie Arts Center in Schaumburg. And because I was not returning on Sunday I did not participate in the art show. On Saturday I did make sure to go through the art show and was happy to see work exhibited by a couple of my friends. What I found disturbing though was the fairly large number of empty display bays in the show. In my experience the Capricon Art Show generally has little, if any, unused space. Unfortunately I had to leave before the start of the art auction so have no idea how well that went.

With respect to programming, my only job Friday was as a panelist on Pluto Is Still a Planet in Illinois with Bill Higgins (Fermilab physicist) moderating and copanelists Brother Guy Consolmagno (Vatican Observatory) and Steven Silver (Capricon Fan Guest of Honor). This was a really good panel given that Brother Guy was a part of the IAU meeting at which the Pluto vote was made and Steven was a friend of Clyde Tombaugh, the man who discovered Pluto. If you were at Capricon and missed this panel – it was definitely your loss.

I arrived back at the con Saturday morning shortly before I was scheduled to give my presentation The Art of the Exploration of Space. I especially liked that I had 75 minutes to speak as this allowed me to go at a leisurely pace and engage in conversation with the audience as I went along. This was immediately followed by my moderating a panel at the opposite end of the convention on Goodbye, Space Shuttle. My copanelists were Henry Spencer, Chris Gerrib, and Kent Nebergall. Kent had the misfortune of being in the audience of my space art presentation whereupon I drafted him for the Space Shuttle panel as I knew that he would have valuable insights to contribute.

I next attended The Coming War on General Purpose Computation presentation by Cory Doctorow, the author guest of honor. It was a fascinating presentation. While I agreed with Doctorow on SOPA and other aspects of attempts to stamp out the theft of intellectual property, I came away dissatisfied that he offered no remedy for the authors, artists, and musicians who are having their work stolen. I was also somewhat surprised by his stance towards Facebook in that he seemed to believe that people should not be given the choice of sharing their information on social networks. I viewed this as being inconsistent with what I would characterize as a free and open internet perspective.

The last panel I attended was the most boring panel I have ever attended at any science fiction convention. Now with a title like Civil Disobedience: Occupy Wall Street and the Tea Party Movement you would expect there to be an invigorating debate between the panelists and between the panelists and the audience. However, this panel was run by the brown shirts. No audience participation was allowed. There was a short period at the end where 5 people were identified and allowed to ask one question each with no follow up or commentary by the questioners permitted. In short, this panel was a total waste of time for the audience.

In summary, I’d say that the best things about Capricon were:

  • The accidental meetings
  • The conversations in the halls
  • The food in the green room
  • Prowling the Dealers Room
  • Checking out the art show
  • How well my The Art of the Exploration of Space presentation went and the ensuing conversations
  • Being on the Pluto panel with Brother Guy Consolmagno, Bill, and Steven
  • Friday lunch in the Green Room with Brother Guy, Bill Higgins, and Henry Spencer
  • Drafting Kent Nebergall to serve on the Space Shuttle panel.

Only one more year until Capricon 33!

Part 2: The Photography Exhibition at the Prairie Art Center, Schaumburg IL

Departing Capricon, I swung by home to grab a bite to eat and then headed over to the Prairie Art Center to take in a photography exhibition that was opening that night in the Herb Aigner Gallery. Titled Flowers in Our Soul, the show is devoted to artistic photographs of flowers and consists of 27 separate works. The photographers that I identified as having work on display in the show are Maria Aiello, Mary Angelini, Debbie Beller, Cindy Brumm, Susan Couch, Randee Lawrence, and Karie Strangeway. I had the opportunity to speak with several of them about their work. I was also curious to learn whether they printed their own work or used an outside service. If you would like to see the show, it runs through the end of February. See Prairie Center for the Arts, Schaumburg IL.

The Illustration

To illustrate this post I decided to use a piece of science fiction art that I just added to my web site. Titled The Flyers of Fomalhaut b, it is an imagining of what the life of exoplanet Fomalhaut b is like (note: not only is there no evidence of life on this planet, there is some question as to whether or not the planet even exists). Fomalhaut b appears to be a Jupiter-like planet that is about three times more massive than Jupiter and which orbits the star Fomalhaut once every 872 years. By comparison Pluto takes 248 years to complete an orbit of the Sun.

For more about this digital painting, see The Flyers of Fomalhaut b.

