Sunday, 30 November 2008

Art Monday: tangling some blue

Last week I was tagged by Mike of Tangled Up In Blue Guy with a blogging meme. So can I out-blue the Blue Guy?

Here are the rules:
  1. Link to the person who tagged you.
  2. Post the rules on your blog.
  3. Write six random arbitrary things about yourself.
  4. Tag six people at the end of your post and link to them.
  5. Let each person know they’ve been tagged and leave a comment on their blog.
  6. Let the tagger know when your entry is up.
Keeping a blue theme in mind, I'm going to change the rules a bit. I'll talk about my associations with colour, and things I often teach about pigments. Here we go.

Phthalocyanine Blue: Throughout university, this blue appealed to me. It has a green undertone which made it feel dirtier and more like a blue you'd encounter in a mysterious forest. Painting pale flesh tones was daunting early on, so I'd paint them in blue tones. Gradually I warmed up to greens with naples yellow, and then red with naples yellow. But blue was a safe place to start, so far removed from human pigment.

French Ultramarine: I'm going to say this out loud on the internet, and it's a scandal. I'm more nervous about admitting this to Mike than announcing to the world I'm an atheist. I hope we will still be friends. Mike's blog is named Tangled Up in Blue Guy after a song by Bob Dylan. I can't stand Bob Dylan. Oh, I'm not ashamed of this. Bob Dylan drives me nuts. No redeeming value to his music to my ears. This shouldn't be a surprise with what I've mentioned about music in the past. Mike, do I still have a free pass to comment on your blog? Or has it been revoked?

Mauve (blue shade): The Symbolist era of painting in the "Mauve 1890's" is the era I feel the strongest affinity to, though it is almost the antithesis of what I paint. Much of the fin-de-siecle angst was about harkening back to an earlier period of art, literature and myth. Fear of modernisation and industrialisation drive much of the subjects of art at this time. The Impressionist movement was largely ignored by artists I see as heroes, such as Redon, Deville, Moreau, and (my favourite) Khnopff. Instead they painted Salome with the head of John the Baptist, sphinxes and chimaeras, tombs and beautiful Mannerist-style bodies. I love the Symbolist aesthetic, but I am an artist in awe of science when it comes to my subject matter.

Indanthrene Blue: When walking my dog in a wooded park, sometimes we'd stop and I'd lie on my black and stare up at a deep blue autumn sky. And just try to absorb all - that - blue. Beautiful scattered light blue.

Cobalt Rose: Cobalt is an expensive, mildly toxic, strong tinting, long-lasting (we're talking centuries) blue pigment. And it reminds me of Dungeons & Dragons. In D&D, there are a type of goblin called kobolds. And the pigment is named after them, for the difficulty of mining it and for its poisonous nature.

Cerulean Blue: Go to an art gallery, and take a look at the religious paintings. (Go ahead, you can be an atheist and think they're beautiful, it's fine. Think of the talented humans who created them and be in awe.) You may notice that the virgin Mary is often wearing bright blue. No doubt some twisty theological logic may explain this. There's also a simpler economic reason.

Blues described as 'caeruleum' were quite expensive in medieval and Renaissance times. A patron would send the artist to the apothecary to purchase a certain amount of expensive pigments to pridefully show-off their piety. Who to paint in expensive colours? The most important person in the painting would be Jesus Christ. But he was mainly depicted as an infant or semi-nude in crucifixtio
n scenes.

So the expensive paint would adorn Jesus's mother, Mary. So you know. Praise blue.

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Time to meme-tag. I tag Bond's Blog, Of Two Minds, Laelaps, The Darkened Face of Heaven, Eastern Blot, and The Evilutionary Biologist.

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All original artwork on The Flying Trilobite Copyright to Glendon Mellow. The contents of this blog are under a Creative Commons Licence. See sidebar for details.
Please visit my blog, gallery and reproduction store.

