Laying of leaf gold

Words of gold

This stack-exchange question inspired me to dig out old skills and tools. Untouched for years, I got out my bookbinders gilding cushion and related paraphernalia. Getting back into the fiddlyness of handling gold leaf, I have squandered a few sheets. But it is fun. One thing: you cannot be impatient handling it, breathing is forbidden, ...
Dangerous tectonic visualisations

Dangerous tectonic visualisations

Dangerous tectonic visualisations: Visualisations are good things. They should be beautiful to look at, informative and invite discovery. But they can be very dangerous. Visualisations can be used to make decisions, learn something new, connect surprising dots, showing unknown connections. If you want to buy a car, you might find a visualisation that shows the ...
There is grandeur in this view of life – visualising Darwin

There is grandeur in this view of life – visualising Darwin

If I were to give an award for the single best idea anyone has ever had, I had to have to give it to Darwin, ahead of Newton and Einstein and everyone else. It is not just a wonderful scientific idea; it is a dangerous idea. it overthrows, or at least unsettles, some of the ...
Voynich manuscript – secret knowledge or brilliant hoax?

Voynich manuscript – secret knowledge or brilliant hoax?

Since we are on a roll with old books and manuscripts, I give you the  240-page Voynich manuscript. It is an unsolved enigma: a manuscript found in Italy; the paper has been dated to between 1404-1438. It contains text in an unknown script, unknown language, and illustrations of non-existing plants, constellations and humans apparently doing inexplicable ...
Ledger binding

Sofie’s book – bookbinding in the digital world

Back in the mist of time, I did my apprenticeship in hand bookbinding. There are basically two directions; two different apprenticeships: literature binder, or ledger binder. I am a literature binder (also called publishing or library binding). But back then it was considered essential to have a broad understanding. So part of the apprenticeship was ...
The most boring day in history

The most boring day in history

April 18, 1930 On what should have been the news bulletin on good friday 1930, the BBC presenter said: "Good evening. Today is good friday. There is no news." then proceeded to play piano music. April 11, 1954 However. Computer programmer William Tunstall-Pedoe from Cambridge fed 300 million facts about events into a programme called ...
Prehistoric Art: The Upper Paleolithic Revolution

Prehistoric Art: The Upper Paleolithic Revolution

Yisela The Upper Paleolithic or Late Stone Age begins and ends with a revolution. The first one is what can be considered the 'official' appearance of art, some 50,000 years ago. The second, the invention of agriculture, 40,000 years later. The earliest sample of Paleolithic art is the shells with holes and chipped edge modifications from Ksar Akil. These flakes show regular teeth distributed ...
Summoning seals & glyphs

Summoning seals & glyphs

As a huge gaming geek, I love video games. As a huge design geek, I love ornaments and decorations.  Thus, I love good video games that sport beautiful ornaments. One example that never ceases to inspire me is the Final Fantasy series. Especially the elaborate magical summoning effects border on amazing. An important part of ...
multicoloured carrots

The colour orange – “bitwixe yelow and reed”

Orange is a tricky colour: when pale, it can be seen as yellow, when dark, it is seen as brown. Bizarrely, orange did not get its English name until 1512. It was named after the fruit, though you could have thought it would have been the other way around. Even in the middle ages, English had no ...
geologic timeline spiral

Scalable geologic timeline II

For the geo-geeks out there, I have finished my geologic timescale brush; now better and more accurate than the previous one. Download the Illustrator file here Download .EPS file here Included is a swatch folder with all the colours as per the instructions of the International Commission on Stratigraphy: You are welcome to use this in ...
Chickenosaurus

Chickenosaurus

Jack Horner is a paleo-dude of the purest water. He is funny, knowledgeable and loves dinosaurs so much he wants to build one. And it is actually feasible. Chickens are basically altered dinosaurs, and fiddling with switching on and off genes will give you a chickenosaurus. See the TED talk. Best dude around ...
W. B. Gould: artist and convict

W. B. Gould: artist and convict

William Buelow Gould (1801 – 1853) was an English artist convicted for stealing a coat and was sentenced to seven years of labour in Van Diemen's Land (Tasmania). He constantly got into trouble, also in the penal colonies, and was regularly punished for offences such as drunkenness, petty theft and forgery. His talent, however, got him assigned as a house ...
WPA posters – art in the depression

