Sunday, June 2, 2019

Lamb, Chopped (Minced, Really)

Last week I went to an interesting fund raiser at church: a company called “Tastepoint” runs taste-testing sessions where they'll pay the organizer for getting enough people to participate. During the sessions everyone gets a number (seven in this case) of different cuts of meat of differing qualities and prepared differently as well. You rate them based on several factors such as flavor, juiciness, and tenderness. I have no idea whom this research (into…consumer preferences, I guess?) benefits, or how, but it's apparently a pretty established thing.

Anyway, for that session they were serving lamb (they also do beef), something I didn't grow up eating much—or at all, really—as an American. Pretty much my only exposure to it comes from eating shwarma in Israel (or kebabs, as they're known elsewhere). I've actually had goat meat more often—it makes pretty good sloppy joes. I rather liked some of the cuts of lamb that I had, so while I was grocery shopping yesterday I decided to try cooking with it for the first time. I did some quick searching for recipes and decided on making some shepherd's pie with lamb mince.

After assembling the ingredients, I started making it for lunch after church this morning, but failed to realize just how much work was involved, so I ended up having it for supper instead. (It basically requires making lamb stew and mashed potatoes separately, then combining them and cooking them further on top of that.) It came out pretty well, though I think I didn't boil enough liquid off while making the lamb-and-vegetables mix, so I had to leave it in the oven a bit longer. I also added some shredded cheese on top which went very, very, brown and crispy from the extra cooking, but all in all I think it came out all right. The sort of “lamb stew” intermediate product was interesting (and smelled delicious) on its own, so I've got some ideas for using lamb in the future. We'll see where it goes, I suppose. A hui hou!

Saturday, May 18, 2019

A Birthday, Collaboration, and the Open Source Process

Yesterday I turned thirty, and this past month I got my first and second “real” pull requests accepted, into the Astroquery module of Astropy.

If you don't understand what I just said, I'm going to need to do some explaining. Let's start with the concept of “open source” mentioned in the title: open source, as used in computing, refers to computer programs where the source code for the program is available somehow for inspection. An open-source program is one where anyone can come along and look at the underlying code, and usually (though it depends on the license) take it, modify it, and use it themselves. Typically it also involves an idea of open collaboration, where anyone can suggest improvements to the code for the benefit of all users.

A “pull request” is one such way to suggest an improvement, using the popular version control software Git (originally written by Linus Torvalds, also the creator of the original Linux kernel). The website GitHub.com hosts vast numbers of Git repositories (the name for a collection of all the source code for a project) and makes it easy to coordinate collaboration from many people around the world. A pull request is a request to the maintainer of a repository to merge (or “pull in”) some changes from another source.

Around a month and a half go ago I started using the Astroquery module of the Astropy project (which is a collection of Python code for use in astronomy). The Astroquery module allows you to query various astronomical databases that don't have official APIs; I use it for searching for information about atomic transitions from the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) Atomic Spectra Database (ASD). Anyway, I discovered that there was some information being returned that wasn't being parsed into the returned results, so I made a one-line addition to my local copy of the code (after a little experimentation) which made it work. I figured it might be of interest to other people, so I made a pull request to the maintainers of the package, and after going through the review process it got accepted!

This was more of a feature addition than anything, but a week or so later I discovered an actual bug in the handling of certain Unicode characters present in the database. (The dagger character [†] was being written as an HTML multi-character code which broke the fixed-width formatting that was being performed on the query results.) This required a little more detective work to figure out, and some back-and-forth with the package maintainers on what a good fix would look like, but I found a simple, effective fix and submitted a pull request for that as well. This time the process was slightly more involved, as I wrote an automated test to cover the situation and a change log entry for the issue I'd raised regarding the bug, but after another week or so this one got accepted as well.

