Tag Archives: Canada

1.21 Gigawatts: Artist Spotlight – John Conway, Bringing Dinosaurs Back

 

-Sarah Keartes

London-based artist John Conway spends his time in many walks of life—prehistoric life, that is.

Conway focuses on two genres of art: “paleontological reconstruction and, well, everything else,” a combination which allows for breathtaking imaginative overlap.

“John’s art melds illustrative skill and a variety of approaches with scientific detail and imagination,” science writer Brian Switek, who specializes in evolution, paleontology, and natural history, told Flux in an interview.

The path to creating accurate representations of prehistoric flora and fauna is riddled with challenges—the biggest perhaps being the initial research.

“Things are particularly difficult for artists here, even the most scientifically minded of us,” Conway said. “Scientific literature simply isn’t written with the problems of artists in mind; the crucial information on the appearance of fossil animals and environments can be spread across hundreds of papers, and even then there are huge gaps.”

Reconstructing plant life is particularly difficult as a decent-sized painting might have dozens of species, and gathering information on each is a daunting task.

“I’ve been putting a lot of effort into this over the last couple of years, and I’m still nowhere near where I’d like to be,” he said.

Conway’s fascination with paleontology began during childhood. Sparked by Bob Baker’s book The Dinosaur Heresies, his love for dinosaurs quickly intertwined with his passion for art.

“Certainly by the time I was fifteen, I was very into painting—especially nineteenth century landscape painters, and some modernists, as well as the paleontological artists,” he said.

It didn’t take long for Conway to dive into his own paleo-art career. At seventeen, he went to work for a museum in his hometown of Canberra, Australia, where he painted life-sized murals behind the dinosaur skeletons. Six years later, it was time for bigger and better.

“I grew up in a very dull city,” he said. “I left [Canberra] at age 23, while halfway through a philosophy/biology degree, to take up a very glamorous job working in Hall Train Studios making pterosaurs and dinosaurs.”

Hall Train, located in Ontario, Canada, is one of the leaders in the design and creation of exhibit paleo-environments, which are featured in natural history museums, science centers, and theme parks around the world, as well as one of the world’s foremost suppliers of dinosaur animation for television.

Credit: John Conway
“A year later, I moved to London and have been freelancing successfully (and mostly unsuccessfully) ever since…the money is terrible” Conway said.

On occasion Conway is challenged with completely reconstructing animals from the fossils, up. To do this, he must first draw all of the individual bones and assemble the skeleton, then comes the challenge of reconstructing muscles and other soft tissue using relatives through phylogenetic bracketing.

Greg Paul and, more recently, Scott Hartman have done an amazing job recreating dinosaur skeletons—I use those where available,” he said.

Conway’s non-paleo-art spans a vast variety of subjects, from alien life forms, to abstract representations of lyrics and mythologies, to beautifully obscure portraits of musical instruments.

“I’m very jealous of music and its apparently privileged connection to emotion in our brains. I have the rhythm of a drunken caffeinated turkey,” he said jokingly. “It has recently dawned on me that I will not live long enough to become a composer, an architect, a city planner, a singer-songwriter, an academic philosopher, a filmmaker, a paleontologist, a novelist, an engineer, a rock-star programmer, a shipbuilder, and a Lego-set designer.”

Though there is a distinct separation between Conway’s paleontological art and the rest, all of his work shares a similar aesthetic. He has an incredible ability to create life and motion is his computer-native art, much of which is still life recreation.

“He does far more than try to get the dinosaurs right: he gives them a kind of vitality that is sometimes lost in attempts where technical details trump the goal of trying to restore the animals as they once lived,” science writer Switek said. “People want to know what these animals looked like, and so it warms the cockles of my petrified heart to see John and other artists really do their homework while pushing the boundaries of what we can imagine about dinosaurs and other prehistoric animals… Their work helps bring new science out to the public, and I am very thankful for that.”

Conway’s art has been featured worldwide, in countless blogs, publications, and in documentaries for National Geographic, BBC, and the Discovery Channel. Most exciting was the internet response to his book, All Yesterdays: Unique and Speculative Views of Dinosaurs and Other Prehistoric Animals.

“In 2012 I decided to pursue a direct-to-people strategy of selling my work… All Yesterdays seemed like the most complete, and best suited of our various projects,” Conway said.

The beautifully illustrated book, which was co-written by C.M. Kosemen and Darren Nash, helped define a new paleo-art movement and is recognized as a celebration of Mesozoic life.

“It’s been amazingly well received critically and got heaps of coverage,” Conway said. “Though we are far from the only artists to produce the kinds of reconstructions you see in the book, I think it has come at just the right time, giving articulation and focus to what many of us have been feeling about paleontological reconstruction latterly.”

For Conway, paleontological art is about more than simply science communication.

“Honestly, such a goal would bore me. I think it should also have another goal, which has to do with enriching our lives through aesthetic experiences—shifting our feelings of the world,” he said

Want to know more about John Conway and his art? Visit his website or contact him on Twitter.

Follow Sarah on Twitter!