Saturday, 29 November 2008

Haldane's Precambrian Puzzle

"...Evolution makes the strong prediction that if a single fossil turned up in the wrong geological stratum, the theory would be blown out of the water.
"When challenged by a zealous Popperian to say how evolution could ever be falsified, J.B.S. Haldane famously growled: 'Fossil rabbits in the Precambrian.'
"No such anachronistic fossils have ever been authentically found..." -Richard Dawkins

-p127-128, Richard Dawkins, The God Delusion, 2006.
Houghton Mifflin Company. ISBN-13: 978-0-618-68000-9.

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Finally dry, a new scan of my Haldane's Precambrian Puzzle. Oil paint on 9 pieces of shale, 2008. Prints now available.


Haldane's Precambrian Puzzle (configuration A): False Rabbit
available as greeting cards, mounted print, matted print and canvas print. Click here.

Haldane's Precambrian Puzzle (configuration B): True Trilobites
available as greeting cards, mounted print, matted print and canvas print. Click here.
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All original artwork on The Flying Trilobite Copyright to Glendon Mellow. The contents of this blog are under a Creative Commons Licence. See sidebar for details.
Please visit my blog, gallery and reproduction store.

Your favourite museum?

Boneyard 26 will be hosted by Traumador the Tyrannosaur! Never participated in a blog carnival before? Curious? It's easy. There's usually an overall theme to the carnival. In the case of the Boneyard it focuses on fossils and palaontology.

Sometimes, the specific edition of the carnival will focus on a certain theme, and for Boneyard 26, Traumador is asking people to write a post about their favourite museum.


Write up a fantastic post about the museum you haunt, and alert contact Traumador by email or comment on
this post!

- - All original artwork on The Flying Trilobite Copyright to Glendon Mellow. The contents of this blog are under a Creative Commons Licence. See sidebar for details. Please visit my blog, gallery and reproduction store.

Monday, 24 November 2008

Vote for art in awe of science!

The Flying Trilobite is nominated in The Canadian Blog Awards! You can find my blog listed in the Photo-Art category.
Vote for some art in awe of science! First round of voting ends November 29th, so click that tiny circle. You know you love clicking tiny circles. You knooow it.

(And don't forget to vote for Traumador the Tyrannosaur in the Be
st Canadian Sci-Tech category!)
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You can also nominate past posts from The Flying Trilobite for inclusion in OpenLab08, the best of science blogging on the web!

The competition accepts cartoons, so just specify if you are nominating my whole post or just my artwork. Simply use this form to nominate a past post!

And hurry! Nominations close November 30th! You lurve filling out online forms, right?
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If you need a reminder of Flying Trilobite art & science goodies, may I direct you to the art links in my sidebar? You can click on oil paint, pencil drawings, or even paintings on shale. Remember, items in my gallery only count if you nominate the blog post they appeared in.

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All original artwork on The Flying Trilobite Copyright to Glendon Mellow. The contents of this blog are under a Creative Commons Licence. See sidebar for details.
Please visit my blog, gallery and reproduction store.

Art Monday: it doesn't always work

Dark! Dark are the days when the artist's mind and hand will not act with confidence, but with trepidation, and lo, the monstrous paint that issues forth from his palette vexes him and plagues his talent. For true, not every act of creation can escape sucking.

This bombastic post is about the paintings that haven't been rehabilitated. I hope to have some news in the near future, and I am working on a number of projects a the moment. Today, I will shine a light on what happens when they don't work out.

Usually after reading some scientific discovery and musing about it
, most ideas pop into my head like a full-blown image. I know what I should do to make it happen, and the idea is laid out in my mind's eye like pages in a book. I'm just copying from my imagination. If there are elements missing, well that's where research takes over, and I look for something appropriate to the subject.

Mother Mars
This oil painting languished unfinished for over a year. The Mother-Nature-on-Mars figure was complete, the sky complete and even the inscription (hard to make out on a blog) of "ALH84001" on the rock.

