Saturday, 29 December 2007

The Flying Trilobite - Highlights of 2007

This has been an important year for my artwork. I began taking my paintings and drawings online last March, and this blog quickly saw a lot of changes in layout and tone. Yes, it has always been to promote my artwork and find future contracts and a wider audience; it has also allowed me to meet a number of talented artists, scientists, writers and bloggers from around the world -check the sidebar! I feel welcomed by the people who've taken an interest in my mythical flying trilobite fossil paintings, and interacting with people in comments and on their own blogs has been a rewarding experience so far.

In this post, I thought we could look back at what I consider some of the highlights of the year, and my fledgling career.

Page 3.14 profiles Glendon Mellow
May 2007, Virginia Hughes of SEED magazine interviewed me for their Page 3.14: Best of ScienceBlogs and Beyond. This was pretty exciting; a peak moment of my year, for sure. I'd been online only two months, and the attention from Ms. Hughes and SEED gave me me a boost. Ever since a zoology-major asked about the tardigrade in one of my paintings, I have planned to get my paintings in front of as many scientists and science-enthusiasts as possible. My work is niche, and this is the niche. The painting featured was the Mythical Flying Trilobite Fossil from my banner. Oil on shale.

Retrospectacle banner for Shelley Batts

There are a lot of of interesting sites on the ScienceBlog network of sites that SEED magazine runs. One of my favourites has been Retrospectacle: A Neuroscience Blog. After making on a comment on one of Ms. Batts' posts, she checked the link back to me and asked me about doing one of her new blog banners. The other, featuring a nautilus and African Grey parrot was by Carl Buell, (scientific illustrator of great repute)! Working for Shelley was a pleasure, as was reading all the comments that followed on her site after she posted a making of the blog banner, with narration by yours truly. I went for a "Valkyrie" motif, to incorporate the wing of an African grey while highlighting the ear, and spotlighting a portrait of Shelley. A spiral in the title completed the reference to the cochlea.

A large portion of my visitors continue to come from Retrospectacle. My first professional work since taking my art online this year! The banner is a mixture of mechanical pencil, oil paint, and digital manipulation.

The Eloquent Atheist features Symbiosis
One of my personal favourites of all my paintings is one I did in university, called Symbiosis. It contains the aforementioned tardigrade (also known as a "water-bear"), a microorganism that can survive hundreds of years when dried out, only to start swimming again when placed in water. It also depicts some of my DNA-candles, and a figure in green writhing/dancing/falling in the foreground. It was the painting featured in my university's graduation show, and I've submitted to a competition in the past, though it was not picked.

It is fairly obvious from looking here at The Flying Trilobite that I consider myself a Bright, an atheist, a person who understands science and the power its rational checks and balances has for revealing the world as it is to us. I came across an exceptionally well-done site, called The Eloquent Atheist, and asked if they were interested in featuring any of my paintings. After some discussion with one of the editors, Michael W. Jones, an engaging writer himself, The Eloquent Atheist profiled Symbiosis, as the online-magazine's first visual art feature. Oil on canvas.

These may be the highlights of my art being showcased this year, and there is so much more. I have enjoyed comments and correspondence with the artists I have met on DeviantArt, and the illustrators Gina Mikel introduced me to on the sciart listserv.
I'm thankful in particular to some of the following:
This post from Tangled Up in Blue Guy , and being a part of Dale McGowan's Ten Wonderfull Things for a little while!
All the wisdom and shenanigans from Leslie Hawes, Fresh Brainz, Traumador the Tyrannosaur, Jesse Graham, Nancy Eldridge, Shelley Batts, PZ Myers, Metamagician & the Hellfire Club, Carl Buell, Jacqueline Rae, and Luna_the_Cat! Deep thanks to anyone who added me to their blogroll or linked to me this year as well. It is inspiring.

For 2008, I hope to produce more work of quality than ever, and to gain some more freelance contracts; sometimes the best work is though project collaboration. To all the commenters and regulars who have commented and encouraged and thrown eggs at me this year, my sincere thanks.

Friday, 21 December 2007

Gordo Romps at R.O.M.

Dec 16 2007 was one of the worst snowstorms in the last 60 years here in Toronto, lotsa snow, whiteout conditions, yadda yadda. I had to go see me some dinosaurs.

In my last post, I wondered -and worried and fretted- if the Royal Ontario Museum would have the same kind of information in its new Age of Dinosaurs and Age of Mammals displays as I witnessed this past summer at the Royal Tyrrell Museum; I need not have lost sleep.

Just brilliant.

I decided not to go all the way through the Stairs of Wonder in the new Crystal at the R.O.M., and instead wanted to seek out the way in from the original second floor galleries. So I walked down a small flight, into the Age of Mammals, and there is information everywhere for the active self-educator. This was the opening weekend, and there are a few specimens lacking info-cards (some with no identification at all), but clearly they are putting the finishing touches on the displays.

For example, I was not aware that our parasaurolophus is called the halotype, the specific fossil to which all other parasaurolophus fossils are compared. Fancy that.

At right is an early mammal, an oreodont, and it looks like some predator only licked out the soft middle and left the cookie parts intact.

