Macro Bee Portraits by Sam Droege and the USGS Bee Inventory and Monitoring Lab 

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Courtesy Sam Droege / USGS Bee Inventory and Monitoring Lab

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Courtesy Sam Droege / USGS Bee Inventory and Monitoring Lab

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Courtesy Sam Droege / USGS Bee Inventory and Monitoring Lab

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Courtesy Sam Droege / USGS Bee Inventory and Monitoring Lab

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Courtesy Sam Droege / USGS Bee Inventory and Monitoring Lab

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Courtesy Sam Droege / USGS Bee Inventory and Monitoring Lab

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Courtesy Sam Droege / USGS Bee Inventory and Monitoring Lab

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Courtesy Sam Droege / USGS Bee Inventory and Monitoring Lab

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Courtesy Sam Droege / USGS Bee Inventory and Monitoring Lab

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Courtesy Sam Droege / USGS Bee Inventory and Monitoring Lab

Sam Droege is the head of the USGS Native Bee Inventory and Monitoring Program in Maryland, an organization that monitors the health and habitat of bees in the U.S. as well as creating archival reference catalogs that aid researchers in the identification of bee species in North America. The project is no small task as there are literally thousands of bee species in the U.S., some of which vary in only the most minute ways that may not even be distinguishable to the naked eye.

To aid in the identification process the USGS Bee Inventory relies on extremely high resolution photography, an initiative led by Droege that has been ongoing since 2010. Droege’s macro photos of bees are so clear and well executed that they practically pass as works of art in their own right. He shares with Flickr:

“When we started looking at these pictures, I just wanted to gaze at these shots for long periods of time,” Sam says. “I had seen these insects for many years, but the level of detail was incredible. The fact that everything was focused, the beauty and the arrangement of the insects themselves — the ratios of the eyes, the golden means, the french curves of the body, and the colors that would slide very naturally from one shade to another were just beautiful! It was the kind of thing that we could not achieve at the highest level of art.”

You can see many more of these bee portraits (as well as photos of other insects and even animals) over on Flickr. (via Daring Fireball, Flickr)

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A Colossal Year: The Top 15 Articles on Colossal in 2013 

It was a fantastic year for art, design and creative expression here on Colossal. Artists and creatives from a wide range of backgrounds and ages seemed to capture the creative spirit we love to celebrate here, from a nonagenarian graphic designer who began a new artistic career with an old copy of Microsoft Paint to a slick digital family tree timelapse that gave us chills. And of course there were photos of goofy dogs. Here’s a quick wrap-up of the 15 most viewed posts here on Colossal this year. You can see more popular posts from previous years right here.

1. Graphic Designer Dad Illustrates His Kids’ Lunch Bags Almost Every Day Since 2008

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Some of us might have been lucky enough to get a quick “Have a great day” note from mom or dad tucked inside our school lunchbox, but the sons of graphic designer David LaFerriere seriously lucked out. The artistically inclined father has been drawing illustrations on their lunch bags since 2008, totalling an estimated 1,082 doodles and counting. Lucky for us LaFerriere carefully documented almost every single drawing and has uploaded the body of work on Flickr. You can also see a video where he talks about this ongoing labor of love on the Weekly Flickr.

2. Secret Fore-Edge Paintings Revealed in Early 19th Century Books at the University of Iowa

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Autumn by Robert Mudie / Special Collections & University Archives at the University of Iowa

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Autumn by Robert Mudie / Special Collections & University Archives at the University of Iowa

This amazing collection of fore-edge book paintings was documented online for the first time by Colleen Theisen from the Special Collections & University Archives at the University of Iowa. Examples of similar secret paintings date all the back to the 1650s and are apparently just as interesting nearly 360 years later.

3. The Pixel Painter: A 97-Year-Old Man Who Draws Using Microsoft Paint from Windows 95

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Meet Hal Lasko, a 97-year-old man who uses Microsoft Paint from Windows 95 to create artwork that has been described as “a collision of pointillism and 8-Bit art.” Approaching a century in age, Lasko is now having his work shown for the first time in an art exhibition and also has prints for sale online.

