Category: Art

Adopting Medieval Tactics to Promote Modern Science

This is one of those ideas that came out of the blue while thinking about current events. It’s no secret to anyone reading this in 2018 that there is an alarming reduction in fact-based thinking and discussion. Some of this is due to the highly-charged emotional times we live in. Some of it is also a long, slow decline in emotional connection to science.

I remember reading old 50s magazines and comics years ago. The nuclear age had just begun and the Space Race would soon be on its way. There was this idea that the future would be all space ships and laser guns. In short the future was an adventure and science would pave the way. Today is much different, of course. People use computers, cars and airplanes, but routinely deny the existence of climate change as well. In the past science was magical, but still understood as a human invention to make life better. Today, it seems to have simply drifted into background noise.

I think a lot of this has to do with a lack of proper communication of scientific concepts to the average citizen. As I mentioned earlier, a lack of emotional connection. People seem to understand that science exists, but not that it is a man-made phenomenon that is accessible to the average person. As result, interest has waned, competing ideas are coming into the foreground and America finds itself fighting to get students interested in science so that we can compete with the rest of the world.

A Proposal on Communicating Science to Citizens

Although not entirely the same situation, we do see an ongoing lack of interest in art education. Art is seen as something kids do in school, but no real effort is made to bring artists in line with small business owners on the scale of social respect. In fact, a life of art tends to come across as a sure-fire way to basically be broke all the time. This is bizarre because artists, be they painters, actors or musicians, are basically skilled in emotional communication. They provide emotive experiences that are designed to move audiences towards an idea or state of being.

This ability has been exploited in the past very effectively in the Medieval period in Europe. On the secular side of history, bards were also employed to create poems and songs highlighting important people and events. This was important because while the elites were well educated, the masses were largely illiterate. Written texts would have done very little for spreading information. Religious organizations went even further. First, they spread by identifying the holidays for other religions and presenting their own competing holidays. This is why Easter is a Christian holiday despite originally being a pagan holiday. It’s also why Christmas is celebrated during the winter solstice despite Christ himself having been born in the summer.

Re-purposing the holidays was only part of the equation. Once the people had been assembled, indoctrination had to begin. This began with chants and hymns, which were easy to remember, but expanded over time to plays and pageants. The plays fell into three basic groups: morality plays, mystery plays, and passion play. Mystery plays covered the history as presented by the Bible. That is, the birth of the universe, its death and the intervening events. Morality plays were as their name implies and were generally diverse, as seen by the play Everyman and the medieval plays of Saint Nicholas. The Passion plays were focused on Jesus Christ in particular. These plays were short, easy to understand and, at least in the case of Everyman, highly metaphorical. They were meant for an audience that had not yet been prepared for complex ideas or discussions.

Adapting Ideas to Science

It seems both science and art complement each other well. Scientists are more interested in uncovering facts and expanding knowledge, and artists are more interested in moving the hearts and minds of people. It seems both could adapt the tactics developed in the Medieval age to promote each other in a symbiotic manner in the modern age.

The first step is to identify holidays that draw major public interest, such as Christmas or the 4th of July. Scientific organizations can then organize and promote pre-holiday festival and celebrations. These events would offer free music and theatre presentations. Taking a cue from Medieval plays, they would be short and easy to understand. Comedy is effective, as well. Both the music and the plays would focus on science in some manner. Think Jonathan Coulton’s Mandelbrot Set, as an example for music. In addition, the celebrations should be replete with demonstrations of science. These demonstrations would displays meant to “wow” the attendees. The goal isn’t so much to educate, but amaze. The music and plays themselves are the educational aspect in that they would present easy-to-digest introductions to ideas, people and so forth (again, think Mandelbrot Set, or 88 Lines About 44 Mathematicians.)

Scientific organizations could expand on this by creating in-house positions for theatre groups and individuals. These individuals would act as resident “bards”. Their job would be to create music, poetry and writings that introduce important figures or events, illustrate important ideas and methods and so on. This would be a kind of expansion of general PR duties into the field of edutainment. In essence, someone from within the greater scientific organization would give some information on scientific advances, people or ideas and the bards and playwrights would compose something to present to masses. Imagine Friday nights at a college campus where there is a free concert by the Science building, or an ongoing tradition of lunchtime plays, all free watch.

This material would, ideally, be in the public domain. Since different organizations in different locations would each have their own set of theatre groups and bards, a great wealth of material would develop to share and adapt. These would be composed of plays, poems, stories, parables and so forth. Collections could be made and offered for free or a small price to add funds to the productions. One might also argue for a scientific “bible” which would contain various parables, lessons and stories of meant to draw the reader in. Theoretically, if this was done on a large enough scale, a large enough population of people would associate science with some positive emotion. The emotional connection would build and, hopefully, foster an ongoing interest and trust in science.

