Nature Chemistry Cover Art

Over the last couple of years I’ve collaborated with Michigan State University faculty members to create cover art for a variety of different scientific journals. Most recently, I worked with Aaron L. Odom, Ph.D., to design the cover art for the September 2017 issue of Nature Chemistry.

I used Lightwave 3D to model all of the objects and render the final image for both of the covers shown here.

One of my favorites—because of my love for maps—is the cover I made for the Royal Society of Chemistry’s November 2016 issue of Chem Soc Rev, pictured below.

 

More Op Art Birds!

Common Grackle, Canon 40D, 70-200mm f2.8 lens (No Photoshop)

Common Grackle, Canon 40D, 70-200mm f2.8 lens (No Photoshop)

Common Grackle, Canon 40D, 70-200mm f2.8 lens (No Photoshop)

Common Grackle, Canon 40D, 70-200mm f2.8 lens (No Photoshop)

Molting Juvenile Northern Cardinal, Canon 40D, 70-200mm f2.8 lens (No Photoshop)

Molting Juvenile Northern Cardinal, Canon 40D, 70-200mm f2.8 lens (No Photoshop)

Molting Juvenile Northern Cardinal, Canon 40D, 70-200mm f2.8 lens (No Photoshop)

Molting Juvenile Northern Cardinal, Canon 40D, 70-200mm f2.8 lens (No Photoshop)

Molting Juvenile Northern Cardinal, Canon 40D, 70-200mm f2.8 lens (No Photoshop)

Molting Juvenile Northern Cardinal, Canon 40D, 70-200mm f2.8 lens (No Photoshop)

Molting Juvenile Northern Cardinal, Canon 40D, 70-200mm f2.8 lens (No Photoshop)

Molting Juvenile Northern Cardinal, Canon 40D, 70-200mm f2.8 lens (No Photoshop)

Molting Juvenile Northern Cardinal, Canon 40D, 70-200mm f2.8 lens (No Photoshop)

Molting Juvenile Northern Cardinal, Canon 40D, 70-200mm f2.8 lens (No Photoshop)

House Finch

House Finch, Canon 40D, 70-200mm f2.8 lens (No Photoshop)

It’s time for even more op-art* bird photos. These are Victor Vasarely-inspired designs. Like the previous images, these are straight-on photos of birds perched on an op-art bird feeder… without any Photoshop trickery. I designed this image to go with Common Grackles that were always raiding the feeder. Unfortunately, the printed artwork acted as a bit of a “Grackle Repellant,” because very few have shown up now that I’m trying to get photos. On the positive side, some of the other birds look good on this background. Previous op-art bird photos can be seen at http://blog.bohanart.com/2017/06/op-art-birds  and http://blog.bohanart.com/2017/07/opartbirds2/.

I designed this artwork using Adobe Illustrator. After printing each piece, I placed it in the backyard on a special feeder I built. It’s designed to attract birds as well as to support the artwork, which is sliced into two sections, with one positioned in front of—and the other behind—the bird. The images were taken with a 70-200mm f2.8 lens on a wirelessly triggered, tripod-mounted camera. Except for small adjustments like cropping and straightening, no Photoshop techniques were used to manipulate these photos!

* Op art, or optical art, is a form of abstract art that gives the illusion of movement by the precise use of pattern and color OR in which conflicting patterns emerge and overlap.

Flying Colors Transparent Watercolor & Time-Lapse Video

 
Flying Colors (Detail from 18x24 inch Transparent Watercolor on Arches 140lb HP Paper)

Flying Colors (Detail from 18×24-inch Transparent Watercolor on Arches 140lb HP Paper)

Flying Colors (Detail from 18x24 inch Transparent Watercolor on Arches 140lb HP Paper)

Flying Colors (Detail from 18×24-inch Transparent Watercolor on Arches 140lb HP Paper)

Flying Colors (Detail from 18x24 inch Transparent Watercolor on Arches 140lb HP Paper)

