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Archive for January, 2014

Exoplanet in the Large Magellanic Cloud

Monday, January 20th, 2014

Exoplanet in Large Magellanic Cloud
Exoplanet in the Large Magellanic Cloud (cropped here)

It has been quite some time since I’ve created a work of astronomical art. Strike that. It’s been some time since I’ve finished a work of astronomical art. In fact I’ve not done a very good job of adding such art to my web site. No I didn’t make a new year’s resolution to do more astronomical art. I’m not sure what possessed me to take a break from my other projects and create this piece of art. Last year I had started work on an exoplanet project. I had painted a number of exoplanets and for a while was quite devoted to it. One of the things I did was to create a database of both the exoplanets and their stars. I previously wrote about this initial foray in The Small Stars of Exoplanets.

My plan was to use both my art and an analysis of the data I’d collected to create a presentation on exoplanets. This would be an addition to my current lineup of lectures, talks, and presentations (I should point out that I do space exploration and astronomy presentations in my role as President of the Chicago Society for Space Studies and as a NASA JPL Solar System Ambassador).

Artistic Inspiration

The artwork consists of three main components: the exoplanet, the nebula, and the stars. While the exoplanet was drawn solely from my imagination, the nebula was inspired by NGC 2035. In fact, the specific image that I used as a reference is The star formation region NGC 2035 imaged by the ESO Very Large Telescope. This image is described as:

The Large Magellanic Cloud is one of the closest galaxies to our own. Astronomers have now used the power of the ESO’s Very Large Telescope to explore NGC 2035, one of its lesser known regions, in great detail. This new image shows clouds of gas and dust where hot new stars are being born and are sculpting their surroundings into odd shapes. But the image also shows the effects of stellar death – filaments created by a supernova explosion.

Artistic Process

I created this art using only Adobe Photoshop CS4 and my Wacom tablet. I used a variety of custom brushes I had previously created specifically for painting astronomical art.

My first step was to paint the neublar structure. I did this using a variety of brushes. One feature that greatly increased the flexibility I had was to take advantage of Photoshop’s brush mode option. The mode option makes it possible for your new brush strokes to interact with previous brush strokes in different ways. This is a very useful technique that is most probably greatly underused as I don’t think I’ve ever seen it mentioned in any astronomical art tutorials for Photoshop.

Having completed the nebula, my next step was to create the starfield. I did this on a separate Photoshop layer. Separating the stars from the nebula allows me to work on the two independently. It’s worth pointing out that this is a fictional starfield. For the starfield the main question I had to answer was sharp or soft: did I want stars with sharp edges or soft edges. I opted for soft edges because the first stars I painted were those in front of the nebula.

I created my exoplanet in a separate Photoshop document. I did this for several reasons. First and most important I wanted to create the planet on a scale much larger than the size it would have in the final composition. Second, because the planet involved a number of layers, I wanted to keep them together as a separate document. This path facilitates my ability to reuse all or part of this exoplanet for other projects.

Once I was satisfied with my exoplanet, I copied the planet as a single layer back to my original Photoshop document. I now resized and positioned the exoplanet. Fortunately I knew exactly where I wanted to place the planet and used that knowledge in creating my exoplanet. To better tie the exoplanet to the nebula, I arranged for the cloud structure to continue the nebula’s pattern as can be seen by observing the 3:00 position of the exoplanet’s limb. Okay – that might be a little difficult to observe since the original painting is 20 x 15 inches and what is shown here, if printed, would only be 2 x 1 inches.

Exoplanet in the Large Magellanic Cloud Digital Painting

To see the uncropped version, as well as some small full-size sections, see Exoplanet in the Large Magellanic Cloud Digital Painting. I’ve added this artwork to my Space Art Gallery as well as to my Astronomical Art Gallery. As is my custom, I’ve limited the number of limited edition prints for this piece to five.

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Pinterest for Business

Thursday, January 9th, 2014

Pinterest for Business
Pinterest for Business Page

At the end of 2012, Pinterest introduced a new class of accounts – Pinterest for Business. At that point in time I wasn’t even using Pinterest. Over the last year I have rather slowly added content to my Pinterest account while not pushing my Pinterest presence. It wasn’t until the end of December 2013 that I created a Pinterest for Business account.

When I signed up for the business account, the sign-up page provided the option "Already have an account? Convert here." Rather than converting my existing account into a business account, I decided to create a separate business account purely for my art business. Doing this gives me the freedom to post irrelevant content/pictures to my personal account while preserving my business account for images that pertain specifically to my art.

In setting up a business account, one of the tasks you need to perform is to verify your web site (meaning proving that you actually own your business’ domain name). Pinterest offers a few different methods for the verification process. The verification option I chose to use was to upload a small html file to my web site for Pinterest to find.

The first feature of the Pinterest business account that I took advantage of was the Pin It button. Adding a bit of Javascript to the 190+ web pages of artwork means that now when someone hovers their mouse over my art, a little Pin It button pops up – making it very easy for someone to pin my art. Pinterest then uses this as a part of the analytics data they provide for business accounts.

Pinterest describes these features as follows: "Once you’ve added the Pin It button and verified your website, you’ll be able to access your web analytics. Analytics shows you what content from your website is most popular on Pinterest. Find out how many people are Pinning from your website, seeing your Pins, and clicking your content." Now I don’t need Pinterest to tell me what’s popular on my web site – Google Analytics does that for me. What is of value to me is making it easier for people to share my art on Pinterest and having access to Pinterest analytics telling me which of my artworks are being shared on Pinterest. This is particularly useful for artists and photographers.

From a use point of view, I have seen no difference between regular Pinterest and business Pinterest. It’s basically the same interface with the same editing capabilities. So if you have a personal Pinterest account, setting up and using a Pinterest for Business account will be no challenge – assuming that you have your own domain name.

My advice: if you are an artist or a photographer or anyone whose business is reliant on images, I would definitely create a Pinterest for Business account. For help and reference purposes, I recommend that you check out the following resources:

In closing, the best thing about writing this article is that it spurred me to go on a board creation/pinning frenzy last night so that there would actually be something for you to see on my Pinterest business account page.

So visit my Artsnova Pinterest for Business Account and repin, repin, repin. Oh, and don’t forget to follow me while you’re there.

Happy New Year everyone.

Pinterest for Business

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