Thursday, 24 March 2011

Under the microscope - interview at Mobius ASI

Over on Mobius Art and Science Initiative, I answer some questions about two of my more difficult-to-blog art tactile pieces for Ruthanna Gordon. We discussed the use of my art to make puzzles, describe economics, Sean Craven's genre term "evopunk", and more.




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Original artwork on The Flying Trilobite Copyright to Glendon Mellow

Monday, 21 March 2011

Trilobite Boy featured on io9






Trilobite Boy and some of my other paintings and drawings were featured on io9 this morning, written up by editor-in-chief Annalee Newitz.  Trilobite Boy appeared right on the front page between Captain America and Captain Jack Sparrow.

The article is a lot of fun, and yes, I'd love to work with James Cameron on the next Avatar.  Or Gore Verbinski, George Lucas or Guillermo del Toro, for that matter. ;-P

Thanks to Marilyn Terrell for sharing Trilobite Boy with Annalee in the first place!

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Original artwork on The Flying Trilobite Copyright to Glendon Mellow

Cintiq sketch of Trilobite Boy

Recently comic artist and children's book illustrator Eric Orchard invited me over to his studio to try out his Cintiq.  Talking with Eric is always a joy, and I headed over.

For those not familiar with them, most digital tablets such as my Wacom Intuos 3 are flat pads with a surface that remains touch sensitive to over a thousand points of pressure when using the accompanying pen. Once you get usde to drawing on the tablet on the desk while looking at the screen (try writing your signature a bunch of times and it will help at first) it becomes an incredibly realistic drawing device. Here's a pic of mine below:




The Wacom Cintiq takes it one step further: you are actually drawing right on a pen-touch-sensitive computer monitor.

Eric sat down to demo how it works, and with amazing speed whipped up an excellent little sketch.  I realized how much I still hold back when using digital media: I have an oil painter's habitual sense of caution and planning. Eric made it look fun, almost breezy.

My turn. After maybe 7 minutes, I made this little sketch of Trilobite Boy:




Whenever I test out a new art medium, I sketch something I know. This was using Photoshop in black and white, without any zoom.  I tried to test line widths and opacities to get a feel for it.  It was completely fun.  It felt like I was drawing right on a page, and I had to pay less attention to the interface than I do with my Intuos.

One of the things I'm finding being in an at-home studio with a newborn in the house, is setting time to work in oil paint is difficult.  Scrubbing my hands to pick up the baby is time-consuming, and I am jumping up and down. But working digitally, I can hold him in one arm if need be, or at least just dive back into the art project without the palette set-up. I will still happily take oil painting commissions, but I think for my own projects such as the Trilobite Boy comic, I will be working increasingly digitally.

Thanks for the test drive, Eric!

I've got to find a way to afford purchasing a Cintiq.

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Original artwork on The Flying Trilobite Copyright to Glendon Mellow

Sunday, 20 March 2011

Making of Tylosaurus Reef

When I was approached by Craig Dylke's fiancee Lady R to create a painting for his birthday, I was pretty excited. Craig is one of my fellow Art Evolved admins, and really the brains behind the whole operation.  He's a prolific blogger: he also creates educational stories with Traumador the Tyrannosaur, shares his work in progress on Weapon of Mass Imagination, and his other projects on Prehistoric Insanity.

I didn't know that one of Craig's favourite groups of prehistoric creatures are the mosasaurs: large prehistoric marine reptiles often mistaken as dinosaurs. Lady R filled me in on this, and I love painting undersea landscapes. Check out this cool short fiction story by Mike Everhart with an illustration by the inimitable Carl Buell for more mosasaur goodness.

So to get started, I looked at reconstructions of these ancient beasts, flipped through books of fossils and visited some specimens at the ROM. Dmitri Bogdanov's reconstructions on Wikipedia were helpful and evocative. I didn't do any direct skeletal sketches. Instead, I thought about their form and considered doing either Taniwhasaurus or Tylosaurus; Craig and his fiancee met while both were working in New Zealand, so Taniwhasaurus seemed a good fit.




In the initial sketch above, I tried to convey a bit of time passing: a visual storytelling tool I admire but seldom employ.  It's the idea of a moment before or after action takes place.  One of the best examples of this in art is Michaelangelo's David, a man who is at the cusp of his decision to act against the terror of Goliath, knowing his life will be forever changed after. Many people don't realize that David is actually quite angry in his face, and his body is held back at a moment of relaxation before action.