One of the biggest -haha- reasons for the delay in being finally prepared, has to be Gordo, the barosaurus found after being lost in the basement for the last 40 years, and hastily, carefully, accurately put on display in time for the opening. Named after the late curator Gordon Edmund who acquired him for the R.O.M., Gordo is a thrill.

Gordo the barosaurus shakes-that-thing and shows why he is called "The Moneymaker". Check out those hips baby!

At about 85 feet long, you can't actually stand back far enough in the gallery to take him in in one view without at least flicking your eyes from tailtip to dashing smile. There are videos of David Evans, the palaeontologist who rescued Gordo, discussing some of the more important fossils on the display. Perhaps my one complaint is the volume on these needs to be turned down a bit.

A great day. Excellent casts from the feathered dinosaur exhibit that toured from China a while back, and the Age of Mammals is so full of specimens and placards, you could spend a couple of hours looking at our fuzzy cousins.

A look at Gordo from outside.

At the dromeosaur display, I had to whip out my sketchbook and just start drawing. There were some fossil birds in there, wing-feather impressions clearly visible, and I just had to draw. Other itchy-finger artists out there will know what I mean: Leslie, Nancy, Jesse, and the other artists on my blogroll know what I mean! You see it, you just have to capture it. I'll refine the sketch a bit more and post it later. Perhaps after that bird gets identified.

Back into the snow, exhilarated, inspired, happy and proud of the museum I have loved my whole life. The new Crystal addition is shaping up to be grand. I paid a visit to the original facade that had me entranced so much as a child.

And so, to home.

Friday, 14 December 2007

Tyrrell Dinosaurs educate, will the R.O.M.?

Later today the Royal Ontario Museum will open the second floor of the Michael Lee Chin Crystal to card-carrying members who want to see two new galleries: Gallery of the Age of Mammals, and even further back into prehistory, the (takeadeepbreath!) James and Louise Temerty Galleries of the Age of Dinosaurs.

This got me thinking back to my seminal trip to the Royal Tyrrell Museum this past July, and what I liked about how the Tyrrell displayed it's prehistoric beauties. And something in particular comes to mind.

Education.

The most effective displays are the ones that let everyone, young and old, explore the featured fossils at their own level. Like this globe wall (above) at the Royal Tyrrell Museum highlighting ceratopsians. Or the Tyrrell's Cretaceous Garden, complete with waterfall and humidity.

What's most effective is when there are three levels of text, allowing people to read as deeply as they choose. Something like this:


Glendon Mellow, 80' long, 90 tons. b.1974
-

This species of artist grazed on the fossil-fields
of prehistory to create his paintings.

The Glendon was discovered by Page 3.14 and featured in a ScienceBlogs interview. He later went on to produce a logo for Shelley Batts of Retrospectacle, and this led to
fame and fortune. Eventually, he blew this fortune on a new micron brushes and began a series of dinosaur paintings on shale, all of which featured barosaurus with large moustaches and Rip Van Winkle beards rendered in stunningly tiny detail.
The three layers of text allow each visitor to become as engaged as they like. For myself, and many other children, I can remember poring over these captions and devouring each word.

I am a big fan of the R.O.M.'s Crystal, and I have high hopes about how the dinosaur collection will fill the industrial-postmodern caverns. The lights that pores into the Crystal should heighten the drama.

Here are some photos I took at the Tyrrell this summer of how the information could look at the R.O.M. if they let Gordo the barosaurus write his own entry.


These two skulls are part of a larger display explaining the varieties of ceratopsians. The Tyrrell is well-known for its Centrosaurs, (the one on the right), as the nearby Dinosaur Provincial Park is home to a staggering number of their fossils.

Also, check out this howling Dire Wolf display from the Tyrrell's prehistoric Mammal Galleries(rampaging Orcs not included). It's chillingly posed as though still alive, and the wall behind is a montage in information in easy to chew on morsels, (much like this blog).

Both museums have impressed me a lot this year, and as I've stated elsewhere, I've had a lifelong fascination with the Royal Ontario Museum. It was my birthday destination of choice as a child and pre-teen. A spectacular illustration at the Tyrrell; unfortunately no artist credit!

The Royal Tyrrell Museum has a more robust collection of prehistoric fossils than the R.O.M., and that's appropriate, it is specialising and near bone beds. My feeling is that dinosaurs and mammals will be stunning in the Crystal; I just hope the information is there for kids like I was to explore as much as they can.

All photos above taken at the Royal Tyrrell Museum; photo credits to G. Mellow and an unnamed family member of his. Copyright the Tyrrell and the animals pictured. They love the paparazzi.)

Saturday, 8 December 2007

Fake bomb at R.O.M. as art object

An art student from the Ontario College of Art & Design planted a fake bomb sculpture on November 28th outside the Royal Ontario Museum has certainly inflamed passionate opinions on all sides. He sure did inflame mine too. This trilobite almost shed a carapace over this art project.

There is coverage at the National Post
here and here. Some from Toronto Star here. Opinions rage here. A couple of quotes from a student in support of the project can be seen at the end of the Toronto Star article here.

