Wednesday, 29 September 2010

Trilobite Boy - iPod sketch



Inspired in part by the excellent sketches Eric Orchard has been producing the last few months on his iPod, here's a sketch of Trilobite Boy.
I did this using Sketchbook Mobile.

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Tuesday, 28 September 2010

Science-Artists Feed growing

The Science-Artists Feed keeps on growing.  This feed is featured on Scienceblogging.com, the science network aggregator, and you can subscribe here, to get all of these headlines in your Reader.

There are a lot of creative people out there exploring ideas that would have been impossible to conceive in earlier eras, before out own current understanding.  Glad to see it struck a chord with at least one science-artist.

Below is the current list of blogs.  Does anyone know of more?  There are a lot of great medical and paleo blogs here, but what about astronomy-art blogs?  




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Monday, 27 September 2010

Scientific accuracy and art

When you type the word "trilobite" into Google's Blog Search, The Flying Trilobite is currently the first to come up.

But I stick wings on them.
Like this:







And this:
















And
all these.


Sometimes, other things happen.


Don't I have any sense of responsibility?  At this moment, I have the first blog to come up about trilobites, and what am I doing?  Cackling away while putting wings on aquatic arthropods in my oil paintings.  Irresponsible.  Think about the children! 


So what's it for?  

What does my tagline, "Art in Awe of Science" even mean if I am going to subvert the science?  The science of paleontology reveals through careful examination what life was like long ago, and how its remains have been preserved. Then I hop in, and start painting wings that didn't evolve for almost another 500 million years on the beasties. 

Should I take more care, and somehow display "Art in Awe of Science" with more reverence to the truth?  Is the communication of scientific ideals by artists and illustrators the pinnacle of what sci-art is all about?  

What is science-art for?  Scientific illustration, its fraternal twin has clear goals, and laudable ones.  Scientific illustrations communicate with rigor and accuracy ideas which will aid the scientist.  Sure, the scientific illustrator eliminates some of the oozy guckiness of the human body when revealed in diagrams, but this is to enhance and clarify the relevant internal landscape of the human body for the surgeon.  Laudable. 

Science-art is for something else.  Is it the communication of information?  

Roger Malina informs us that next year, NSF Informal Education Division is sponsoring an art-science workshop, entitled, "Art as a Way of Knowing", to be held at the San Francisco Exploratorium.  Is science-based art a "Way of Knowing"?  


What do you know when you look at say, a winged trilobite?  

You know, I could just say screw it:  everything is just representation, removed from reality, held at arm's length by our senses, and artwork is even further removed.   The scientific illustrator who carefully 3D renders a pristine skeleton is creating just as much an obfuscation of reality as it really really is as I am with my art-hack little flying trilobites. So there. 

Except for the scientific illustrator, teaching and clarity are goals. 

What are my goals? (art-hack)



According to the title of the NSF-sponsored workshop, apparently what I do may be a Way of Knowing.  But I feel that's putting the goal a little too strongly. You might say it's Making the Goal.  


Way of Knowing.  That's a tall order. 

I think a "Way of Knowing" is putting the (painterly, Impressionistic) cart before the (fully-3D-rendered, proper lighting and gamma) horse.  

I think the purpose, the path, the roadway of science-art is as a Way of Exploring.  



It's a way for the science-artist to explore forms:  to marry and synthesize separate ideas in to a new idea, because we're human, we're awesome and we can do that.

It's a way for the viewers of science-art to explore what they see, how they reconcile their knowledge and become intrigued and curious and oh my! who would have thought. They can explore how the dabs of mineral and plant oil reflect light and shapes and plug into the visual centers to show them something that isn't dabs of minerals and plant oil.

As a Way of Exploring, science-art is for scientists a way of facing a mirror of absurdities that realigns thinking on research, its a way of marrying the disparate to ponder how it would be possible. 


©  Glendon Mellow.  Oil painting of an ammonite-form on California Gold slate. 




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Thursday, 23 September 2010

Oil rig fire painting progress

Still practicing with ArtRage 2.5.

Here's a background that I think may be completed.  This is for Trilobite Boy Saves the Day, which I've previously posted about here and here. More Trilobite Boy posts here.

Click to enlarge.

Nasty oil rig fire.  Perhaps it's time for our hero to make an appearance.

Here's an up-close shot of what the clouds look like.


Click to enlarge. 

