Wednesday, 30 December 2009

ScienceOnline2010: Art & Science - metaphors

part 1 can be found here, discussing metaphors with one thin slice of an example that is also rich and filling. To follow this series of posts, click the "scio10art" label below. (I will also be doing a workshop about digital painting with a tablet - for more on that, look for posts labelled with "scio10tablet".)

At the upcoming ScienceOnline2010 in January, I will be on hand again to lead a session discussing art & science, this time working alongside Felice Frankel. As last year, here are some of the subjects for this year's session in advance, so whether or not you will be attending you can take part in this discussion. I don't presume to speak for Felice here, although after a fun phone call a few weeks ago, I think it's safe to say we'll be leading the discussion and not heatedly debating.

It is important to recognize at the outset that categorizing artwork under a few banners will never fully satisfy. Even placing them along a spectrum, one type fading into another related type is inadequate, as art can contain imagery and meaning from any point in a spectrum.

But I'm gonna do it anyway. I think it helps to have some kind of a map to guide our discussion, while recognizing a different map would lea
d to different treasures. Let us also begin with the assumption that metaphors abound in science as well as in art, presumably because we humans find new and strange things easier to grasp when we relate them to things we already know.

Breezing past these issues, here are a few types of metaphor that appear in scientific imagery. (At Felice's suggestion, I'll often use the word imagery in place of art - it opens up the field.)

1) Data visualization metaphors- Graphs & charts. Medical & scientific illustration. Literal metaphors with a specific intent of clarifying information about real world phenomena. Last year, attendee Ryan Somma of Ideonexus blogged that "operating systems are basically a collection of metaphors for all the inner mechanical and electronic workings".

At left, a diagram of a representative triglyceride found in linseed oil (by Smokefoot, public domain). Not how it would appear to the naked eye, but a useful language of chemical metaphors is used to help visualize relationships.

At left, an image of cool objects past Pluto (by Lexicon, under GNU licence). Here, what does the positioning of the plutoids tell us? What metaphorical relationship is revealing a truth, and what is erroneous in favour of the metaphor?




2) Narrative & allegorical metaphors - Illustration. Image representing ideas. (my own artwork falls here). Often traditional materials are used in a Renaissance or children's book style.

At left, The Young Family, a cautionary metaphor by Patricia Piccinini, with a sort of bioengineering, uncanny valley, Frankensteinish motif.



Migrations, a blog banner (by me) commissioned for Dan Rhoads science blog, Migrations.



3) Abstracted science metaphors - Using data-gathering tools but divorced from immediately applicable data. Inspirational and provocative. Abstracted from science imagery. Image for image's sake (perhaps technique is the message, a la MacLuhan?) Much of Felice's work falls here, in my opinion.

Ferrofluid, a drop of ferro-fluid being affected by magnets, on a glass side with a yellow Post-It underneath. Copyright Felice Frankel.









The Cone, by Andy Goldsworthy, (left) an environmental and found object artist.









At what point does the artistic nature of a metaphor take over, creating an art object that is no longer scientifically useful in representing data? This question came up during SciBarCamp here in Toronto last May when an interesting disagreement came up between an artist and a biomedical simulator, and has been explored by Jessica Palmer at Bioephemera as well. We've all watched a metaphor run away with itself - this is neither good nor bad, but certainly useful in a different way than a specific metaphor describing single phenomena.

There may kind of be a 4th category as well, though I do not know if we will deal with it in session.

4) Metaphors that mislead - here I'm thinking about things like the overly mechanical illustrations by creationists to help them explain the faulty irreducible complexity arguments of eyes and bacterial flagellum. Medical illustration illuminates certain features while omitting others for the sake of clarification, but I suspect so-called intelligent design illustrations omit and highlight in a fictional way to lead viewers to erroneous conclusions.

I'd love to hear other people's examples of images in these categories (or examples that disrupt them!) in the comments below!


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Original artwork on The Flying Trilobite Copyright to Glendon Mellow
under Creative Commons Licence.
Flying Trilobite Gallery *** Flying Trilobite Reproduction Shop ***

Monday, 28 December 2009

Art Monday: secular swag

In 2008, I was commissioned by author Dale McGowan to create a blog banner for his blog, The Meming of Life.


