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Design History Illustration Science

Nature's Palette: A New Book Expands the Landmark Guide to Color for Artists and Naturalists with 800 Rich Illustrations

April 8, 2021

Grace Ebert

All images © Thames & Hudson, shared with permission

Prior to the proliferation of photography-based reference guides, naturalists and scientists relied on elaborate taxonomic descriptions to identify flora and fauna. One of those invaluable materials was Werner’s Nomenclature of Colours, a universal catalog originally arranged by German geologist Abraham Gottlob Werner in 1814 and updated with more detail by Patrick Syme just a few years later.

The rich volume, which was the preeminent guide for artists, zoologists, botanists, and others working with pigments and the natural world throughout the 19th Century, is filled with hundreds of simple swatches and notes on where the various shades can be found around the globe. The head of a golden pheasant, for example, is King’s Yellow, while Hepatica flowers are Berlin Blue and some speckles in iron ore are Greyish Blue.

A forthcoming volume published by Princeton University Press celebrates the 200th anniversary of the chromatic catalog with a 288-page expanded edition. Introduced by Patrick Baty, Nature’s Palette: A Color Reference System from the Natural World pairs Syme’s 110 simple swatches with more than 800 illustrations of the animals, plants, and minerals detailed in the descriptions. The resulting book is a comprehensive visual compendium that ranges from large renderings of red coral to full-page charts spanning fine-grained marble to smoky quartz.

Nature’s Palette is currently available for pre-order on Bookshop. (via Creative Boom)

 

Deliciae naturae selectae, Vol. 1, Georg Wolfgang Knorr, 1766. Red coral

Johann Gottlob Kurr, The Mineral Kingdom, 1859. Greyish Blue is visible on the iron ore (bottom row, right)

 

 



Illustration

Delicately Illustrated Tattoos Take a Whimsical Approach to Flora and Fauna

March 17, 2021

Grace Ebert

All images © Joanna , shared with permission

Polish tattoo artist Joanna Świrska (previously) stipples fur and inks subtle gradients to create fanciful scenarios of backpack-wearing kangaroos, cycling cats, and whimsical masses of tangled flora and fauna. Working as Dzo Lama, Świrska is known for her delicate illustrations that mix playful elements with the style of vintage botanical renderings, particularly the bold, black fern that recurs in her tattoos. Her ink-based pieces often cover an entire thigh or upper arm with precise lines and pockets of color.

Świrska tells Colossal that while her style is largely derived from nature, she also draws on the works of Paul Cezanne, Vincent van Gogh, and Paul Gauguin. “I like to combine non-obvious colors and create new combinations. I approach the form the same way. I like contrasts such as light-heavy, hard-delicate. A tattoo is an extension of our personality, and we, as humans, are multi-dimensional,” she says.

Based in Wrocław, Świrska currently runs Nasza Tattoo Shop and is working on opening another location in a mountainous enclave of Jelenia Góra. She sells prints, mugs, and stickers of her illustrations on Etsy, and you can follow her travels and information on available bookings on Instagram.

 

 

 



Photography

Expansive Photographs by RK Frame the Unexpected Beauty of Everyday Life Throughout Asia

March 10, 2021

Grace Ebert

Guizhou, China. All images © RK, shared with permission

Traveling from his home in Tokyo to cities and small villages across Asia, Ryosuke Kosuge is adept at spotting the textures and patterns that occupy local life, whether through the rocky formations surrounding Heaven’s Gate Mountain in Zhangjiajie, an array of birdcages created by a woman in Guizhou, or the wires crisscrossing a market in Nanning. His arresting images approach everyday moments from a place of curiosity and display the beauty and wonder inherent in both natural and urban environments. The photographer, who works as RK, tells Colossal that he chooses destinations based on the specific mood he hopes to convey, although sometimes those decisions are spurred by a personal desire to experience local customs and cuisine.

RK is also behind this book-filled series shot inside Tokyo’s Kadokawa Culture Museum. You can follow his travels on Instagram.

 

Vietnam

Vietnam

Hong Kong

Nanning, China

Keelung, Taiwan

Japan

Heaven’s Gate Mountain, Zhangjiajie, China

Vietnam

 

 



Illustration

Otherworldly Ecosystems Populate Dense, Cross-Hatched Illustrations by Song Kang

February 16, 2021

Grace Ebert

“Evolution of Plants,” pen and ink, 30 x 20. All images © Song Kang, shared with permission

Packed with texture and depth, Song Kang’s ink-based drawings begin with “I wonder…I wonder how this will look compared to that, or I wonder if I can mix this and that,” she says. The Atlanta-based illustrator renders rich labyrinths populated by elements from land and sea that are depicted in an otherworldly manner: candy-colored liquid drips from a bonsai, fish and butterflies coexist in the same dense ecosystem, and a maze of M.C. Escher-style lizards sprawls across the page.