I stretched it myself, and seriously planned on painting over the entire image many, many times. It needed a baby, an egg, something at the start of life. Over and over I painted mermaid's purses, more accurately known as shark's eggs. The night before a gallery show, I frantically painted a huge microorganism complete with a chain of magnetite like they found in the infamous Martian meteorite. I kept stealing glances at it at the show. The painting surprised me. A wasted, dying mother nature and dying microbaby found dignity instead of a coat of black gesso.

Trilobite Graveyard (
detail of headstone)


Which trilobitologist hasn't hoped to come across this legendary place? This painting is what unfortunately happens when I haven't thought it all the way through. In 2006 my wife challenged me to give a landscape a try, and I thought of an underwater scene, with yellow light for some reason, and a graveyard of trilobites stretching away into the distance. With well over 10 000 species recorded, this would be a fitting way to show their vast numbers,vast age, and the vast populations gone from our fair Earth.


I just couldn't pull it out of its ugly phase. (And, true to the nature of this post, my camera is broken and I seem to have deleted the photo of the whole image, and have only this detail. Arrgh, I say. )

I thought about anomalocaris prowling above, like predatory caretakers. It would add a mournful tone, for the predators can't outlast their prey for long, and add a sense of mystery as to what happened.

I thought about adding a fetching scuba diver to draw the viewer into the scene. Most people respond easily to an image they know, such as a human. Making it an attractive woman would also garner attention, and elements like long hair floating upward with bubbles would allow me to demonstrate the scene is underwater.

I thought about a monstrous underwater temple with a particularly spiky trilobite on top, off in the murky distance. Perhaps the trilobites were up to something sinister, or represented a vast empire in eldritch Cthulhu-esque prehistoric times?

So instead, this Art Monday, let me direct you to the following spectacular artwork that have themes -successfully!- similar to the Trilobite Graveyard:
various episodes of Walcott's Quarry at eTrilobite for the menacing anomalocarids;
at Druantia Art, an underwater scene in progress that is breathtaking even in unfinished form (buy her calender!);
bold rays of light not afraid to overlay some colour at The Day After;
and the beginnings of Cthulhu's rise at When Pigs Fly Returns.


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All original artwork on The Flying Trilobite Copyright to Glendon Mellow. The contents of this blog are under a Creative Commons Licence. See sidebar for details. Please visit my blog, gallery and reproduction store.

Monday, 17 November 2008

Art Monday: Gryposaurus skull sketch

Went to the Royal Ontario Museum last Friday, and spent some time with the museum's original dinosaur skeleton, Gryposaurus incurvimanus.

Sketching in a public space is always an interesting activity. I throw on my iPod to draw only if I'm on a secluded bench outdoors. Otherwise, you can miss the comments from curious passers-by.

I was asked if I was a student, or there with my art class, about 4 or 5 times. I'll take that as a compliment that I look younger than I am! Kids are funny, they are so-o-o
curious about what you're doing, but inherently polite enough to hover until they're invited to have a look. Some young guys told me they like to draw and think dinosaurs are interesting too: I hope they're inspired. It's nice to chat with parents, teachers and students on trips about why I'm there.

I think the reason I'm there is mainly because it's relaxing and challenging to try and accurately draw an animal skull or fossil.


Drawing in public is one of those times an artist can receive immediate feedback. Thanks to my fellow visitors for the encouragement. My one wish is that the museum's hours were a little different. The only night they're open later than 5:30pm is Fridays, which is a tough night to commit to drawing every week.

The gryposaurus was the R.O.M.'s first fossil dinosaur, collected in 1918 from Drumheller Alberta, and installed in 1920. A nice, big, honkin' duckbill. I was standing kind of close, looking up at it, so the drawing is not entirely a side-view. I spent more time on it than I had for some of the other images I've drawn from the R.O.M., and I'm mostly happy with the proportions.

Here's some other fossil skull sketches from my gallery. I've thought abo
ut offering prints in my repro shop...perhaps in the new year.

