Tuesday 26 June 2007

A Peek at my Dawkins Portrait

Just a tiny peek.

This is a portrait I am doing of Richard Dawkins. Much of my work for many years has been inspired by his science writing, particularly River Out of Eden. I hope to have the finished work completed soon. (Soon being a loose and playful term.) It is an unauthorised tribute.

I welcome comments.

"Painting is the art of protecting flat surfaces from the weather and exposing them to the critics."
Ambrose Bierce

Friday 22 June 2007


The Flying Trilobite has been tagged by the tentacled terror of Pharyngula, PZ Myers! After his tremendous entry, I am asked to do likewise. Forgive the lack of images in this post. Here are the rules. Tag was not this complicated when I was eight >grumble<

1. We have to post these rules before we give you the facts.
2. Players start with eight random facts/habits about themselves.
3. People who are tagged need to write their own blog about their eight things and post these rules.
4. At the end of your blog, you need to choose eight people to get tagged and list their names.
5. Don't forget to leave them a comment telling them they're tagged, and to read your blog.

One: Pansy
I have a memory, possibly a false one from age 5.
There was a strip of grass parallel to the road in our neighbourhood, between sidewalk and road. There were saplings planted there, with some pansies. I wasn’t allowed that close to the road, and in a childish moment of defiance I went. I remember plucking a pansy, a deep purple one shot through with black, with a yellow center, and getting in trouble for “killing the flower”. To my mother, the greater crime was being near the road.
I snuck back down. I remember using a leaf and grass and propping up the snapped flower stem, and trying to squish them together to fix it. Guilt and frustration were strong emotions.
Later, I remember being excited because the two parts of the stem had grown back together! There was even a paler green part of the stem, like fresh skin from under a scab. I remember this quite clearly. Is it a false memory conjured by childish guilt when recalling the incident years later? My knowledge of botany and gardening is limited. Did I graft it somehow, making a Frankenpansy?

Two: Transform
I know the moment my childhood ended. At a cottage with my childhood best friend, we were playing with our Transformers. We planned out the whole storyline for our Autobots and Decepticons, right down to the plot twists and Starscream’s treacherous dialogue. We said, right, let’s get to it, and had absolutely no interest in acting it out. Making up the story was more interesting than playing. We both noticed it, and tiredly wondered if we were getting too old. I think I was about 11.

Three: Coffee
Coffee is my life’s blood, my passion, my exalted connection to nature. I love all of it, from the seedy, filthy badness of left-too-long Coffee Time, to the blended-layer flavours of a Le Gourmand americano or
Mercury Espresso latte. I feel its hotness go into my belly and I am one with the bean, the oxygen its leaves produced and the loosening of my asthmatic lungs, the earth under my feet and between its roots.

Four: Ring
I have a trilobite set in a ring, given to me by my wife Michelle. It’s an Elrathia kingi. I really feel what I said in my
first post; I look at this ancient fossil, and marvel that I can comprehend something so long deceased. It leaves me with a shaking sense of awe. I wear it rarely now, since after 300 million years, it is eroding from my touch.

Five: Performance
My university roommates were a dancer and an actor. A couple of close friends are in increasingly successful bands. I remember remarking to a friend & fellow painter that I wish the artists’ equivalent called for standing ovations, or people jumping up and down and moshing; and lamenting that gallery openings can be too quiet with respect to the actual work. She said to me, “But our art stays. Even if they film it, it’s not the same, and they can’t just look at their work the way we can.” Paintings never stop performing, even when you turn out the lights.

Six: Everything
I desperately want to live a million years and see everything that happens. The rises and falls of humanity, new species, cataclysms, discoveries. My five year old nephew says it best: “I want to know everything in the whole world so I can do whatever I want”. Yes. Exactly.

Seven: Trivial
A couple of hours after the planes crashed and towers fell on 9/11, I had to go to my job at an art supply store. I remember a woman yelling at me that afternoon because we had run out of a particular shade of grey pastel paper. I couldn’t believe it, I didn’t know what to say. Later, I felt pity. She either knew what had transpired south of us and was venting displaced fear and panic, or she had somehow not heard, and would feel some remorse later at her outburst on something so trivial as paper. The tragedy of that day has served as a strong mental reinforcer of the trivial and normally forgettable memory of the exact colour of a paper: felt grey.