Each illustration is infused with ideas of evolution and the connection inherent in nature, themes that present themselves in both subject matter and Kang’s process. Often prompted by a loose idea, she starts with a sketch and works organically, drawing the intricate and minute details from one corner to the next. Her process is intuitive, which she explains:

In one moment, I feel like I’m building a distinct environment one crosshatched pebble at a time. The next moment, I’m clueless with only an impulse and a gut feeling to add something somewhere. One of these spontaneous decisions was choosing to add color. I was always using black ink, avoiding bright colors out of habit and uncertainty. But during quarantine, I found several colorful ink pens and became curious to see how it would look in my texture-heavy, fine-tuned crosshatched style.

Kang’s work is currently part of Wow x Wow’s Mindweave, a virtual group show that runs through February 26, and originals, prints, and smaller items are available in her shop. To see more of her meticulous process, watch this recent tutorial with Art Prof and head to Instagram.

 

“Butterfly Fish,” pen, ink, and acrylic paint, 17 x 17

Left: “Greenhouse,” pen, ink, acrylic paint, 10 x 17 inches. Right: “Fall Leaves,” pen, 9 x 13

“Bonsai Drip,” pen and markers, 9 x 6

“Henry’s Garden,” pen, ink, and acrylic paint, 23 x 23

“Escher’s Lizards,” pen, ink, and acrylic paint, 11 x 13

“Swamp Thing,” pen and ink, 8 x 11

“Venus Flytrap Squid,” pen and markers, 9 x 12

“Coral: Exploding Skulls,” pen, 9 x 12

 

 



Art

Delightful Nighttime Landscapes Nestle into Stacked Wooden Boxes in Allison May Kiphuth's Dioramas

February 3, 2021

Grace Ebert

All images © Allison May Kiphuth, shared with permission

Allison May Kiphuth (previously) shrinks the expansive landscapes found throughout the eastern United States into picturesque dioramas brimming with natural life. Through layered watercolor and ink renderings, the Maine-based artist creates a mix of quiet forest scenes and ocean habitats often under a dark, nighttime sky. She then stacks the outfitted wooden boxes, blending the marine and land-based pieces in varying positions that create new ecosystems with every combination.

Although Kiphuth derives much of her subject matter from the area around her home, she shares that experiencing new scenes is essential to her practice. “I haven’t been outside of Maine in over a year, and while this landscape is usually so expansively beautiful to me, without the contrast of other landscapes for perspective, it’s been feeling incredibly small,” a feeling that’s amplified by her living and working from a tiny home that’s just 8 x 20 feet.

The artist will have work at Paradigm Gallery in Philadelphia in May and has a solo show slated for August at Antler Gallery in Portland. Limited edition prints of the piece above are available from Nahcotta. Get a glimpse into Kiphuth’s process and views of the scenery she references in her works on Instagram.

 

“Bond,” watercolor, paper, and pins in antique box, 4 x 6 x 2 inches

“Defense,” watercolor, paper, and pins in antique box, 4.625 x 7 x 3.75 inches

Left: “Den” (2019), watercolor on layers of hand-cut paper, sealed with encaustic, 6 x 6.5 x .5 inches

“Nightlight 2,” Watercolor, paper, thread, and pins in antique box, 6.25 x 4.875 x 3.25 inches

“Observation” (2019), watercolor on layers of hand-cut paper, sealed with encaustic, 6 x 6 x .5 inches

“Defense” in progress

 

 



Art

Mysterious Marine Ecosystems Populate Rich Paintings by Robert Steven Connett

January 27, 2021

Grace Ebert

“Devouring Star Jelly.” All images © Robert Steven Connett, shared with permission probes the ocean depths for

Whether rendered as a snapshot of the ocean floor or a few drops of water under a microscope, the densely inhabited paintings by Robert Steven Connett (previously) are brimming with vitality. The Los Angeles-based artist probes the planet’s bodies of water, unveiling a range of flora and fauna that populate the mysterious and sometimes psychedelic ecosystems with exacting detail.

From jellyfish and seaweed to microbes, the organisms memorialize Earth’s dwindling biodiversity. The onslaught of news concerning the climate crisis informs how Connett understands the urgency of his works—they evoke Ernst Haeckel’s illustrations but diverge from the German biologist’s drawings in color palette and foreboding elements—which serve as both earnest studies of aquatic creatures and  “a tribute to life as it was before the great extinctions began.”

Even so, Connett shares that he focuses on the immense beauty and his curiosity about the natural world.  “I don’t want to sully the pictures I paint with death and ugliness,” he says. “I’m afraid the news of the real world will supply plenty of that.” He explains further:

In the shadow of a withering planet, I create worlds that are lush and thriving. I hope my work can encourage and uplift those who are disheartened by the climate crisis. However, creating a memory of a time when our world was stable is not enough. We all must do everything we can to lessen the causes of the crisis.

Original works, prints, and other products featuring Connett’s meticulous environments are available in his shop, and you can follow his latest projects on Instagram.

 

“Hydroza”

“Flower Mimic”

“Sea Fauna”

“Space Plankton”

“Space Plankton 2”