The face of David by Michaelangelo, 1504, marble. Image from Wikipedia, uploaded by Roropapa.

With the above sketch, I tried to convey a lazily floating mosasaur turning its head to regard the viewer: what happens next? I included a reef covered mound behind the animal.  I knew from the get-go I wanted to include a fossil or anachronistic trilobite on some stone in the background.  By making it a mound, it served as a way of changing the lights and darks from the surrounding water and giving a gentle inverted "V" pointing the eye toward the center of the composition. 



Not quite content, I started just sketching loose shapes, and thinking about Chinese dragons, especially the ones illustrated by western artist Wayne Anderson in The Enchanted World: Dragons book. Long sinewy shapes, snakelike bodies and unrealistic energetic curves. I can't stress how much that shape appealed to me. The bulkier Taniwhasaurus gave way to the sleeker Tylosaur





Once the sort of doubled-over shape appeared on the page with its parallel shadows and highlights, I thought I might have something. It reminded me of a hummingbird, even moreso after I drew a second set of fore-flippers, which made it look like it had wings beating really fast. 

I shared my initial sketches not only with Lady R, but also with artists I know and admire, Carl BuellChris Zenga and Eric Orchard.  Clearly, this hummingbird pose was the winner. 

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Fuelled by coffee, I took a 12"x24" canvas I had primed with a black acrylic base and sketched the basics in white chalk pastel. It took a few tries to get the head and lower flippers where I wanted them. Then, I laid down some simple colour in oil, above.

You can see the 1st of three attempts at the light in the water, above. 


With a pose this unusual, I decided to play it safe with the rest of the composition. An easy landscape composition is one that has three levels of distance: a small entry point along the bottom for the viewer, like a hummock of grass in a landscape. The middle distance is typically where the action or focus is. The further distance (in my case, to the left) is blue-shifted even in open-air paintings and often shows distant hills or mountains.


A good example of the 3-distance composition is seen here, in Desolation, by American painter Thomas Cole of the Hudson River School:

Desolation, 1836, Oil on canvas, by Thomas Cole. Image from Wikipedia, uploaded by MarmadukePercy.   

The viewer stands near the lone column, the desolated ruins and bay are in the middle distance inviting us to explore, while the rocky outcrop on the right and distant shore complete the sense of space.




I cranked up some Die Antwoord, Chemical Brothers and Gorillaz and got started on the painting.  Coffee and fast music with big beats always help me keep pace with the brushstrokes. I mainly used the brushes above, especialyl my BFF, the one bent like a dental tool. I have two of those, and one I use for highlights, the other for detailed dark lines and cracks. That's the colour palette about halfway through.

Used:
Horizon Blue,
Ultramarine Blue,
Mauve Blue Shade,
Olive Green,
Naples Yellow,
Naples Yellow Red,
Quinacradone Orange,
Black Spinel,
Payne's Grey and,
Titanium White.
 




Above you can see the second attempt at the light in the water.

Part of the way through, I got worried it was too much.  Too skinny and snakelike. Too exaggerated. So I decided to email paleo-author Brian Switek of the blog Laelaps and book Written In Stone and bounce a couple of images off his brain to see what he thought.

Brian pointed out that the base of the tail was too thin, and the spine of the tail likely ran under the fleshy fin, not over as I have above. I happened to check Art Evolved that day and - LOL! Craig had posted a Phylopic doing exactly the correct shapes Brian was suggesting to me!  It was hilarious timing. I wondered if Craig somehow knew what I was up to.

Below, the third and final attempt at the light in the water. 

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©  Glendon Mellow 2011 Tylosaurus Reef - the final version. 

Fixed the tail, above.  Thanks Brian and Craig! I don't typically worry about perfect scientifically-sound accuracy on a reconstructed painting like this.  I'm more concerned with issues of drama and well, weirdness, not to put too fine a point on it. This is an exotic creature that is invariably shown leaping out of the water to bite fish or pterodactyls. I wanted to convey quiet menace and a possible posture (or is it impossible?) that gave us another way to look at the animal. 

Does the eye successfully wander around the painting due to the final composition?  Let's have a look the contrast pushed way up:


 
3/4 of the painting is dark, with only patches of light to draw the eye down.
Is the painting successful in guiding the eye?
Am I relying on the colour information too much?


