Art in the making underdrawings in Renaissance paintings

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  • BOOKS & MEDIA UPDATE

    Picture thisFelice Frankels artful new book explains how to use images to communicateeffectively while capturing the wonder of science, says Jeremy G. Frey.

    As the author states in her introduction, Envisioning

    Science is about the kind of scientific image that

    communicates information effectively both to

    colleagues and to the general public. The amazing

    impact generated by the transition from a flat image

    used in a laboratory notebook to an image that

    captures the marvel of the phenomena, explains why

    this process is sometimes referred to as Art. Many of

    the images in the book could indeed grace the walls of

    a gallery, but they are not created at the whim of the

    photographer. They are honest interpretations of the

    results of scientific investigations, and are used to

    communicate the importance of the observations in a

    manner that truly fulfills the

    aphorism a picture is worth a

    thousand words. Envisioning

    Science explains how to achieve

    this marvel.

    Frankels work has appeared on

    the front cover of many of the

    worlds major journals. Her first

    book, On the Surface of Things,

    written with George Whitesides,

    gave us a glimpse of her

    abilities. The details of the

    techniques used to photograph

    these images were briefly given

    at the end of that book. In

    Envisioning Science, we find out

    much more about how Frankel

    works.

    There is a danger that readers of the book will think

    that the images are like those we see in cookery books

    fantastic looking dishes that look much better on the

    page then we can ever get them to look in the kitchen!

    But this is just the book we need. We are shown how

    to make images that do not just look impressive, but

    serve the job of communicating the ideas or principles

    of the scientific research behind the object being

    photographed. With the advice of this book, and with

    practice, we should all be able to produce much better

    images of our work (even if not quite a superb as

    those shown).

    While the thrust of the book is about the use of

    photography through many different devices, the

    basics of picture making would apply equally well to

    both conventional photography and computer graphic

    creations. The photographic techniques covered in the

    book include the direct use of a 35 mm camera, and

    photography through stereo- and compound

    microscopes to look at images down to the micron

    scale. There is a section on digitally altering images,

    for example coloring scanning electron microscope

    (SEM) images. The book also contains an interesting

    introductory chapter by Phylis Morrison giving a

    historical perspective. The final chapter has useful

    advice on how to keep and use your images.

    The shape of the book is unusual but the layout is

    friendly to the reader. The text refers to the relevant

    images in the conventional manner (e.g. figure 6.39);

    there are over three hundred images in

    the books 335 pages. The presence of

    the figure numbers on the left hand side

    of each page of text makes it easy to

    find the text relevant to any given

    image. This bi-directional link between

    the images and the text is further

    enhanced by the 30-page visual index in

    addition to a quite detailed conventional

    text index. Even the contents pages

    abound with colorful and dramatic

    images.

    The book is produced to a very high

    standard on high quality paper and a

    study binding; a very important aspect of

    a book that will be referred to frequently

    and used open in the laboratory. There

    are a number of exercises provided for

    each of the main chapters to bring out some of the

    points made. These would also be useful if the book

    was being used as a course text. Such a course would

    certainly be a very useful addition to science graduate

    studies.

    This is a book full of amazing images and details of

    how to create them, showing how to present your

    own exciting observations as effectively as the

    examples. I recommend this book most highly to

    anyone who wants to know how to communicate their

    work visually.

    Jeremy G. Frey is a senior lecturer in chemistry at the

    University of Southampton, UK.

    Felice FrankelEnvisioning Science: The Design and Craft of the Science Image (2002),The MIT Press, 335 pp., ISBN: 0-262-06225-9 $55 / 36.95

    December 2002 59

    From Bakelite tocomposite design innew materials

    Design Museum GentGent, Belgium

    The history of the use of fiber-reinforced materials in consumerproducts, and the influence ofcomposites on design in the second halfof the 20th century, are the subjects ofthis new exhibition. The stiffness,lightness, and freedom of shape thatcomposite materials afford have madethem a favorite of designers andengineers. Focusing on the use ofcomposites in furniture, lighting,construction, cars, bikes, andsportswear, the exhibition includes aFerrari, bullet-proof jackets, and anairplane.

    Until 23rd February.

    Art in the making underdrawings inRenaissance paintings

    National GalleryLondon, UK

    Modern technology is allowing thepreliminary drawings hidden beneaththe surface of many paintings to berevealed. In this exhibition, images ofthese underdrawings are displayed nextto important paintings fromRenaissance Europe. The images, whichare recorded digitally using infraredreflectography and processed by acomputer program developed at thegallery, give fascinating insights into theway artists worked. Some paintingsunderwent dramatic changes ofcomposition, and some workshops usedtracings and stock patterns to producereplicas routinely. Works by Bruegel,Raphael, Altdorfer, Memling, and Crivelliare included.

    Until 16th February.

    Homepage

    Felice Frankels webpageshttp://web.mit.edu/felicef/

    These webpages are the place to findout about Felice Frankels use of imagesto communicate science effectively fordifferent audiences. Frankel is a researchscientist at the Massachusetts Instituteof Technology (MIT), but alsocollaborates with scientists to createimages for presentations andpublications. Using some of herfantastic images, and web design that iseasy on the eye, this site makes mostother homepages an embarrassment.Contact details are not included.

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