Until next time, Ad Astra, Jim

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Capricon 32 Science Fiction Convention

Thursday, February 9th, 2012

Beyond the Mountains Exoplanet Landscape Painting
Beyond the Mountains exoplanet landscape painting

This weekend I’ll be attending the 32nd Capricon Science Fiction Convention being held at the Westin Chicago North Shore in Wheeling, IL. The theme this year is Amazing Adventures. I’ve attended quite a few Capricon’s over the years and they’ve always been fun. In addition to participating in the con’s programming, I’ve participated in their art show for the last several years.

With respect to programming, this year I am giving one presentation – The Art of the Exploration of Space. In this talk, I give an overview of the development of space art and how that art evolved over time to reflect the realities of aerospace engineering. I pay particular attention to the means by which art is used to portray space exploration, from exploratory to educational to inspirational. I also talk about the NASA Art Program and NASA’s recognition of the emotional impact of art vs photography. I even sneak some of my own space art into the talk.

I will also be moderating the panel Goodbye, Space Shuttle where we’ll be discussing human access to space in the post-Space Shuttle era. Joining me will be Henry Spencer, all the way from Canada and a co-panelist on a number of past space panels, and Chris Gerrib, whom I haven’t had the pleasure of meeting.

Lastly, I will be a panelist on the Pluto Is Still a Planet in Illinois panel. Moderating will be friend and scientist Bill Higgins. My fellow panelists will be Brother Guy Consolmagno (who was actually at the 2006 IAU conference at which Pluto was relegated to dwarf planet status) and Steven Silver. One of the questions the panel is asked to answer is Why are we still so invested in the classification of this distant object? In the case of Illinois politicians, I’m betting it’s because the chuckle heads, eer elected representatives, in Springfield would prefer to deal with weighty issues like Pluto’s planetary status rather than the financial and ethical holes they’ve dug the state into.

Uncharacteristically, I have not yet decided whether or not I am going to participate in the Capricon art show. Sunday has limited programming and I am not on any panels that day. Not participating in the art show frees up my Sunday which works out exceedingly well for me as I have other commitments that day.

Looking over the programming line up, you may find me in the audience of the following panels:

  • Whither Goes the Art Show?
  • Chicon 7: The 2012 Worldcon Open Meeting
  • Civil Disobedience: Occupy Wall Street and the Tea Party Movement
  • Dystopia Now
  • Fan Artists You Should Know
  • SF/F Music that Isn’t Filk
  • The Coming War on General Purpose Computation
  • There’s a Great Big Beautiful Tomorrow! The Disney Imagineering Panel
  • We Do It in Groups: Fandom and Social Media

You can get all your Capricon questions answered at the Capricon web site.

The Illustration

To illustrate this post I decided to use a relatively recent digital painting I created and only added to my web site today. Beyond the Mountains is a minimalist representation of an exoplanet landscape.

Bon Voyage, Jim

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Free Software Downloads: Bryce, Daz Studio, and Hexagon

Monday, February 6th, 2012

Bryce, Hexagon, DAZ Studio Free Download
Bryce, Hexagon, DAZ Studio Free Download

Saturday I learned that DAZ (Digital Art Zone) is making available the following software as free downloads until February 29:

  • Bryce 7 Pro 3D Landscape Software (retail price $249.95)
  • Hexagon 2.5 3D Modeling Software (retail price $149.95)
  • DAZ Studio 4 Pro 3D Software (Winner of 3D World’s 2011 Software Innovation of the Year Award) (retail price $429.95)
  • 3D Photoshop Bridge (retail price $199.00)

In addition there are a number of free models and textures available as well. The total retail price of the basket of software, models, and textures that I downloaded was $1,350. The one requirement is that you subscribe to their newsletter – meaning you give them your email address.

Note that your order will show up in the Available Downloads link from your Account Dashboard and that you are allowed 4 downloads of each product you have ordered. The serial numbers for your software are retrieved separately via the Available Serial Numbers link. All downloads are in the form of executable files. The largest downloads are:

  • Bryce 7 Content – 670 meg
  • Daz Studio 4 32-bit – 441 meg
  • Daz Studio 4 64-bit – 439 meg
  • Bryce 7 Pro – 254 meg

