Saturday, June 11, 2016

Beware the Golden Nautilus

“Beware the Golden Nautilus.”
June 1st, 2016
Excerpt from “Early Mythological History and Mythical Creatures of Ancient Tlanta” J. Rethkin, Gibbons Press. 1992

Golden Nautilus

During the last 40 years of the Zekliphto Dynasty of Tlanta, Mefistenom, ruler of Perinesia declared the “Golden Nautilus” (as we might call it) as a treasured object of his desire. He sent out order to his men to find the creature at all cost, and even placed a reward of two hundred and twenty-eight Yemets (enough to sustain an entire village for three generations) to whomever may bring him a single, unscathed specimen of the elusive sea-creature’s shell. Mefistenom had by then acquired just about every other imaginable rich and exotic treasure known to the world of Tlanta.

Known locally as Maukramium  Aurus, this legendary creature had come to Mefistenom’s attention via his court oracle, a mysterious woman by the name of Tiabatha Muriem. Tiabatha had told Mefistenom that it was not the pure gold comprising the creature’s shell that held its true value.

The Maukramium was an ancient creature, older than Tlantan civilization itself. Legend told that only this single being represented the entirety of the species, born from the will of the Sacred Source, for an unknown reason. To hunt for and find this most rare token was enough enticement to Mefistenom’s caprice, and yet, Tiabatha had said, the true value of the creature lied in the proportions of its spiraling shell. Encoded in the ratios and form of Maukramium’s golden shell, Tiabatha explained, was a hidden message: the secret behind life and death, the ultimate key to the sacred mechanism of the universe.

Mefistenom summoned a most vigorous search party, recruiting skilled sailors, fishermen and special emissaries from all over Perinesia and abroad. He even ordered the construction of fifty submarine vessels, ones that required unprecedented use of technological and engineering skill and knowledge.

A search campaign unlike any other in the oceanic history of Tlanta had been put forth, scanning the coasts and main bodies of water comprising the accessible majority of the Audrean and Perinesian seas. Submarine posts were established from the Gulf of Sudame, through the Ajurian Rift all the way to the mouth of the Igpis Delta.

While arguably beneficial to the growth and technical development of the Perinesian culture, court advisors and elders worried that Mefistenom’s obsession was becoming evermore costly. A few covert attempts were made to procure a counterfeit replica of the shell to present to the ambitious ruler as a trophy that may quench his thirst for treasure. It only took one quick glance from Tiabatha Muriem’s eyes to affirm that the real Maukramium Aurus was yet to be found.

A group of most experienced seamen (those credited with the design and construction of the Anubius Vessel, the only ship capable of traversing the entirety of the Audrean sea in one continuous trip) had requested an audience with Mefistenom in regards to the Maukramium.

The Anubius men told Mefistenom of their firm conviction that, if such creature were to really exist, it most likely resided in the oldest depth of Tlanta’s oceans: a dreaded deep-sea canyon known for absorbing ships straight out of the surface, called Ourukatam, or “swallowing sea-beast”.

Seeking advice from Tiabatha Muriem once more, Mefistenom brought the wise woman to the round table. “These men are right.” She said. “Ourukatam is the hiding place of Maukramium Aurus. I sense it now, in the salt of their hands” She said. An air of excitement filled the room.
The leader of the Anubius men stood up and requested, on behalf of his group, to be given the honor of pursuing this dangerous mission. “What’s in it for you?” Asked Mefistenom, “you would risk your life just for honor?” The Anubius leader replied: “Exploring the oceans is our life.  Even the opportunity to glance this creature once would complete our purpose.”

“No.” Interrupted Tiabatha taking a step forward, looking into the distance as if in the middle of receiving a message. “These men will not bring Maukramium. Any sailor may reach Ourukatam, and even find Maukramium in its lair. But once retrieved, only a ship manned by high royal blood will be able to make the return trip with the creature aboard. Besides, he who first glances the Maukramium shall receive its full power”. “It is decided then.” Proclaimed Mefistenom.