Dale is a superb writer about raising children to be well-rounded, happy, moral people without religion - or perhaps I should say with a plethora of religious teachings and stories, and the faculties to think through them on their own. Dale has penned and edited two books on the subject: Parenting Beyond Belief and Raising Freethinkers.

The image was well-received, and I'm still very pleased with it. I enjoyed Dale's enthusiasm for the child's auroch, the little funky blue guy in the corner. And available now...


...secular swag!

Check out the line of hoodies, mugs and magnets that help support this wonderful atheist-parenting and rational freethinking blog. Flying Trilobite approved!



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Original artwork on The Flying Trilobite Copyright to Glendon Mellow
under Creative Commons Licence.


Flying Trilobite Gallery
*** Flying Trilobite Reproduction Shop ***

Monday, 21 December 2009

Saturday, 19 December 2009

Science Online 2010: Art & Science intro

At the upcoming ScienceOnline2010 in January, I will be on hand again to lead a session discussing art & science, this time working alongside Felice Frankel. I thought I would do as last year, and put up some of the things I'm thinking about for this year's session in advance, so whether or not you will be attending, you can take part in this discussion. I don't presume to speak for Felice here, although after a wonderful phone call a few weeks ago, I think it's safe to say we'll be leading the discussion and not heatedly debating.

To follow this series of posts, click the "scio10art" label below.
(I will also be doing a workshop about digital painting with a tablet - for more on that, look for posts labelled with "scio10tablet".)

Let's get started.

From the wiki, "
How has our vocabulary of metaphors changed in the wake of scientific inquiry and visualization? This year, let’s take a trip through metaphors in science-based art and discuss how visual representations can enhance understanding, inspire wonder in science and the tension along the Accuracy-Artistic Divide."

Last year we discussed art, science, the two cultures, and I identified what I feel are various types of science-art. I also fretted about art being parasitic on scientific discovery, and could only identify a few instances where art propelled research.

This year, I'd like to focus on artistic metaphors in science imagery.


From The Free Dictionary, metaphors are: "
A figure of speech in which a word or phrase that ordinarily designates one thing is used to designate another, thus making an implicit comparison...One thing conceived as representing another; a symbol...."

Visual metaphors are just that, symbols of one thing representing another, making a comparison, usually of their similarities. They have a rich history in art. The following example isn't necessarily related to science-images, but I feel it will be instructive about typical metaphor in fine art painting. This is one of my favourite paintings, alternatively known as Art or The Sphinx or The Caresses, by Fernand Khnopff, a Belgian Symbolist who painted this in 1896. To use this as one representative example, we see here a variety of metaphors. The artist is cheek to cheek with his muse, a rather androgynous, perhaps feminine version of himself (Khnopff favoured strong jawlines on the women he painted). They are alone in a landscape, alone with their thoughts, and seem to be communing. The artist gazes outward at the world, and the muse has closed eyes and a Mona Lisa-inspired smile, a typical Symbolist expression denoting "looking inward at the soul". The exotic cheetah stripes on the Sphinx also shows the wildness of the artist's thoughts.

Most of the metaphors I have just described were likely intended by Khnopff. In our contemporary view, one criticism we may employ is that many of the Symbolists portrayed the men as hero-poets in thrall to not-quite-human women, portraying their anxiety at turn of the century European culture.

It's one example, but The Sphinx begins to show us how many visual metaphors can be packed into a simple painting with two figures.

Next post: an overview of science art & imagery, categorizing them by type of metaphor.



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Original artwork on The Flying Trilobite Copyright to Glendon Mellow
under Creative Commons Licence.
Flying Trilobite Gallery *** Flying Trilobite Reproduction Shop ***

Friday, 18 December 2009

A dotcom: boom!

I'm pleased to announce that glendonmellow.com is now live.




There shouldn't be too many bugs left, mainly I still have more artwork to upload. I'm going back and forth on the lead image, above. Should it have the text, or not?

After registering my domain with GoDaddy and deciding on deviantArt's new portfolio for my site template, the rest was fairly simple. There are not a lot of customizable choices on dA's portfolios, but I like the clean look.

What is it for? Well, time and again, I've read that art editors and directors prefer not to wade through the irrelevant-to-their-needs-stuff that makes a blog a blog, or deviantART, deviantArt. I wanted clean and simple, and something that aesthetically fits with both the blog and with my print shop. I've been blogging on The Flying Trilobite since March 2007, and it has been wonderful so far - no plans to stop!