Home Exchange: Traveling on a Budget

 

-Emily Fraysse

The daydreams of lounging in a villa on a sandy white beach in Barbados or skiing to your hidden log cabin in the Swiss Alps could become a reality. And that reality is only a percentage of the price through home exchange. Ultimately, it is “you stay in my house while I stay in yours.”

There are two types of home exchanges: hospitality exchange and home exchange. Hospitality exchange means that the family who lives in the house allows others to stay at their home simultaneously at designated times. The benefit of this, besides the social aspect, is the in-house tour guide. Home exchange happens when each party switches houses completely at a time that is convenient for both to swap.

While many people can be leery about swapping houses for multiple reasons, the number of reasons why you should take the plunge exceeds those. It can be a scary concept to stay at someone’s house that you’ve never met before or allow others to stay at your house, so the exchange relies on mutual trust. With thousands of successful house exchanges per year, the exchange is rewarding in more than one way.

The swapping works best for people who have an alluring home to offer and those who are okay with having strangers living in the house and touching valuable items. Once you’ve found a potential host, get in contact, exchange information, and be clear about your expectations before the swap occurs. After all the nitty-gritty details are finalized, I’m sure you’ll feel less like you’re living in a stranger’s home and more like living in a friend’s.

So, now where would you like to go?

Home Exchange programs to look at:

Home Exchange

Love Home Swap
Trade to Travel
Home Link
Intervac Home Exchange

Some of my personal favorite spots:

Africa:
Watamu, Kenya

Australia:
Noosa Heads, Queensland

Canada:
Whistler, British Columbia

France:
Paris
Saint-Rémy-de-Provence, Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur

Indonesia:
Buleleng Tejakula, Bali
Pecatu, Bali

Ireland:
Kilalloe, County Clare

Italy:
Amelia, Umbria

Sweden:
GÖteborg

Thailand:
Ko Samui, Surat Thani

United Kingdom:
Lewes, East Sussex
Beadlow, Bedfordshire

United States:
South Beach, Florida
Battery Park City, New York

Image from http://blog.barterquest.com

Who the F*** is That?

-Mike Munoz

Last year, Arcade Fire was the big winner at the Grammys and the most talked about band of the night; however it probably wasn’t the publicity they were hoping for. After accepting the award of Album of the Year for “The Suburbs,” the twitterverse and blogosphere blew up with one resounding question: Who the f*** is Arcade Fire?

All over the country, angry teenage girls tweeted their frustration. How can a band nobody has ever heard of can win a Grammy when their precious, prepubescent Bieber went home with none? There’s even an entire Tumblr dedicated to the confusion sparked by the Canadian super group, which is appropriately named “Who is Arcade Fire?

Like a fool, I hoped that this year would be different and that fans would learn how to use Wikipedia before posting such dumb questions. But this year was no different, and the first question of everyone’s mind was “Who is Bonny Bear?

The award for Best New Artist is always an exciting time for the public to meet some of the most promising new acts in the business, and this year the world was introduced to Bon Iver. Singer, songwriter Justin Vernon accepted the award and delivered one of the most awkward acceptance speeches of the night, and it wasn’t long before viewers started asking questions about the straggly, bearded stranger on stage.

The twitterverse and blogosphere were once again bursting with questions like “Did they find this guy outside of Staples Center?” and my personal favorite, “Who is Bonny Bear?” As if Bon Iver’s victory wasn’t puzzling enough for some, it seemed that the band’s name carried the confusion to a whole new level earning Vernon and company the new nickname, Bonny Bear.

While the Bon Iver/ Bonny Bear blunder mostly came across as amusing, the Grammys audience went on to prove that musical knowledge is at an all time low. Things were about to get much, much worse.

After all of the performances were over and the last awards were handed out, Paul McCartney ended the night with the final songs from “Abbey Road.” As the show came to an end, the elderly Beatle was joined on stage by some of the guitarists who performed earlier that night. Once again, tweeters started asking questions. But they weren’t asking about Joe Walsh or Bruce Springsteen or Dave Grohl. They were asking about the old guy playing the left-handed guitar. People were actually asking the question, “Who is Paul McCartney?

Call me old fashioned, but I was raised in a house where everything I learned about music started with one band and one band only: The Beatles. Whether I went on to listen to punk rock or folk music or heavy metal didn’t matter to my parents. As long as I respected the impact The Beatles had on the musical word, they felt they had done their jobs. Now I understand that most people are going to have different taste in music than I do. But this is The Beatles. And we’re not talking about Ringo. We’re talking about Sir Paul McCartney, arguably the most famous of the Fab Four.

While last night’s confusion is a bit concerning to me as a music fan, I try not to put too much stock in the ramblings that show up on my Twitter feed. I mean, it only took the Grammys five years and two records to figure out who Bon Iver was. But Justin Vernon isn’t a Beatle, and I find it embarrassing to live in a time where people don’t have the slightest clue who Paul McCartney is. So next time you’re watching the Grammys and you’re not quite sure who that old guy is, save yourself the embarrassment and check Wikipedia before you tweet, “Who the f*** is that?”

Follow Mike at @MikeMunoz12