Appealing to the Non-Masses

There’s another idea that is somewhat complementary, if also somewhat cynical. During the Medieval and Renaissance periods, Masques were all the rage. These were a specific form of theatre that merged together spoken theatre, song and dance. They were specifically made for a particular party event and even included attendees in their performance. Often, they glorified the host of the event and the attendees. Masque’s were the must-go events of their day and were exclusively the domain of those in favor with the court.

Much has been made, both publically and among the tech community, of the incredible position of the scions of Silicon Valley. Jeff Bezos, as of this writing, is the wealthiest man in the world and has aspirations of being the first man on Mars. That is to say, achieving a goal that involves spending billions of dollars with no guarantee of return. Silicon Valley CEOs are phenomenally wealthy and, possibly, very self-satisfied with their success. They are also very interested in continuing their dominance in technology, which itself is a product of scientific research. Interested science and technology organizations could expand on the celebrations mentioned earlier to create exclusive name-only events for these privileged few. After all, who wouldn’t want to enjoy the benefits of wealth?

Like the masques of old, these events would involve productions that glorify the attendees and hosts before transforming into a larger party. In addition, there would be more of the aforementioned scientific spectacles. Something to amaze, but also a possible venue for inspiring some form of argument for funding. Think of it overall as a celebration of successful people. The production feeds into the collective ego of those attending and in turn makes them amenable to arguments for funding this project or that supporting that legislative proposal. Parties are a great way to network and fundraise.


The current distrust of science and lack of scientific interest can be attributed, at least in part, to the lack of ability to emotionally connect to science, or at least associate science with some positive state. By looking to the past we can observe that there were problems with drawing people to a particular message or idea. Using the tactics of art, in the form of bards, plays and masques, we can see how secular and religious organizations promoted themselves to the masses and the elites. This allowed them to spread messages, secure support and otherwise fulfill their goals. These same tactics can be used to promote modern science and, one hopes, bring scientific literarcy and trust back into the public sphere where it belongs.

Happy Halloween! 2017-10-31 10:14:26:

Happy Halloween!

#Halloween #NOTW40


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More Bride. 2017-10-31 02:21:17:

More Bride.

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#Inktober! Day 28 / #MisterMiracle / Day 29 / #BigBarda 2017-10-31 03:40:12:

#Inktober! Day 28 / #MisterMiracle / Day 29 / #BigBarda
#JackKirby #NewGods #Inktober2017 #Kirby100 #FourthWorld #DCComics


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Visual Storytelling: A basis in biology

Quite often with visual art we make the assumption that the artist is an intuitive prodigy. The idea is that art is something that is just “known” to the artist. That it is some mystical force that only the special can sense and no amount of classes or guidelines or rules of thumb will make up for it. As it happens, this might not actually be the case! Recent research indicates our brains might be hardwired in such a way that there is at least a base start from. Read on for more. View full article »

Star Wars The Art Awakens, Fine Art and Fandom

Damien Hirst, one of the celebrities of the contemporary art world, once remarked that if people went to art galleries as much as they went to the movies, there would be more appreciation for art today. I really wonder if that is actually a desired outcome. View full article »

I survived the Zombie Fashion Show

Earlier this month was the Zombie Fashion Show put together by Pancakes and Booze, a traveling art promotion. The fashion show wasn’t just a fashion show, however, it was an art show, fashion contest and car show all rolled into one! View full article »

A Darth Vader Illustration

Darth Vader Illustration for a contest

Darth Vader Illustration for a contest

A few weeks back I decided to enter a contest to create the best image featuring the new Disney Infinity 3.0 game figures. For those that don’t know, the figures interact with the game, storing and sharing information. Had I won, the prize would have been a starter pack valued at around $80 dollars or so. Unfortunately, I misread the rules and submitted my work too late to qualify. Rather than just throw it out, I figured it would be worthwhile to discuss how I went about making it. A video accompanies this post, which you can see at the bottom of the page.

The Sketch

The rules of the contest were that the image had to have a Disney Infinity figure in it. There weren’t too many rules beyond that. I happened to get a hold of a Darth Vader figure for the game and I thought it would be cool to have Darth Vader hold Darth Vader. The initial art was done with a 4h lead pencil and finished with a 4b lead pencil. I was going to use acrylic paint to create an underpainting, but I felt like things were taking too long so instead I scanned the final drawing into Photoshop and went to work there.

The Background

I covered the illustration in a brown background before overlaying red and black clouds. The initial idea was to have lightening erupt from the clouds in the background, but at the last minute I felt this would be too busy. The cloud layer is slightly transparent so as to mix with the background layer. In retrospect, I should have blurred the background layer as the brush strokes were with hard edges.