4. The World’s First 3D Printing Pen that Lets you Draw Sculptures

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This new 3D Printing called the 3Doodler stormed the creative spirit of the internet earlier this year with a Kickstarter campaign that raised $2.3 million dollars. The miraculous little device utilizes a special plastic which is heated and instantly cooled to form solid structures as you draw.

5. Shake: Hilarious High-Speed Photographs of Dogs Shaking by Carli Davidson

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Dax / Boxer / Courtesy Carli Davidson & Harper Collins

Shake is a new book of photos from Portland-based photographer Carli Davidson who used a high speed camera to capture hilarious freeze-frame shots of various dogs mid-shake. The amusing portraits seem to transform ordinary pets into strangely distorted animals right out of a cartoon.

6. Man Spends 7 Years Drawing Incredibly Intricate Maze

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Almost 30 years ago a Japanese custodian sat in front of a large A1 size sheet of white paper, whipped out a pen and started drawing a diabolically complex maze. It was the beginning of a hobby that would consume his spare time for upward of 7 years when the final labyrinth was rolled up and almost forgotten. Miraculously, his daughter accidentally discovered the drawing when going through her father’s things and shared the masterpiece with the world. FYI: Prints now available in the Spoon & Tamago shop.

7. The Life and Times of an Aging Superhero Captured in Oil Paintings by Andreas Englund

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In his ongoing series of photorealistic oil paintings called the Aging Superhero, Swedish artist Andreas Englund takes us into the candidly humorous life of an anonymous superhero who has probably seen better days. Though he still puts up a tough fight, the wear and tear of battling crime has taken its toll on this elderly action figure.

8. This is What Happens When You Run Water Through a 24hz Sine Wave

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One of the coolest audio/visual experiments we saw this year, Brusspup demonstrates what happens when you run water through a 24hz sine wave and capture it with a camera filming at a rate of 24 fps. Hover water!

9. Timelapse of the Imperceptible Effects of Aging Created from Family Portraits by Anthony Cerniello

Watch the whole thing. With sound. Don’t skip around. Just let it play, or else you’re missing out.

10. Alive Without Breath: Three Dimensional Animals Painted in Layers of Resin by Keng Lye

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Singapore-based artist Keng Lye wowed us with his amazing three dimensional animals painted in layers of resin, some of which even protrude the surface to create incredibly lifelike forms.

11. Banksy Has Unannounced Art Sale with Genuine Signed Canvases in Central Park, Sells Almost Nothing

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In one his most ingenious stunts as part of his “Better Out than In Residency” in New York this fall, Banksy had an unannounced art sale in central park. Oblivious passersby had no idea the artworks that on any other day would have been unlicensed replicas, were actually the real deal.

12. Lucid Stead: A Transparent Cabin Built of Wood and Mirrors by Phillip K Smith III

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Part architectural intervention and part optical illusion, Lucid Stead is a recently unveiled installation by artist Phillip K Smith III in Joshua Tree, California. The artist modified an existing 70-year-old homesteader shack by introducing mirrors to create the illusion of transparency, as the structure now takes on the lighting characteristics of anything around it.

13. Giant Chrome T-Rex Installed on the Seine River in Paris by Philippe Pasqua

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Artist Philippe Pasqua recently completed installation of an impressive Tyrannosaurus Rex skeleton that now stands watch over the Seine river in Paris. The structure is made from 350 chrome molded bones and measures a full 21′ x 12′ (3m by 6m).

14. 9,000 Fallen Soldiers Etched into the Sand on Normandy Beach to Commemorate Peace Day

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British artists Jamie Wardley and Andy Moss accompanied by numerous volunteers, took to the beaches of Normandy with rakes and stencils in hand to etch 9,000 silhouettes representing fallen people into the sand. Titled The Fallen 9000, the was meant as a stark visual reminder of the civilians, Germans and allied forces who died during the D-Day beach landings at Arromanches on June 6th, 1944 during WWII.

