Since it’s heading toward the end of Darwin and Lincoln’s birthdays in my time zone I’m just linking to an interesting article in Smithsonian “How Lincoln and Darwin Shaped the Modern World” about the two men who shared a birthday and never met, but both impacted the way the world thought, and thinks. Continue reading
Tag Archives: evolution
play with wire, precious
metals and watercolors
touch of the brush–salt
and paint diffuse in water
dreaming of vast ancient seas
I don’t have the widest range of hobbies. I like to play with photography and go for long walks/low impact hikes (I’m not a fan of heights; last time I was on a proper up mountain type of hike to look out over a waterfall my friends had to peel me off of a tree after a panic attack), but I don’t really live in an area where I can do that alone (or at night) safely.
So I mostly make things. Neither wire work nor sewing are particularly easy on the wrists. Add to that a job with a lot of time spend on the computer and shelving heavy objects and my wrists are a bit of a disaster.
But I get so *bored* when I can’t type or make things, and reading is never as much fun when it’s my only option for entertainment. So awhile a go a friend had suggested painting might be a lower impact kind of creative project.
Great idea in theory, didn’t work out in practice. I don’t do abstract so well, but honestly don’t have the patience for proper depth and the degree of detail I want (and detail=still rough on wrists) so I kind of fell into paleoart. I had a nice notebook with watercolor paper and decided that it would be a dig journal for a steampunk character I was creating. For practice I started making artist trading cards with different fossils, or imaginings of what they would have looked like alive. Some are the fossils you’ve seen on here in my jewelry: ammonites and orthoceras.
I also tried to play with crinoids (a class of echinoderms–distant cousins of starfish and sand dollars–their name means lily form) and some of the critters from the Burgess Shale. (Go to the website, that’s a hike I’d love to do, and the song cracks me up.) Those animals are actually pretty tough to get a handle on.
The Burgess shale is a fossil field dating from the mid Cambrian (much earlier than the ammonites or the brachiopods I was showing before, about 500 million years ago). It is known for having a wide range of fossils of soft bodied bottom dwellers.
They were an odd looking lot (to modern eyes at least). It was sort of like life was trying out all these different forms and directions and saw which ones survived and which thrived. But they’re really fun to doodle. Like a combination of dragons and the children of elder gods with a bit of really cranky sea urchin thrown in. One illustrator on deviantart did a fantastic homage to the six classic species of the Cambrian explosion.
The Natural History Museum (London) has a really nifty 3-D model of an anomalocaris that you can move around. And see why it’s such a hard critter to figure out! They also have a 3-D model of an ammonite fossil and the inside of a brachiopod on the menu next to the anomalocaris.
I had some small scraps of watercolor paper where I was pleased with the crystal bursts and didn’t want to throw them out, so that led me to making even tinier watercolors to set behind glass cabochons to wire wrap for pendants. (Probably reaching the pinnacle of nonmarketable jewelry, I’m afraid. But I do enjoy making them.)
So, vacation for joints was pretty much a fail, and I’m not very good at watercolor. But I fancy I get some good depth in my paintings of shells. And people keep calling my ammonites cute. I’m not sure how to take that…
“Ignorance more frequently begets confidence than does knowledge: it is those who know little, not those who know much, who so positively assert that this or that problem will never be solved by science.” -Charles Darwin
A modern classic of cartooning in Lincoln’s honor…
(Sorry for sticking with links, the computer seems to be really moody about inserting images or videos today!)
Fossil –noun 1. any remains, impression, or trace of a living thing of a former geologic age, as a skeleton, footprint, etc.
There are several different types of fossilization, the one I run across the most in jewelry is replacement fossils, where the original materials are completely replaced by minerals in such a way that the original biological details are maintained. (In nonorganic materials this is called psedumorphism- like how tiger’s eye is an asebestos pseudomorph.)
I decided I’d use the Darwin Day theme to feature some of my favorite fossil inspired pieces.
KubusRubus is an artist I was lucky enough to run across on deviantart. We sort of became craft supply penpals. He’s a much better artist than me, but I take an odd amount of pride in the fact that I’m the one who got him working with fossils in some of his pieces. And I always feel like I’m sending them off to a better home, since I have to take what I’m dealt while he knows how to cut and polish and pamper them 😉 Though I do sometimes worry they’ll come to a bad end if they don’t behave…
Another artist I’ve run across and started following on deviantart is DBPJewelry. She does gorgeous and seriously intricate wirework with some stunning stones, one of which is the gem ammolite. Ammolite is ammonite that fossilized in such a way as to have a dramatic play of color on the surface. Plenty of small ammonites have an irridescense to them, but most are a gentle or pearly sheen. Depending on the thickness of the coating ammolite ranges from firey reds and parrot greens to unreal purples. She also has recently completed some really beautiful pieces using fossil coral and a mix of metals. One of her newest is this really classy little black-dress-craving pale oval coral piece. (Which besides being starkly gorgeous is also an example of a replacement fossil.)
