From Crayons to Rembrandt
David Small is an award-winning American author and illustrator of over 40 books for children. A Detroit, Michigan native, he graduated with an MFA from the Yale School of Art and published his first illustrated book in 1981. His illustrations for "The Gardener" (written by his wife, Sarah Stewart) received a Caldecott Honor in 1997, while his work on “So, You Want To Be President?” (by Judith St. George) earned him the coveted Caldecott Medal for children's illustration in 2001. His widely acclaimed 2009 memoir, "Stitches," was nominated for a National Book Award in Young People's Literature. Small's work has also appeared regularly in The New Yorker and The New York Times, among other publications. He and his wife live in southwest Michigan.
Question: When did you first start drawing and writing?\r\n
David Small: I began drawing probably when I was—around the same time everybody else puts a mark on a piece of paper with a crayon—when I was two, probably. The difference between me and everybody else is, I kept doing it for the rest of my life; there was something very satisfying about that. And I also got a lot of praise for it from my mother and her friends and so on, because this was the early '50s and, you know, that was before the days of TV, before the days of women in the workforce. And anything that distracted a child and took him off in a safe way and out of the mother's hands was praiseworthy. And that's what drawing, I'm sure—you know, my mother thought it was just great that I would draw endlessly for hours. And my dad actually furnished my first art materials straight out of the X-ray department of hospital where he worked. The first drawing paper I ever worked on were these enormous sheets of yellow paper from the Kodak Company that used to come wrapped around X-ray films. Instead of throwing that stuff away every week, they started boxing it up for David. And they'd bring it home. On Friday nights my dad would come home with a new box of yellow X-ray paper, and I'd get out my crayons and draw on the living room floor, just endlessly. But I never wanted to be an artist.\r\n
I wanted—when I started thinking about a career in the arts, it was more literature, or for a while it was acting. I don't know if I ever would have developed into a good actor, but that got completely scotched when I lost my vocal cord at 14 in that operation. But writing always—writing plays, writing, writing, writing, that was what I wanted to do. And I actually had some plays put on in Detroit when I was 17—that was back in the '60s, when there was all kinds of experimental theaters popping up everywhere, and Detroit was no different from any other cultural center; they had little professional theaters in storefronts and so on. And my plays were picked by one of them to be put on, and then the university put on another one. And then a friend of mine one night—he was a really wonderful photographer, so I listened to his opinion—he came to me and he did me the favor of telling me the truth, which is very hard. He had to get a little drunk to do it, but he said, David, I've got to tell you man: I've been your roommate for two years; I've watched you writing away every day, and I've seen all your plays put on, and you've let me read all of these things. And quite frankly, I don't know why you're not studying art, because the little doodles that you make on the pad by the phone are so much better than anything you ever wrote, and they just seem to flow from you so much more naturally and easily. I think that's what you should be doing. And I was furious with him for, you know, a couple of hours. But then I began to realize that this huge weight had been lifted off my neck; that I didn't have to pretend that I was a writer any more, because it wasn't—there was the—I wasn't a writer. The hardest thing I'd ever done was try to write plays, or to finish them. It was a real feat, and it left me exhausted, not exhilarated. But art—I had never thought of that as a career because it was like something I did so naturally, and it was fluid, and it is. And even though I still admire literature as the superior art form, I have to admit that art, for me, that's it; that's what I'm good at, and that's what I should be concentrating on.\r\n
Question: Which particular artists inspired you?\r\n
David Small: It would have been the artist of the month, you know. When I was your age, I was just letting myself be totally immersed in first Daumier; Lautrec I loved. You know, both guys have things in common; not just that they're French, but that their drawings are filled with life. And then later on I came to appreciate Degas, whose drawings are very measured and very exacting, and yet still have this feeling of life coming out of them. And Egon Schiele. But I also liked the expressionists; I loved some of Kokoschka's stuff. And Rembrandt; above all, I think, Rembrandt. His drawings; not so much the paintings, but those wonderful loose brush drawings that were obviously done very quickly and with so much knowledge of anatomy and structure underneath them—but just in a few lines, just dashed off, the whole scene, the whole expression of the body there. And then—you know, that plus studying anatomy when I got into college. Things like anatomy and drawing and design and color had pretty much been drop-kicked out of the curriculum in the '70s, when I was studying art, in favor of abstraction and minimalism. You know, people had basically thrown up their hands with storytelling in art in those days, and said art is pointless, so let's just make it a skin of paint on the canvas and do that in a pretty way. And here I wanted to learn to draw the figure from any angle and any position, from memory. And so I studied that and, thank God, found a few teachers who were still interested in teaching it, both at Wayne State in Detroit, where I did my undergraduate work, and at Yale in the grad school there. But then later on, as a teacher I taught anatomy; I chose to teach anatomy, which nobody wanted to study. But I wanted to teach it because (a) I was enthusiastic about it, and I knew that I could make some kids interested in it, and I did; but (b) I wanted to learn more about it, and you know, so I was always a couple steps ahead of my class. And it was good, it was worthwhile.
Recorded on November 18, 2009
Interviewed by Austin Allen
Since he first began doodling with crayons on yellow X-ray paper, illustrator David Small has loved art. But it wasn't his first career choice.
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Water may be far more abundant on the lunar surface than previously thought.
- Scientists have long thought that water exists on the lunar surface, but it wasn't until 2018 that ice was first discovered on the moon.
- A study published Monday used NASA's Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy to confirm the presence of molecular water..
