Batesian Mimicry

coralsnakes-draftThis illustration is of a venomous coral snake Micrurus nigrocinctus (right), and a totally harmless snake that mimics it, Pliocercus elapoides (left). There are several kinds of mimicry in nature and this, a harmless species imitating a deadly one, is called Batesian mimicry. Pretty cool!

Is black a color?

Some say black is not a color. Others say it is. Is it? Much of this argument depends on one’s understanding of color. Do you interpret color as an internal response of your nervous system to an external stimulus? Or do you consider color a physical phenomena “out there”? Actually it can be considered both and, depending on how you think about color you get a slightly different interpretation of whether black is a color or not.

The dictionary definition of color is:

“the quality of an object or substance with respect to light reflected by the object, usually determined visually by measurement of hue,saturation, and brightness of the reflected light;saturation or chroma; hue.”

Right. No clarity as to whether black is a color here. If one looks at the physics of this question, definitions of light, color and perception can be a little vague. When you get into the quantum mechanics of light, it can become down right mind boggling! That kind of stuff is way beyond me but in my basic layman’s view, light is made up of photons. Photons in themselves are vague little packets of energy that exist somewhere between a particle and a wave. To me it seems like a photon is more of a concept rather than a physical thing. But the frequency of these photons (waves/particles?) determines the properties of chroma while the quantity of photons impinging on the eye determines the amount of lightness or darkness.

But, and this is a big but, keep in mind that the interpretation of color all happens in our heads. Color is simply how our nervous systems interprets an energy source that is entering our eyes. So in this sense black would be just an interpretation of the brain, just like any other color.


Lets take a different approach. Think about a value scale of color. Begin with a bright color of red and start making it darker. Darker values of red are still considered a color. Very dark values of red are still considered a color of red. The darkness is created by the fact that fewer photons of that particular wavelength are impacting our eyes. The color does not become less of a color because the number of photons impacting our eyes diminish. We just interpret the color as a darker color. So why then, when the number of photons drops to zero, and what we perceive becomes blackness, do we all of the sudden label that as a non color. Blackness is still our perception to stimulus, just like any other color. So why isn’t black a color?

How about using sound as another analogy? After all sound is just another energy source in the form of waves that impacts our nervous system. Think of a single pure note, perhaps A-440, the note that orchestra’s usually tune to. It’s pitch is determined by frequency and it’s amplitude defines the volume. In this analogy having the note decrease in volume getting quieter and quieter until it can’t be heard is like a color value range. Is this like black? If so, most would consider the silence to NOT be a sound. Under this interpretation black would not be a color!

I’ve heard people go round and round with this argument and it obviously depends on how you interpret color. There is not necessarily a real clear answer but it is something fun to think about.

5th Avenue

5thAvenueI recently finished this acrylic painting that I have titled ‘5th avenue’. This is from New York (5th ave of course) and Central Park is to the right of this scene. The size is about 10″ by 15″.



reindeer3Wow my site was hacked a couple days ago. Interesting! Well, if you see really bad artwork showing up on my site with lots of irritating animated gif’s hopping around you will know either that I have been hacked, or lost my mind.

Merry Christmas!

Trying to emulate Leyendecker is hard!


This is my first attempt at the style of J.C. Leyendecker. This piece was an assignment for Murray Tinkleman’s Illustration in Context course. We must chose a famous person from a certain time period and create a magazine cover based upon artists from that time. I chose Mary Decker on Saturday Evening Post in the style of Leyendecker. It was a great assignment and I learned a lot. Also found out how good Leyendecker really was!

Information Density

I went to an excellent workshop given by Edward Tufte on April 14th. The topic was the presentation of data. Although it was intended for people who are interested in giving public presentations of data to critical audiences it was still useful from my perspective. There are many parallels  between verbal and visual presentation of information. The logical understanding, categorizing and mental processing of it in our brains is likely similar.

Some of the visual graphics that Tufte showed as examples of highly effective information dense visualizations were, in my opinion, quite ugly. But Tufte’s point was that the aesthetic appearance is not the priority. It is the information contained within that is critical. I had to admit that the graphics he presented did convey a lot of information efficiently and well.  But as a visual artist I couldn’t help but wonder about the relationship of information density, communicability and aesthetics. For scientific illustrators this relationship is important to think about. For example, when communicating technical data for an audience of highly trained researchers who have a deep knowledge of the topic, aesthetic considerations can play a back seat to information. But consider information that is being presented to a general audience where it is important to have images that are interesting and hold viewers attention. Aesthetics in this case play a vital role!