Eight: Ugly
My paintings all go through what I call their Ugly Phase, when I hate them and question myself. I use an older technique of layering my oil paintings, gradually refining the detail and blending. I am not as hardcore as the Renaissance masters, I only do maybe three or four, not fifteen. I wait for them to dry before moving to the next layer.
When I was at York University, and completing a painting with a lot of up-close, fibrous acorns hatching hands out of them, our teaching assistant stopped me after I completed the central one. He kept insisting I leave the brown cartoon outlines of the acorns in the background untouched. This, he said as if explaining something new to me, would play with the space, and reveal the juxtaposition of the realistic foreground to the flat background. I patiently replied that yes, I understood the Modernist concept of painting the subject of paint, and I understood the post-Modern concept of showing realism while revealing, Oz-like, the flat paint behind the curtain. I cited examples of artists. I wanted them to be realistic; he insisted. By third year I gave up trying to please the post-Modernists.

Comments on anything above are most welcome. And now for this chain-meme-game to continue, red rover, red rover, I pick...

Fish Feet
Fancy's Art
Frozen Toothpaste
Jesse Graham's Art
Planet Atheism Blog
Diatomaceous Earth
Scientia Natura
The Red Notebook

And please check back at the great stuff the other folks PZ Myers tagged the same time as The Flying Trilobite.

Tuesday 19 June 2007

Galileo Thermometer

For those who say science is cold and devoid of beauty, I present the Galileo Thermometer.

I received this as a gift and I am smitten. I check it whenever I'm home, and want to play with the air conditioner just to see it change. It moves from room to room so that I may see the bubbles move.

Different coloured oils are encased in glass bubbles, a small brass tag hanging from each. The brass tags are subtly different weights from each other. All are suspended in water and as the water changes temperature, it also changes density. When the density changes, some of the glass bubbles will float and others will not. The lowest bubble in the top cluster indicates the current temperature, which is engraved on the brass tag. Yeah, it's another muggy summer here on Toronto. For a full explanation, check out Howstuffworks.com. I have seen Galileo thermometers available at Winners or at this nifty site, the Thermometer Shop. The alternate name is "thermoscope", which sounds nicely paleo-futuristic.

The other fascinating thing about a Galileo thermometer, is that it's shiny. I like shiny things. Shiny.

Wednesday 13 June 2007

Trilobite Tree

I have always loved drawing trees, mainly leafless as in winter, with their ever-shrinking sizes of branch. A few times in the past, I have used a tree to outline a silhouette. I drew this trilobite shape in the branches as a challenge to myself when I was inaugerating a new Moleskine sketchbook I had bought.

It is loosely based on Elrathia, as many of my drawings are. I have some affection for that species. I think they look the most recognisable and iconic, if you will, of the trilobite types. I also have a wee one inset in a ring my wife gave me one Valentine's Day. I always try and remember to draw 13 pleurae, though in this tree, those were blown off in a windstorm.
(That's my story...they blew right off-panel, so don't bother looking. The branches crushed someone's SUV, too.)

The moon is an enrolled trilobite, as the head evokes that crescent shape, and because I love it, there is an eye in the knot of the tree, a Symbolist influence. I drew this with an HB .3mm lead and copious use of a kneadable eraser, since they don't leave those annoying eraser bits. The mushroom is not there to suggest anything, it's just for atmosphere, much like the grass. (Hmmm...that last statement didn't come out too well.) Years ago, in my University days, one of my fellow students kept insisting I had to be taking drugs to come up with my imagery. I hadn't, and still don't (I don't even drink alcohol, I just have lots of coffee) and since then this has been a personal badge of honour. My artwork may look like I'm on drugs, but I'm getting by on my own ideas and hard work.

