Thursday 25 September 2014

Four Hedges - Claire Leighton

Clare Leighton (1898 - 1989) was an English artist who created in the 1930's a number of beautiful illustrated books. The image below is from her book Four Hedges - A Gardener's Chronicle published in 1935. A facsimile edition is still available HERE.

Image from the incomparable


Costume for the Shibaraku interlude - Totoya Hokkei c 1850


Wednesday 24 September 2014

The Photocopier in Art

The American author and artist Pati Hill (1921-2014) died recently. After writing a number of novels she became interested in the visual arts and focused on the IBM photocopier as an artistic device (later persuading IBM to lend her one). 

An obituary in the New York Times HERE and article in Paris Review HERE.

Below a detail from one of her famous installations from 1978 that comprised of 34 Black and White photocopies of a dead swan she had found.

Image from HERE - where in 2016 there will be a retrospective of her art.

Her book on Photocopying art Letters To Jill  was published in 1979 (HERE). 


Saturday 20 September 2014

The Dimensions of a Hand

From the 1528 volume of human figure proportion by Albrecht Dürer (1471-1528). Full scan of the volume HERE.

For more studies by Durer of hands in various gestures see HERE.

For an article on what Durer was up to in his books of human proportion see HERE.

Monday 15 September 2014

Hagia Sophia

Hagia Sophia is the high point of Byzantine architecture. The current structure was completed in 532, it remained the largest cathedral in the world for 1,000 years. 

Image from HERE

Basho's Haiku

An interesting piece HERE by the poet Mark McGuiness, on a book that was published in 1990 by Toshiharu Oseko that translates line by line, and word by word, what the Haiku of the famous Japanese poet Basho mean.

A review of the book from the Independent is HERE.

Image from HERE.

Saturday 13 September 2014

Keep It Simple (Stupid)

KISS is an acronym for Keep It Simple, Stupid, a design principle developed by the US Navy in the 1960's. "The KISS principle states that most systems work best if they are kept simple rather than made complicated; therefore simplicity should be a key goal in design and unnecessary complexity should be avoided".  

Keep It Simple is also the title of a book by Hartmut Esslinger published in 2013. Esslinger founded Frog design and was the creator of Apple Computers design strategy. The book describes Esslinger's work with Apple, during which time they were transformed from a Silicon Valley start-up to a global player in consumer electronics. 

The book is available HERE.

A vision of Fujiyama

Original Image from HERE

Friday 12 September 2014

Man O' War

Great images HERE by Aaron Ansarov of Portugese Man O' War.

Image Copyright Aaron Ansarov.

Monday 8 September 2014

The Beauty of Code

Recently it has become quite trendy to argue that learning how to write computer code is an important part of a broad education. I understand the aspiration, but the reality is that learning to write in a computing language is quite demanding and on the whole is only worth it if there is a substantial problem you need to solve. 

I used to write C code to solve problems in image and data analysis and for Monte Carlo simulations. I developed my own programming style, influenced largely by the Numerical Recipes books. 

When you have a problem to solve and you solve it by writing code it can be a very satisfying experience. The focused concentration required to balance the logical constraints of the computing language (essentially mathematical logic) and the needs of the problem counts for me as an example of really creative work. 

One of the best essays I have ever read on writing computer code has just been published by Vikram Chandra on The Paris Review (HERE). It is an extract from his book Geek Sublime.

This essay does not pre-suppose that you have programmed anything, yet somehow communicates something of the flavour of the activity.

Image copyright M.G. Reed 2014

Thursday 4 September 2014

New Phylum found off coast of Australia.

Immediately below the level of Kingdom in the hierarchical classification of all of life on Earth is the level of Phylum. The whole of the Animal kingdom has 35 Phyla and all plant life 12. So the whole of Earths biodiversity is captured by less than 50 Phyla.

Until now. 

A recently published paper in PLoS One (HERE) describes two species within a new Phylum of organisms that were dredged up near Australia in 1986. 


A new genus, Dendrogramma, with two new species of multicellular, non-bilaterian, mesogleal animals with some bilateral aspects, D. enigmatica and D. discoides, are described from the south-east Australian bathyal (400 and 1000 metres depth). A new family, Dendrogrammatidae, is established for Dendrogramma. These mushroom-shaped organisms cannot be referred to either of the two phyla Ctenophora or Cnidaria at present, because they lack any specialised characters of these taxa. Resolving the phylogenetic position of Dendrogramma depends much on how the basal metazoan lineages (Ctenophora, Porifera, Placozoa, Cnidaria, and Bilateria) are related to each other, a question still under debate. At least Dendrogramma must have branched off before Bilateria and is possibly related to Ctenophora and/or Cnidaria. Dendrogramma, therefore, is referred to Metazoa incertae sedis. The specimens were fixed in neutral formaldehyde and stored in 80% ethanol and are not suitable for molecular analysis. We recommend, therefore, that attempts be made to secure new material for further study. Finally similarities between Dendrogramma and a group of Ediacaran (Vendian) medusoids are discussed.


Just J, Kristensen RM, Olesen J (2014) Dendrogramma, New Genus, with Two New Non-Bilaterian Species from the Marine Bathyal of Southeastern Australia (Animalia, Metazoa incertae sedis) – with Similarities to Some Medusoids from the Precambrian Ediacara. PLoS ONE 9(9): e102976. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0102976

Below - one of the sketches from the paper coloured in for fun.


Monday 1 September 2014

Central Teaching Lab - University of Liverpool

Image Copyright M.G. Reed 2014