Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Something New: Dinosaurs

My sabbatical was about taking a break from teaching to focus on research. It allowed me to delve into my new work in greater depth, build more work than I can finish in a normal year, and get into a flow state with my work. By the time the sabbatical officially began in September, I had prepared my space and finished leftover pieces and had already begun to test ideas so that I entered the sabbatical at a running start. The months of September, October and December were particularly productive. (In November I had to underglaze so I didn't feel productive.)
argh! underglaze layers
I ended the sabbatical at a sprint, installed my show and have been talking about the show incessantly ever since. Part of the reason for talking about the show incessantly is that I haven't been into the studio since I installed the show except to fold packing material in preparation for picking up the work in February.

professional grade packing material (aka old towels and bubble wrap)

The other reason for the reiterative focus is that I came back to teaching at a full sprint as well. After focusing almost non-stop on my studio work for 6 months, I suddenly have five classes to teach (that's close to 130 new students) as well as new art program head responsibilities in the wake of my colleague's retirement and new requirements as I begin the tenure process. It is a bit jarring for the brain to go from one extreme (studio work and show installation) to another (teaching and school duties) and I can't seem to hold complex thoughts about things other than my current show, my past sabbatical and tomorrow's lesson plan.

I can't get you outta my head
At least in part because of the sabbatical, I find myself refreshed and energetic about the new challenges at work. I just don't find they necessarily lend themselves to discussion on my blog. I've been considering what to put in this space as I transition out of production/sabbatical/studio mode into teaching-and-never-seeing-my-home-studio mode.


And now for something completely different
What to put in this space? Dinosaurs.

fossil textures so pretty

For Christmas I got my brother this book, "My Beloved Brontosaurus" because he used to be into dinosaurs as a kid. But after I gave it to him, I realized that I just really wanted to read the book, so I got it for myself, too.

In the book, science writer and apparent dinosaur expert Brian Switek basically updates grown-up dinosaur fans (those who went on to do things distinctly unrelated to dinosaurs) on what has changed in paleontologists' understanding of dinosaurs since we were kids. The book is fascinating, but also rather dense for someone who hasn't really paid attention to dinosaurs since Jurassic Park came out. I keep having to stop and look things up or go back and reread a section.

prehistoric texture
I'm actually feeling pretty expert, since I was just looking at dinosaurs at the American Museum of Natural History in New York last month. I watched the video, I saw the family tree. I kinda remember some stuff about, um... (I don't really.)

fossil turtles, so interesting

The book is very interesting and an enjoyable read, but I'm really impressed with the illustrations by Jeff Martz. As one can see by the photos I chose to take in the crowded AMNH halls, I am attracted to visual textures and interesting repetition, both of which show up in the book's illustrations. This book's illustrations are pretty but also help me understand what the author is trying to explain. I regularly listen to science audiobooks while I work in the studio, but the topic of dinosaurs and prehistoric life greatly benefits from visual support.

Unfortunately the illustrations are small and I have trouble seeing them in the detail I would prefer. This past weekend, I looked up the images online. In doing so I stumbled across the same illustrations by Jeff Martz on a blog about Archosaurs with a special focus on palaeoart. Not only did I discover a source of interesting information, beautiful diagrams and fascinating illustrations of dinosaurs and other prehistoric animals, but I also learned that there is such a thing as palaeoart. You have to love a new art term with four vowels in a row.

bike parts!
This all may seem exceedingly random to discuss on my blog. After all, this has nothing to do with bike parts or ceramics, but after an extensive period of intense personal focus on one thing, it feels particularly refreshing to happen upon something almost entirely new to me that is both fascinating and completely unrelated to what I have been focusing on for so long. I wanted to share. Click through my palaeoart links and enjoy.

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