ArtRage is a painting program that attempts to mimic a variety of real art media, with the advantages that digital painting has to offer (layers, ctrl-z).  What do you think of this cloud detail?  I left it this jpeg at 95% resolution and zoomed way in.

Another thing that would be great if ArtRage could do, would be to somehow splatter ink.  I tried for that affect along the lower edge of the smoke-cloud, near the right side.  I used a tiny tube of paint and palette knife to scrape the squirted tube.  The new ArtRage can do a lot of new fancy things.  Maybe it has options.  For now, I may try a custom brush in Photoshop.

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Wednesday, 22 September 2010

Trilobite Boy - gargoyle progress

Continuing the work I showed in Monday's post, of Trilobite Boy sitting on a rooftop near some gargoyles.

Found a bit of time to start laying down colour.

Below, you can see the colour under the sketch layer with the sketch rendered invisible.  The bits of wings and buildings are on another layer entirely.



Here's the original sketch overlayed on top of the colour, below. 



Once I build up enough colour, I'll erase the sketch.  Although...maybe I'll leave some of the bluish lines on top of Trilobite Boy, or just his wings, to give it a ghostly appearance.

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Monday, 20 September 2010

Trilobite Boy - gargoyle sketch

Still working on other Trilobite Boy pieces, but I was in a mood to work on this darker sketch last night. 

Trilobite Boy - Gargoyle.






The wings are intended to be bony and floating above him. You can see a number of arm+hand positions I'm playing with. In ArtRage, I increased the thinners a lot, so the pressure sensitivity of my Wacom tablet will feel more like a wash.

I'm aiming for this to be monochromatic, bluish grey, Payne's gray, shiny streets below.   A melancholy feel.  I just realized, this reminds me a bit of Batty in Blade Runner. But trilobite-ish.


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I really love ArtRage 2.5 - I'm hoping to treat myself to 3.0 sometime soon.  It has watercolours, which I used to paint in before university.  I miss them.  ArtRage will be less expensive than buying physical watercolours.  One day...

Friday, 17 September 2010

Classic trilobite: referencing, gazing and Mitochondrial Eve

[Originally posted September 21st, 2008.  Hat tip to Jeska Corena for quoting the post.]

This week, I've been thinking a lot about social-consciousness in art. Y'know, being political and having a message for the public sphere.

There's some reasons for my preoccupation.

Tyler Handley at The Edger wondered how to classify atheist art. Jessica Palmer at Bioephemera shows the tension between illustration/photojournalism and fine art, and how poorly played it can both enhance and upset a career. Coturnix at A Blog Around the Clock has an interesting round-up of articles about art about science; I'm struck by how many are about global warming, but not surprised.

Social activism and controversies are always a part of the fine artists' agenda. It's not surprising. And it's a good thing the global warming crisis is a part of the agenda! I remember in university about 10 years ago, some wag put up a list of "10 images to be an art hack" too high up on a support pillar to take down. On it were things like, "Coca-Cola logo" (to signify evil corporations), "Kate Moss" (to signify male-controlled body image), "fetus" (to signify the abortion debate).

My friends and I used the term, "shake and bake" for this type of art; by putting an image on canvas of say, Kate Moss you were automatically addressing bulimia, women's body image, the perpetuation of the male-gaze in art, heroin chic (Trainspotting was a big movie when I was in Uni) and being "ironic" and "conflicted" by both showing her and "referencing" her. Ooo, edgy, a half-naked painting of a photo of Kate Moss.

Referencing was a big buzz word in Fine Art back then. It meant copying something, or including it in there. It was supposed to be a dialogue, while perhaps being vague on what you were saying.

It meant you didn't have to come up or reveal a new conflict to the viewer, you simply added to the dialogue. Shale and bake. Truly new conflicts were hard to smash through with. In my own small way, I tried. After reading River Out of Eden by Richard Dawkins over and over, I tried numerous pieces about the Mitochondrial Eve concept. It enthralled me that we could figure out things like this bottleneck in our prehistory. But it wasn't new of the day, so it was hard to spread the wonderment. Frustrating.

Here is that painting, Mitochondrial Eve:



Not perhaps my strongest work back then, and I've almost painted over it a few times. This one was painted on an antique wood panel to prevent warping, using traditional materials (rabbit-skin glue....eewwww) so it will likely look at me with it's not-up-to-my-standards look for quite some time.
I had roommates also in the Fine Arts, one majoring in dance, one in theatre. We'd joke a bit that in both their disciplines, collaboration is essential; whereas in visual art, you're expected to stand smoking in the corner saying, "They're all hacks, no one understands my genius. puff".