Hmm. Which fossil in the R.O.M. should I tackle next?

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All original artwork on The Flying Trilobite Copyright to Glendon Mellow. The contents of this blog are under a Creative Commons Licence. See sidebar for details.
Please visit my blog, gallery and reproduction store.

Thursday, 13 November 2008

Albino Squirrels (plural!) of Trinity-Bellwoods

While walking in Trinity-Bellwoods Park a couple of weeks ago, Michelle and I saw two of the albino squirrels!

Yesterday, I managed to snap a photo of them both together before one raced out of frame up a tree. The other is on the ground in the far right of the photo. Click to enlarge.

One seems a little bigger than the other.

Excellent. Perhaps by next winter there will be a whole colony. (What's the group-name for squirrels? Herd? Clutch? Brace?)

You can see other posts about the albino squirrels of Trinity-Bellwoods here.

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All original artwork on The Flying Trilobite Copyright to Glendon Mellow. The contents of this blog are under a Creative Commons Licence. See sidebar for details. Please visit my blog, gallery and reproduction store.

Tuesday, 11 November 2008

When blog-memes attack!

Jumpin' junebugs!

I've been blog-meme swarmed. Time to pay what's due and give some back. Beware, Flying Trilobite Blogrollers!
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The Me Meme
A surprise meme, inflicted upon me by Zach of When Pigs Fly Returns. Ha! I scoff at this one. Here are the rules:

1. Take a picture of yourself right now.
2. Don't change your clothes, don't fix your hair...just take a picture.
3. Post that picture with NO editing.
4. Post these instructions with your picture.

My camera was broken when Zach sneak-memed me. So my wife has snapped this surprise photo of me to make up for it.

Time to inflict more poorly coiffed surprise snaps on the populace. I tag Traumador, Emile, & Chris Zenga.
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The 5 Things Meme
Peter Bond of Bond's Blog is gettin' personal.
5 things I was doing 10 years ago:
1. Dating the girl who eventually married me
2. Sitting on a transparent blue inflatable couch
3. Living with a blue-fronted Amazon parrot roommate who loved cartoons
4. Lots of gothy clubbing
5. Sporting black-light sensitive dyed hair

5 things on my to do list today:
1. Work on commissioned artwork
2. Conduct interviews at my job
3. Spike my hair up
4. Admire my wife
5. Read SEED article with Craig Venter

5 snacks I love:
1. Listerine pocket packs
2. Espresso, properly run long into an Americano
3. Multigrain Tostitos & salsa
4. Apples, except for those vile 'red delicious' ones. Ew.
5. Raisin bran muffins

5 things I would do if I was a millionaire:
1. Donate buckets of cash to The Beagle Project
2. Start a campaign to outlaw 'red delicious' apples
3. Go back to school, take something in biology
4. Find time to paint more often
5. Never hear the words "student loan" again

5 places I've lived:
1. Mississauga, Ontario, Canada (until I was 6)
2. Beach area, Toronto, Ontario, Canada
3. St Mike's Hospital for a few days, Toronto
4. In an apartment with a dance major and a theatre major, Toronto
5. In the Little Italy/Portugal/Brazil area, Toronto.

5 jobs I've had:
1. Clown handing out flyers
2. American Sign Language Interpreter
3. Coffee shop barista
4. Art supply store manager
5. Freelance illustrator

5 people I'll tag: Stephanie, Mike, Kris, Mo, & Sean.
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6 Random Things Meme
A new contact has tossed this meme at me: I've been clobbered by The Darwin Report.
1. Link to the person who tagged you.
2. Post the rules on your blog.
3. Write six random things about yourself.
4. Tag six people at the end of your post and link to them.
5. Let each person know they’ve been tagged and leave a comment on their blog.
6. Let the tagger know when your entry is up.


