Monday, 24 September 2007

Banner for Retrospectacle

The artwork is done, the neuroscientist is happy, and the banner is up! This was a great opportunity for me, and the first piece to come to fruition and publication since I took my artwork online last March. Thanks to Shelley Batts of Retrospectacle: A Neuroscience Blog for contacting me and making the process so enjoyable.

If you are not familiar, Retrospectacle is part of the ScienceBlogs network run by Seed Magazine, an editor of which did a profile of my art on their Page 3.14 back in May this year.

Here is the finished piece for Retrospectacle:
This looks cooler on the site...follow the link!

As I mentioned in my last post, Ms. Batts wanted to have a rotating series of blog banners running through her site. She already had her cheeky "50's advert"-style banner, and now she had enlisted the likes of your trilobite-truly, and also the esteemed Carl Buell! Mr. Buell is a prolific scientific illustrator, and you can see some of his stellar artwork at Olduvai George. I had actually linked to one of his pictures in an earlier post, my review of Paul Quarrington's boy on the back of the turtle. The link was to one of his drawings of Carl Buell's drawings of a probable ancestor to whales, pakicetus. Mr. Buell's banner is the one featuring the shell and African Grey; a tough act to follow, but I'm happy to be in such great company.

Shelley Batts also suggested posting an "Evolution of a Blog Banner", and has posted it on Retrospectacle. I won't repeat the whole thing here, but I will post the drawing I did partway through my art process. Please follow the link and take a look. As usual, comments on my work are encouraged.

Sunday, 23 September 2007

Trilobite's out of the bag

I've made a couple of vague statements about being hard at work on something in my last couple of posts. Well, for fans of ScienceBlogger Shelley Batts over at Retrospectacle: a neuroscience blog, they know what it is. She made the announcement here.

Shelley approached me about making a new banner for her blog, so she could have a few to rotate through. The other new one is already up, a beautiful and sleek piece by professional scientific illustrator Carl Buell. It's the banner with the shell and African Grey parrot. Be sure to check out his detailed and fascinating work at Olduvai George!

My banner is almost done and ready, and I'll be sure to post a link when it's up.

I started this blog to promote my artwork; I have been exceedingly pleased with the people I have met online, and what a rich community there is out there for artists and scientists. And I thank Shelley Batts for the opportunity.

Wednesday, 19 September 2007

Richard Dawkins Portrait Revisited

Back in June (has it been that long?) , I began a portrait of one of the sources of my artistic inspiration as an adult, Richard Dawkins.

I did not pick Prof. Dawkins because of
The God Delusion, although I do think that is a tremendously important and well-written book. I picked Richard Dawkins mainly because of River Out of Eden, The Ancestor's Tale, and Unweaving the Rainbow.

River Out of Eden, as I've mentioned before, was the first book by Dawkins that I read. I was struck by how intelligently the armchair logic strung together, and how much sense it all made. The world could make sense, with the right mindset and tools to investigate. Even the mistakes along the way could be valuable. It is a beautifully written book, and there is more of the sublime in wondering about 'Mitochondrial Eve' than the Biblical Eve, in my opinion. It's a short but nourishing read, and if you are wondering about Dawkins' "voice" in his books and are feeling trepidation about The God Delusion, start here, and you will quickly find that there is nothing 'shrill' or 'strident' about his writing.

Back to the portrait. It has stalled somewhat for me at the moment. A while ago, I reported that is was in its Ugly Phase, which most of my paintings go through. I was trying out a new material to draw and paint on, and I am not happy with the result. Oil paints sometimes suffer from what is known as "sinking", when they absorb into the surface enough that the normally glossy oil becomes dull in some places, giving it a patchy look. There are retouching varnishes on the market that can fix this problem, but I feel I may have to abandon that painting and print out another copy of the drawing above to carry on from.

After reading an article in Art Scene International, featuring the stellar Donato Giancola, I tried a few tips. Drew out the portrait as you see above, and then painted a clear gesso primer over top so that if I felt it was not going well, or I accidentally gave Richard Dawkins a huge handlebar moustache, I could use a small bit of solvent and scrape back the painting to see the original drawing underneath.

Scraping it back to the see the drawing underneath didn't really work. *sigh*

So, at least I have the scan. I am currently working on another piece that is occupying a lot of my attention (I'll be sure to crow about it if it works out), and I am trying something new. I drew the piece out on my favourite Strathmore Bristol vellum finish, scanned it, and printed the piece (with heightened contrast) onto canvasette paper (aka canvas paper). Now if I mess it up, the drawing still exists. Much better.

