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Archive for January, 2016

Orion Nebula Sans Stars Astronomical Art

Friday, January 22nd, 2016

Orion Nebula Sans Stars Astronomical Art
Orion Nebula Sans Stars Astronomical Art

Orion Nebula Sans Stars is my newest work of generative astronomical art – created using one of the generative art programs I’ve written. This is actually my second version of this artwork. I was working on the first one, had finished it, keyed in the save command and watched as my program went belly up with an out of memory error. Certainly a problem traditional artists don’t have to deal with. That version of my generative painting was 12000 by 7800 pixels. Restarting I went with a scaled down canvas size of 10200 by 6600 pixels. Upon completion, I held my breath as I entered the save command and let out a sigh of relief once the save successfully completed.

As a long time fan of space and astronomy, I’ve always been fascinated by the visual wonders of our universe and the Orion Nebula has always been a favorite of mine. What is most aesthetically appealing to me is the structure and colors of the dust and gases that comprise the nebula. It is for that reason that I created this version of the nebula without any stars. For me, they’re a distraction. Of course without those stars there wouldn’t be an Orion Nebula.

If you are interested in purchasing an unwatermarked, signed, limited edition print of Orion Nebula Sans Stars, please contact me. Alternatively you can purchase an open edition print of Orion Nebula Sans Stars from crated.com. Note that the open edition print is 85% of the size of the limited edition version.

About the Orion Nebula

Nebula come in several flavors. The Orion Nebula is an emission nebula meaning it is sort of a neon light in the sky. This is because the gases we are seeing have been radiatively excited by ultraviolet radiation emitted by nearby hot young stars. The Orion Nebula is also referred to as a reflection nebula and a diffuse nebula. The Orion Nebula is about 40 light years wide and is just over 1,300 light years away from us. It’s location in our sky makes it a part of the constellation Orion. In the map of the Orion Constellation below, the Orion Nebula is located at the center of the red circle.

Orion Constellation Skychart Map
Orion Constellation Skychart

At magnitude 4, the Orion Nebula is one of the brightest nebulae in our night sky and is even visible to the naked eye (unless you happen to live in a major city). The Orion Nebula was discovered independently by several astronomers in the 1600’s, the most prominent being Christiaan Huygens. It was given the designation M42 by Charles Messier when he added it to his catalog of objects in 1769.

In closing I must say that the Orion Nebula, minus its stars, makes for a wonderful work of abstract art. What do you think?

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Nabaroo for Artists Review

Friday, January 15th, 2016

Jim Plaxco's Nabaroo Account
Jim Plaxco’s Nabaroo Account

A few days ago I received an invitation to join an online site for artists named Nabaroo. I had never heard of them but as stated in their email, Nabaroo is a new network for artists and I was being extended an invitation "based on your exceptional work." I regularly receive unsolicited invitations from businesses marketing one service or another. In fact I recently received an invitation from another online service for artists – that one being a print on demand site. In checking them out I decided that they were not a site that I wanted to do business with. You can read my review of their service in the article A Review of Selling Art on Artist Become (artistbe.com).

So I decided to give Nabaroo a look. In some respects, UI/UX for example, Nabaroo is similar to Pinterest. In other respects it is unique. It has a clean design and it is easy to create collections so you can organize your art into groups. They also make it very easy to add new content. Aside from being able to post/share your art and videos (in a process called nabbing), the site offers a Discussions feature and a Jobs section where artists can search for employment opportunities.

What I found particularly appealing, and unique, is Nabaroo’s Shop feature. When an artist shares their art on Nabaroo they are given the opportunity to add a link that directs viewers to the product page for that artwork, where ever that may be. Upon learning this I decided to do some fast data mining. I grabbed the first 500 artworks that showed up in my Buy Original Artwork from Nabaroo Artists stream. Following are the top print-on-demand/art products web sites that were linked to.

Online Vendor Artworks
society6.com 174
etsy.com 68
redbubble.com 37
inprnt.com 17
storenvy.com 17
saatchiart.com 11
crated.com 7
altitxde.com 6
displate.com 5
bigcartel.com 5
teepublic.com 5

I was surprised by the dominance of Society6. Notably absent from this list are such popular print-on-demand art print sites as Artflakes, CafePress, FineArtAmerica, Imagekind, and Zazzle. At this point I must offer the following supplementary information. The above is simply a count based on the number of artworks and not artists. For example, all of the 174 artworks for Society6 could have come from one artist. So these numbers should not be used to judge how popular a platform is with artists. I could have produced that number but the process of associating artists with individual artworks would have required much more work on my part. However, I can say that these 500 artworks came from 221 artists and that the number of artworks per artist ranged from 1 to 11 with an average of 2.26 artworks per artist. So it is safe to say that based on this information, it appears that the three most popular platforms for artists who are active on Nabaroo are Society6, Etsy, and Redbubble.