©  Glendon Mellow 2011 Tylosaurus Reef - detail.
In the end, the image has a few hidden surprises in it: the trilobite: a maori symbol significant to Lady R and Craig; and not visible in these photos, a simple snorkeling Traumador on the side of the thick panel. And if anyone else tries to copy the hummingbird pose for a mosasaur I'm coming after them.

This commission was a joy to do, and ended up being one of my most colourful paintings. Thanks to Carl Buell, Chris Zenga, Eric Orchard, Brian Switek and my wife Michelle for feedback during the process. Thanks Lady R!  Happy Birthday Craig! 



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Original artwork on The Flying Trilobite Copyright to Glendon Mellow

Tuesday, 15 March 2011

Good-bye - a Sketchclub er, sketch

"Good-bye"  - ©  Glendon Mellow 2011
Still playing with Sketchclub on my iPod Touch. Really enjoying this app. 

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Original artwork on The Flying Trilobite Copyright to Glendon Mellow

Sunday, 13 March 2011

My copyright. Mine. Go 'way.

I assert a copyright from this day forth on painting mosasaurs in the pose of a hummingbird.


© Glendon Mellow 2011 not just on the artwork itself, but the pose and that shade of blue 3 mm from the right next to the funny-looking bubble. 


Go read this at Art Evolved. Important copyright assertions and analysis.

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Original artwork on The Flying Trilobite Copyright to Glendon Mellow

Print Shop

Neener neener.

Friday, 11 March 2011

Nautilus Tattoo - hardcore ink

After posting Thomas Trae's Flying Trilobite tattoo here on the blog recently, I ended up in conversation on Twitter with Alchemystress of Tales of a Mad Scientist on the LabSpaces network.

Alchemystress was unfamiliar with my work to date, and after some enthusiastic emails, decided to get a tattoo based on this image, from one of my university studio projects!



Her tattoo artist did an incredible job of mimicking the pencil and giving it an old-drawing feel, as well as deftly expanding on the flowers I had included.


Check out the amazing ink below, after the jump:

Testing out the Sketchclub app

I first read about the Sketchclub app on the excellent blog fingerpainted.it

Like Brushes and Sketchbook Pro Mobile, it's a powerful little app, great for sketching on the go. Immediately though, I have to say I love the interface.  Selecting brushes and colours just zips along, and some of the brushes are really fun. You only get 2 layers, but you can use tools like Multiply or Overlay. 

My first sketch was of a trilobite and a face. 

©  Glendon Mellow 2011

Is the face me?  Not my nose, but my eyebrows and tired new-dad eyes. I like the little shaded blade. Surprisingly though, I don't think there's a tortillon or smudger for the pencil tool.  But it does simulate it by tracking turns and where you would smudge it with your hand.  Sorta. 

Here's a couple more of my first explorations of this nifty new app which I posted directly to Facebook - another neat feature. Can't wait for Twitter to be added.


eye sketch - Sketchclub - © Glendon Mellow 2011




Ammonite sketch - Sketchclub - © Glendon Mellow 2011


If I have a complaint, it's that there's no button I can find for starting a new sketch. If I pick an empty slot from the file page, it loads with my last worked-on drawing, which I then need to clear.  According to the review though, the developer has a background in the gaming industry, and is actively and constantly improving the app, so I expect good things. 

You can click on the iPod Touch label for more of my iPod sketches. 

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Original artwork on The Flying Trilobite Copyright to Glendon Mellow

Thursday, 10 March 2011

New painting: Tylosaurus Reef

Tylosaurus Reef  - ©  Glendon Mellow 2011. Oil on canvas. 

Commissioned by R.V. for Craig Dylke of Art EvolvedWeapon of Mass Imagination and the force behind Traumador the Tyrannosaur.

Tuesday, 8 March 2011

Flying Trilobites invade Loving Chasmosaurs

That blog title sounds wrong. 



Today David Orr of Love in the Time of the Chasmosaurs has an interview with me on his blog.  Check it out!  David's interviewing style is multi-layered.  We discussed ScienceOnline11, the future of the internet (!) and where I stand on scientific illustration.

