Thursday, 29 July 2010

Moving

...Not moving urls like all the cool sciblogging kids seem to be doing these days.  Michelle and I are packed, and moving over the next two days to a nice shiny new apartment.  (A yard!  Wooo!)  Moving about a 100 pixels north on Google Maps from where we are now.

You may recall my studio is currently in a large closet:

Can you spot Trilobite Boy?



The studio is packed.  I realized how many unused supplies I actually have.  This is gonna be great after settling in. I shouldn't have too much lost bloggy time (he says now) since the wireless internet will only be offline for part of Saturday. Time to paint and such may take longer. It's like a vacation where I lift heavy objects at Michelle's every whim.

I also found Darwin Took Steps in an unexpected spot - I hadn't remembered it was taken out of its frame some months back. "Staircase Charlie" is safe and sound.

Awright. Time to crank The Prodigy and finish packing.

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Monday, 26 July 2010

Sketch - Trilobite Boy Saves the Day



We're moving pretty soon (possibly sooner than expected!) so not a lot of time to complete self-started projects at the moment.

Here's a sketch for what will be a brightly coloured painting: Trilobite Boy Saves the Day.  I'm thinking bright lime green for the cape. Standing on a red brick rooftop with bright blue sky and fluffy clouds overhead.  I'll probably re-pose the arms.

You can click
here for more Trilobite Boy sketches and artwork.  I'm just getting started with this character and his cast.

Don't forget to vote on my poll!  Kthx.

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Thursday, 22 July 2010

New poll - choose my own adventure

There's a new poll at right below.  My freelance career will be beginning in the next several weeks, so I've opened up a poll to get a sense of what some readers of The Flying Trilobite may be interested in.  It's anonymous, and you can choose multiple answers.

My kind of dream-project at the moment is to have a picture book with my paintings complemented by some SF stories by various writers (thanks for the support, Brian!).  I know there are many venues where I could self-publish a beautiful book like this - one Facebook fan has already admonished me and said I should be considering an agent and mainstream publishing (thanks L!).

 What do you think?








[Edit:  the Blogger sidebar poll wasn't working, so I've replaced it with this one by PollDaddy. Please respond again if you tried to a first time.]

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Wednesday, 21 July 2010

Strong & Free(lance): Updates and...Ads?

I've been talking about going full-time or part-time freelance in the Strong & Free(lance) series.  Here's a few tidbits and updates on where things are headed right now. 

(I think Strong and Free(lance) needs its own header.  Hmm.)

Explanation
I realized some readers abroad may not get the "Strong & Free(lance)" title. I'm Canadian  and a line in our national anthem, O Canada, is "the True North strong and free".  That's the reason for the "lance" in freelance being marked off by brackets.  Sometimes I think I'm clever.

Changes
-Boy, do I know how to pick my timing!  Michelle was switching schools.  We're moving on August 1st to a much nicer apartment. And I have resigned my job and there's a big question mark on the future income.  It's daunting. Doubts creep in. I have never done freelance illustration and fine art full-time, and I'm not sure of the market.

-I'm going to try and keep posting art in progress throughout the move to our new place.  Lots of packing to do, so there may be more in-process stuff than finished pieces.

-That said, Michelle has been really encouraging that it will work out.  If not, as another wise artist said to me, I can always try to get another job in retail management. I may go for something at least part-time to have something steady.

-I am currently still at my full-time job.  The company has been great to me over the years, so I wanted to be flexible with my ending date.  Currently, we're looking at me leaving sometime between August 1st and September 30th.  This has lead to a number of "what year?" jokes at work.

Interest
-There's been some hopeful signs lately that there is a market for what I may offer.  I have seen a marked increase in requests for original oil paintings since The Last Refuge was completed.

-My Facebook fans have doubled recently -I'm not sure why, but it's welcome- leading to more interaction with interesting people.

-I'm currently ranking in the teens in the Life Science category of ScienceBlips. Make sure to click it in the sidebar on the right, and use the AddThis sharing widget I've added at the bottom of each blog entry to post on Facebook, Twitter and more. I'm #18 in Life Science and the time of typing this, which is pretty good I think when you consider I'm an artist messing with prehistoric fauna.

Questions
-I'm making plans for the freelance era of Flying Trilobite.  How does an art book sound?  I think that's a major project I'd like to undertake.  I wonder if anyone would be interested in writing short one-page SF stories riffing on some of my paintings?

-Finally, I also wanted to ask for opinions on adding Google Adsense to this blog.  What's your opinion?  Would it turn you off from reading here?