I've long admired the idea of open source, of people around the world giving of their time and creativity to improve software freely available to everyone, and it's a great feeling to finally be part of it myself. A person's contributions to open source projects can look good on a résumé as well (it shows you can code and work as part of a team), so it has practical benefits as well. I don't know what form future contributions might take, but I'd definitely like to continue contributing in the future as my knowledge and skill allow. A hui hou!

Monday, May 6, 2019

A Glimpse into the Stellar Painting Process

I promised a post on the creation process for my series of stars, and though I've been distracted by other things I've finally found time to write one. The entire painting process took almost two months, so I thought it might be interesting to see it in photos.

I started the entire series with the giant O-type star, and took the following three photos during the first session. Here it is as I was applying a layer of titanium white (like I did with my second star, the B-type in the video I made.)

Initially I wasn't sure how purple to go with it, so I started conservatively with a layer of blue before adding any purple. This was kind of my first time really using a deerfoot brush and I went a bit overboard with the paint splotches; I'd use a much lighter touch with more feathery character later on, but at the time I thought it was a great effect.

It's funny to think how elated I was with this first version (seen below at the end of the first painting session); I thought it was just the coolest star I'd seen at that point. I've spent many hours on it since and I think the final version is far superior, but it was still fun to see how even a few hours could get something that made me think of a star.

In retrospect, the blue was too much, or at least, too far from violet. I came to this conclusion after I started on the B-type star, after I looked at them together as seen in the picture below. I realized I could make each star be more tightly centered around a smaller part of the color range and it'd still be fine. Though trying to mask out some of the blue in the O-type is what lead me to the serendipitous discovery that making snaking white lines over the surface made the star look a lot hotter and more dynamic, so it all worked out in the end.

This next picture is what the A-type star looked like at first: almost completely white, with just the faintest tinge of pale blue. Originally the A-type and F-type were going to be very nearly completely white, just slightly tinted towards blue and yellow, respectively. To help, the A-type would have titanium white as a base (which is blueish) while the F-type would have antique white (which is slanted more towards yellow). After doing more of the other types I realized I could differentiate them a bit more, and I think they were both improved by that decision.

Here's a shot of my very first time using textures gels. The top is ceramic stucco texture, for the F-type, and the bottom is resin sand for the G-type. (This is before I added any colors.) This was such a mind-blowing experience that I ended up writing a whole post about it

Here's what the F-type star originally looked like, showing the ceramic stucco texture gel. It was very “mustard yellow” initially, which I toned down a bit towards white (the opposite of what I did for the A-type, funnily enough). It's still yellow now, but more mellow.

Finally, this photo is of the custom gel mixture of heavy gloss gel and glass beads that I whipped up for the O- and B-type stars. I had a pre-mixed glass beads gel with some little tiny beads that I used on all the stars, but for these two biggest ones I also used some larger glass beads (about the size of a BB) as well. I took this right after mixing it up as I was starting to apply it to the paintings, though it's hard to make out the glass beads amongst the white gel. You can see the O-type painting in the background.

Hopefully this gives a little insight into the creative process. I showed off the completed paintings, but it took some time—quite a lot of time for the O-type especially—to come to fruition. That's one of the benefits of painting, I suppose; much like writing, you can go back and edit and improve (to a greater or lesser extent, anyway)! A hui hou!

Sunday, April 21, 2019

An Easter Morning Painting

Happy Easter everyone! A week prior to Good Friday I had an idea for an Easter painting, and despite having a fairly limited time span to create it I managed to pull it off—and I'm quite pleased with how it came out.

 “Easter Morning”
If the hill looks particularly rocky and textured, that's because it is; I tried using some Coarse Pumice Gel with real crushed pumice in it for the hill, and it came out really nicely. (At least after painting it—originally I mixed it with some Titanium White to hold the crumbly pumice together better, and it was rather…stark.) The rolling stone was made out of Flexible Modeling Paste, another thing I hadn't tried before. I'm not entirely sure what it is exactly, other than that it's a sort of paste that apparently contains marble dust which dries hard and can be sculpted and sanded. Both were things that I've wanted to try for a while now, and they worked quite well I think.