15. The Bizarre, Flexible Paper Sculptures of Li Hongbo

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What at first look like delicate works of carved porcelain are actually thousands of layers of soft white paper, carved into busts, skulls, and human forms by Beijing artist Li Hongbo. A book editor and designer, the artist became fascinated by traditional Chinese toys and festive decorations known as paper gourds made from glued layers of thin paper which can be stored flat but then opened to reveal a flower or other shape. He applied the same honeycomb-like paper structure to much larger human forms resulting in these highly flexible sculptures.

New Tessellated Origami Masks by Joel Cooper 

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In forms that seem inspired by cast bronze or pewter sculptures, but with incredible geometric textures, these folded masks are made entirely from single sheets of paper by origami artist Joel Cooper (previously). As if making the shape of a face from paper wasn’t already difficult enough, Cooper uses a method of folding called tessellation where an elaborate grid is first folded into a hexagon-shaped piece of paper, a process he goes into great detail in this blog post. You can see (and purchase) more of his work over on Zibbit and Etsy.

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Stark Black and White Photographs of Waterfalls by Massimo Margagnoni 

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Skogafoss Waterfall, Iceland

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Seljalandsfoss Waterfall

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Vettisfossen Waterfall, Norway

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Seljalandsfoss Waterfall, Iceland

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Waterfall, Norway

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Gullfoss Waterfall

Photographer Massimo Margagnoni explores aspects of nature and climate change through his stark black and white landscape photography. Of my favorites are his long exposure images of waterfalls in Norway and Iceland, many more of which you can see on Flickr. The award-winning Italian photographer has been published in National Geographic and recently published a book of his work, Fotografia dell’essere.

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Fluorescent Light Installations by Yochai Matos 

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Flame (Gate), 2009

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Flame (Gate), 2009

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Flame (Gate), 2009

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Aurora, 2012

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Aurora, 2012

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Sunset, 2008

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The Striped Unicorn, 2010

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The Striped Unicorn, 2010

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You Are a Saint, 2011

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You Are a Saint, 2011

Multidisciplinary artist Yochai Matos lives and works in Tel Aviv where he creates a wide variety of indoor and outdoor artworks that span the gamut from street art to collage, photography, painting, and especially his brilliant fluorescent light bulb installations seen here. A graduate of the Bezalel Academy of Art and Design in Jerusalem, the artist has also worked on large-scale public interventions like his You’ve Got Mail project where 24,000 stickers were placed on mailboxes around Tel Aviv, or his ongoing People With Wings which can be seen in Port Jaffa. You can see much more over on his website.

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Beneath the Surface: Sublime Underwater Portraits by Samantha French 

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Artist Samantha French was born raised in Minnesota where she attended the Minneapolis College of Art and Design and now lives and works in Brooklyn. Her current body of work explores nostalgic memories from her childhood spent swimming in lakes of northern Minnesota. The underwater portraits portray people both in and out of water in the midst of perfect tranquil moments captured gracefully with oil paints. She says of her work:

My current body of work is focused on swimmers underwater and above. Using vague yet consuming memories from my childhood summers spent immersed in the tepid lakes of northern Minnesota, I attempt to recreate the quiet tranquility of water and nature; of days spent sinking and floating, still and peaceful. These paintings are a link to my home and continual search for the feeling of the sun on my face and warm summer days at the lake. They are my escape, a subtle reprieve from the day-to-day. At the same time, I am drawn to an idealistic time before my own, where swim caps and wool swimsuits were commonplace. This combination of memory, observation and photography has allowed me to preserve the transitory qualities of water and remembrance.

You can see many more of her works in this gallery, and prints are available in her shop. She also opens a solo show at Groveland Gallery on January 25th, 2014 in Minneapolis. (via This Isn’t Happiness, My Modern Met)

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