Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Seeing Red

One of the tents we use in Antarctica, called a "Polarhaven," is large enough to serve as a dive locker for about four aquanauts.

The Polarhaven at Cape Bernacchi

Because it is heated by a catalytic propane unit, it's also a comfy refuge for sleeping and eating in subzero temperatures. There's only one problem: the walls are red, so the interior is also red.

Laura Von Rosk cinching down the Polarhaven blanket to its wooden floor. The propane heater is seen behind her.

While setting up the Polarhaven at Cape Bernacchi, Laura and I had a brief opportunity to discuss "color" and "composition" (she is a master of both). I've never understood how to use color effectively, and my compositions always feel like run-of-the-mill, "rule of thirds," ho-hum. What could Laura teach me about this during our breaks from work?
A sketch of Astrammina triangularis using watercolor pencils. My drawings seem "cartoon-like" and not very realistic. I always follow the "rules," too. For example, light comes from the upper right, shadow to the lower left. The result just doesn't "feel" interesting to me :-(
Detail of an Astrammina triangularis "arm" that I sketched in normal daylight. I try to do a lot of "deep looking" when studying a subject, but that doesn't always translate into an appealing composition.

Drawing an agglutinated foram inside the tent was an interesting experience. Seeing everything in red light is not too alien, since I spent decades in a darkroom back when photography meant working under a safelight. I never tried to manipulate color in a monochrome setting, though, and wondered if that would be instructive?

Drawing of an agglutinated foram, with notes on objects in the tent, as I remember seeing things in the Polarhaven. (Actually, I placed a red mask over the drawing below, so this is really just a simulation.)

How the drawing looked when viewed outside the Polarhaven - surprisingly ... ugly?

Looking deeply, working hard, trying something new, failing ... but having fun. Art and science share a lot in common.


  1. So that's what you were drawing over in your corner! I love it - Foram with Urine Jug! When you were drawing that I was drawing my boots. You never know where you will go... in the surreal light of the polar haven :-)

  2. I think I should have drawn your boots!

  3. Looks like a rare jewel. Would love to hear more about you adventures in your blog:)

  4. Sam ~

    I love the "Detail of an Astrammina triangularis "arm" that I sketched in normal daylight." It's delicate and yet those dark blue-grey 3-d rocklike protrusions are strong.

    I do think that sketching details like in your watercolor pencil dwg, causes one to look close-up in a way that photography never can. Even SEM images cannot capture the "vulnerability of the small" which the human hand-eye can, and you did. Bravo!

    Art & Science Collaborations, Inc.