Richard Dawkins' books on evolution contain so much beauty and wonder in them that I know I will attempt this portrait again very soon. Besides, there are other scientists and sources of inspiration I'd like to paint as my own little egotistical tributes. Hmm, I can already think of a diptych companion to Dawkins...perhaps Sagan...

Sunday, 16 September 2007

Flying Trilobite recommends...

I've been working a lot on some new pieces lately. I've finally got my studio space set-up so it's a joy to sit down to the work, instead of awkward.

These are some of my favourite places online recently. You'll find them at right in my sidebar. Everything in my links to the right there are places I enjoy or frequent; but the ones I'm highlighting today are ones I wanted to share with my blog-o-viewers (cue theremin).

The artwork and banter over at Leslie Hawes' blog is always a lot of fun. Great sense of community there. And, hey, print out a fairy & lion to colour!

I find myself checking out the antics of the slender protagonist at
xkcd more and more often. His equally slender girlfriend is a riot too.

For some pure quality writing in a grab-bag, never-know-what-you'll-find kind of way, click through to Unkie Herb. Great photos from his world travels as well.

If you feel like being all scientific & rational and have a fire in your belly, there's lots of entertaining ideas to rail against at Xenophilia. And Lego M.C. Escher!

And for the scientific, secularist parent, check out The Meming of Life. I love the writing found here.

If the weather is gettin' chilly, you need a Cambrian hoodie. Shop at Trilobite Clothing! Warm, fuzzy arthropods...

Alright, now back to that studio of mine...

Wednesday, 12 September 2007

Alex, Scientific Luminary, passes away at age 31

Image used without permission, but with the deepest respect & appreciation.

Alex, the African Grey parrot who taught the world so much about animal cognition, passed away at the end of last week. He leaves behind his friend and co-scientist, Dr. Irene Pepperberg, as well as The Alex Foundation.

As a former parrot owner, I was always feeling a slight bit of awe toward my own avian friend after reading about Alex. There was so much clearly happening inside his mind. And 'mind' is what it is for these intelligent, curious, and vocal animals. Alex showed the world that it was possible for parrots to comprehend and not merely mimic.

As usual, some of the best stories that have been posted about Alex come from members of the Scienceblogs.com community.

Shelley Batts at Retrospectacle has re-posted previous entries about Alex, including an interview with Dr. Pepperberg.

At A Blog Around the Clock, you can find a brief but eloquent obituary by Coturnix.

There is a typical and hilarious story showing just how much Alex understood what he was saying over at Neurontic.

There is a tribute on the Alex Foundation site as well, by Elaine Hutchison.

I do not have a lot more to add, having always been an interested spectator in Alex's accomplishments. I will say that I have always thought of Alex and Dr. pepperberg's contributions will resonate further down through history, for centuries to come.

In David Brin's Uplift science fiction novels, in the far-flung future, humanity becomes lonely enough in the universe that a process called 'Uplift' begins. Chimpanzees and dolphins are selected to receive genetic tinkering and a slow process to become as intelligent as humans, and integrate into Earthly culture. This may sound far-fetched, and I only mean this with the utmost respect, but I often looked at Alex and Dr. Pepperberg's contributions to science as something similar: a true attempt to bridge the species gap in understanding. As has been said when talking about speaking to alien life should we ever encounter it, how will we be able to understand aliens if we cannot yet understand what other species on our own Earth are saying? Alex went further than we did, by speaking in our own language on topics humans asked him about.

Alex's work continues with Wart and Griffin, and all those at the foundation. My deepest sympathies to all those who knew him.

-Glendon Mellow

Wednesday, 5 September 2007

Arthropod Meeting


Being human is awesome. I like this image a lot. It's the meeting between two species separated by about 550 million years. The trilobite is similar to elrathia, (it's missing some segments, elrathia had 13).

I like this scene. You can imagine any number of things. Hot young ladybug with a penchant for wearing red with polkadots, meets worldly, older trilobite with a scottish brogue. He's aloof, an old world reserve in his demeanor. She's desperately hoping to ask him out for a cappuccino, and who knows where the evening will go? Back to his shale for a nightcap?


Or perhaps they are from the arthropod U.N., and he's concerned about dragonfly larva settling in the coastal waters of his brethren, and she is there to negotiate a truce.

Probably though, he's just thirsty, hoping she has some nice squishy aphids he can devour.
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