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Illustration

Neural Networks Create a Disturbing Record of Natural History in AI-Generated Illustrations by Sofia Crespo

September 30, 2020

Grace Ebert

All images © Sofia Crespo, shared with permission

Sofia Crespo describes her work as the “natural history book that never was.” The Berlin-based artist uses artificial neural networks to generate illustrations that at first glance, resemble Louis Renard’s 18th Century renderings or the exotic specimens of Albertus Seba’s compendium. Upon closer inspection, though, the colorful renderings reveal unsettling combinations: two fish are conjoined with a shared fin, flower petals appear feather-like, and a study of butterflies features insects with missing wings and bizarrely formed bodies.

Titled Artificial Natural History, the ongoing project merges the desire to categorize organisms with “the very renaissance project of humanism,” Crespo says, forming a distorted series of creatures with imagined features that require a new set of biological classifications. “The specimens of the artificial natural history both celebrate and play with the seemingly endless diversity of the natural world, one that we still have very limited comprehension and awareness of,” she writes.

Crespo manufactured a similar project, Neural Zoo, that combines disparate elements of nature into composite organisms. “Our visual cortex recognizes the textures, but the brain is simultaneously aware that those elements don’t belong to any arrangement of reality that it has access to,” she says. More generally, Crespo explains her motivation behind merging artificial neural networks and natural history:

Computer vision and machine learning could offer a bridge between us and a speculative “natures” that can only be accessed through high levels of parallel computation. Starting from the level of our known reality, we could ultimately be digitizing cognitive processes and utilizing them to feed new inputs into the biological world, which feeds back into a cycle. Routines in artificial neural networks become a tool for creation, one that allows for new experiences of the familiar. Can art be reduced to the remapping of data absorbed through sensory processes?

Head to Crespo’s site to explore more of her AI-produced studies, and follow her latest pieces on Instagram.

 

 

 



Illustration

Meticulous Illustrations Document the Flora and Fauna Observed throughout the Devon Countryside

September 28, 2020

Grace Ebert

All images © Jo Brown, shared with permission

Behind Jo Brown’s home in Devon is a rich countryside complete with a wooded area and thick vegetation. For years, the United Kingdom-based illustrator documented the wildlife and plant species she encountered in her Nature Journal, a black Moleskine that now has been reproduced exactly in a forthcoming book, Secrets of a Devon Wood.

Each page of Brown’s notebook contains a pen and colored pencil drawing that begins at the pages’ edges, appearing to grow from the corner or across the paper. Sometimes captured through close-ups that mimic scientific illustrations, the delicate renderings depict the detail of a buff-tailed bumblebee’s fuzzy torso and the red tendrils of a round-leaved sundew. Brown notes the common and Latin names for each species and common characteristics, in addition to where and when she spotted it.

To keep up with the illustrator’s journeys into the countryside, follow her on Instagram and Twitter, and pick up a print from Society6. (via My Modern Met)

 

 

 



Art

Revealing Struggles and Joy, Expressive Portraits Are Superimposed onto Watercolor Foliage

September 24, 2020

Grace Ebert

“Being true to your nature III.” All images © Àngela Maria Sierra, shared with permission

Spanish artist Àngela Maria Sierra, who works as Riso Chan, explores the human psyche through subtly layered foliage. “I always imagine that they are someone’s soul, what we don’t see, our nature,” Sierra says of the delicate botanical assemblages that she overlays onto her subjects’ faces and torsos. Each portrait begins with a focus on texture and pattern as the artist paints clusters of twigs and leaves with watercolor. She then scans those botanical elements and uses Procreate to superimpose the figure onto the original piece.

Alongside their simple beauty, the pastel paintings, some of which are self-portraits, reflect the narratives and worries that consume the artist’s daily life. She describes her work as “a journal where I express moments or feelings that are important for me during those days. It’s a way to give those feelings space and then let them go.” Tied to both struggles and joys, topics include finding freedom through creativity during lockdown, growing up in an drug-filled home, and the bravery required to move forward.

Based in Amsterdam, Sierra is the founder of Bloom Art House, which hosts creative workshops throughout the capital city. Keep up with her expressive artworks on Instagram.

 

“Freedom”

“Being true to your nature II”

“Spring”

Left: “Turning on the lights inside.” Right: “Being true to your nature I”

“New Path”

“Toxic home”

 

 



Craft

Delicately Sculpted Paper Forms Verdant Houseplants and Lush Bunches of Flowers

September 22, 2020

Grace Ebert

All images © Mabel Low, shared with permission

After a slew of houseplant casualties, Mabel Low decided to trade in her withering blooms for a more durable option. The Singapore-based artist, who launched the studio Papersynthesis in 2020, crafts lifelike hydrangeas, sunflowers, and an array of succulents entirely from cardstock. She sculpts each form with precision, adding in the delicate veins marking a leaf or the curled edges of a petal.

An array of air plants, orchids, and lush bouquets are available for purchase in Papersynthesis’s shop, and you can follow Low’s progress on Instagram.

 

 

 



Art Craft

A Plant Overruns an Incredibly Intricate Cardboard Universe for Robots by Greg Olijnyk

September 18, 2020

Grace Ebert

All images © Greg Olijnyk, by Griffin Simm, shared with permission

Until now, Greg Olijnyk’s cardboard robots have been poised for adventure, whether perched on a speed bike or sailing an undulating sea. His meticulously crafted universe, though, has taken an eerie and slightly dystopic turn. The Melbourne-based artist presents fully articulate robots lying on an operating table and attempting to wrangle an aloe plant bound to a cage. Complete with LED lights and glass where necessary, the latest iteration even features an illustrated danger sign, warning that the plant will soon breach its enclosure.

To follow the latest sculptures in Olijnyk’s science-fiction inspired reality, head to Instagram, where he shares process shots and videos of the robots in action.

 

 

 



Craft Design

Build a Miniature Hangout with a DIY Wooden Treehouse Kit

September 15, 2020

Grace Ebert

“Treetop Hangout.” All images © Tiny Treehouses, courtesy of Lars Wijers, shared with permission

A new DIY kit transforms any ordinary houseplant into a miniature haven complete with mood lighting. Created by Australia-based British designer Lars Wijers, Tiny Treehouses feature multiple configurations, from an ornate gazebo to a multi-roofed structure resembling tropical architecture. Each is equipped with LED lights (batteries included!) and manufactured to hang from a branch or rest on a flat surface.

Back the project on Kickstarter—$1 from every treehouse will be donated to restoring Australian forests—and follow Tiny Treehouses on Instagram for updates on designs and buying options.

 

“Tropical Lookout”

“Home Base”

“Tropical Lookout”

“Temple of Gratitude”

“Tiny Gazebo”

“Temple of Serenity”

 

 

A Colossal

Highlight

Sailing Ship Kite