If you’re at all familiar with my work, you probably know that I love cephalopods (squid, cuttlefish, octopuses, nautilus, even extinct cephalopods like ammonites) and paint them often. There are lots of reasons I choose to paint these fascinating creatures alongside the space scenes in my work: they are beautiful and strange-looking, and can even appear alien-like (note that sci-fi aliens are often portrayed as having tentacles). Cephalopods are also extremely intelligent, with some species of octopus being known to use tools and solve complex problems. And since this intelligence evolved independently from that of humans and other mammals—an octopus is more closely related to a clam than a human—it is the closest to an alien intelligence that humanity has so far witnessed. It serves as an example of another form that intelligence can take in living beings. The structure of a cephalopod’s nervous system makes this clear: rather than having just a large centralized brain, they also have high numbers of neurons in their arms, which can make some decisions independently of the brain. A hypothetical intelligent alien species may just as likely develop intelligence in a similarly decentralized way rather than having human-like brains. Cephalopods are a humbling reminder that intelligence can take many forms and they provide us a chance to study how it may come about via different systems.
Watch the video below for some fascinating information about cephalopod nervous systems and behaviors.
I’m really interested in combining the visual and auditory in art (music is a big inspiration to me!), and these spooky space sounds recorded by NASA definitely inspire me to paint some haunting space scenes. Check them out on NASA’s Soundcloud! They’ll certainly get you in a cosmic + Halloween mood. There’s an awesome variety of sounds, and I especially like the one titled “Radar Echoes from Titan’s Surface”. It’d make a cool part of a soundtrack to a horror movie set in space.
Most of the tracks are downloadable and they make me want to compose some spooky space-inspired music with these sound effects mixed in!
Today I want to share some amazing surreal paintings by one of my favorite artists, Lisa Ericson (http://www.lisaericson.com/). This is a series of hers that depicts fish that morph into elaborate coral reefs, forming habitats for smaller fish. She paints with acrylics and her paintings are hyperrealistic yet very surreal.
I love all of her work, but I especially like this series because, as you probably know, I love aquatic animals! I hope you enjoy these as much as I do.
As I've mentioned before, I like science fiction a lot and get lots of inspiration and ideas from it. I wanted to share one short story in particular that I've always loved: "There Will Come Soft Rains" by Ray Bradbury.
This story gives an eerie look at an automated, post-apocalyptic world free of humans. As you may have noticed, I rarely put people in my paintings. I find that there's more mystery in showing landscapes and even buildings, boats etc without people, and my paintings could even depict a world entirely free of humans, perhaps after humanity's disappearance. Because of this, I appreciate the creepy, empty feeling this story produces by describing a robotic environment completely devoid of human life. The story also touches on the idea of nuclear war, which seems sadly and frighteningly relevant today.
(Click "read more" to see the story)
I wanted to share an article from Colossal, my favorite art & design blog (and my homepage in Google Chrome! Haha). In general, the blog has lots of articles about really cool and creative art and they share a fair amount of science-related art as well. I may share Colossal articles from time to time when I think they're especially interesting and relevant to my art and creative interests.
Give this quick article a read! Not only are the sculpture and old ship beautiful, but the whole project is such a creative way to help reestablish coral and other marine animals.
I also think it would be amazing to see the ship & octopus after they're covered with marine life. It would be so cool to see the form of a giant cephalopod in coral!
An 80-Foot Steel Kraken Will Create an Artificial Coral Reef Near the British Virgin Islands
This past April a massive 80-foot steel kraken was purposefully sunk into the Caribbean Sea on top of a decorated WW2 ship. The former Navy fuel barge and its monstrous passenger were placed underwater in order to jumpstart a new coral ecosystem, while also serving as a cutting-edge education center
Magical realism is a genre of literature, generally from Latin America, in which magical or fantastical elements appear in otherwise realistic stories. What I like about this genre and what differentiates it from fantasy is that these fantastical elements are often quite subtle, and are usually treated as normal or unremarkable. Magical realism has long served as inspiration for the style of surrealism in which I make my art.
Here is one of my favorite magical realism short stories. It is called “Continuity of Parks” (Continuidad de los parques), by Julio Cortázar. If you want to read it in its original Spanish, you can do that here: http://ciudadseva.com/texto/continuidad-de-los-parques/. I found the following translation on this page: https://www.utdallas.edu/~aargyros/continuity_of_the_parks.htm. I hope you enjoy it!
(Click "Read More" below to see the story)
I often listen to audiobooks while I paint, and recently I’ve listened to some by Oliver Sacks. A well-known neuroscientist and doctor, he wrote fascinating case studies about the many patients with unusual conditions he encountered. I’ve loved his books for years (they were what first inspired my interest in neuroscience, the field I work in), and I’ve read most of them already. Re-listening to them reminded me of a passage about one patient which stuck with me through the years:
"She...sees a cat--a grey cat with "beautiful" eyes which wears a serene, ‘beautiful expression’ on its face and seems to be of a most friendly disposition....She enjoys visits from the grey cat and worries that ‘something may happen to him.’ Though she knows the cat is a hallucination, he seems very real to her: she can hear him coming, feel the warmth of his body, and touch him if she wishes." (from Hallucinations, by Oliver Sacks)
In my opinion, this quote emphasizes the degree to which we are complete prisoners of our own senses and of our own brain: our reality is indeed entirely constructed within the brain, usually based on whatever information we gather sensorially. The cat, which the woman even consciously knows is hallucinated, appears completely real to her and is an important part of her experience of reality. This then leads me to consider just how fragile our reality is, and how easily our perception of the world can become twisted. Unless our misperceptions or hallucinations defy logic, how are we even to know (aside from perhaps relying on others for confirmation) whether our “reality” is indeed real? It is, in part, my fascination with our brain’s construction of the world around us and our experience of “reality” that draws me to surrealism. One could define surrealism as something that appears real but defies logic, and many people’s hallucinations would fall into this category. The gray area between reality and unreality is endlessly interesting to me, and I try to walk this line with my artwork.
In general, I greatly recommend any and all of Oliver Sacks’ books, and I’ll probably write about them again on here at some point!
This is the introduction to the movie Tree of Life. I haven't even seen the movie (I probably should!), but this clip has some really beautiful images of space. I use a lot of photographs of outer space as references for my paintings, but I like to see video as well because it shows a three-dimensionality that photos cannot.
Apparently, no CGI/other special effects were used to film this scene, but it was done by mixing liquids together and using lighting tricks, which is even more impressive. Enjoy!