I’ve never used Hexagon or DAZ Studio Pro but Bryce was the first 3D software I ever used – back when it was version 3. I haven’t used it in years but I still have a large collection of Bryce files and it would be nice to perhaps resurrect some of them. The name is taken from Bryce Canyon, which I had the pleasure of visiting a few years ago (there’s a photo of me at Bryce on the bottom of my home page). The first version of Bryce was released as a Mac only product in 1994. Version 3.1 of Bryce 3D was released in 1997 by MetaCreations Corporation – this was when I first purchased Bryce. Bryce was acquired by the Corel Corporation in 2000 who released version 5 of Bryce in 2001. Bryce was sold to DAZ in 2004 who has gone on to release versions 5.5 and 6.0 with Bryce 7 being released in 2010. Bryce 3D has always been looked down upon as a package for newbies with limited capabilities. While these criticisms are true, it’s important to remember that for many digital artists, Bryce was what opened the door for them to explore the world of 3D graphics software. It’s low price and easy-to-learn interface made it a perfect software solution for those digital artists looking to get their feet wet.

Hexagon is a tool for creating 3D models. According to the DAZ web site:

Hexagon delivers all the tools a graphic artist needs to create detailed 3D models ready for final render. Packed with features such as; DAZ Studio Bridge, sculpted primitives, freehand modeling brushes, micro-displacement modeling tools, comprehensive UV-mapping modules, advanced 3D paint, and instant ambient occlusion. Hexagon provides you with all the options of expensive competitor software, but at an affordable price.

I’m not sure what to make of 3D Photoshop Bridge. The DAZ web site describes it as a " DAZ Studio plug-in designed to connect the power of Photoshop with the unlimited content possibilities of DAZ Studio. It’s the next step to maximizing your creativity. It will also save you money by eliminating the need for costly photo shoots and stock imagery, save you time with quicker rendering, and save your brain by swiftly and easily integrating the best features of DAZ Studio and Photoshop…Easily pose characters and objects three-dimensionally with the 3D Photoshop Bridge while in DAZ Studio,"

Of course it would help if I knew more about Daz Studio. In this case, download first then investigate was my motto. According to DAZ:

DAZ Studio is a feature rich 3D figure customization, posing, and animation tool that enables anyone to create stunning digital illustrations and animations. DAZ Studio is the perfect tool to design unique digital art and animations using virtual people, animals, props, vehicles, accessories, environments and more. Simply select your subject and/or setting, arrange accessories, setup lighting, and begin creating beautiful artwork.

The free 3D software is available via download only from between now and February 29, 2012:

Product Links:

Note that there are a number of video tutorials available for Bryce, Hexagon, and DAZ Studio on YouTube.

Here’s to happy and creative computing. Jim

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Trickster Gallery, Schaumburg

Friday, February 3rd, 2012

Trickster Gallery, Schaumburg
Trickster Gallery, Schaumburg

Last Saturday I visited the Trickster Gallery for the first time. It’s right across the pond from the Schaumburg Library and has been for 7 years. I hit the Schaumburg Library almost every week but never took the time to visit Trickster Gallery. The space it occupies was originally a gym which was then taken over by the city of Schaumburg who then leased out the space (for a dollar a year I think) to an art gallery. They weren’t able to make a go of it and closed. The Trickster Gallery moved in and opened in 2005. Its stated purpose is to support the Arts Department of the American Indian Center of Chicago. According to the Trickster web site:

Trickster Gallery is the only Native American owned and operated arts institution in the State of Illinois and is dedicated to providing space for first-voice arts. The Gallery features contemporary Native art (post 1960s) and augments exhibits with film screenings, featured speakers, panel discussions, school tours and educator workshops.

As a side note, my Mother’s Father’s Mother was a Cherokee from Alabama. She was born during the Civil War and my Mother remembered as a child her Grandmother telling her stories about what life was like during Reconstruction.

Trickster Gallery exterior, Schaumburg
Outside the Trickster Gallery, Schaumburg

At the time of my visit, there were three exhibits. The first consisted of a show of black and white photography by Michael Wesley.
The second exhibition was a Day of the Dead art show featuring the work of several artists. Two very large artworks were wall murals. The most impressive art in this exhibit was a large tree of skulls mural painted by Emmanuel White Eagle. The third exhibit, which occupied the entire second floor, was of framed bead work by Douglas Limón of Limón Fine Art.

The gallery also is home to a small gift shop. Admission to the gallery is free but visitors are encouraged to make a donation to support the gallery.

Trickster Gallery
190 S. Roselle Rd., 
Schaumburg, IL 60193 · 

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