Tuesday 12 June 2007

Hinterland Who's Who: Darwin Fish

(cue haunting sound of a loon calling)
Darwin Fish

This fine specimen was ordered by my wife for my birthday last week. The Darwin fish is a secular, scientific species descended from the "Jesus Fish" found on many cars. We've had sightings of a couple of them on cars here in Ontario, and a few of the rival Jesus fish too; both are invading species to the many highway tributaries here in Ontario. I'm hoping illegal fishing of Darwin Fish discourages our fish from going missing. They are an elusive species, beneficial to our waterways of social discourse. Unlike the Jesus fish, which is parasitic and carries memetic viruses, the Darwin fish are a healthy source of protein and memes.

In true evolutionary fashion, many other types of car-fish species have been cropping up. You can see some recent examples on the pages of Inkling Magazine. This l'il beauty came from the fine folks at Ring of Fire Enterprises.

This parody of Hinterland Who's Who was not sponsored by the Canadian Government. Please fish responsibly.

Friday 8 June 2007

Glimpses of Crystal: Royal Ontario Museum

Toronto's Royal Ontario Museum has been in the process of expanding. And I'm an unabashed fan of the redesign.

My wife got us memberships last Christmas, and it's been neat to watch the process. There is a wealth of artifacts that are rarely if ever on display, and the ROM wanted to show them off...and add some striking new architecture to the city. Last night, we had tickets to wander around the new, mostly empty galleries. There were surprises.

The new Lee-Chin Crystal was designed by Berlin-based architect Daniel Libeskind, ini
tially on a napkin (at right). The original facade of the ROM, facing east is classic, sculpted architecure, very detailed stonework. The new design on the north end is as if gigantic geode crystals had formed out of the original stone. If you stand to the southeast, you see only the classic building I grew up with. Standing at the northwest, the Crystal dominates the street and demands attention.

History of History
Inside, we were taken in a gigantic elevator to the fourth floor. The suggestion was to start at the top, and head down. The first exhibit was an art show designed and curated by Hiroshi Sugimoto. It was an interesting show, of the kind I like; the narratives on the wall explained the works to an extent, but were only placed in soft greys, so if you wanted to merely examine the art and artifacts you could. At the beginning were some truly awesome trilobites, among other fossils. Most of the show was about photography, and the explanation on the wall suggested that fossils are pre-photography, prehistoric snapshots into the past. It was an interesting idea on the surface, and a beautiful idea to put fossils under a photo-centric ideal. But I couldn't help wondering, as we looked at the rest of the very staged and beautiful photo-artifact pieces, wouldn't a camera hurtling through downtown Montreal, or the coral reefs of Aruba taking undirected snapshots be more like a fossil?

(photo of opening ceremony fireworks)

The Crystal
Words like 'lofty' and 'soaring' come to mind. I believe the space is designed to promote reflective thought. But words like 'intimate', 'peeking', and 'glimpse' also come to mind. There are beautiful shafts of natural light filtering onto new shiny structure and original stone. Viewing through the levels is intentionally partially obstructed and therefore intriguing.

Surprising Stairs
The Driscoll Stair of Wonder caught us delightfully off guard. We went down the flight from the fourth to third, and a giant whimsical wall of antique toy soldiers greeted us. Around the next flight, beautiful insects, glass paperweights and seashells glittered. The next, birds with extravagant plumage, Victorian glass finger bowls, and jars of small animals in formaldehyde. The final stair to the basement featured mammal weaponry; narwhal tusks, antlers of all kinds...
The whole stairway was a happy surprise.

Over the next few months, the ROM will continue to unveil more & more. (Trilobites & invertebrates in 2009!) I'm loving it.

(Both images above are credited to the Royal Ontario Museum website.)

Glendon's Atheism Quiz Results

Here we go...

You scored as Scientific Atheist, These guys rule.

I'm not one of them myself, although I play one online.

They know the rules of debate, the Laws of Thermodynamics,

and can explain evolution in fifty words or less.

More concerned with how things ARE than how they should be,

these are the people who will bring us into the future.