1. My heritage includes Irish, Jamaican, Panamanian, English & Dutch.
2. In high school I wrote an illustrated book about vampires and it won an award.
3. I'm learning to love spiders. Small ones.
4. At one point, I considered seriously changing my first name to "Hyper".
5. If the bulkhead doors on an underwater oil rig are slamming shut due to flooding, I'll be saved by the metal of my wedding ring. (anyone guess what it's made of?)
6. I plan on ignoring rules 5 & 6 on this meme.
For the 6 Random Things meme, I tag Chris Zenga, Geoff, Craig, Thrawn, Humblewoodcutter, & Heather.
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Whew! Glad that's over. I guess now I'll need to start selling that photo in my online shop.


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All original artwork on The Flying Trilobite Copyright to Glendon Mellow. The contents of this blog are under a Creative Commons Licence. See sidebar for details.
Please visit my blog, gallery and reproduction store.

Monday, 10 November 2008

Artwork Mondays: Grandmother's favourite


This drawing was always my grandmother's favourite piece of my artwork. I drew this back in the early days of university after I had largely stopped drawing vampires and faeries, and as my interest in science had started coming back to the fore. I called it "Beetleman", though I'm not really sure why.

My grandmother loved this one, and I gave her a reproduction of it. I miss my grandparents, and I'll always appreciate how they encouraged me in my artwork. My grandmother would challenge me about what I was trying to do, and pester me with questions, until she'd laugh at my answer once it was clear. My grandfather would not have much commentary about the subjects, instead asking about the media used, and supplying us with astonishing amounts of paper when my sisters and I were small.

Good times.

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All original artwork on The Flying Trilobite Copyright to Glendon Mellow. The contents of this blog are under a Creative Commons Licence. See sidebar for details.
Please visit my blog, gallery and reproduction store.

Wednesday, 5 November 2008

ScienceOnline'09 - thoughts on two cultures

In January, I will be co-moderating with Jessica Palmer on a couple of sessions at ScienceOnline'09.

Here are the first thoughts I published to the wiki for Art + Science: online and offline:

A big topic, so I’ll start where I’m familiar. Science opens up new territories for visual language and metaphor.

Using scientific discoveries, diagrams, principles and images to increase the visual language in art. This is something I strive to do with each piece. When taking history of western art 101, I recall being amazed at the idea that the general public of the Renaissance would have understood the significance of an orange on the table in a portrait. Or that much of Michaelangelo’s work was an attempt to portray platonic ideal forms.

Exploring the same sort of method for my work has led me in attempts to personify ‘extinction’ and ‘mitochondrial eve’ as beings rather than concepts, or Haldane’s precambrian rabbit quote as a puzzle. I regularly depict my wife in paintings and drawings holding diatoms, because they are beautiful, delicate, and (thinking of photosynthesis here) essential to life. An example outside of my own work would be Dali’s Christus Hypercubus (scroll down), or Jessica’s Aposematism. The golden ratio gave us this stunning cover composition in Imagine FX recently. In pop culture, I marvel at Davy Jones’ crew in the Pirates of the Caribbean series as monsters difficult to present to a public unaccustomed to detailed images of nature. I could go on.

The reverse is what’s difficult for me to see: how does science benefit from art? From viewing it, and resolving a problem or…?

Is art a parasite on science, except when used as illustration? Many naturalists are painters as well.

Seed magazine’s article by Jonah Lehrer in issue 13 was interesting. So was this Cocktail Party Physics post.

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Here are some more up-to-date thoughts I've been pondering lately, and I will update to the wiki. I think this is a better synopsis for where my head has been.
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The relationship between the cultures of art and science: does art act as a parasite on science? The benefits of scientific findings to the inspiration of art have numerous examples. Popular culture at large may benefit from art inspired by science. But does science ever benefit from art, other than illustration? Can art inspire science?

Good art usually is connected by metaphor and symbolic representations to its subject matter. Metaphor and symbols are by their very nature, imprecise descriptions of the world. Science, on the other hand strives for accuracy and precision. Is art only capable of being a metaphor for a small aspect of a single phenomena, and not the whole?

