a couple thoughts...
illustration does not always follow the path of representing reality in
all of its facets. frequently the artist will choose to emphasize one
detail or generalize another, depending on the assignment's focus. if
the shallowness of the water is important (or neutral) then including it
will add another layer of information. but if that detail is distracting
or misleading, a blue sea will work better because people will
understand it to be water and then get on to whatever the illustration
has been created to convey. illustrators have been editing detail to
streamline the message for centuries.
although not about science illustration per se, the article linked here
offers up a few ideas to ponder in this digital age...
>This morning I had a talk with the professor. As you can imagine we are
>looking for a subject that really interests us both and we know will get us
>going for the next few years. We think we are getting somewhere.
>One thing I regularly encounter is the difference between my perspective of
>how something should look and how my customers see it. For example: the
>Netherlands are next to the North sea, a shallow sea between the main land
>of Europe and the UK. Because it is a shallow sea I tend to make the water
>the colour that it is, namely a brownish grey. But... my customers do not
>understand this and most of the time we end up with clear blue water. In my
>eyes an abomination, but it is what people understand to be water. Another
>example is the discussion I had with Gay Malin on the Ithaca conference (she
>talked about it with more people, so I think some of you know what I mean).
>She is complaining that within facial reconstruction the fundamentals of the
>model used are in fact wrong. At this moment tissue dept is used to
>reconstruct the face. The tissue dept used to model the reconstruction
>depends upon racial, sex and age differences, but the base of the data used
>for this is very narrow. Most of the time only 2 or 3 people within a
>specific category, if you are lucky. She would like a whole different
>approach to it: on skulls you are able to determine the place where the
>muscles are attached to the skull. To use these and build the face up from
>the muscles itself, she says, is a much better predictor of the real
>representation than the tissue dept. She even goes so far that she thinks
>even a dimple in one's cheek could be predicted by the shape and size of the
>place the muscle attaches to the skull.
>These two examples, one from a simple perspective and the other from a
>perspective that touches the base of a profession, are what we all deal with
>on a daily base working with the interpretation of other peoples data. And I
>think a very interesting area to do research in!
>The professor and I talked about the perspective of people looking at
>visualisations and the effectiveness of specific kinds of (..models used
>for..) visualisations for different purposes. We also talked about the
>danger of simplifying representations of reality (people might think that
>those ARE reality) too much. Although we don't have a specific question yet,
>the field has been narrowed a whole lot!
>My professor thinks that getting this down to a good PhD question could have
>international implications. I also talked about the fact that I don't want
>to do this without funding and he gave me the name of the former president
>of the Royal Academy of Arts and Sciences (KNAW in Dutch), the most
>prestigious organisation in our country, comparable to the Nobel
>organisation in Norway. This former president is very much interested in the
>combination of art and science and might be willing to help me getting funds
>and other necessary means to do this research. Another possibility is asking
>a pharmaceutical company or such to sponsor me, but that would narrow my
>field maybe too much.
>Any case, this field would also mean that I have a subject that I easily can
>write/illustrate about for the general public. And that is also what I was
>I keep you posted ;-)!
>P.S. even the heated discussion about the Nature article helped!
Principal Scientific Assistant
Div. Vertebrate Paleontology
American Museum of Natural History
Central Park West at 79th Street
NY NY 10024
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