Sunday, 12 October 2008

Artwork Mondays - CFI-Myers poster concept


After discussing with Justin Trottier and Katie Kish about doing a poster for PZ Myers' upcoming lecture here in Toronto, I knuckled down to think of some concepts.

PZ Myers is a big cephalopod in the atheist pond, and the C.F.I-sponsored lecture itself is scheduled for Hallowe'en. I played with some rough ideas of having PZ wearing a mask made out of zebrafish, perhaps with a halo of cephalopod arms behind his head.

PZ's personality and yes, celebrity is huge amongst science and atheist minded bloggers. It would be easy enough. I scribbled down some roughs.


But the focus of the lecture from its title is not a smug chuckle and a laugh at how
wrong creationists are when discussing biology (or history, or morals, or the universe, or transubstantiated baking). The focus is much more serious, it is about science education being under threat. Perhaps there is less of a young-Earth creationist view here in Ontario, and yet we are still under sway of separate Catholic and secular school systems. Some citizens would like more religious schools to be allowed by the provincial government.

I say no. One school system for all, with kids raised in multiple belief systems. It's how tolerance starts, it's how diversity and dialogue thrive. Besides, there's more room
for learning without being interrupted for prayers all day.

Canada is a cultural mosaic, and Toronto the capital of that ideal. Take the Dundas or College streetcar and pass through cultures from across the globe in 30 minutes. Besides, there's more room for learning without being interrupted for prayers all day.

So: PZ's poster. It needed to be serious and about the topic, not a poster about the foibles of this entertaining, important writer and scientist. Not a witty attempt at a portrait. Something about science under threat by religion. I hope there will be another day to show Myers the man through oil paint.

I started by thinking about that perennial symbol of school: the apple on a teacher's desk.

I had the sketch.

Then, painting it, not making the snake anything specific, but looking like it had coalesced out of a nightmare. A child's hand reaching up. A little double helix pattern on a tree branch.


We mucked around with the text. I wanted PZ's name and the title to be huge. It needs to catch the eye while posted on university and college bulletin boards and around town.

In my first presentation of this poster here on The Flying Trilobite, I wondered how people interpreted it. Artist-teacher Bond got it right. And Bora of A Blog Around the Clock had an interesting take in a recent email exchange: "
Michaelangelo's God from the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel and PZ's post on the evolution of segmentation in snakes!"

Does it do the C.F.I & PZ's topic justice? Is the religious/secular symbolism confusing? Are you craving a crisp macintosh right about now?
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8 comments:

coturnix said...

Apple? Later. Once I finish the snake-meat goulash.

tcb said...

I have to admit that I immediately thought, "Sistine Chapel role-reversal" and didn't take it any further. Thanks for the backstory - great picture!

Glendon Mellow: The Flying Trilobite said...

Coturnix - mmm. I'll be sure to share that thought with everyone tonight for Canadian Thanksgiving.

"Pass the snake goulash," I'll say...

Glendon Mellow: The Flying Trilobite said...

Thanks tcb!

It's funny, I hadn't looked at the Sistine hands when I was doing it, just my own. I tried to make the arm and fingers stubbier to look like a child's.

But Michaelangelo's images are thoroughly burned into our conscious catalogue if imagery, I suppose.

Brian said...

I didn't make the connection with "an apple for teacher", but otherwise I saw it at once. It's often a little risky to use a religion's symbols to promote an opposing viewpoint, since the viewer can brings so many expectations with them. If it weren't for the words on the poster, the image would likely be misread as the snake encouraging the apple to be eaten. Given the context, though, I think it's a striking and powerful image. Frankly, I love it.

I also failed to realize that the hand was supposed to be a child's (but then neither was I reminded of the Sistine Chapel).

Glendon Mellow: The Flying Trilobite said...

Thanks Brian!

I suppose in some ways this is a bit different for me as well, since normally my work is much more science-based, as opposed to being steeped in fable and religion.

Now for seconds on my apple-and-snake-meat goulash.

Happy Thanksgiving, Canucks!

ranfuchs said...

I thought that the poster was brilliant. The snake was closer than the hand, a real threat. A threat that is felt in the US education every day.

Glendon Mellow said...

Thanks, ranfuchs! A threat felt all over the world.

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