-I find myself wondering if I should be looking into art grants for the fine artsy stuff, or incorporating my brand for the illustrative stuff.  I'm thinking a lot about concrete definitions.  Is that silly?  Do I need to focus, or throw it all out there and see what happens?


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Tuesday, 20 July 2010

Tips for web-ready images

I originally posted this over on SONSI, where I practice my webmaster skills.  I thought it might be useful to some Flying Trilobite readers.

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Recently I was asked,
“Could you help me with understanding how to format my photos for upload and how to add the transparent © symbol? (see below) If these are questions that many have already asked, maybe a FAQ on the site would be a good idea?”
We discussed it, and I thought I’d share my quick tips here and the whole intertubes.
If you use software like Photoshop or Gimp to alter the size of your files, aim to make them 100kb or less in size.  (Most of mine fall into the 75kb range).  There’s generally three things that affect file size: colour, dimensions of the image and quality of the image.
Colour: Typically, you are not going to want to reduce your colour range, unless it’s a colour scan of a black and white image.  So let’s leave that alone.
Dimensions of the image: you can often find ways to alter this (keep your proportions the same) under names like”canvas size” or just look for how many pixels wide and high the image is.  Typically, I tend to make things somewhere around 500-800 pixels on the larger side.  Most people don’t want to click to enlarge an image and have it expand to be bigger than their monitor.
Quality of the image: This is a dodgy one, since most of us want everything crystal-clear.  However, jpeg files can be compressed quite well without losing a lot of resolution, at least for posting online.  Not good for submitting to a magazine or for getting prints, but online it’s great.  In Photoshop, use the “save for web” feature (you can monkey with canvas size there too).  In Gimp, you get the option when you save the Gimp file as a jpeg.
I’ve mentioned Gimp a couple of times – it’s a decent, FREE alternative to Photoshop that can do (kinda-almost) everything Photoshop Elements can.  There’s no insidious pop-ups or programming.  It just works really well.   (I do not work for them or receive any cool kickbacks.)   You can find it here. http://www.gimp.org/
To put a copyright symbol on your work, go into the text tool on software like Photoshop, Gimp or many others and hold down ALT and type 0169 .  Let go of ALT and the © should appear.  Or you can cut-and-paste it from this post.
Anyone have any other quick tips?



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Monday, 19 July 2010

Flying and Asthma - repost

One of the most popular things I have ever posted here is due to search engines.  I have asthma, and posted a drawing about what it feels like, and because of the word "flying" in my blog's title, a lot of people come here looking for information about taking puffers on planes and asthma in general.

Summer is here, smog warnings are up, and the post has gone up in frequency. Here it is again.  
Originally posted in May 2008, and worth going back to to see the original comments it generated.  If you like the art, I experimented with an updated version.


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The Flying Trilobite already receives a lot of pageviews due to a steady stream of people searching about being an asthmatic and flying (in an airplane, I presume). I thought it may be somewhat useful for me to therefore pen a post on the subject. The reason so many asthma-sufferers find this blog, I believe is because of the post I did of a drawing called, Asthma Incubus back in May of 2007.

If you are reading this blog for the first time, then welcome! Drop in for the 
asthma, stay for somepaintings inspired by the awe of modern science. I am an artist living in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. Please don't be frightened by the atheism. With atheism comes a healthy dose of skepticism, which you will need if you are suffering from asthma and don't know where to turn next. And anyway, the way I see it, when it comes to asthma relief, it just means instead of thanking god(s), I thank the fine scientists, pharmacists and chemists that have helped save more lives than prayer ever has.

Without skepticism someone may try to wave their hands over you or ask you to carry a small doll to cure your asthma, and while both could be entertaining, you and I both know it's hard to laugh when your lungs feel like they weigh 200 pounds and are made out of bags of rusty harmonicas.

So to begin: a caveat, a warning, a caution. I am an artist, 
not a medical respirologist. If you are looking for relief from your wheezy lungs, I strongly, mightily urge you to seek out a "Western" medically-trained respirologist and asthma clinic that keeps up on the latest advances in drugs to ease your lungs back into contributing members of your chest cavity. All I will share in this blog are anecdotes, individual stories about asthma, which is not how you should make a diagnosis! Medicines and remedies using double-blind, empirical and statistical trials are the ones to trust. Your respirologist will know which ones. I would also suggest checking out The Asthma Society of Canada for some up-to-date "'evidence-based', market-tested, " information on a regular basis.