WPA posters – art in the depression

During an extended period of the depression in USA (between 1935-1942), the US federal government supported artists by commissioning artwork for non-federal places and activities. Early on in the project, posters were painted by hand, each individually created. Later on, they were printed with silk screen. According to the US library of congress, "over two ...
Hoatzin bird

Living evolution: archaeopteryx, pterodactyl, hoatzin

I am going to skip over the arguments against the imbeciles who believe that the world is 6000 years old. Richard Dawkins are nobly taking that task upon himself. About 150 million years ago, the pterodactyl roamed the skies (pterodaktulos, meaning "winged finger"). There is something about that shape (and size!) that seems to still take ...
Early utopian imagery, memories of no places

Early utopian imagery, memories of no places

Yisela Utopias. The no-places. I’ve always been attracted by them. The first utopia ever written could have been Plato’s Republic. Or the Genesis. However, the first one I discovered was Thomas More’s Utopia. I still can’t believe it was written 498 years ago, in 1516. Utopia is a strange book. Most scholars agree it’s a satire, a criticism ...
Fritz Kahn: the human as industrial palace

Fritz Kahn: the human as industrial palace

(I was horrified to discover that Wikipedia does not have an entry on Fritz Kahn in English. I was utterly unaware of how deep into obscurity this multitalented man had fallen. Update: my pigheaded ability to pester strangers have resulted in an solid entry on Kahn on Wikipedia. Many thanks to Yngvadottir ). Fritz Kahn (1888-1968) ...
Creative mapping: paper towns, trap streets, cartographic treasure-hunts

Creative mapping: paper towns, trap streets, cartographic treasure-hunts

Q. Why was longitude boiling mad? A. Because it was 360 degrees. Cartographers are/were often seen as pretty dour characters. Not so long ago, maps were hand-drawn, and hanging over a drawing table, the meticulous of drawing contours seems rather nerdy. But, as programmers put easter-eggs in code, cartographers do the same. Map makers sometimes ...
Aleks Krotoski

The digital human

A brilliant podcast from the BBC. Aleks Krotoski explores life in the digital world. It is informative, entertaining and sometimes thought-provoking. I have some favourites, so check out the Augment, which looks at how we are becoming cyborgs, and Altruism, exploring goodness with no reward to strangers via Internet. BBC The digital human podcasts ...
The world inside USA

The world inside USA

Frank Jacobs blog about weird maps is a source of laughs and curiosity. It contains the real, the fictional, the fantastic and the self-made. He found a map of USA with each state named after a country with corresponding GDP, though I would have liked a colour-coded intensity added, it is well worth a study. (I ...
Ernst Haeckel: art and science through the microscope

Ernst Haeckel: art and science through the microscope

Ernst Haeckel (1834 – 1919) was what we call a renaissance man. He was a professor, biologist, philosopher, physician, naturalist and artist. His contribution to biology, evolutionary theory and art is still mind-boggling; we owe a great deal of biological understanding and terminology to him. He was a great promoter of Darwin's theory of evolution, ...
Oblate spheroid

Smarties and the shape of the earth

The sphere is, according to Wikipedia, a reasonably correct model for earth. But mathematically the earth is  an oblate spheroid. An example of that would be smarties and M&Ms, spheres squished at the poles. As a result of gravitation and the rotation of earth, it is about 21 km longer than the Earth’s polar radius. This is, of course, ...
Cholera map, Broad street

Images in the time of cholera

In 1854 there was a cholera epidemic in London. The accepted theory at the time was that illness and epidemics spread through the "miasma", a form of "bad air", pollution and smell emanating from decomposing organic matter. The mechanics of germs was not understood. Dr. John Snow was sceptical to the miasma theory, but not entirely grasping germ mechanics, ...
Colour etymology, naming light

Colour etymology, naming light

A complete quote from the book The art of looking sideways by Alan Fletcher: Colour words are acquired by cultures in a strict sequence according to anthropologists who analysed 98 widely differing languages. All languages have black and white. if there are three words, the third is red. If there are four, then it is ...
1854: geographical distribution of indigenous vegetations

David Rumsey collection: mapping history I

David Rumsey's gigantic collection of historical and modern maps, schematics, timelines, data visualisations, diagrams, history, time, sciences, religion is a never-ending source of wonder and inspirations. It is a bit of a trap, as I can spend days wandering around in the magical world of visualisations of history, science, culture, religion. Looking at the older ...
Wilton dipthych