I started out painting the sky by palette knife—which is even more relaxing than using a brush for me—but I'm not sure it fits entirely with the rest of the painting. I may go back and lightly touch it up it with a brush to unify it a bit.

I do think the perspective and lighting on this isn't that great—the tomb opening seems pretty high above the ground, the trees in the foreground garden must be bonzai trees, and the hill doesn't particularly seem to be illuminated from the sunrise other than a faint pink/yellow shading visible on the closest side. For all its faults it was still an interesting exercise, though, and it's definitely going up on a wall somewhere around the house. A hui hou!

Sunday, April 7, 2019

Stellar Paintings

After almost two months of work, I'm finally done with my series of star paintings! Hopefully it'll have been worth the wait. Without further ado, here's a picture of all seven stars lined up next to each other so you can see how the sizes compare:

 O-B-A-F-G-K-M
As I've mentioned before, these seven paintings represent stars on the main sequence in the seven spectral classes used by astronomers. From left to right, the classes are O, B, A, F, G, K, and M. Masses (and thus radii, luminosities, and temperatures) decrease from left to right, though not smoothly; there's much more change between O and B than between G and K, for instance. It helps to keep in mind that stars fall on a whole continuum both within the representative members of each (ultimately arbitrary) class I've depicted here and outside the end points.

After being worried about how to capture the light-reflecting properties of the paint and glass beads on the canvas, I discovered (after a suggestion from a fellow student) that it was as simple as turning the flash on my camera on. As a result, enjoy a close-up photo of each star below, plus some musings on each one:

 The O-type star; canvas, 60 cm².
Ah, the O-type star. Larger than all the rest put together, the first star I started and the last I finished, I've probably spent more time working on it than on all the rest put together as well. I learned a lot from huge star. When I first started on this one it was much too blue, as I discovered after I'd started painting the B-type. I spent an evening trying to paint over as much of the blue as I could with white or various shades of purple, and serendipitously created the snaky white lines that you can see around the edges, which really help give it a feeling of three-dimensionality and depth. (They're present in the interior as well, but the reflections drown them out.)

This is probably the most visually impressive of the stars, partly by dint of its sheer size (it's half a meter in diameter), but also because of the large number of glass beads (in two different sizes) scattered across it that reflect a lot of light from certain angles and give it a real dynamism as you shift your point of view. Right up until this week when I finished it it had always had much tamer “wisps” around the outside, but I'm glad I went a little more aggressive with them in the end.

 The B-type; canvas, 40 cm².
For quite a long time after I made the video of its creation, I was totally happy with this star. I didn't go back to revise it for several weeks, and ultimately only did so after I'd realized just how much things like glass beads and texture could add to a painting. Like its big brother the O-type, it too had much tamer wispiness right up until I was signing it, when I added some more randomness to the exterior edge which I think really improved it.

I tend to think of the B- and O-type stars as a group, since they're on differently-sized canvasses from the others, and are large enough that I used larger glass beads in addition to the small ones that I used on all the others. If I had to say, I think this size is just about perfect for painting a star: it's a happy medium between between being so big that it takes a really long time to work on and being so small that it's hard to work in much detail.

 The A-type; canvas, 10 cm².
Nearly bursting the bounds of its little 10 cm² canvas, if I'd been able to put the A-type on a 20 cm² one I would have, but I couldn't find any in the store while I was getting canvasses for the project. (There were plenty on sale when I checked this week, go figure.) I've had to wrap some of its coronal extensions around the edge of the canvas a bit, but at least it does fit.

It's interesting how our perceptions of color and temperature run counter to the physics of such, as this star probably feels the coolest out of all of them; I've had people tell me it feels “icy” with that light blue, and I can totally see where they're coming from. For a while this was probably the most boring star as I initially wanted it to be almost pure white, but I realized color was a good way to differentiate it from the F-type so I added a bit more blue. (Artistically, I meant the A- and F-types to both be very close to white, but for the A-type to have a bluish cast and F-type a yellowish one.)