Also to begin: some reassurance. I am a skeptic, and I will 
not try to sell you on the idea of water-pills, drinking urine, homeopathy, acupuncture, taking something just because it is "all-natural", or rearranging mythical chakras. If people seriously think they are helping you with this advice, I would strongly advise you to laugh, ask them to explain further, laugh some more, and do nothing they tell you to treat your asthma. If you are unsure of whether something someone suggests is pure nonsense or not, look for information that has piles of trustworthy studies behind it. To get you started, check out The Skeptic's Dictionary, particularly under "Alternative Medicine".

Oh, and get your children vaccinated too. It doesn't cause asthma, and will save their lives.

So, flying with asthma.

I have flown a number of times in my life so far, probably about 8 trips there and back again. As I said, I live in Toronto, and I have flown as far away as Aruba and Calgary, some 6 or 7 hours at a stretch. I have taken numerous shorter flights from Toronto to Montreal on a variety of airlines; Air Canada, Westjet and Porter, small planes and large ones.

My asthma has been diagnosed as "brittle", though that seemed to be a mistake; I have never fallen unconscious, even in my worst heart-pounding, suffocating moments. The most recent diagnosis was "moderate persistent asthma".

I haven't had any trouble flying with asthma. Whew! I know, all this preamble to find out you should be okay! Modern planes are pressurised so the air will not be thin as you fly up to 35'000 feet. A smaller plane, you may feel light-headed I guess. I have hiked in the Blue Mountains of Virginia before up to 4'000 feet, and I could still breathe and carry a 60 pound backpack.

Flying in a plane is exciting, and I am not jaded by the experience yet. So, sometimes I will need to take a puffer during the duration of the flight, but ask your doctor, or use your own experiences to see if this is necessary. For myself, I do not experience any sudden tightening of the chest, and I suspect I may take it in those moments larger as a psychological comfort. Perhaps the next time I fly I'll skip it if I can and see how it goes.

Most puffers are pressurised canisters, and there seem to be no negative effects on these in a plane. They do not explode or leak. Again, a pressurised cabin would give the canister a steady barometric pressure, and it will function as though you are on the ground. Take your medications in-flight with you in your carry-on luggage. Be comfortable, and relax. Get a window seat and enjoy the flight.

Currently, I take two medications to treat my asthma. One is preventative, and another for fast relief in moments of distress. A while ago, I switched away from a ventolin inhaler to Airomir, and I find I am sleeping better at night. I recommend it. (
Ask your doctor!) My wife also informs me that I am not jerking my full body in my sleep anymore the way I used to once a night. There are a lot of options on the market, and you should work with your respirologist to see what works for you. A new medication, which I will not name, gave me some anxiety attacks when in combination with another puffer. My doc said it happens in a small samples of patients, about 5% of cases. So I switched.

I hope this has been helpful. Asthma is manageable, and sufferers have many options to help nowadays. If, however, I am wrong and there is some folklore I do not know about and people are finding this blog to learn about flapping their arms like Icarus and flying while suffering some asthmatic-like effects afterward, I have only one response.

"Umm." 


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Friday, 16 July 2010

Trilobite Boy character sketches

Here's something I started working on tonight using the digital painting program ArtRage. This is a screenshot of the program. Click to enlarge.




I've been planning on doing some paintings with the character on the left, now dubbed Trilobite Boy.  He's based off of the painting I did called Life as a Trilobite (below).


The girl on the right is wearing the anomalocarid dress.  I've never actually finished a painting of that dress:  I usually get frustrated or start working on other things. Here's some earlier versions, none of which were completed.  The circle on her chest would be filled with a leechy, knife-like circular teeth pattern: 












I just want to play with these characters, and have fun. I have a bunch of rough sketches in my Moleskine of Trilobite Boy in various scenarios, so expect to see more of him over the next little while.  (And for Daniel and Peter, one will be under a bright blue sky with bold colours!)

More to come!  I'm working on some more characters. She needs a pet.

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I write like

This morning I analyzed my writing style using the "I Write Like" site that's so popular at the moment. Everyone's doing it.  I threw in my blog post about making The Last Refuge for analysis.  





I write like
Arthur C. Clarke
I Write Like by Mémoires, Mac journal software. Analyze your writing!




"Any sufficiently advanced flying trilobite is indistinguishable from awesome." 

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Wednesday, 14 July 2010

SONSI logo - round 3!

The Southern Ontario Nature & Science Illustrators (SONSI) are choosing a group logo - head over and help us decide!  Illustrator Jeremy Loranger had put up round 3 of tweaks and variations.  Great stuff.

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Tuesday, 13 July 2010

Updating blogroll

Working on updating my blogroll in the right sidebar.