But back to social messages. Are they all shake and bake? All instantly microwaveable into some sort of painting/sculpture/installation that everyone brings their own political/social/media-savvy background to?


No. There can be something strong enough to break through and galvanise people. But I think the world of visual Fine Art is tough. We are surrounded by astounding images every day, so standing still and letting a painting perform long enough to affect one's mindset as it unravels and wraps up a viewer is a difficult thing. I try it from time to time.


And once, I was so overcome, I simply sat down in the middle of the gallery, on the floor. I stretched my legs out, and just enjoyed the still oil painting on the wall and let it affect me. Security didn't mind this gothy-punk just sitting there; I was causing no harm and others could walk around me. And the painting was marvelous. I consider it now my very favourite. Science and myth thrown together on a canvas. John Atkins Grimshaw's Iris. (The science comes from the part you cannot see in a photo: thin glazes of oil forming a rainbow following the tragic arch of Iris's body).


Try it. Find an image about a current issue like global warming. Perhaps it's a block of ice in a gallery kept at temperatures cool enough to drip only slowly, or tiny plastic polar bears on the floor of the gallery. Perhaps something on the computer screen, something from antiquity, something in your local museum or art gallery or a book.


Ponder it slowly.


Be unafraid to find it shallow.


Be unafraid to say, "that's it?"


Be willing to enjoy the art of the small message for its small message.


And keep moving on, and slowing down to look until one commands your gaze. Let it mesmerise you with its memes and forms. My hope is that it will provide a rallying point for rationality in its beauty.


[Comments on original post here.]
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Tuesday, 14 September 2010

Felice Frankel on Studio 360

Studio 360 is featuring audio and a slide show narrated by Felice Frankel, science-photographer and co-author of No Small Matter.




(produced by Studio 360's Sarah Lilley)

You may remember Felice and I co-facilitated a session at ScienceOnline2010 last year, discussing science-imagery and metaphor.  We had a great time, and her insights into the physics of the nano-scale are accessible and aesthetically wondrous.  Lots of links here.

Check it out and head over to Studio 360 to comment, or better still pick up No Small Matter by Felice Frankel and George Whitesides-it's a treasure.


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Monday, 13 September 2010

Art Monday: our hero so far

Click to enlarge.

In-process work for Trilobite Boy Saves the Day. Above, a screenshot of what my desktop looks like while using ArtRage, a digital painting program (I'm using 2.5, and would love to buy 3.0).  I need to add smoke and fire coming from the oil rig. Art Rage feels a lot like real paint, and I may still go into Photoshop and add some atmospheric effects and blurring to the horizon, as well as some texture to the waves. 

Below, an initial sketch of our hero.  His legs will be dripping with Gulf oil. 







I might make him slimmer and less muscular to match other images of the character.  Originally, this whole concept was going to have Trilobite Boy standing on a rooftop with a towel around his neck.  I'm also not sure about the costume logo I whipped up: maybe just the flying trilobite design, instead?

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Friday, 10 September 2010

October 2nd: Strong and Freelance

After discussion, we have a date: October 1st 2010 will be my last day of work at my full-time job, after 10 great years with the company.

Making October 2nd my first day of full-time freelance!  I'm excited and scared and elated.

I've been writing about my preparation to go freelance 
here.  More to come.

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Thursday, 9 September 2010

iForgot

Yesterday, I put up a "making of" post about Trilobite Boy Rocks Out.

I forgot to include the original colour sketch idea that had those crazy colour lights/bubbles in the first place!


It was made on my iPod Touch using Autodesk's Sketchbook Mobile while I was walking to work through Trinity-Bellwoods Park.  The iPod is a great took for quickly putting down rough ideas when inspiration strikes.  The two best apps in my opinion are Sketchbook Mobile and Brushes.  




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Wednesday, 8 September 2010

Making of Trilobite Boy Rocks Out

Last spring, I was contacted by Karen about a commission. Her boyfriend is Mike Haubrich of Quiche Moraine, one of my favourite bloggers and a supporter of my artwork since the beginning of this blog.  I've met a lot of people so far in my blogging, but Mike and Karen are somewhere at the top of the list of people I haven't shaken hands with yet.