Two weeks later, a fleet of twenty ships led by Mefistenom himself departed from the Port of Machuria. Fifteen of the ships contained Mefistenom’s untrained-for-sea royal servants, court advisors, guards, etc. The other five belonged to the Anubius men who had offered to escort the royal fleet to their destination. Tiabatha Muriem was to stay in the mainland and provide feedback and advice using her oracular powers and the aid of messenger birds.

By the third month of travel, as the fleets approached the perimeter that comprised Ourukatam, one of Tiabatha’s birds brought a warning for Mefistenom: “Send the fleet back now. To achieve your goal, you must complete the journey on your ship alone”. And so, the ships returned to Perinesia and Mefistenom’s vessel entered Ourukatam on its own.

That was the last anyone ever saw or heard of Mefistenom, the last ruler of the Zekliphto dynasty. Whether he ever caught a glimpse of the Maukramium Aurus or not, we will never know. Back in the mainland, Tiabatha Muriem ordered all of Mefistenom’s riches to be divided amongst the people of Perinesia. Copious amounts of horded treasure allowed for each citizen to receive a substantial portion.

Tiabatha Muriem gave land to the remaining royal servants and urged them to become just leaders. She gave generous compensation to the families of all the sailors, fishermen, hunters and explorers lost over decades of Mefistenom’s treasure hunting campaigns. She also paid the engineers and designers of the fifty submarine vessels, and gave said vessels to the Anubius men.

Finally, Tiabatha Muriem paid for the construction of buildings that would act as centers for the disbursal and creation of knowledge. Then, she smelted the remaining gold and paid the city’s welders to forge coins of equal value to be distributed equally amongst all the citizens. In the frontal face of the coin, she had the welders forge the symbol of a new era: a depiction of Maukramium Aurus.

Then, Tiabatha Muriem spoke these words to the people of Perinesia: “The treasure of our world is for our whole world to share. The knowledge and wisdom of our world is for our whole world to share. Not a single item, creature or individual can hold the entire truth, wealth or wisdom of our universe, because said truth is precisely in the interconnected and inseparable nature of each -and all- things. Everything is one. This is the secret of the Golden Nautilus.”

Tiabatha then left Perinesia with nothing but a satchel of food and water, never to be seen or heard of again. The story of Mefistenom, Tiabatha and the Maukramium Aurus quickly spread through the entirety of Tlanta, marking the beginning of the first Age of Wisdom and the five-hundred-year-long era of the Fair Rulers of Tlanta.

Mouseion Torisiae (Torisian Museum of Curiosities)

"Mouseion Torisiae" or "Torisian Museum of Curiosities"
Alberto J. Almarza
Photo Sphere Drawing
Pencil, ink, watercolor and mixed media on paper
May 28, 2016

View on Google Maps HERE.
View on Flickr HERE.
View on Google Photos HERE.

This is the "Torisian Museum of Curiosities" or "Mouseion Torisiae", possibly the first photo sphere drawing of its kind! What this means is that this is a truly immersive drawing, one that the viewer can actually "enter" and view from a 360 degree vantage point, looking at it all around.
If you have ever explored on Google street view, you will see these kinds of photos everywhere. But to create an artwork that worked under these same principles took me a little while to figure out...
I truly believe this is something that could soon become a common practice among artists, since for many of us this is a dream come true: being able to fully enter a drawing and explore it from the inside, almost like something out of Mary Poppins...

Torisian Museum Final

For a preliminary experience you could click on the above image and it would take you to its Flickr version. Even in your phone, if you own the flick app, their interface allows you to view the image up close as if it was rotating around you. You can click and drag it to explore different areas. Google Photos has similar format and you can find this image here. It's really cool, but not as immersive as the VR experience.

If you ask me, the ideal way to experience the immersive nature of this work; in order to really "enter the artwork", you should use your mobile device, a VR viewer, and Google Street view. I'm not sure if you are aware that you can experience virtual reality at the palm of your hand. A VR viewer, such as "google cardboard" could cost you as little as 5 bucs. It's literally just a piece of cardboard with a pair of stereoscopic lenses. You just slide your smart phone into it and voila, you have access to a myriad of free virtual reality experiences at the tip of your fingers. One of my favorite ones is Google Street View. When I first found this out I spent about an hour exploring Venice. Then I went to Machu Pichu. It almost feels like being there.