Flying Colors (Detail from 18×24-inch Transparent Watercolor on Arches 140lb HP Paper)

Flying Colors (Detail from 18x24 inch Transparent Watercolor on Arches 140lb HP Paper)

Flying Colors (Detail from 18×24-inch Transparent Watercolor on Arches 140lb HP Paper)

Flying Colors (Detail from 18x24 inch Transparent Watercolor on Arches 140lb HP Paper)

Flying Colors (Detail from 18×24-inch Transparent Watercolor on Arches 140lb HP Paper)

Well, I’ll cut to the chase. This 18 x 24-inch watercolor took an incredibly long time, somewhere in the 70- to 80-hour range, and it was one of the more complex paintings I’ve ever attempted.

There isn’t a lot of margin for error with a painting like this, because every square inch is covered with exhaustive detail. I’ve done a few  works in the past similar to this one. Unless it’s a commissioned piece, when you undertake something on this scale, you’re in it for yourself. Like my crazy bird hats, the time investment alone prices the finished piece out of the range of most sane individuals. I’m not sure what that says about the sanity of the artist. Two of the other paintings like this are framed in our house; a third resides in a closet. Over the past 15 years I’ve moved to smaller, more traditional paintings of animals, allowing me to finish a greater number of paintings at a lower price point for potential buyers. For a while I’ve had the temptation to start this style again. Working on a bunch of Op Art projects got the gears turning on possible designs. I decided the time had come to investigate this style again, even if I ended up with something that wouldn’t sell.

When I was in art school, teachers seemed to celebrate post-abstract expressionism, and everything else was considered garbage. Pretty much anything that contained an animal became a lightning rod for the fine art crowd to voice their contempt. A bird might as well have been a crying clown, Elvis on velvet or dogs playing poker. On top of that, paintings and drawings done in a realistic or representational manner were quickly dismissed as “renderings” and definitely not considered fine art. At the same time, there seemed to be a high tolerance for portraits and nudes, which in my humble opinion have been “done to death.” Granted, I’ve seen so many hawk and eagle paintings (mostly bad) that I’ve only created one in the past 25 years. I typically shy away from ducks for the same reason. When designing a painting, I spend a lot of time considering composition, backgrounds, perches, colors, movement within the frame and how the viewer will work around the painting. I think all of this puts them beyond being “just” illustrations. 

Although it may not look like it, this painting was definitely inspired by Op Artists Victor Vasarely, Julian Stanczak and Carlos Cruz-Diez. They always did interesting things with color and pattern, which essentially was what I was trying to do here. In this case highly-rendered birds serve as the subject matter rather than a flat, sharp-edged application of paint. My hope was to follow a series of different repeating patterns and gradients through the painting, some moving vertically and others horizontally. There is the obvious spectrum moving across the painting, which I broke up with the Great Egrets’ white necks.

From a design standpoint it’s normal to choose odd numbers when composing, but in this case using four egrets works since they divide the saturated spectrum into five segments. In addition, the overall motion created by the group of white birds serves as a relief amidst the spectrum of birds. I think the subtle coloring on the white feathers makes the saturated colors pop more than if they just sat next to other saturated colors. In addition, each type of bird has differing patterns of black on the saturated feather colors. I chose to have the birds nestled into one visual plane, occasionally overlapping to the right as well as breaking the plane of the frame. I find it interesting to play with the shapes of the birds and design with an eye for all the wiggling explosive movements of the animals.

In the past my “Critters” paintings have primarily featured birds but have also included mammals, insects, amphibians and reptiles. This is the first one to exclusively feature birds—fifty-five complete birds, as a matter of fact, as well as a handful of partial ones. I counted complete birds as anything with an eye and a beak. For the record that equates to these numbers: Scarlet Tanager (3), Northern Cardinal (8), Baltimore Oriole (9), American Goldfinch (1), Magnolia Warbler (4), Blue-winged Warbler (1), Wilson’s Warbler (4), White-cheeked Turaco (6), Female Crested Wood Partridge (1), Indigo Bunting (9), Common Grackle (5) and Great Egret (4).