Karen wanted to get Mike a painting of mine for his birthday this past August.  I was thrilled, and honoured.  Contract stuff out of the way, we discussed what sort of thing he might like.

I suggested possibly something with a young Darwin and barnacles, and drew a bit in pencil.  I also had this idea for my Trilobite Boy character playing guitar or bass onstage:  I knew Mike has worked in radio and is a rock fan, so it seemed appropriate. (I also had a sketch of Trilobite Boy naked on a fur rug by the fire, but that seemed more appropriate for LouFCD. )






I sent Karen this hastily scrawled image done in ArtRage, a realistic computer painting program:






 Karen loved it, and I got to work.

Next, I did some sketches using my plastic Art S Buck male model.  These generic super-heroically proportioned models (there's a female one too) have about as many points of articulation as the average GI Joe or Star Wars action figure and make a great starting point for life drawing if you don't have a real human handy. Sketches below:





Click to enlarge my scribbles.
I liked the thumbnail sketch near the bottom, and decided not to do another looking-over-the-shoulder pose, like this one.

I selected a beechwood cradleboard to paint on, 12"x18".  I gessoed it black while listening to Debaser and Die Antwoord. Next, I cartooned in the image using white chalk. I find the chalk disperses nicely in the oil paint and it won't slowly rise to the surface of the paint film like graphite can after a number of years.

As oil paintings age, they darken and become more transparent, so it really matters what colour your ground and drawn outlines are. 


Look close and you can see a bandana around his right arm, and bracelet on his right wrist. 


Started painting.  The trilobite fossil and ammonite shell (seen below) were there for colour and texture reference and maybe as superstitiousy talismans, I suspect.  Safety blanket.  Or I just like looking sciencey when I post pictures of my process.

You can see this is what I call the "
Ugly Phase". Lots of splotchy unblended colour laid down. Originally, I planned to have spotlights on the edge of the stage, but I decided to paint over them.  They competed too much with the bright circles of light.

This was getting later one evening, so I was listening to Massive Attack.  Still some fast beats for me to time my brushstrokes to, but mellow enough not to bother my wife while she works on the computer. 





Below, a partially finished head compared with the completed head. 














I worked and re-worked the head and spine of the trilobite body parts over and over.  Still worry the front looks like a big ol' mustache from this angle.  
You can see there's a lot of glare in the photo on the left.   Photos of wet oil paintings are tricky.  What you need to do is have two light sources waaaayy out at the sides, and take the photo.  Or, if you live in a small apartment, take a picture on an angle in diffuse fluorescent light, and use Photoshop to mess with the perspective afterwards. 






For the musicians out there, note how wrong I have the shape of the bass.  I only noticed after everything was almost done.  I wiped it down with tissue dabbed in solvent and re-did the area.  Throughout this painting, I kept returning to the Toronto band Debaser as inspiration.  My good friend Nevin is/was the guitarist, and I love the way he played.  Mind you, he's never done devil horn's on stage that I can recall.

When I paint, I tend to work on one element at a time, bringing it all up in detail before moving on.  This is contrary to how painting is supposed to work:  you really should rough-in everything then refine, going around all the elements.

I like to see the figure emerging from the darkness whole: first an arm, then an eye, then the neck and back, and so on. It feels more like pulling something out of the blackness than painting a picture. 


The finished painting.



I sent images of the final to Karen and waited.  That can be the toughest wait of the job, seeing how the client will react. I try to keep people I'm working for in the loop throughout the process so if there's a major concern we can spot it early, but the suspense when I send that last photo or the final in the mail is still tough.  Karen loved it!  And importantly, thought Mike would to.  She was right.

Rock on Karen, and Happy Birthday Mike!

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Monday, 6 September 2010

Art Monday: Girl & Dino, made on iPod

Girl & Dinosaur, done on iPod Touch using Brushes.
©  Glendon Mellow



I've been messing with this drawing on my iPod off and on in odd moments. Used Brushes, which is so much better since it added layers.

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Sunday, 5 September 2010

Science-Artists Feed: the list

The other day I announced a Science-Artists feed anyone can subscribe to, allowing them the follow the blogs of over 50 artists inspired by or working on visualizing science. Here's the list so far of who is in the Science-Artists feed I created and has been picked up by Scienceblogging.org.  I'll be adding more as I go, please feel free to suggest more blogs if you know of them!

The List, in no particular order:




Who am I missing?

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