 The F-type; canvas, 10 cm².
Much like the A-type this one was a bit boring at first, as I was afraid adding too much yellow to it would make it too indistinguishable from its neighboring G-type. I eventually came around, though it still has a very pronounced white cast to it in the center; this is due to a glaze of iridescent white I put over it after I'd added the glass beads. At this point in the mass progression I'd decided to start adding more flares and activity around the edges as the star masses decreased, which you can see here.

Interestingly, I think this is the only star in the series where I used ceramic stucco texture gel; I only got some and started using it after I'd started painting the A-type, and I don't think I went back and added any, while for the remaining stars I used resin sand texture gel instead to make their surfaces more clumpy. I really enjoyed the feel of the ceramic stucco while painting with it, however, and I'm itching to use it in a future project somewhere.

 The G-type; canvas, 10 cm².
Ah, the G-type; at last, our own Solar class. Besides that there's not a whole lot to say about it, actually; it's more orange than the F-type and less orange than the K-type, and it's got an intermediate amount of activity around the edges. Though as we move away from the A/F whiteness the glass beads start to do an amazing job of not just reflecting white light, but also refracting colored light. This is also the first star I experimented with using resin sand texture gel, and thought the texture it added looked good enough to extend it to the remaining low-mass stars.

This star does have a claim to importance in that its size was the starting point for scaling all the other stars. When picking a size I had to consider that I wanted the large end of the range to be small enough to fit on canvas I had available and the small end to be large enough to be interesting and hold at least some detail. And since I couldn't find 20×20 cm canvases, and a 40×40 cm would've been overkill, the A-type also had to fit on a 10×10 cm one. Luckily, it worked out pretty nicely by making the G-type 5 cm across and scaling everything based on that.

 The K-type; canvas, 10 cm².
The K-type may be my personal favorite in terms of its color; though it's not the color itself so much (though I do enjoy a good orange!) as how it came out. I experimented with putting an orange glaze over the entire star in the course of working out how it should look; it came out beautifully, and as a result the entire star seems to glow and pulse with an inner fire.

Beyond that I don't have a lot to say about this one either. Here you can really start to see how the glass beads are reflecting a light tinged by the colors around them, though (an effect that looks even better in person).

 The M-type; canvas, 10 cm².
And finally, the M-type, the red dwarf. Despite being the smallest, faintest, and coolest stars, M-dwarfs are known to produce powerful flares many times more powerful than the worst our Sun can throw at us. (I wrote an article for Astrobites a year ago about a powerful flare from Proxima Centauri, our nearest stellar neighbor.) As such I decided I wanted to go all-out with its flares and activity, and ended up trying to depict one in the very act of a flare erupting, as the magnetic field lines snap and spew hot plasma out into space. (The flare's so large it ended up wrapping around the top of the canvas!)

I painted these stars roughly in the order I've gone through them (barring some returning to work on the O-type occasionally), but by the time I'd gotten to this one I'd learned so much along the way that I turned around and started working my way back up the series making improvements as I went. This star was actually the first one I tried putting the glass beads on; when I caught my first glimpse of how they looked, while the gel was still wet from only an hour or so of drying, I was so taken with the sight that I immediately added them to the rest of the small stars. I still remember going home that night feeling incredibly excited to see how they had turned out, and when I saw them the next day I was not disappointed.

And there we have it! I've had an immense amount of fun working on this series, and it's been an amazing learning experience. I've picked up or been able to practice a lot of techniques which will doubtless serve me well in future, and I've come to dimly grasp the true power of acrylic paint: its unmatched versatility of form. I'm not quite done with these painting just yet, though, as I took a number of photos of them over the past two months and plan on sharing some of these to give you a sense of how they developed over time. (And where hopefully you'll agree with me that they look much better now than they did at any of the multiple points people told me they thought they looked good enough already.) That's for a later post, however! A hui hou!