Painting Darth Vader

Darth Vader is largely enveloped in a neutral black. at least, it seems that way to me. The material can be highly reflective depending on the part of the outfit one is looking at. For example, the helmet is highly reflective, and the arms and gloves are generally pretty reflective. The cloak and flowing parts of the outfit seem closer to a matte finish, though.

I began by filling out Darth Vader’s outfit with a dark grey that was mostly neutral but a bit on the cool side. After this, I began erasing various areas to reveal a white layer underneath. I did this because painting white on top of the grey didn’t really feel like the result I was going for. The highly reflective areas such as the helmet, breastplate and arms had large white areas to acknowledge the intense light source I was going to add in.

Final Effects

With Darth Vader done, I added in an image of the Darth Vader Disney Infinity figure. After placing the figure I added a glow with lightening as if Darth Vader were creating a version of himself. This would be the primary light source for the image. After that I played with levels for a bit until I was happy and sent the image off.

Final Thoughts

I wish I had done the work in acrylic before scanning it in. I still have the line drawing on my table, so someday I may do just that. I think perhaps I would make Darth Vader a bit darker and add some other effects, but I would have to think about it.

What do you think? Let me know in the comments below!

ICYMI: Blood Moon and Street Art


The Fourth Blood Moon

Those able to stay up late enough got a treat on April 4: the third showing of the Blood Moon tetrad! There is a six-month gap between each stage of the blood moon, so the next showing will be in September.

The “Blood Moon” is so named because of the the way the sun’s light is filtered through Earth’s atmosphere. A blood moon is a full lunar eclipse where the Earth is between the sun and the moon in a particular manner. Earth’s atmosphere basically captures all of the sun’s light spectrum except for the red wavelength. This means the blood moon is painted with a red color, hence it’s name.

This particular blood moon wasn’t completely obscured by Earth’s shadow. A faint sliver of the moon’s natural color could still be seen. This is because this particular time the moon’s orbit took it to the upper edge of the Earth’s shadow, so, depending on the angle it was viewed at from Earth, it would either be completely obscured, or just peek a bit out from the top. From California this is exactly how it appeared. How will it appear next time? Stay tuned in September and we’ll let you know! For more information, check out NASA’s page on the blood moon tetrad!

The Burbank Art Festival

West Coast Artists came in over the weekend and kicked off the Burbank Art Festival in downtown Burbank. Vendors came out with paintings, photography, sculptures, music and more. Unfortunately, Quantum Pop had to respect a variety of “No Photo” signs put up by the artists, but we still managed to snag some great photos of artists painting the streets with street chalk. There are two more festivals coming up in October; one is in Long Beach and the other is in Westwood. You can find more information at the West Coast Artist website!


Goodbye to Language, Hello to 3D

Film history books are going to point out the film Goodbye to Language as the first significant moment 3D stopped being a gimmick and started being an actual storytelling tool. Other films outside the range of action or blockbuster movies have tried the technology, but Goodbye to Language is a film from a respected director who inspired the great mainstream directors of our time. The film, being an experimental, abstract work, will not be accessible to the average film enthusiast, but the thought put into using the 3D technology to draw out the emotion of the moment should make the film a study piece for other filmmakers to examine and build on.

The film’s director, Jean-Luc Godard, came into his cinematic power in the 1960s and 1970s as part of an upstart movement of filmmakers referred to as “New Wave”. This movement rejected the technique of mainstream French and American (Hollywood) cinema. The feeling was that this type of mainstream film work focused too much on established technique and rejected innovation and experimentation. The most radical of his group, Godard’s films were unapologetic in their abstract and political nature. Because of this, his works carried power appreciated by many of the great filmmakers of the 1970s onward such as Martin Scorsese and others.

In a way, the push to bring 3D out of gimmickry could only have come from someone like Godard, whose drive to experiment would have allowed him to think of way to truly touch a viewer using the technology instead of using it to provide “wow” factor. Suddenly a drawn out shot of a woman clutching the bars of a fence has more resonance because we see the hand reaching out of the frame towards us. The direction towards the audience has more emotional impact. Long views of flowers in 3D make the viewer examine them more closely, pondering their significance in the film.

It doesn’t all work, of course. In particular once scene involved a merging of two different camera angles in one shot. The audience reaction was almost immediately one of confusion. People were trying to figure out if something had gone wrong with the projector. Further, while the film was shot entirely in 3D, it must be said that there was still the old issue of “forgetting” that the 3D was there. The technology simply became irrelevant unless a shot occurred that specifically relied on it.

That said, it’s clear that the technology was more than just a gimmick to the film. Godard has found a way to add to the visual vocabulary of the genre by using dimensionality to draw out emotion and attention to detail from the viewer, adding depth as it were, to the film experience. One hopes that other filmmakers are inspired to build on this further.