AstronomyPaintingScienceVisual Art

AI: You Got Science All Over My Art! You Got Art All Over My Science!

Black Hole, 2009 Oil on board

Hi everyone! I’m really thrilled to be a contributor for what I’m sure will be an incredible new project. I started out as a lurker and then commenter on Skepchick and, through hard work, determination and bribes of homemade cookies and handsomely rendered portraiture, I am now a proud contributor here at Mad Art Lab. You can find me on Twitter at @brianggeorge, and Facebook. You can view my portfolio by clicking my disembodied head (avatar) if you see it floating around in the comments.

Some background on me. I live in the charming hamlet of Brooklyn, NY and I studied illustration at the School of Visuals Arts back in the late 1990’s. I had always liked science as a kid, but it wasn’t until the last few years when I discovered podcasts and, by extension, the Skeptical Community, that I really and truly fell in love with science, big time.

Since this love affair began, I’ve been hell-bent on trying to use my powers for good: using artwork as a means to promote science and critical thinking amongst the public. And this approach has already had some nice results. In late 2009, my wife and I co-curated an exhibition based on Phil Plait’s book, Death from the Skies! I was able to discuss the concepts underlying the artwork with the public during the exhibition. The attendees were interested, they asked questions, and I had several long conversations about coronal mass ejections. It showed me that there are ways to engage the public in learning science and enjoying science by using artwork as a vehicle.

That is what I aim to do. (There’s money in that, right?)

So my question to all of you is: What do you think are good ways to use the arts to promote scientific literacy and critical thinking? What areas would benefit most from a science/art collaboration? Is there some work of art that has  inspired you in your science-y life?

The ART Inquisition (or AI) is a question posed to you, the Mad Art Lab community. Look for it to appear Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays at 3pm ET.

Brian George

Brian George is an illustrator and designer who lives and works in Brooklyn, New York. In his spare time he makes videos of Spirograph drawings and complains about doing laundry. Website: Twitter: @brianggeorge Insta: @brianggeorge If you're into what I'm doing, feel free to throw down a bit in my tipjar here: @brianggeorge

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  1. One word ( it might be two ): Davinci.

    As a kid, I was fascinated with him and as an adult I have seen several exhibits based on his scientific theories and many paintings in museums in both the USA and Europe.

    As the epitome of the Renaissance man, Davinci sought no boundaries. He was limited only by his own intellect and creativity.

    If we limit our conversation to the visual arts we truly limit the intersection between the arts and sciences, but if we expand the conversation between creativity and science, the best of the best can’t do one well without the other.

    In my own adventures as a physician, since I have entered the world of acting and improv , it has allowed me to become a better listener for my patients. It also helps that I can draw a little, because I often draw concepts or anatomy on paper as we talk.

    Will my doodles equal dollars for a future collector?

    Never in a million years.

    Maybe Davinci said the same thing.

  2. Scientific illustration is one of the coolest ways, in my opinion, that science and art interact. Paleo art, artist conceptions of space, detailed drawings of creatures the average person will never see, and the like, tend to stick in people’s minds and make them more curious about the scientific concepts behind them. I’ve also discovered that science cartooning is a great way to promote scientific literacy and critical thinking… when in high school, half of the reason I passed AP Physics was because the Cartoon Guide to Physics explained the concepts in a rigorous, but yet clear and easy-to-follow manner. Plus, it was way more fun to read than my textbook.

    Art definitely inspired my sciencey self, although I didn’t realize it much at the time. Every single fleshed-out dinosaur I’ve ever seen was created by a paleoartist. I’ve met the people who created the 20 foot long model of Supercroc and the iconic painting of the T-Rex Sue standing on a dead hadrosaur. Those are the images that inspired my love of prehistoric life in the first place.

    And finally, welcome to Mad Art Lab! Excited to see where this sister site goes.

  3. If we limit our conversation to the visual arts we truly limit the intersection between the arts and sciences, but if we expand the conversation between creativity and science, the best of the best can’t do one well without the other.

    I can get behind that. Creativity is the driving force behind both disciplines. Although, as a visual artist, I am obligated by law to tell you that you are wrong 😀 (nice to see you over here)

  4. Have you ever seen the book Our Universe by National Geographic? That book BLEW MY MIND as a kid. It was the perfect blend of science writing for kids and scientific illustration. There’s a really wonderful, nostalgic post about this book over on Science-based Parenting that I read. That book had such an influence on me.
    The Cartoon Guide to Physics sounds really cool as well.
    And thanks for the welcome. This is going to be a lot of fun for all of us.

  5. Outside of the aforementioned DaVinci and paleoartists (James Gurney! I love his blog…) the next thing that comes to mind is Audubon and other nature-documenting artists (I know there’s a word for that but my brain is not cooperating with spitting it out).

    I spent hours and hours looking through bird, herb, and tree books as a kid, and back then it was illustrations rather than photos. I would love to be able to paint that well someday! But I know those inspired me to look into those subjects more than just text would have though I did love to read.

    The other major thing that comes to mind is music – They Might Be Giants, mentioned in an earlier post is a good example. I love music, and songs like “Why does the sun shine” are really good ways to remember facts. A lot of people remember songs very well – we know probably hundreds of songs well enough to sing along, even when you don’t realized you’re doing that. If we can slip some science in there, we’ll brainwash listeners into being educated!

  6. Some scientists are utterly dismissive of art, despite their personal artistic talent. Take my niece, who turned 9 on Saturday. She draws (mostly dinosaurs and sea creatures) intently for several hours every day, but don’t dare call it Art. For example, she got an earthworm farm for Christmas 2008. She had just learned to read, but wasn’t much interested in reading until she discovered the existence of books about spiders and sharks and other biology texts. This discovery was shortly after Christmas, after she had set the instruction book that came with the worm farm aside. A few months later, she rediscovered the booklet, read it from cover to cover, and one of the suggested activities was to draw a picture of your worm farm, showing the tunnels and other features, and then repeat this now and then to track the worms’ excavations. She made a very careful drawing of the farm, and when she finished, my brother told her that it looked really good and asked if she was going to color it in and make it pretty. She went ballistic. “No! Colors are for Art. This isn’t Art. This is SCIENCE!”

    When she’s older, I’ll be sure to send her to this web site. I hope she’ll come to appreciate that Science and Art aren’t enemies, eventually.

  7. I LOVE that story, Buzz. It’s really funny! I’m sure she’ll come around one day (and make sure you bookmark this page for its future ‘See? Told Ya So’ value.)

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