Here are the previous paintings I did in a similar style.

Critters 1 (Transparent Watercolor on Watercolor Board 18 x 24 in)

Critters 1 (Transparent Watercolor and Gouache on Watercolor Board 18 x 24 in, circa 1994)

Critters 2 (Transparent Watercolor on Arches 140lb HP Paper 18 x 24 in)

Critters 2 (Transparent Watercolor on Arches 140lb HP Paper 18 x 24 in, circa 1996)

Critters 3 (Transparent Watercolor on Arches 140lb HP Paper 18 x 24 in)

Critters 3 (Transparent Watercolor on Arches 140lb HP Paper 18 x 24 in, circa 2000)

Throwback Thursday: American Coot Watercolor

American Coot Taking Flight (10x14 inch Transparent Watercolor on W&N 140 lb NCP Paper)

American Coot Taking Flight (10×14-inch Transparent Watercolor on W&N 140 lb NCP Paper)

American Coot Taking Flight (2.5x3.5 inch detail Transparent Watercolor on W&N 140 lb NCP Paper)

American Coot Taking Flight (2.5×3.5-inch detail Transparent Watercolor on W&N 140 lb NCP Paper)

This is an older painting, probably from 2002. I still remember sketching this stuffed specimen in the Royal Ontario Museum. My wife had a conference in Toronto, so I tagged along and spent three full days drawing at the ROM. I could easily burn a week or two there and not get bored. Come to think of it, I still have drawings from that trip waiting to be made into paintings! The taxidermy specimens there are about the best I’ve ever seen. One of my favorites was this American Coot taking flight. I had to invent the water splash at the bottom, which was pretty fun.

This painting is available in our Etsy shop: https://www.etsy.com/listing/85578981/original-watercolor-painting-of-american?ref=pr_shop

Female Eastern Bluebird Transparent Watercolor & Time-Lapse Video

Female Eastern Bluebird on Hawthorn (7x10 inch transparent watercolor on Arches 140lb HP paper)

Female Eastern Bluebird on Hawthorn (7×10-inch transparent watercolor on Arches 140lb HP paper)

Female Eastern Bluebird on Hawthorn (4.5x3 inch detail from 7x10 inch transparent watercolor)

Female Eastern Bluebird on Hawthorn (4.5×3-inch detail from 7×10-inch transparent watercolor)

I finished this painting in May but am just now (finally) getting it posted. I’ve not been idle though. I’ve been busy on a complicated painting that I’ll share soon.

Like most people, I love bluebirds. I’ve painted the brilliantly colored males before but never had gotten around to attempting to render the subtle beauty of the female. Many female birds have similarly understated coloration, and it’s a difficult thing to render. Bright backgrounds can make their muted colors seem boring and undersaturated. In this painting I chose to go with a fairly low-key background color that would make the female’s colors seem to have a bit more zip by comparison. I also set out to give the background a blurry depth of field effect. That’s really easy to pull off in airbrush but harder to control with watercolor washes.

When I was a kid growing up in western New York in the 70’s, Eastern Bluebirds weren’t abundant, despite being the State Bird. Truthfully, I don’t remember coming across them at all. The populations had plummeted due to competition for nesting sites from European Starlings, House Sparrows, House Wrens and Tree Swallows.

Ages ago I read a fascinating article about efforts to bring the Eastern Bluebird back to New York. Apparently, switching to fence posts and road signs made of metal rather than wood had caused a big decline. Previously, the bluebirds nested in the decaying wood of the abundant posts as well as natural tree cavities. Researchers in Minnesota found that Eastern Bluebirds took readily to predator-proof nesting boxes in orchards, pastures and backyard habitats. As a result of human efforts to place and monitor nest boxes, Eastern Bluebird populations have rebounded throughout their original range.