- A second study suggests that shadowy regions on the lunar surface may also contain more ice than previously thought.
Credits: NASA/Daniel Rutter<p>Still, it's not as if the moon is dripping wet. The observations suggest that a cubic meter of the lunar surface (in the Clavius crater site, at least) contains water in concentrations of 100 to 412 parts per million. That's roughly equivalent to a 12-ounce bottle of water. In comparison, the same plot of land in the Sahara desert contains about 100 times more water.</p><p>But a second study suggests other parts of the lunar surface also contain water — and potentially lots of it. Also publishing their findings in <a href="https://www.nature.com/articles/s41550-020-1198-9#_blank" target="_blank">Nature Astronomy</a> on Monday, the researchers used the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter to study "cold traps" near the moon's polar regions. These areas of the lunar surface are permanently covered in shadows. In fact, about 0.15 percent of the lunar surface is permanently shadowed, and it's here that water could remain frozen for millions of years.</p><p>Some of these permanently shadowed regions are huge, extending more than a kilometer wide. But others span just 1 cm. These smaller "micro cold traps" are much more abundant than previously thought, and they're spread out across more regions of the lunar surface, according to the new research.</p>
Credit: dottedyeti via AdobeStock<p>Still, the second study didn't confirm that ice is embedded in micro cold traps. But if there is, it would mean that water would be much more accessible to astronauts, considering they wouldn't have to travel into deep, shadowy craters to extract water.</p><p>Greater accessibility to water would not only make it easier for astronauts to get drinking water, but could also enable them to generate rocket fuel and power.</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"Water is a valuable resource, for both scientific purposes and for use by our explorers," said Jacob Bleacher, chief exploration scientist in the advanced exploration systems division for NASA's Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate, in a statement. "If we can use the resources at the Moon, then we can carry less water and more equipment to help enable new scientific discoveries."</p>
A study finds 1.8 billion trees and shrubs in the Sahara desert.
- AI analysis of satellite images sees trees and shrubs where human eyes can't.
- At the western edge of the Sahara is more significant vegetation than previously suspected.
- Machine learning trained to recognize trees completed the detailed study in hours.
Why this matters<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNDU2MDQ1OC9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYzOTkyODg5NX0.O3S2DRTyAxh-JZqxGKj9KkC6ndZAloEh4hKhpcyeFDQ/img.jpg?width=980" id="3770d" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="3c27b79d4c0600fb6ebb82e650cabec0" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
Area in which trees were located
Credit: University of Copenhagen<p>As important as trees are in fighting climate change, scientists need to know what trees there are, and where, and the study's finding represents a significant addition to the global tree inventory.</p><p>The vegetation Brandt and his colleagues have identified is in the Western Sahara, a region of about 1.3 million square kilometers that includes the desert, <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sahel" target="_blank">the Sahel</a>, and the <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/agricultural-and-biological-sciences/subhumid-zones" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">sub-humid zones</a> of West Africa.</p><p>These trees and shrubs have been left out of previous tabulations of carbon-processing worldwide forests. Says Brandt, "Trees outside of forested areas are usually not included in climate models, and we know very little about their carbon stocks. They are basically a white spot on maps and an unknown component in the global carbon cycle."</p><p>In addition to being valuable climate-change information, the research can help facilitate strategic development of the region in which the vegetation grows due to a greater understanding of local ecosystems.</p>
Trained for trees<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNDU2MDQ3MC9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYzNTk5NTI3NH0.fR-n1I2DHBIRPLvXv4g0PVM8ciZwSLWorBUUw2wc-Vk/img.jpg?width=980" id="e02c0" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="79955b13661dca8b6e19007935129af1" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
Credit: Martin Brandt/University of Copenhagen<p>There's been an assumption that there's hardly enough vegetation outside of forested areas to be worth counting in areas such as this one. As a result the study represents the first time a significant number of trees — likely in the hundreds of millions when shrubs are subtracted from the overall figure — have been catalogued in the drylands region.</p><p>Members of the university's Department of Computer Science trained a machine-learning module to recognize trees by feeding it thousands of pictures of them. This training left the AI be capable of spotting trees in the tiny details of satellite images supplied by NASA. The task took the AI just hours — it would take a human years to perform an equivalent analysis.</p><p>"This technology has enormous potential when it comes to documenting changes on a global scale and ultimately, in contributing towards global climate goals," says co-author Christian Igel. "It is a motivation for us to develop this type of beneficial artificial intelligence."</p><p>"Indeed," says Brandt says, "I think it marks the beginning of a new scientific era."</p>
Looking ahead and beyond<p>The researchers hope to further refine their AI to provide a more detailed accounting of the trees it identifies in satellite photos.</p><p>The study's senior author, Rasmus Fensholt, says, "we are also interested in using satellites to determine tree species, as tree types are significant in relation to their value to local populations who use wood resources as part of their livelihoods. Trees and their fruit are consumed by both livestock and humans, and when preserved in the fields, trees have a positive effect on crop yields because they improve the balance of water and nutrients."</p><p>Ahead is an expansion of the team's tree hunt to a larger area of Africa, with the long-term goal being the creation of a more comprehensive and accurate global database of trees that grow beyond the boundaries of forests.</p>
Tea and coffee have known health benefits, but now we know they can work together.
Credit: NIKOLAY OSMACHKO from Pexels
- A new study finds drinking large amounts of coffee and tea lowers the risk of death in some adults by nearly two thirds.
- This is the first study to suggest the known benefits of these drinks are additive.
- The findings are great, but only directly apply to certain people.