2009 has been a busy year. I've had a number of commissions, art & interviews published in traditional print 7 times, any number of links & blog citations, a podcast interview and a reproduction is currently hanging in a Spanish museum. I'd love to eventually be busy enough to work on art & illustration as a source of income part-time (or full-time, dare to dream). I am hoping having a simple, glendonmellowdotcom will make this year even busier.


Let me know what you think of the dotcom!



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Original artwork on The Flying Trilobite Copyright to Glendon Mellow
under Creative Commons Licence.

glendonmellow.com*** Flying Trilobite Reproduction Shop ***

Monday, 14 December 2009

Geology in Art by Andrea Baucon

Paleontologist, geologist and artist, Andrea Baucon has a deep interest in trace fossils, the little marks made by the passing of extinct organisms. Fittingly, he has put together a book tracing geology's path through the arts.
Geology in Art: an unorthodox path from visual arts to music
is a large coffee-table of a book, covering the imagery and influence of that natural earth upon which we stand in music, paintings, fiction and even wine.

From the book's site:

"The contemporary art world is analyzed through interviews, in the belief that artists’ opinions and statements are valid source materials for the study of Geologic Art.
With its large format and more than 100 illustrations of art works, this is both a coffee-table book and an educational experience that informs, inspires and entertains Art and Geology enthusiasts alike."


Months ago, Andrea emailed me to ask if he could interview me and include some of my images in the book. I agreed, and I have seen the earlier incarnation as a more scholarly .pdf document. This blows it away. What a wonderfully rich book. I feel honoured to be in the same collection as Andy Goldsworthy and Ryan North's Dinosaur Comics and so many others.

You can preview the entire book on Blurb. My contribution includes an interview along with a photo of my tattoo, both configurations of Haldane's Precambrian Puzzle and in the fiction section, Life As a Trilobite.

(Thanks to my paleo-art peep Peter Bond for posting the news on Art Evolved!)

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Original artwork on The Flying Trilobite Copyright to Glendon Mellow
under Creative Commons Licence.
Flying Trilobite Gallery *** Flying Trilobite Reproduction Shop ***

Art Monday: Fossil Boy, Diatom Girl

Our final project for my Drawing & Narrative class was more or less open. I decided to continue exploring ammonite fossils, hands, and some diatoms.

For a long time, I've used diatoms along with images of my wife, Michelle. Diatoms are beautiful algae that create complicated geometric structures from silica, and look like beautiful glass ornaments. They help create oxygen, which is a nice thing for an asthmatic like me to associate with my wife in a metaphorical life-sustaining way. The fossils are kind of a proxy for me. Part of the suggested outline for the assignment included making a book, and images of family.

Three of the most difficult things to draw are the face, hands, and feet. (Fore
shortening is a whole other problem.) I love drawing hands, so I looked at this as a challenge. I decided I would add some torn paper elements as well. While working on my rough sketches, our professor suggested including some elements with the Fibonacci sequence, and looking up artists Mario Merz. I've done some sketches using Fibonacci numbers before, when I was working on Dan Rhoads' Migrations blog banner. I tried to use it as a compositional device.

Almost in its entirety, (a snippet is lopped off from the edges), here are the drawings from the series Fossil Boy, Diatom Girl.


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Original artwork on The Flying Trilobite Copyright to Glendon Mellow
under Creative Commons Licence.
Flying Trilobite Gallery *** Flying Trilobite Reproduction Shop ***

Saturday, 12 December 2009

2010 Calendar - atheism months?

Here's a look at two of the more controversial months in The Flying Trilobite 2010 Calendar. Perhaps not controversial to some of the regular readers of TFT. Atheism can still be a charged subject in a crowded room.

May: Science-Chess Accommodating Religion is a painting I did this year inspired by the writing of many atheist bloggers, from Jerry Coyne and Ophelia Benson, to Mike Haubrich and Jason Thibeault. The whole thing actually started out as a tweet of mine, which Mike at Tangled Up In Blue Guy liked. You can read about that here.

October: October has an image called Education: Science Vs. Religion that was created as a poster for a Centre for Inquiry lecture in Toronto by PZ Myers of Pharyngula, in Octtober 2008. It had some interesting disagreements about symbolism at Pharyngula in the comments. You can see a bit more about it from me here, a making of here, and shots of the final poster here.

