Sunday, February 28, 2010

Camouflage Artist | William Andrew Mackay

William Andrew Mackay (1876-1939) was a well-known American muralist, who also played a prominent role in World War I ship camouflage. Shown here are three photographs of him, one of which (top left) was probably made near the end of his life, by Peter A. Juley and Son. He is considerably younger in the other two photographs, which are wartime publicity photographs made by the US Government (probably the US Navy) and subsequently reproduced in popular magazines. 

At the time, Mackay was working for the US Shipping Board (Emergency Fleet Corporation), for which he was in charge of painting camouflage on merchant ships in the New York district. Earlier in the war, Mackay had proposed a camouflage scheme, which became one of only five such schemes to be approved for use. Later in the war, all US ship camouflage (military and civilian) was overseen by the US Navy's camouflage section (headed by Harold Van Buskirk). 

Officially, Mackay and his artists were not permitted to design camouflage, only to adapt designs that were provided to them by the design subsection of the camouflage unit (headed by Everett L. Warner). Evidently, Mackay resented this lack of acknowledgment of his expertise and all but ignored the restrictions. Later, he founded a camouflage school (c1920) and published a Handbook on Ship Camouflage (1937). In the top right photo, he is applying a camouflage scheme to a wooden ship model, and in the lower photo he is studying a camouflaged model through a portable viewing device that simulates the  point of view of a submarine periscope.

Hyde Definition and PenCott™

Hyde Definition: Digital Camouflage Design Solutions is a British firm that specializes in designing camouflage clothing for military, hunting, photography and other purposes. Founded in 2008 by Dom and Rachel Hyde, it released the following year a commercial fabric pattern called PenCott™, so named in tandem homage to two prominent British contributors to World War II camouflage: Roland Penrose (artist) and Hugh B. Cott (zoologist). They have an extensive, interesting website, with a blog, examples of their work, a glossary of terms, and a wonderfully rich selection of links.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Reviews of Camoupedia: A Great Book

Excerpts from early reviews of Roy R. Behrens, CAMOUPEDIA: A Compendium of Research on Art, Architecture and Camouflage. First edition. Bobolink Books, 2009. 6 x 9 in. 472 pp. 344 illustrations. Includes subject timeline, extensive bibliography and index—

"Everything you ever wanted to know about camouflage." —Design Observer

"A delightful look at camouflage in war and peace… You will be surprised at the number of famous artists and designers [who were] involved in war camouflage work." —Western Front Association

"[This is] a leading contemporary source book." —Leonardo (MIT Press)

"Behrens' archaeological attention to detail and captivating style of writing leads the reader to uncharted territories stretching along the no man's land between academic diciplines… [this book is an encyclopedic presentation of the [author's] vast body of findings in camouflage… [it] opens doors to few frontiers in a number of understudied areas of art and military history." —Laszlo Muntean, Mute Magazine

"[This is] scholarly research and writing that is readable—nothing is hidden." —Richard Zakia, author and Emeritus Professor, Rochester Institute of Technology

"[This book is] worthy of unspoken praise." —Armada International

"For those interested in ship camouflage, this is a great book." —Ship Chat

"Encompassing everything from Picasso to the evolution of mice, it is an essential reference for anyone interested in the subject and its broader context…it is a testament to the authority of Behrens' research and his contagious love for the subject." —Designers Review of Books

"For Behrens, the import of studying camouflage is a thesis for how art and design communicate. In other words, what is the psychological impact of patterns, color, values, emphasis, scale and space as the basis for visual language?" —David Versluis, DCAIGA

Friday, February 12, 2010

Abbott Thayer's Bald Head

From Nelson C. White, Abbott H. Thayer: Painter and Naturalist. Hartford CT: Connecticut Printers, 1951, p. 99—

[Artist and naturalist Abbott H. Thayer] sometimes excelled them [his children] in the invention of fanciful nonsense, as when his daughter Gladys painted the face of an Irishman on the back of Thayer's bald head, the scant dark fringe of his remaining hair serving for the beard. When he entered the room walking backwards and giving life to this grotesque apparition by flexing the muscles of his scalp it was startlingly effective.

Zebra Stripes

From Mavis Gallant, The Selected Stories of Mavis Gallant. NY: Random House, 1997, p. 175—

The bar and the tables and the sticky, salty, half-naked tourists were covered alike with zebra stripes of light and shade.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

New Animal Camouflage Research

A recent issue of the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B (Biological Sciences) Vol 364 No 1516 (February 27, 2009) was devoted to current research of natural camouflage. Titled Animal Camouflage: Current Issues and New Perspectives and compiled by scientists Martin Stevens and Sami Merilaita, it consists of fifteen papers, all of which are now online at the journal's website. A book is also being prepared. Here is a list of the issue's contents:  

• Martin Stevens and Sami Merilaita. Animal camouflage: current issues and new perspectives

• R.T. Hanlon, C.C. Chiao, L.M. Mäthger, A Barbosa, K.C. Buresch, and C. Chubb. Cephalopod dynamic camouflage: bridging the continuum between background matching and disruptive coloration. 
• S. Zylinski, D. Osorio, and A.J. Shohet. Perception of edges and visual texture in the camouflage of the common cuttlefish, Sepia officinalis.
• Tom Troscianko, Christopher P. Benton, P. George Lovell, David J. Tolhurst, and Zygmunt Pizlo. Camouflage and visual perception. 
• Devi Stuart-Fox and Adnan Moussalli. Camouflage, communication and thermoregulation: lessons from colour changing organisms. 
• Marc Théry and Jérôme Casas. The multiple disguises of spiders: web colour and decorations, body colour and movement.
• Martin Stevens and Sami Merilaita. Defining disruptive coloration and distinguishing its functions.
• Innes C. Cuthill and Aron Székely. Coincident disruptive coloration.
• Roy R. Behrens. Revisiting Abbott Thayer: non-scientific reflections about camouflage in art, war and zoology.
• Richard J. Webster, Alison Callahan, Jean-Guy J. Godin, and Thomas N. Sherratt. Behaviourally mediated crypsis in two nocturnal moths with contrasting appearance. 
• Nina Stobbe, Marina Dimitrova, Sami Merilaita, and H. Martin Schaefer. Chromaticity in the UV/blue range facilitates the search for achromatically background-matching prey in birds. 
• Hannah M Rowland. From Abbott Thayer to the present day: what have we learned about the function of countershading? 
• Ariel Tankus and Yehezkel Yeshurun. Computer vision, camouflage breaking and countershading. 
• Tim Caro. Contrasting coloration in terrestrial mammals. 
• Graeme D Ruxton. Non-visual crypsis: a review of the empirical evidence for camouflage to senses other than vision.