How does art inspired by, say, palaeontology differ from art inspired by physics? Will an illustration of a Mesozoic landscape always be inherently more precise than a sculpture inspired by quantum phenomena?

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All original artwork on The Flying Trilobite Copyright to Glendon Mellow. The contents of this blog are under a Creative Commons Licence. See sidebar for details.
Please visit my blog, gallery and reproduction store.

Tuesday, 4 November 2008

Banner tweak

Made a couple of small tweaks to my banner this evening since nothing historic is happening on t.v. tonight. Does it read well? I get a lot of compliments on the Art in Awe of Science tagline, so I wanted to emphasize it.

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All original artwork on The Flying Trilobite Copyright to Glendon Mellow. The contents of this blog are under a Creative Commons Licence. See sidebar for details. Please visit my blog, gallery and reproduction store.

Sunday, 2 November 2008

Artwork Mondays: the aura of oil

The aura of painting exists in the mind of the viewer, and in some cases the mind of the illustrator when seeing their own work reproduced. The idea of paintings having an aura or presence is something that has fascinated me since university, as discussed last week. Some excellent comments were made by artists Sean Craven and Chris Zenga, check it out.

Okay so from my non-scientific anecdotal samplings and personal experiences (oh the sins against science I commit! I will say ten ATP-->ADP reactions in penance), I doubt the existence of original paintings having a quasi-mystical aura or emitting a presence to the viewer. You can read a bit more about this "aura of authenticity" from an art historical perspective
here, and from the side of new age-laced artsy language here (10th paragraph), and here. It's head-shakingly amazing how fear for loss of the aura is dovetailed with a fear of technology.

Is there anything special or unique then, about an original painting that does not lie entirely within the biases of the viewer? In case of oil paintings, I say yes. And looking at last week's comments, Chris Zenga guessed the point of this week's Artwork Monday while thinking about a D.N.A Candle Vanitas painting I gave to him and his wife for their marriage (at right, original post here).

I love oil painting. I enjoy the scent of the oil, and the buttery consistency flowing
together under a horizontally-held fan brush. And most of all, I love the depth glazing can bring about in the final work.

Oil painting differs from other types of painting in many ways. Oils do not evaporate as they dry like watercolour or acrylic painting; instead they absorb oxygen from the air. This is called a siccative quality. The way I think about this, is like the oxygen molecules are pineapple chunks being added to Jell-o in a confined bowl. Adding more will increase the density and stop the Jell-o from jiggling. I don't know that this is a chemically-apt description, so please feel free to tell me there's not room for Jell-o in the comments if I am mangling the science of siccatives.

For this reason, it's important that oil paintings are painted in thin layers with an increasing amount of oil in successive layers. It allows the oxygen to permeate evenly over the course of six months to a year after painting, and helps prevent cracking. The rule is referred to as "fat over lean".

So oil paintings, particularly by Renaissance and Baroque masters, contained many thin, mostly transparent layers of paint, each tinted with a little pigment. And herein lies the aura of a painting viewed live versus online.

When light hits all these layers of oil, it permeates each oily membrane and begins to reflect back out. But some photons will bounce back into the oil layers off of the pigments, and back to the lower layers before pinging back out of the painting, and onward to the viewers eyes. This optical effect literally creates a glow. It's also the reason for the incredibly deep blacks often found in the backgrounds of portraits.

So the illusion of depth in an oil painting can be profoundly eye-catching, and similar to looking at objects in water, the oil-glazes draw our eyes and captivate our pattern-seeking centers, making the paint feel alive. No unscientific aura necessary, just wonderful chemistry interacting on our biology.

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All original artwork on The Flying Trilobite Copyright to Glendon Mellow. The contents of this blog are under a Creative Commons Licence. See sidebar for details.
Please visit my blog, gallery and reproduction store.
Copyright © 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013 Glendon Mellow. All rights reserved. See Creative Commons Licence above in the sidebar for details.