Both of my calendar collections, dated for 2010, can be found in my RedBubble reproduction shop.

Collection 1: Collection 2:


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Original artwork on The Flying Trilobite Copyright to Glendon Mellow
under Creative Commons Licence.
Flying Trilobite Gallery *** Flying Trilobite Reproduction Shop ***

Friday, 11 December 2009

Interview at Extreme Biology

An interview with yours truly, conducted by Melina of the Extreme Biology blog has gone up. Extreme Biology is a high school biology class blog run by Miss Baker. who teaches in the North Eastern U.S. The students will also be attending the upcoming Science Online 2010 in January, and I hope to shake hands with the interviewer!
I dunno though. Sometimes I wonder if listening to an artist is like listening to one of those Eighties hair-metal bands talk about their music. Hopefully I made more sense.
(Thanks Melina and Miss Baker!)
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Original artwork on The Flying Trilobite Copyright to Glendon Mellow
under Creative Commons Licence.

Flying Trilobite Gallery *** Flying Trilobite Reproduction Shop ***

The “that’s right people, I’m an artist, but I do science-y art and it’s cool” badge.

Aww, thanks Jason! (see below)

ArtRage news and nephew

The last few months I've been exploring a fantastic digital painting program called ArtRage 2.5. It only cost about $30 Canadian, works beautifully with a tablet, and has a fascinating array of tools. Including glitter.

Unlike many other programs, the interface couldn't be simpler. Most of the things you need are located on the two quarter-wheels in the corners.You can choose the paper or canvas surface you want, and manipulate the thinners in the oils. There's an instant-dry feature. An array of palette knives.


Great news! ArtRage 3 is about to launch for download on December 14th! The new version is apparently going to have tons of new features, including watercolours. And the price of the version I'm using is going down to about $20, according to the announcement.


My 8-year old nephew loves ArtRage too, mainly for making skateboard deck designs.


As you can see, he's much, much braver than I am with the program. I still have an oil painter's inherent caution and planning, but the Neph? He just goes for it! Amazing.
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Original artwork on The Flying Trilobite Copyright to Glendon Mellow
under Creative Commons Licence.
Flying Trilobite Gallery *** Flying Trilobite Reproduction Shop ***

Monday, 7 December 2009

Art Monday: Darwin Display

From -nieh-'s Flickr photostream.

A mighty tip of a ten-gallon hat to Michael Barton of Dispersal of Darwin for sending me the link. I believe this must be the Casa de las Ciencias display I mentioned recently.

Sweet. I like the Darwin-Moth painting. Anyone know who painted that one? I'm proud to have Darwin Took Steps in such good company.

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Original artwork on The Flying Trilobite Copyright to Glendon Mellow
under Creative Commons Licence.

Flying Trilobite Gallery *** Flying Trilobite Reproduction Shop ***

2010 Calendar Available now!

Saturday, 5 December 2009

Holiday ideas from Flying Trilobite

This is a whole new collection of bio-, atheistic and paleo-artwork I've put together as a calendar for 2010. I'm really proud of this one, and it has a few image variants not previously available. I've included a peek at a few images below, and you can click through the entire calendar at my RedBubble reproduction gallery.

June

JulyBack Cover

I loved the print quality of the 2009 calendar by RedBubble. They accept payment in many currencies, Canadian, U.S., Australian, U.K., and Euros. If you missed it, you can also purchase last year's calendar, with the dates revised for 2010!

It's a great a relatively inexpensive way to own a lot of Flying Trilobite artwork. Impress and weird out your friends, co-workers and labmates.


Both calendar collections can easily be found here.

And I've added a new tee! This t-shirt was suggested by one of my blog readers, Alison from the land of Aus. It features my popular Haldane's Precambrian Puzzle. Here's a close-up of the t-shirt graphic: It's available in 4 styles of sweatshop-free shirt, and in multiple colours.

And there is still time to order the popular Tra-la-la-la-lobite cards with delivery before Christmas day!
(Hmm. Next year perhaps ornaments?)

Happy Holidays and Merry Krismas!

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Original artwork on The Flying Trilobite Copyright to Glendon Mellow
under Creative Commons Licence.

Flying Trilobite Gallery *** Flying Trilobite Reproduction Shop ***
Copyright © 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013 Glendon Mellow. All rights reserved. See Creative Commons Licence above in the sidebar for details.