Also with respect to the above table, it is worth noting that a few of the artists, rather than linking to a product page, directed their "Buy on" link back to non-product web sites like their Facebook fan page or their Nabaroo account. I don’t know that this is a strategy that I would use but it is clearly an option.

Adding Art to Nabaroo

Adding art (or videos) to Nabaroo is quite simple. The dialog for adding (nabbing) art gives artists the option to either upload an image or video from their computer or from a web page (a very nice option). Artists are offered the following fields to describe their art/video:

  • caption – a text field for providing a description of the art
  • collection – a drop down list that allows an artist to add the art to a collection (or to simultaneously create a new collection to which the art will be added)
  • Buy on link – a field for providing a link to where the art can be bought
  • tags – tags for categorizing the art for improved searches

When adding (aka nabbing) art, you also have the option to share your nab on one or more social networks simultaneously.

My Nabaroo Account

In reviewing Nabaroo, I really like what I’ve seen and have created an account. While I have yet to really begin posting content you can see my account at:

Jim Plaxco’s Nabaroo Account

My only concern is with respect to their business model. At this time the site is free of advertisements and is free for artists to use. The only source of revenue I see is with respect to companies wanting to post job openings on the site – and even that is free for Nabaroo artists. As Nabaroo grows in popularity the site will require ever more computing resources to support that growth. I will be very curious to see what steps Nabaroo takes to generate the income they will need to pay their bills.

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New Art: Tiger Tiger Burning Bright

Tuesday, January 12th, 2016

Tiger Tiger Burning Bright art
Tiger Tiger Burning Bright

I just finished work on a new artwork titled Tiger Tiger Burning Bright. The inspiration for this rather colorful rendition of a tiger is a poem by English poet William Blake. I first read this poem in a college class on English literature and it remains a favorite of mine. My artwork’s title Tiger Tiger Burning Bright is taken from the first line of the poem.

This art began life as a standard color photograph I took of a tiger many years ago. It took some work, as well as three separate graphics programs (two from Adobe and one of my own design) to ascend from a fairly standard photograph of a tiger in a natural setting to the colorful illustration of the isolated tiger you see here. The original full-sized artwork is 6300 pixels wide by 5500 pixels tall.

I’ve used a greatly downsized, heavily cropped version of the art to illustrate this post. While I have not added this art to my own web site, you can see the uncropped version on its Redbubble product page:

Tiger Tiger Burning Bright artwork on Redbubble

The Tyger By William Blake

Tyger Tyger, burning bright,
In the forests of the night,
What immortal hand or eye,
Could frame thy fearful symmetry?

In what distant deeps or skies
Burnt the fire of thine eyes?
On what wings dare he aspire?
What the hand, dare seize the fire?

And what shoulder and what art,
Could twist the sinews of thy heart?
And when thy heart began to beat,
What dread hand and what dread feet?

What the hammer? what the chain?
In what furnace was thy brain?
What the anvil? what dread grasp
Dare its deadly terrors clasp!

When the stars threw down their spears
And water’d heaven with their tears,
Did he smile his work to see?
Did he who made the Lamb make thee?

Tyger Tyger burning bright,
In the forests of the night,
What immortal hand or eye,
Dare frame thy fearful symmetry?

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Dust Storm on Planet Dune Science Fiction Art

Saturday, January 2nd, 2016

Dust Storm on Planet Dune
Cropped version of Dust Storm on Planet Dune

To ring in the new year, my first work of art for 2016 wound up being a work of astronomical art with a science fiction setting. Titled Dust Storm on Planet Dune, it depicts the science fiction planet Arrakis, from the Hugo and Nebula award winning novel Dune by Frank Herbert. The scene is that of Dune experiencing a global dust storm, not unlike the global dust storms that Mars regularly experiences.

In this case I did not set out to create Arrakis but rather simply a desert planet. As I worked on the piece my thoughts drifted to Herbert’s Dune novel which I first read many years ago. It was at this point that I decided to create the planet with a specific objective in mind.

Initially planet Dune was set against a nice solid darkish blue backdrop – thinking that might make for an interesting alternative to the standard starfield background. But the more I looked at it the more I felt the need to add those stars to the scene. So after completing work on the planet, I went back and added in a starfield for the background.

My next consideration was whether or not to convert the planet into a crescent planet – with some fraction in light and some fraction in darkness. You may be surprised to learn that when I create a planet, I always create the entire hemisphere. I then use a masking technique to play with the positioning of the terminator (the line that divides the day side from the night side). Having a completed planet gives me the freedom to fully experiment with the terminator’s placement, altering the amount and orientation of the day/night sides. In this case I decided to go with the hemisphere facing the viewer as being fully lit so as to fully communicate the global nature of the desert surface.

At this time, prints of Dust Storm on Planet Dune are only available on Redbubble and Crated. Follow the links below to see the product offerings that are available on each site.

"Deep in the human unconscious is a pervasive need for a logical universe that makes sense. But the real universe is always one step beyond logic."
Frank Herbert, author of Dune.

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