Wednesday, April 3, 2019

Signing Off On Stars

Well, it's been a while coming—according to the photos I took, since February 13th—but I'm finally done with my star series of paintings! I finished signing the last one tonight along with some last-minute improvements, and I'm incredibly chuffed with how they turned out.

I'm not quite ready to show them off just yet, for the simple reason that I want to take my time and get some high-quality photos to do so. The various effects I've applied to them—such as the glass beads and iridescent medium—look amazing in the right light, but it's proven somewhat difficult to capture that effect on camera, especially since I'm usually snapping a hurried shot in the evening after cleaning up and just before rushing off to catch a train. I hope sometime this week to spend some time getting some high-quality photos, maybe even some animated GIFs to show off the sparkling effects of changing your viewing angle. (Maybe. We'll see how hard that proves.)

However, while I'm not quite ready to show off the finished paintings themselves, I do have a photo for you from tonight. I decided to sign each painting in a different color that complements the colors of the star, and while it means that signing took about seven times longer than it otherwise might've, I'm pretty happy with the results!

 A stack of signatures.

(Yes, it took me almost a week to sign them all due to it taking a while and having limited time to paint. And yes, I messed up on a few of the small ones and had to wrap the date around to another side. Painting glyphs is hard! The canvas second from the bottom you might recognize as the B star from the video I made of its creation a few weeks ago, though I've since worked on it and it looks a lot better than it did at the end of the video.)

It's interesting going back over the photos I've taken along the way showing the work in progress; I'll definitely post some of those in the future. In what I'm discovering is my usual fashion, I went back and worked on some of these stars (especially the largest O-type one) over, and over, and over, to the point where people were telling me mock-seriously they thought I'd finished five times already. Which speaks to the quality of the intermediate stage I suppose, but I think the final results are undeniably better for it. But you can look at the in-progress pictures and judge for yourself when they come out! A hui hou!

Saturday, March 30, 2019

Pigment Palaver: Titanium White

One of the things I enjoy about paint is how the various pigments involved are intimately tied up with chemistry, another of my loves. The properties of a pigment—a substance used to give color to paint—are directly connected to its chemical composition and makeup.

With this post I want to start an irregular series discussing various pigments found in paints both modern and historical. Pigments span all of human history: red and yellow iron oxide are found in cave paintings, are probably among the first pigments people ever used—and yet are still found in paints today. On the recent end of the scale, a beautiful new blue pigment variously called Oregon blue or Yin Min blue (from its chemical composition, YInMn) was only discovered in 2009 and has only just started to come to market in paint form in the past two years. (It's actually not even available commercially in the U.S. yet, only from a paint company in Australia. It's also significantly more expensive than most paint at the moment due to its composition so I probably won't get my hands on any for a while, though I would like to do a post on it.)

One thing I didn't realize until recently was just how many historical pigments used by the Old Masters were actually quite toxic; painting used to be a pretty dangerous hobby! Thanks to modern chemistry, however, we're blessed today with a wide variety of non-toxic pigments with light-fastness and cheapness that the painters of yesteryear could only dream about.

For this post, I specifically want to talk about a relatively recent pigment (brought to paint form only in the 1920s or so), but an incredibly important one to the modern world. In paint form it's called Titanium White, which comes from the fact that it's simply titanium dioxide, TiO$$_2$$. Titanium dioxide is estimated to be used in up to two-thirds of all pigments globally, because it has a reach far outside of art: its various properties mean that it's found as a coloring agent in things as diverse as foods, toothpastes, and sunscreen.

Titanium dioxide is a relatively common, naturally occurring substance. Oxygen makes up the largest portion of the Earth's crust by mass, and titanium follows in seventh place, so it makes sense that their combination is pretty abundant. Common ores include rutile, anatase, brookite, and ilmenite, and global production of titanium dioxide is in the millions of tons each year.