Scientific Atheist


Spiritual Atheist


Militant Atheist


Apathetic Atheist


Angry Atheist






What kind of atheist are you?
created with QuizFarm.com

Interesting....Scientific Atheist is nice. I wonder if Spiritual is a reflection of being an artist somehow? And equal parts militant & apathetic eh? That kind of cancels each other out. This was fun to do. The questions actually required a moment's thought.

Hopefully internet quizzes will never be part of job interviews or school applications. "We're sorry Mr. Mellow, we were looking for more of a 'Captain Jack Sparrow', at least 75%, and well, uh, you scored as Captain Malcolm Reynolds'. You're too comfortable being naked in the desert. Sorry, York University is not for you. Try the military."


Wednesday 6 June 2007

Flying Trilobite now on The Atheist Blogroll!

Check out all the nifty links compiled by Mojoey of Deep Thoughts. It's in my sidebar, or you can click here.

Tuesday 5 June 2007

Knowledge Pupates Part 3: how I left paganism for science

Part 3
(Read Part 2 here about my reasonable University days.)
Part 1 here about my pagan-ish High School days.)

Back in my coffee-slinging days, a co-worker of mine pointed out how some customers never change their style. You know the type; they are stuck in the seventies, tucked-in plaid shirt & jeans, kind of shoulder-length hair that's not long enough to be committed to being long hair. Or they are stuck in a sixties-hippie earth-mother look, lots of swinging beads and mismatched patterns on layered clothing. You observe them with a fashion-forward eye, and think, "if they just tweaked it, it could be very retro-cool". But fashion is passing them by, and they are content, or at least oblivious.

The painting at left is kind of like that for me. I hadn't finished developing a look, and maybe it was over before I began this painting. I was still elated by the final product of Symbiosis that I kept painting these figures in sap green and naples yellow. This painting resides inside an antique black box with wire wrapped around it through the lid to evoke threads and wrapping.

I have blogged briefly in the other two parts of Knowledge Pupates about how I began to find reason & science more appealing than superstition and old fairy tales. And my thoughts continue to develop. I don't want my learning to stop, I want to keep learning throughout my life, and right now, I hope I always feel that way. One can no longer contain the sum of all human knowledge in a lifetime; we have access to so much information, the mind reels. I wish I could live a thousand years, a million years just to keep learning, and to see how humanity develops, how I would develop. Instead, I am content with my lifetime and its abundant opportunities to develop myself.

My fashion continues to evolve, from hip-hop lite teen, to gothy university days, to a general darker aesthetic now. My art feels different now, still dark, but maybe a little less cluttered. And my beliefs have altered, and I have sought out different positions to sort out how I feel. 9/11 changed things for a lot of people. I can remember the confusion it caused. A few years later, I read Richard Dawkins essay, Time to Stand Up in A Devil's Chaplain and I was amazed at the strength of his statements. They cut right to the heart of the harm irrational religious thinking can do.

And religious thinking worries me. I plan to have kids, and there are children I care about in my family, and I want them to continue to be little questioning machines their whole lives, always asking "why? why?" after each statement. Religious thinking can carry on with the "why"'s for a bit, and then it comes down to trusting "God said so" or having faith that irrational ideas will work out in the end. In sci-fi authour Kim Stanley Robinson's excellent Green Mars of the Mars Trilogy there is a classroom scene where the kids play a game to have their science teacher keep regressing into finer and finer explanations by asking "why?" until the game comes to a triumphant end: the teacher stammers and replies "we don't know", to the childrens' delight. In this time and place in the universe, I can think of no greater purpose for humanity than to continue to ask questions.

I started this blog with the intention of showing my artwork, self-promoting, and generally giving myself a weekly challenge. I don't want to stop looking at the bagginess or fitted-ness of men's pants each season, and I don't want my art to play out the same couple of techniques and images over and over. I don't want to stop developing my opinions on the politics and religions of the world, because although themes re-occur, the situations are still developing.

I think I have painted enough creepy green people for now.
Copyright © 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013 Glendon Mellow. All rights reserved. See Creative Commons Licence above in the sidebar for details.
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