The basics seem to be this: a student, last name Jonsson, made a film for class showing a woman walking into the ROM gift shop, and an apparent bomb going off. This video was subsequently uploaded onto YouTube. Later, he planted a fake bomb outside the museum with a note on it saying "this is not a bomb". He called into someone at the museum and said, "Listen, there is not a bomb outside the museum". The fake bomb was apparently wooden dowels painted to look like metal pipes, bound together with batteries, wire and a motherboard.

An AIDS research fundraiser was disrupted by the hoax, possibly costing them an estimated $100 000 in donations, and traffic was of course tied up while police sent a robot to have a closer look at the not-a-bomb. Jonsson later said he had no idea a fundraiser was going on.

There are some quotes in the media about support from some of the students toward Jonsson's project. Some have said that "art is what makes you think". Or that he had recontextualised (non-explosive) objects in the manner of Duchamps' urinal.

Okay, my thoughts on this. I went to a heavily conceptual university art program too, and I am a passionate lover of the sciences, and of the ROM in particular. So sure, what I say is critical and coming from my particular background.

You want to call it art? Fine. It's art. There. The whole production is art. Kind of been-there done-that derivative shock art, I'd say, but go ahead and say it's art. The definition of art is as ephemeral as the definition of religion, or what constitutes "good" music. To a large extent, in the post-modern realm, art is in the eye of the creator and sometimes the beholder, though the beholder is often increasingly irrelevant in the naval-gazing world of post-modernism.

But I believe this young immature shock-auteur is still responsible for his actions. Two things I learned in university are 1) the value of research, and; 2) to tailor your artistic creations to your audience, and accept their reactions.

The first point is I don't (bloody well frickin') care if he knew there was a fundraiser or not. I read how he says it in the news as though he is trying to absolve himself of being responsible for an event he was unaware of. Well, he should have done his research before picking that day, at that time, and that end of the museum to do his project. He cannot be absolved when he didn't do the research. Ignorance of the law is no excuse, and neither was ignorance of what was happening inside the museum.

There is an absurdity to Jonsson's claim that he was unaware of what event was going on. He has made statements about how he was surprised by the police's overreaction to the art event/hoax. But they did not know what was going on with the bomb-shaped object! It is the same as his statement. He cannot claim to be unaware and by implication not responsible of the fundraiser and then disingenuously claim that the police overreacted when they were not aware! Poorly thought-out hypocrisy.

That is the second point. Who was his audience? His classmates and professors? It ended up being the police and emergency services, participants of the CANFAR fundraiser and the rest of the downtown core. He needs to accept the audience's reaction.

I hope in the end he does some growing up, perhaps sentenced to some community service helping roadside bomb survivors from the armed forces. And I hope the ghost of Rene Magritte kicks him in the backside for recontextualizing (ripping off) the "This is not a bomb" statement from Magritte's "C'est ne pas un pipe" Treachery of Images series.

You want to call it art? Fine. You put it out there, now face the rabble and be responsible.

Monday, 3 December 2007

The Flying Trilobite Business Card




The winner!

Thank you so much to all those who helped this one along. In
my previous post, I asked and received tons of help deciding between two new business cards.

The image on the winner is Photoshop adapted from an ink drawing I have done. The image is meant to be for a (non-winged) tattoo I will likely get in the spring when this blog is one year old.

9 people preferred the first card, 2 the second. I myself preferred the second choice as well. As Lim Leng Hiong of Fresh Brainz called it, it has "extreme quirkiness". I will likely still use this image somewhere, and tweak it some more. Chadmac pointed out that its centre of mass is misplaced, so I'll need to fix that.

But I am very happy with card #1, and it does have my core image. As Leslie Hawes and Rudi pointed out, it needs to be a card that shows off the art. The wings are popular for this artistic ancient aquatic arthropod, as Dale McGowan, Lauren, Traumador the Tyrannosaur, Gastrolith, and Luna_the_Cat and Shelley Batts all agree.

For the final version depicted above, I tweaked a couple of things based on some reader's suggestions. Lauren suggested I shrink the trilobite image slightly, and I think that works well. As Leslie had pointed out, I could also have blown the image up to make it more abstracted. I think shrinking it works a little better, as some people have no idea what a trilobite is, let alone a Mythical Flying Trilobite Fossil. Lim Leng Hiong thought it might work better to have more contact between the trilobite and its wings, so I added some crumbly bits to make a better connection between the disparate parts.

I'd like to thank everyone who gave me an opinion, both online and offline, especially my wife, Michelle who watched me seesaw back and forth. Shelley of Retrospectacle also pointed out a business card service that she highly recommends, Moo, so I will probably look into that. This whole process really helped me out. I started this blog to promote my artwork, and also to get feedback on my work. Sometimes an artist is throwing so much into the process, it is easy to become myopic about how well the final image works.


My gratitude to each of you.

(Edit: whoops! Earlier today, the card I uploaded had an older version of the text layout on the card. All fixey-fixey now. No more blogging without the morning coffee. )
Copyright © 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013 Glendon Mellow. All rights reserved. See Creative Commons Licence above in the sidebar for details.