Titanium in general is a very safe metal, biologically speaking. It basically doesn't interact with the body at all, which is why so many implants are made out of it. Its oxide is likewise safe, and is used in all sorts of white food dyes as a result.

The whiteness of titanium dioxide is truly remarkable, reflecting nearly 100% of light falling on it at all wavelengths across the visible spectrum (though it starts to fall off a bit in the ultraviolet). Its reflectance is still high enough that it's used in sunscreens (it's what makes them so white) in order to give them their Sun-blocking power.

This incredible whiteness also makes titanium dioxide useful in paints, where it provides a great opaque white with amazing covering power. It can also be mixed with pretty much any color to lighten it (though it can overpower things if used too much). It's one of the first colors of paint I bought, and it's also the first one I've nearly used a whole tube of so far, showing just how much more of this pigment I use compared to everything else.

Due to its amazing coverage and reflectance, titanium dioxide is justifiably one of the most important pigments in painting, and in the wider world globally. One interesting tidbit of information about titanium dioxide that I couldn't fit in elsewhere is that M-class red dwarf stars are cool enough (only a few thousand kelvins) that they show bands of absorption from it in their atmospheres, adding a heavenly connection to this common earthly pigment. I've used it in most of my paintings so far, and that will likely continue to happen into the future! A hui hou!

(Oh, and I finished my star series of painting this week, so expect a post on them once I get around to getting some good quality pictures of them.)

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Musings on Texture Gels in Acrylic Paint

I mentioned in my last post that I'd been experimenting with various texture gels in my painting sessions. I would've expanded upon it then but it would have ballooned the post to much greater lengths than I wanted, so I'm going to note down a few musings on the subject here.

First of all, to be clear (because I've had trouble working out the terminology myself): in acrylic painting a gel is basically a mixture of the base of acrylic paint itself (acrylic polymer emulsion), without any colored pigments added in. It generally dries clear (if it's a “gloss finish”) or slightly milky white (for a “matte finish”). Gels can have various consistencies, but are generally thick enough that you can't pour them. (This is in contrast to mediums, which are still acrylic polymer emulsion, but mixed to a consistency thin enough to where they can be poured more-or-less freely. Gels and mediums can be mixed with paint and each other to get a paint with exactly the consistency you want.)

But back to the texture gels. My only experiences with paint growing up were the occasional practical painting job around the farm, so to my mind, paint was flat: you lay it down in a nice flat layer, and that's it. Painting pictures was therefore just laying colors down in flat two-dimensional layers (sometimes many on top of each other), and that was that. Quite similar, overall, to my experiences with layering in two-dimensional computer graphics.

Only recently have I begun to realize that (part of) the true power and potential of acrylic paint lies in what you can mix it with (which is just about everything except oils), and how that can produce paintings that transcend the two-dimensional surface upon which they sit to rise into the realm of true three-dimensionality. I'd never really thought of paint having texture or three-dimensionality before, but having tried texture gels recently it really is a game-changer. Adding texture to a paint can dramatically increase its presence on the canvas. It doesn't need to be flashy or showy, as even a subtle addition of texture triggers a subconscious reaction that makes the painting look more real by adding realistic shadows to the surface.

There are quite a few texture gels out there already, and it feels like more are being developed all the time. So far I've tried one that gives paint the consistency and feeling of stucco (really fun to work with!), one with tiny resin “sand” grains added (there's also one with real sand), one with ground-up pumice, one with tiny glass beads mixed in (which I mentioned previously), and just tonight a “heavy body gel” that's just a super-thick gel for making paint thicker for more impasto effects (which is the technical term for applying paint thickly enough to make it stand out from the canvas). They're all interesting, and I'm already thinking about trying out some of the other ones I've read about: crackle paste, which deliberately cracks when it dries, modeling paste which contains marble dust and dries into something that can be sanded and chiseled, clear leveling gel (which is really more of a medium, I don't know why it's called a gel) which is very thin and runny and makes paint spread out evenly over a surface…so many new things to try. And it feels like every new technique I experiment with is another tool in my artistic tool box, the combinations of which are rapidly spiraling into a combinatorial explosion of creative possibilities!