So you should be able to visit the Torisian Museum using the street view app here. All you should have to do is open the image on your app (hopefully it works on your phone) and then click on the stereo icon, which looks like a pair of glasses or goggles. Then slide your phone into the VR viewer, and be among the first to actually enter a drawing! Unfortunately, I cannot guarantee that this will totally work for you. I'm not really a tech-savvy person which is why I have been trying to approach this in the most mass-media-accessible way possible.

Google Cardboard

It was quite a venture for me to figure this out. I had been thinking for a long time of ways in which I could create an immersive drawing. I have created stereoscopic drawings before, anamorphic drawings and other perspective illusions. In my work I have also created terrariums, dioramas, and a little bit of installation. The idea is that rather than having suspended and isolated objects for viewers to look at, immersion allows the viewer to actually become part of the work. This, in combination with my interest in the creation of "Worlds", has constantly pushed me in the direction of exploring ways to create or simulate reality and immersion.

Now if you are interested in the process of conception and creation of this particular drawing, please read along.

When I first experienced photo spheres I knew this was something I wanted to explore. So the first thing I did was take a photo sphere image myself. I used my phone and the Google street view camera and took a picture of my porch. When looking at the flat version of my picture I immediately noticed there was a very legible pattern there, a grid, which governed the behavior of all lines in the photo. As a student of perspective this was both mind blowing, exciting, and obvious. I rushed and threw the picture in a paint program on my phone, and using a stylus I quickly and roughly traced some of the lines to unveil the pattern.

Photosphere Grid
The result was ugly but definitive: there was a clear pattern there, and I immediately became confident that I could draft the grid using my geometry skills. I began fantasizing, planning and studying the structures in my sketchbook...

Stereo-spherical thoughts First Photosphere Sketches

I started drafting ideas for the grid using compass and straightedge and made some quicker but descriptive drawings to try out. Pretty soon I had drawings that I thought could work, but didn't know how to format them properly for viewing. For a moment there, I had hit a standstill.

Photosphere Drawing Studies Equirectangular Perspective Studies

That's when my 11th grader "student prodigy" and friend Anthony Quesen suggested an app called Photosphere xmp tagger. This app allowed me to take any JPEG image and convert it to an xmp extension, which is what google street view and other interfaces use to display photo spheres. The result was great!

PhotoSphere Drawing

Photo Sphere Drawing

This was really exciting, but there were some problems. While the general effect was mesmerizing, there was still a lot of distortion, specially around the top and bottom of the images. I also realized that I was still drawing "flat" pictures, as in rectangular compositions, or "windows". I realized that a true photo sphere had to include the entirety of a space, essentially everything the eye could see from a central location, all around. This took some more figuring and planning.
I worked on perfecting the grid which, I finally realized, was not composed of circular curves but rather "irregular" ones. I finally arrived at a final grid that would become the under-painting or scaffolding, so to speak, of my image.

Equirectangular Grid

I used this grid as a strict guideline to inform the perspective of my drawing. I first used tracing paper to loosely and roughly define the structure and main features of the drawing. I then transferred that outline onto a piece of watercolor paper and began to methodically create the whole thing in layers of increasing detail.

Torisian Museum Progress 1

Torisian Museum Progress 2

Torisian Museum Progress 3

Torisian Museum Progress 4

Torisian Museum Final

Well, I hope to continue to improve on this idea and get better at finding ways to offer my work to those who may enjoy it.
Thanks for visiting!



"Concavexerners" is a "short" term for "Concave Convex Corners"
These are drawings created on concave corners that are made to appear as if they were convex structures resembling cubes. It took me some figuring out in my sketchbook before I was ready to fully draw these...

Concave Convex studies

If you are an observative nerd like me, you may have noticed that if you stare at the very corner of a room for long enough, you may be able to trick your perception into seeing said corner as if it was the protruding vertex of a cube. I could show you a context view, but instead I think I wanna leave you to wreck your brain on these a little. These are NOT what they appear to be; they are actually concave and not convex objects.

Work Table

I showed these at the Irma Freeman Center for Imagination, and seeing the actual objects is much more effective than the photographs. They produce a strange "wiggling" effect that makes them seem as though they were three-dimensional.