The colour blue – the devil, the virgin and the red dyers’ bribes

Today, blue is probably the most popular colour around. We associate good things with it, it represents all sorts of positive things: air, sea, freshness, calm, and a few not so; feeling blue, blue monday. At least in this day and age, blue get a good deal of attention. But it was not always so. Prehistory ...
da Vinci: love

da Vinci: love

One has no right to love or hate anything if one has not acquired a thorough knowledge of its nature. Great love springs from great knowledge of the beloved object, and if you know it but little you will be able to love it only a little or not at all. – Leonardo da Vinci ...
dodecahedron

Platos sacred geometry

Plato's sacred geometry: In  Euclidean geometry there are five Platonic solids. Each of them was associated with an element, and since there are five, one of these shapes were considered sacred by the old Greeks, and to know the shape, and to share that knowledge was punishable. Platonic solids have clear definitions, to quote Wikipedia: ...
Michael Cain, cochineal uniform

The colour red – the story of E120

The colour red – the story of E120: In the series of useless facts and trivia, here's the story of food additive E120, also known as carmine or crimson. It's in your food, lipstick, sweets, meat, clothes, drinks and makeup. Chances are, you'll find it in anything reddish that is not naturally red (forget ketchup ...
Albrecht Dürer

Bow to the masters: learning from Albrecht Dürer

No better way than to learn from the masters. These are freehand drawings after the work of Albrecht Dürer: Dürer had apparently never seen a rhinoceros, so the drawing is what he did after having the animal described ...
da Vinci: flight

da Vinci: flight

Once you have tasted flight, you will forever walk the earth with your eyes turned skyward, for there you have been, and there you will always long to return. – Leonardo da Vinci ...
my messy collection of pencils

Tools of the trade: graphite pencils and funfacts

Tools of the trade: graphite pencils and funfacts: Once in a while I get asked what kind of tools I use for my drawings. The short answer is "pencils". The long answer is... the best ones. I have tried and failed with a large variety of brands. Pencil funfacts: They have not – contrary to ...
Ernst Haeckel

Bow to the masters: learning from Ernst Haeckel

  There is no better way to learn, than to study what the masters studied. Even though Haeckel might have been a little too creative in some of his visual analysis, he is up there with the best of them ...
da Vinci: the development of a complete mind

da Vinci: the development of a complete mind

Principles for the Development of a Complete Mind: Study the science of art. Study the art of science. Develop your senses – especially learn how to see. Realise that everything connects to everything else. – Leonardo da Vinci ...
Maps: the time and space of the Hereford cloth of the world

Maps: the time and space of the Hereford cloth of the world

Maps: the time and space of the Hereford cloth of the world The Hereford Mappa Mundi is one of the oldest know, complex map of the world (Mappa = cloth Mundi = world). It dates from about 1285, and are found in the Hereford cathedral. It depicts 420 towns, 15 Biblical events, 33 animals and ...
What is wrong with "interactive information"?

What is wrong with “interactive information”?

What is wrong with "interactive information"? Displaying information with heavy use of animation, interactions and happenings – why is it wrong? Why does video tutorials drive me batty? Looking for a tip in Illustrator, I find endless video tutorials and it annoys me no end. Why? Because all I want is an overview that I ...
Multivariable visualisation: tracing 40 generations

Multivariable visualisation: tracing 40 generations

A while ago, on a whim, i did some digging into my grandmothers family tree. I found more than I bargained for, as described in the post Noble genealogy. And I decided to make a family tree... A family tree of more then five generations soon gets complicated and it becomes impossible to keep track ...
What good old days?

What good old days?

Note: this is a post I wrote a few years ago, but it is still valid. I have been reading Design Observer on and off for a few years. Sometimes it's desperately navel-gazing, sometimes is preaching to the already converted, sometimes it's talking to a few insiders. Sometimes, it is good. The last time I ...
John Maeda: skill in the digital age

John Maeda: skill in the digital age

Skill in the digital age is confused with mastery of digital tools, masking the importance of understanding materials and mastering the elements of form ...
Beautiful statistics

Beautiful statistics

Hans Rosling, the hero of beautiful statistics, showing us the world as it actually is. By making statistics beautiful and demonstrating that the impossible is possible. Oh, and btw; you can play with the Gapminder tool yourself ...
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