Assignment #2 - illustration
Due Tuesday, February 3 (in class)
CS 48N - The Science of Art
Winter Quarter, 2009
Your second assignment is to write a 3-4 page double-spaced paper on one of the
topics listed in the first section below. Alternatively, you may do one of the
projects listed in the second section. (Remember that at least two of your
four assignments for the quarter must be written papers.) You may also choose
another topic or project if you clear it with me in advance. The format and
rules for this assignment are the same as in the first one. Don't forget to
cite your sources using footnotes and/or a list of references, as appropriate.
Remember also that you must present one of your four assignments in class. If
you volunteer for the upcoming Student Day (February 3), you can present either
of your first two assignments.
What does Thomas Kuhn think of puzzle-solvers? Can one talk about aesthetics
or taste in scientific work? If so, then what is society's current taste? Do
we prefer puzzle-solvers or paradigm-breakers? Defend your thesis.
Finally, what is your preference, and why?
Kuhn compares scientists operating within a paradigm to tradespeople (p. 43).
The Renaissance lifted artists out of the ranks of tradespeople, making them
heroes. Is such a transformation possible within the confines of "normal
science"? Is it desireable?
Compare revolution in science with revolution in art. Are there paradigms?
Are there revolutions? Are there equivalents of "normal science" and
"extraordinary science"? If one focuses on illusionistic art, do your answers
Leonardo, in the sections of On Painting devoted to the human body,
gives advice on nearly every aspect of the depiction of people in paintings.
How dependent is this advice on the artistic tastes of the Renaissance? His
advice on draperies is obviously less relevant now than when he wrote it. How
about his advice on pose? On expression? On proportion?
Among the many genres of illustration, we considered only a few in class:
anatomy and landscape. Trace the historical development of a genre that we did
not cover. Examples are botanical illustration, zoological illustration,
paleontological illustration, engineering drawings, mathematical diagrams, the
visualization of economic or demographic data, or mapmapping. Within your
chosen genre, try to move beyond merely cataloguing the highlights of its
history. What are the special problems of illustrating your chosen object?
How have illustrators addressed the questions of generic versus specific, and
of diagrammatic versus naturalistic? What are the abstractions they employ,
and how have these changed over time? For ideas, look at Ford's Images of
Science, Stafford's Artful Science, or Tufte's The Visual
Display of Quantitative Information.
Some non-writing projects
Create one or more illustrations, either by hand or using a computer, that
conveys in abstracted form some poorly understood aspect of Stanford
University or the Stanford campus. For example, if you like maps, make a
series that depicts the density of bicycle traffic and bicycle parking
throughout the campus, or the point-to-point transit paths taken by students at
different hours of the day. This will require some empirical data gathering on
It's also a chance to be creative. Look at Tufte's beautiful books on data
visualization, especially the classic
The Visual Display of Quantitative Information, for inspiration.
Create one or a series of illustrations, either by hand or using a computer,
that depict either a set of scientific principles or the salient abstract
properties of a collection of objects. Scientific American is famous for its
abstract illustrations of scientific phenomena. National Geographic or TIME
magazine often use graphics to explain complex scientific or engineering
processes, but their diagrams are often long on drama and short on information.
Did you learn something inspiring in physics last week? Can you make a better
explanation of it than the one in your textbook? Think hard about what
principle you want to convey, how to abstract it from the observed object, and
what pictorial device to use in depicting the abstraction. I am more
interested in cleverness and originality than in technical virtuosity. If you
have any doubts about whether an idea of yours fits these requirements, come
talk to me.
For the two projects listed above, your submission should include a textual
explanation describing how you arrived at your abstraction(s), and how you
chose the pictorial device(s) you did. Remember that a good illustration
brings new insight. For the first project, describe an insight about the data
you gathered that you learned by illustrating it. In other words, what does
the illustration show that is not evident by looking at the data in tabular
Copyright © 2009 Marc Levoy
February 8, 2009 03:03:57 AM