End of the World

Drawing these was tricky because I had to account for many factors such as viewing angle and distance. The drawings themselves had to be done following strict but "distorted" perspective lines.

Hiding Spot

Hope you enjoyed!


Catching Up!

When asked recently to share a link to some of my work online, I realized just how outdated my blog was! My most recent entry was in 2014... ooops. It could be easy for someone seeing that post to think that I've been inactive, or that I haven't produced any work since, but this is far from the truth. At least for me, usually focusing deeply on the production of artwork goes reversely proportional to the time spent on publicity/disbursal. Art takes time. So I decided to catch up and share some of the "art things" that have emerged since. Roughly, as of the last post, lots of things have been going on...

Many things have remained the same. I've been teaching around the clock, being a good daddy, and finding love in the simple things...

    Student Support Daddy Selfie Love in The Simple Things

Things in the laboratory are looking up...

Laboratory Specimen

Been exploring some cool geometric stuff...
And continuing to observe and study nature.

Scissura Infundibulum Quick Face Study Fig Tree

I've been maintaining a healthy diet,

Edible Landscapes Rough Sketch

...and generally I can say that all the worlds and their various inhabitants have continued to grow, prosper and even thrive.

Artifact Landscapes Nomolo Color Studies

(I've been actually doing a whole lot of writing; little stories here and there, and working on the arduous and slow production of a book that still has many years ahead in its making. I suppose if you are interested I could share a lil somethin, not my best one, mind you ;) for which I will make a separate post. It's called "Beware the Golden Nautilus")

Golden Nautilus

The drawing came first, and from it emerged the story, which is in itself independent and yet peripherally connected to the aforementioned book.
I am usually so serious and particular about the concepts in my work that it can slow and even stop my ability to create. This and some of the following works are more recent and born of a decision to just create drawings spontaneously and quickly, acting more like exercises. As such, they still have turned out pretty solid, and fun.

Arcade 2020

This one is called "Arcade 2020" and it has surreptitiously but surely begun to shape another short story of its own. I did this and the following ink drawing called "Chicken Mech" during a couple of my lunch breaks, between teaching at work. I honestly don't have as much time as I would like to make art.

Chicken Mech Tech

Sometimes being around kids so much makes my work go coo coo, like Chicken Mech. Kids love that piece. If I happen to be working during class, like in the case of the next painting (which I did last year while teaching the 11th graders how to paint) then the stakes are high and I better do well. Sometimes this can yield pretty decent quick artworks, like this acrylic on canvas painting of an Artifact Landscape:

Mundi Vessel

I say this piece was quick because of its execution, working a little each class for about one week, maybe a total of ten hours max. That is short for my usual timeline creating a piece. But things like the geometry of that sphere, the idea and the methods used to create it have taken me some years to develop. Doing sketches and process for it surely helped too.

My work is generally very time-consuming otherwise. I tend to get really immersed in concepts and pieces that take a lot of research, tons of tedious work and patience. These are the kinds of works that I am usually most proud of and also the ones that end up coming out every other solar eclipse or so...
For these types of works I like to make more elaborate and individual blog posts, because I think it's cool to be able to share some of the more intimate aspects, details and hardships of art-making.

Among these works are a series of optical illusion drawings that really challenge the way in which we perceive space and the relationship between two and three dimensions (a most common theme in my work). I call them "Concave Convex Corners", or "Concavexerners" for short.

Concave Convex studies

But perhaps the single most exciting artwork that I have created recently is a drawing called "Mouseion Torisiae", or "Museum of Torisian Curiosities", which may actually be a first of its kind.
It was drawn using equi-rectangular perspective and formatted to work as a photo sphere. In other words, it is a drawing which the viewer can literally enter and experience immersively, looking at it all around with a 360 degree vantage point. This drawing took me SO MUCH WORK. Now that I figured it out though, it should be a relatively easy format to make use of, and you might agree that it is worth it! Here is a simple image of it, but to get the most out of this drawing make sure to check out the post, where you will get to see more about the process, learn how to best view photo spheres, and maybe even create your own!

Torisian Museum Final

I hope you've enjoyed this very belated update, stay creative, and as always thank you for visiting my blog.