Obviously, I like playing with fossils myself as well as oggling them. Orthoceras and ammonites are my main choices, simply because they’re relatively plentiful and yet interesting. Both are names given to multiple related species of long extinct cephalopods. Various species of ammonites meandered the seas between 300 and 65 million years ago. That’ s a lot of time to leave traces behind! Orthoceras like the one in KubusRubus’s Future pendant are even older than ammonites, they date from around 450 million years ago.
For further fossil hunting inspiration, check out Tracy Chevalier’s novel Remarkable Creatures, which is loosely based on one of the first fossil hunters. And it has ammonites, yay ammonites! And check out the Guardian’s article on Barbara Hastings.
Starting the Darwin Day celebration a little early, and what’s a celebration without a toast?
So, though it’s not the best take on the theory, Langdon Smith’s Evolution. I always found this poem oddly charming.
By Langdon Smith
When you were a tadpole and I was a fish
In the Paleozoic time,
And side by side on the ebbing tide
We sprawled through the ooze and slime,
Or skittered with many a caudal flip
Through the depths of the Cambrian fen,
My heart was rife with the joy of life,
For I loved you even then.
Mindless we lived and mindless we loved
And mindless at last we died;
And deep in the rift of the Caradoc drift
We slumbered side by side.
The world turned on in the lathe of time,
The hot lands heaved amain,
Till we caught our breath from the womb of death
And crept into life again.
We were amphibians, scaled and tailed,
And drab as a dead man’s hand;
We coiled at ease ‘neath the dripping trees
Or trailed through the mud and sand.
Croaking and blind, with our three-clawed feet
Writing a language dumb,
With never a spark in the empty dark
To hint at a life to come.
Yet happy we lived and happy we loved,
And happy we died once more;
Our forms were rolled in the clinging mold
Of a Neocomian shore.
The eons came and the eons fled
And the sleep that wrapped us fast
Was riven away in a newer day
And the night of death was passed.
Then light and swift through the jungle trees
We swung in our airy flights,
Or breathed in the balms of the fronded palms
In the hush of the moonless nights;
And oh! what beautiful years were there
When our hearts clung each to each;
When life was filled and our senses thrilled
In the first faint dawn of speech.
Thus life by life and love by love
We passed through the cycles strange,
And breath by breath and death by death
We followed the chain of change.
Till there came a time in the law of life
When over the nursing sod
The shadows broke and the soul awoke
In a strange, dim dream of God.
I was thewed like an Auroch bull
And tusked like the great cave bear;
And you, my sweet, from head to feet
Were gowned in your glorious hair.
Deep in the gloom of a fireless cave,
When the night fell o’er the plain
And the moon hung red o’er the river bed
We mumbled the bones of the slain.
I flaked a flint to a cutting edge
And shaped it with brutish craft;
I broke a shank from the woodland lank
And fitted it, head and haft;
Than I hid me close to the reedy tarn,
Where the mammoth came to drink;
Through the brawn and bone I drove the stone
And slew him upon the brink.
Loud I howled through the moonlit wastes,
Loud answered our kith and kin;
From west to east to the crimson feast
The clan came tramping in.
O’er joint and gristle and padded hoof
We fought and clawed and tore,
And cheek by jowl with many a growl
We talked the marvel o’er.
I carved that fight on a reindeer bone
With rude and hairy hand;
I pictured his fall on the cavern wall
That men might understand.
For we lived by blood and the right of might
Ere human laws were drawn,
And the age of sin did not begin
Til our brutal tusks were gone.
And that was a million years ago
In a time that no man knows;
Yet here tonight in the mellow light
We sit at Delmonico’s.
Your eyes are deep as the Devon springs,
Your hair is dark as jet,
Your years are few, your life is new,
Your soul untried, and yet —
Our trail is on the Kimmeridge clay
And the scarp of the Purbeck flags;
We have left our bones in the Bagshot stones
And deep in the Coralline crags;
Our love is old, our lives are old,
And death shall come amain;
Should it come today, what man may say
We shall not live again?
God wrought our souls from the Tremadoc beds
And furnish’d them wings to fly;
He sowed our spawn in the world’s dim dawn,
And I know that it shall not die,
Though cities have sprung above the graves
Where the crook-bone men made war
And the ox-wain creaks o’er the buried caves
Where the mummied mammoths are.
Then as we linger at luncheon here
O’er many a dainty dish,
Let us drink anew to the time when you
Were a tadpole and I was a fish.
Of course, for a more cynical and possibly mean spirited moment of fun, you can always take a moment to celebrate Darwin Day by reading through the Darwin Awards and indulge in a dose or two of schadenfreude.
Though, like most biopics, it was not particularly accurate, I found Creation a worthwhile watch. Besides finding the topic interesting, it had an excellent cast and good soundtrack. Unfortunately I had to get it though netflix once it was released on DVD, since no theaters around here would show it.
Sir David Attenborough gives a quick overview of the evolution of life.
Nowhere to go today, still snowing quite heavily outside. So a quick warning-only one month to plan your Darwin Day party! February 12 was Darwin’s birthday (And Lincoln’s as well, though at least he gets President’s Day) and is considered a good date for a global celebration of science and reason. I’ve always found it a more low key, less exclusive, celebration than Valentine’s Day.