Anyway, I should wrap this post up with an update on the star painting series. They're coming along nicely; I worked on some of them for a bit this evening after work with an experimental mixture of slightly larger glass beads and heavy body gel on the two largest stars. I'm excited to see how it turns out tomorrow! Hopefully another few sessions and the stars should be done (most of the smallest ones already are, I think). A hui hou!

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Twinkle Twinkle Little Star Painting

In my last post I mentioned that I've been working on a series of seven paintings of stars of the different spectral types on the main sequence, and while I'm still somewhat reluctant to talk about in-progress projects I just came home from such an absolutely amazing painting session that I simply must talk about it a bit, and I'm incredibly excited to get in to uni tomorrow to see how everything looks when it dries.

This entire project has been fertile ground for experimentation. Freed from the constraints of trying to paint something familiar, I've been trying out some of the possibilities of acrylic paint, and the results so far have been mind-blowing when it comes to what kinds of effects you can achieve with paint. Or, with acrylic paint, what you can achieve by mixing in various gels and mediums. Something I've been itching to try for a while are texture gels; acrylic base (basically colorless paint) with various kinds of things added to it to give it a texture, such as stucco, or (natural or artificial) sand, or even bits of pumice.

I've been trying out stucco and resin sand textures in the smaller stars and been immensely pleased with how they came out, as they give the stars an eye-catching but not obtrusive three-dimensionality. Today I tried another texture gel I've been eyeing, one with tiny glass beads mixed in. I used a tiny amount on my smallest star, and the initial results were so promising that I've added it to the next four larger ones. It took longer to dry than I felt like staying tonight so I left it to dry overnight, but I can hardly wait to see how it looks in the morning.

One thing I've been trying for was a sense of dynamism, a feeling that the star is alive as you shift your viewpoint of it, which I've hitherto achieved by using a lot of iridescent medium in the paint to make it sparkle as it catching the light. By embedding tiny glass spheres in the paint layer (and building it up to be a bit more 3D) I'm hoping to amplify this effect as they refract light as you move around, and the merest initial glimpse I caught of the potential suggests it should be pretty amazing.

I realize I'm raving about something with no pictures to show for it, but you'll just have to take my word for it for now: this should be a spectacular sight when I'm done with the project. As to when that'll happen exactly I don't know, but it shouldn't be more than a few more weeks at most; I'm feeling better and better about each star, I've learned a ton about the immense possibilities of acrylic paint over the course of the project, and I think it'll really show in the finished product. But for now it's off to bed so I can shorten the time till I can see how they came out! A hui hou!

Sunday, February 24, 2019

How to Paint A (Specific Spectral Class of) Star

I said in my previous post that I don't like revealing projects in progress, but my current project is so cool that I can't resist. Plus, it's more like a series of projects so I don't mind revealing one that I've completed.

I've decided to do a series of seven paintings of the various spectral types of stars. I'm only doing main sequence stars for now, as this allows me to paint them all to scale and I love those kinds of visual comparisons. (People keep asking me about other types of stars such as white dwarfs or supergiants, and my response has been a firm “We'll see.” I can't really paint those to the same scale so I don't think I'd be able to do them justice, but perhaps something will come up.)

This past Wednesday I painted the second star in the series, a B-type star, and had the idea of filming the process to make a time lapse video of it. It came out so well that I decided to add some commentary explaining my creative process, since it's informed by things like thermodynamics and stellar structure (while still retaining a fair amount of artistic license, of course).

Anyway, here's the video! Painting while conscious of being filmed was an interesting challenge, but I think the finished product is pretty good. Enjoy!