Blogger has a neat widget that allows you to carry the feed title of the latest post by blogroll blogs...but I had so many it was slowing down loading the blog, and these days I'm using Google Reader to keep up.

I used to have them organized by art, science, writing, scienceblogs.com, my Art Evolved peeps, etc.  Now, I kind of like a giant mash-up.  I find a lot of artists' blogs just use their names for titles, which is kind of interesting.  The mash-up makes it feel a bit more random, hidden treasures of blogs on each click of the list.

(If you don't see your name there and you're pretty sure it was before, don't fret.  I'm not finished typing it up yet.) 


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Monday, 12 July 2010

Art Monday: Bumper Sticker Style









Made from my playing around with my tattoo design. I might work up a variant of these to put in the print shop. Something about colour gradients on black reminds me of summer:  waveboarding, cycling the boardwalk, tattoos and teen posturing.

Maybe the green needs to be more of a bright lime to go with the others.

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Thursday, 8 July 2010

Strong and Free(lance): Hit Me. *Isaidhitme!*


For this second venture into my Strong and Free(lance) series I want you to hit me.

Thinking about the introspection and reality check Stephanie Zvan recently
asked for, I'd like to request my readers to engage in some constructive criticism if you're game.

Specifically, which painting, drawing or image have I made that you don't like?
Which do you despise?
Why?
Is there something I did once I should be doing more often?
Is it a small flaw that mars your enjoyment of a certain piece?
Was it the meaning and intention behind one that fails?

Places you can look:
Professional portfolio - supposed to be the best of the best.
DeviantArt portfolio - more comprehensive, I even throw sketches in there.

Print Shop - art I think others may enjoy purchasing.
Calendars - I've had two, so they're a good spot to get a short overview of my artwork.



I allow anonymous and pseudonymous comments, and I'm also hoping my regular commenters will feel comfortable enough not to use 'em. Those are comfortable doing so, maybe you could also add to your comment your background, for the benefit of other readers?  "I'm Susan, a science blogger at ________ and I was disappointed when you painted X: the anatomy looks sloppy to me"-kind of thing.

Since I started blogging my artwork over 3 years ago, the scientific, atheist, artsy and random commenters who visit have been very supportive, and thanks to everyone.  This is asking for a different kind of support.

Hit me!

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Tuesday, 6 July 2010

Trilobites abound.

Cool.  
The book that featured me is featuring me on the blog of the book.  (If you read that, you must now say it 5 times really fast. )

Check out the Geology in Art blog by artist-scientist Andrea Baucon for commentary about my artwork, and many other excellent paleo-artists including my Art Evolved peep Peter Bond.

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If you've already visited Art Evolved's Trilobite Gallery, go again!  More artwork has popped out of the deep internet strata, or from some sort of fossil-ly metaphor, and it's awesome stuff, worth checking out.

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Are a lot of my reader's Capricorns?  Seems to be a lot asking for the Trilobite Astrology image for that one!  

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Monday, 5 July 2010

Introducing: "Trilobites had no astrology"

Introducing my new skeptic-paleo mash-up, the Trilobites had no astrology series. Above is Wave 1 (click to enlarge), featuring "had no" Aries, Taurus, Gemini and Cancer.  I plan on doing a poster and calendar once all designs are presented in the next few weeks.

The idea behind it is to make a fun conversation-starter: how could there be a trilobite version of sun signs?  The constellations looked different 500 million years ago, and many of the animals astrological symbols are based on hadn't evolved yet. It's one more way of pointing out the moot pseudo-science of astrology - while sporting an awesome trilobite.

Each drawing has the astrological symbol incorporated into their design: can you spot the Roman II-like symbol in the Gemini trilobites?




Available as stickers, and a variety of colours and styles of 

shirts, hoodies, and toddler clothes.

 

As a now-skeptic who used to fervently believe in astrology, (it's bloody tempting) I think it could be fun to sport your own astrological trilobite or slapping stickers down on your bike or workspace.

Perhaps I've lost my marbles this time.  Aw, whatevs.  Two more waves coming in the next few weeks!

Shop for these here!

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Friday, 2 July 2010

Skitter-scatter!

Skitter over to Art Evolved: Life's Time Capsule, and for gawd's sake, hurry!  The Trilobite Time Capsule is on!  

Here's one of my entries to whet your appetite for exo-skeletal awesomeness:




Flying Trilobite VI - The Obelisk - ©  Glendon Mellow 2010.  Oil on slate, photography, Photoshop.

Click to gigantify.

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