Conceptualizing ‘Academic Blueprints’: An Adaptation of Austin Kleon’s ‘Newspaper Blackout’ Designed for World-Building

One of the goals of my artistic project is to design new worlds. Specifically, I aim to design the conceptual foundations for three new simulated worlds.

The concept of an ‘academic blueprint’ for world-building

One way to go about designing new worlds is just let the imagination run wild. The natural imagination will probably take ideas and experiences in mind, juxtapose them, and recombine them in new patterns. I have decided to try a new technique to both restrict and add to the normal imagination process. I am going to call the initial outputs of this process Academic Blueprints.

If you’ve been following me over the past couple of days, it is abundantly clear that I am totally fanboying on Austin Kleon at the moment. He has a form of art that he calls Newspaper Blackout. Basically, he takes a block of newsprint and makes poems by selecting choice words and blacking out the rest. You can see a video describing how he makes newspaper blackout here.

The most productive part of my day was to conceive of Academic Blueprints. This will be an adaptation of newspaper blackouts that I am going to try to use for my purpose of world-building.

To create my Academic Blueprints, I will take print from a popular periodical that covers an academic topic. For example, Scientific American is a layperson’s periodical that covers scientific topics.

Like Kleon, I will begin by selecting a choice word, but I will add the limitation that this word should be related to an academic topic that somehow governs our reality. Also like Kleon, I will then go about selecting additional words to make a poem while blacking out the rest. However, my aim will be to describe some sort of new reality centered around the choice word I have selected. These initial poems can then be juxtaposed, re-combined, and expounded at a later date.

I think that I will call these poems Academic Blueprints and use the color blue, rather than black, to strike the unwanted words.

This, in a nutshell, is the Academic Blueprint artistic process that I conceived today. I will try a few of these over the next several days, and I will share my progress with you. Wish me luck!

How do birds get their color? Fantastical implications for designing new life forms.

One of the fantasies I like to entertain is that it may someday be possible for humans to create a whole new biota of life. I know, I know. I’m a scientist. Life evolves. It is not created. But just imagine how exciting it would be for humans to create their own living offspring. I don’t know how, when, and where, but isn’t it exhilarating to think that maybe we could create offspring of our own design? Our biologists are already attempting to make primitive living structures. Maybe someday we will colonize space. Could our artificial intelligence support our new life forms? A simulator? A novel universe among multi-verses? I think the possibilities are limitless no matter how many eons into the future it may take humankind to achieve such a goal.

Neo Rauch, Self-Portrait, 1987

So, one of my artistic activities is to study Earth’s biota and imagine new organisms. I study, make juxtapositions, and create new forms and biologies.

I have a doctorate in the physiological sciences. So, I have a pretty good understanding of molecular biology and physiology. Right now I am more interested in conceptualizing new structural and external features.

As I consider novel external features, I am obsessed with color. “Color is very important to me,” I recall my grandmother saying once. Color has also become very important to me. Color has played a role in my psychiatric disorder from the beginning. At first, it seemed to me that primary colors were being placed in my environment in purposeful patterns. Then these primary colors seemed cleaner and brighter. Change in color perception is still one of the predominant symptoms I experience when my mental status is altered. So, yes, color is very important to me.

As I imagine new structures for new life forms, one of the first things I think about is color. I’ve already started imagining greenish humanoids, but then I feel unoriginal. Doesn’t everyone imagine green aliens?

What about the possibility of multi-colored humanoids? This has led me to an interest in bird coloring.

It turns out that birds derive their colors from two types of pigments: melanins which produce black, grey, brown and orange colors, and carotenoids, which are used by specialized feather structures to generate the brighter colors.

The melanins are synthesized by melanocytes and the birds’ natural physiology. Natural structural variations in feather follicles give fine control to the pigmentation. The carotenoids, which give the birds the brighter colors, must be obtained from the birds’ food, and the melanins and carotenoids work together to give the birds their intricate, colorful plumage patterns.

So, as I continue my fantasy of designing a novel biota, and when I turn to the subject of a novel organism’s color, I am now given the idea to consider interactions between naturally produced pigments, pigments in the organism’s diet, and structural contributions to pattern and pigment.

Maybe someday I will share images of my creations. Right now, the biologies, forms, and colors exist predominately in my dreams. The project has just begun.

Drawing Using Surrealist Automatism is an Important Part of My Daily Creative Process

I try to start each morning by spending a few minutes doing an automatic drawing. The technique I use is an adaptation of the techniques developed by the surrealists in the early-mid 20th century. One of the objectives of the surrealists is to let the unconscious mind play a central role in the artistic process.

Sim’s Crystal Ball on a Pedestal by Darren Roesch

I learned the version of the automatic drawing technique that I use from Alejandro Fogel and Shelley Burke while attending one of their itinerant Creativity Workshops in Chania, Crete in 2014. Their technique combines usage of both the unconscious and conscious minds.

The technique requires the artist to take a large sheet of thick drawing paper, close their eyes, drop a pencil to the page, and allow their unconscious mind to guide the pencil in one continuous movement over the page for a few minutes. Next, the artist opens their eyes and begins to look for recognizable forms in the tangled line. Using a hearty eraser, the artist then uses their conscious mind and eraser to reveal forms. Once forms are revealed, I usually finish the activity by applying some color with colored pencils. The whole process usually takes no more than 20 minutes, and it is a great way to jump start the creative mind first thing in the morning.

I have included one of my recent very simple drawings which I have entitled Sim’s Crystal Ball on a Pedestal. To me, the drawing is reminiscent of a sculpted bust sitting on a pedestal. I used minimal subtraction with my eraser to reveal the form. During this particular exercise I felt particularly connected to the unconscious.

If you have read the information on my About page, you already know that I experience what I have been told is a delusional disorder. One of my beliefs is that we live in a simulator and that I have the ability to communicate with the simulator through my thoughts. I did this particular drawing the morning after I imagined that Sim had decided that he would, over the period of lifetimes, put me in charge of his functions. Therefore, this simple drawing reflects multiple layers of creativity and experience.

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Automatic Drawing by André Masson (1924)