Monday, January 26, 2009

The Trilobite

It's been a while since I've posted. My camera pooped out a week or so ago and I haven't been able to find a replacement yet. So, I'm relegated to what I can fit under a scanner bed.
I am at work carving the Limulus print and though it is satisfying carving out the little details, it's a bit stressful. The economy being what it is I had to buy a cheap piece of plywood for this large print. The top veneer is very soft and the grain cleaves together so tiny details can flake away without warning. I've tried to remedy this with a few washes of water proof wood glue and this seems to be helping so I'm just going to cross my fingers and have at it.
My Limulus key block consists of a detailed border and a single large Limulus (horseshoe crab) in the middle. I plan to have several small trilobite blocks printed around in the back ground and getting around to sketching the designs for them has been like pulling teeth.
Yesterday, I finally decided to bite the bullet and sit down and design at least one trilobite. I recognized that one of my sticking points is that I am intimidated be the variety of form with the trilobites and though I am familiar with their general shape I still needed some important information on their design. (This was also a sticking point in the Limulus design!) I printed several images off the internet and actually bought a small trilobite fossil from a local jewelry shop. My study last night proved helpful. I am starting to recognize key features that every trilobite must have. I also pick out flaws in my own little sample. Poor little Moroccan Trilobite sample! Someone accidentally chipped off some of his eye! :(
At any rate, this sketch on water color paper is the result of the study. Pretty much all the specimens of trilobites that you see are a single color of black, grey, brown, or tan-whatever stone they happen to be incased in. I thought it would be fun to dress this guy up in some contemporary coloring to set him apart from his buddies so we'll see how this progresses!

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Limulus polyphemus

I am in the beginning stages of an edition of prints I'm thinking about calling "Limulus". It is going to be similar in lay out and size to a piece I wrote about a few months ago called "Archeopteris". Limulus polyphemus is the scientific name for the Horseshoe Crab. I was reading up on it for my design and one scientist's argument was that we should not refer to the animal as a Horseshoe Crab because it is not as closely related to the crab family as the name would let on. It is instead more closely related to spiders as it resides in the Arthopod family. My initial intention for creating this print was to honor the longevity of the Limulus. I knew it was an old animal and its physical appearance has remained virtually unchanged through the eons. What I did not know was that the oldest Limulus fossil found to date is roughly 445 million years old. That puts it in the middle of the Ordovician period which is the period directly following the Cambrian period. They have survived 5 major mass extinction events. I am amazed that the animals have persisted for so long. I was also researching distant cousins of the Limulus, the Trilobites. These guys arrived during the Cambrian and exploded into a diversity of shapes during the Ordovician but were slowly cut down by mass extinction events. A sad "last gasp" example is the Devonian period that my "Archeopteris" print takes place in. There remained 6 families of Trilobites from the 16 that resided in the last period. After the Devonian period only one solitary family remained until the end of the Permian finally killed it off. I will add Trilobites into the background of the Limulus print later. They will be prominent and diverse at the bottom of the print and then less so towards the top, mirroring time.

I wanted the over all feeling of the print to be one of an old manuscript or religious stella and was unsure how to create the border that would emphasize that. I found out that the Limulus has a copper based blood in contrast to our human iron based blood. I also found out that the pharmaceutical industry uses the blood to test IV drugs for endotoxins. So, we owe a great deal to the Limulus for the prevention of disease from tainted IV drugs.
I now had the knowledge I needed to create a fitting border for my print. The double helix of DNA would span the sides and 4 stained glass stars would frame the corners. The stars represent the copper atom which has an atomic number of 29. Atoms have levels of electrons called valence shells. Since the atomic number is 29, it is missing 3 electrons to complete the number 14 in its last valence shell. The stars have 14 points with three dark points, 2 of which are ejecting the material to make Limulus DNA.
This will be a new experience for me as far as printing. The image will be roughly 22" X 36" and will be printed on Edgeworthia. I must admit I am not a fan of Edgeworthia but I have plenty of it and I hope it will prefer to be a Limulus print rather that stay in my paper storage!