David has a whole series of these interviews I'm proud to be a part of, including with Brian Switek, Nobu Tamura, Mark Witton and more. You can find them all at the interview label

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Original artwork on The Flying Trilobite Copyright to Glendon Mellow

Saturday, 5 March 2011

Highest form of flattery

One of The Flying Trilobite fans on Facebook recently purchased some stickers from my print shop and let me know he had placed them on his bumper. 

photo © Thomas Trae 2011

I asked Thomas Trae if he could put the picture up and he did. 

Then he showed me the highest form of flattery toward my art:


photo and arm © Thomas Trae 2011 and forever. 


He got inked!

"Did I forget to mention the Flying Trilobite is hovering over the Megasquid?" said Thomas.  Our ensuing conversation:

  • Flying Trilobite Is that painted?
    Thursday at 15:05 · 
  • Thomas Trae ‎'Tis inked, good sir.
    Thursday at 16:16 · 
  • Thomas Trae And boy did that area hurt. Not so much the trilo, but the green. Aaaaand he had to re-do it several times on different occasions.
    Thursday at 16:20 · 
  • Flying Trilobite Holy monkey - permanent? A tattoo? People will know you and I belong to some sort of ancient arthropod-worshipping cult --- er!! I mean people will *think* you and belong to some sort of cult. But that's just silly, heh heh....
    Yesterday at 03:55 ·  ·  1 person
  • Thomas Trae The trilobite just seemed to compliment the Forest Cthulhu. Yeah, we share 'the Mark' now. One day, when the stars are aligned, the Great Winged Trilo will rise from the depths of an alternate history...
    20 hours ago ·  ·  1 person

My Brother!

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Original artwork on The Flying Trilobite Copyright to Glendon Mellow

Friday, 4 March 2011

Sock Puppet Hydra!!!!!11!!

Oh the stench!  The Sock Puppet Hydra is not helping.

Click to enlarge - but IT MIGHT GROW MORE SOCKS!! OMG!!

But that's okay: today the socks finally had a long-overdue bath


Please feel free to use and share this image that I made in a brief fit of pettiness. (Different Creative Commons Licence than my art usually has.  It's a special occasion.  Licence here.)

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Original artwork on The Flying Trilobite Copyright to Glendon Mellow

Terror Bird Attack!

The Terror Bird gallery is up at Art Evolved!

Here's my quick paintsketch:

©  Glendon Mellow  2011  Click to make it big enough to eat your face. 


ArtRage, with a final bit of texture added in Photoshop.

Head over to check out the gallery.  Some really nice drawings (etchings?) by Bill Unzen as well as an unsettling Sesame Street homage by Peter Bond, detail by Craig Dylke, fun by Trish Arnold and more.

The next gallery is on hadrosaurs, May 1st.  Anyone can submit their new or old artwork. 

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Original artwork on The Flying Trilobite Copyright to Glendon Mellow

Tuesday, 1 March 2011

Feeling safe

©  Glendon Mellow 2011 click to enlarge.

Just before my son was born, I lost a dear friend and work colleague. I've been missing him everyday: we had a lot of common interests and even yesterday I find myself thinking for a fraction of a second, "I've got to talk to him about this!"  And I can't. Arthur, I miss you.

My colleagues at DeSerres, thanks for everyone being supportive of each other while we mourn our friend Arthur.

A few days ago, I thought I would reconnect with my childhood best friend. I have seen him around my neighbourhood: we grew up together in the east end, and are both now west enders. We're both dads now, and I thought it would be great to meet for coffee or something. I had a really happy childhood, and all of the best times were my friend and me on our bikes at the beach. I tried to find him online and discovered he passed away just over a year ago. I think of all we did together Gray, and I miss you.

Thanks to our mutual friend for letting me know what happened when I realized we both knew him; and thanks to his sister for allowing me to reach out in my grief about Gray.

Thanks to my wife Michelle for putting up with her basketcase of a husband who can't sleep. Painting the little piece above in the wee hours of the morning has helped a bit.

Last year I wrote about being an atheist insomniac. Reading the comments there again have helped a bit. Thanks also to those commenters.

Karen James's comment really helps me right now, so I thought I would share it for others:
We achieve a natural immortality through having existed, through having acted in this world and through our bodies being physically reabsorbed by the planet.
Like Alan Watts said, 'our fundamental self is not something just inside the skin', but our perceptions and, as Allston writes, the domino effects of our actions.

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Original artwork on The Flying Trilobite Copyright to Glendon Mellow

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