Monday 30 June 2008

Artwork Mondays: Salome + the Head of Extinction

For this Artwork Monday, I'd like to show an older concept drawing from the heady university days I spent enthralled with Symbolist Art.

For a while I played with compositional elements from works and themes of favoured by the Symbolists and other mopey fin-de-siecle proto-goth artists, and attempted to add a pantheon of science-based creations. Lord Extinction was one such attempt, I wanted a monstrous figure who ate species and D.N.A. and in my second post here on The Flying Trilobite, I showed his first drawing, also seen here in miniature, in Lord Extinction Yawns, (right).

I drew the Lord Extinction character again, this time aiming to mimic the popular Salome-and-head-of-John-the-Baptist theme. Here is Salome + the Head of Extinction.

Okay, deep breath. I am actually showing this one online.

I look back on this piece as a major muddle. It had one of the figures of the Candle-Women that appear in my work every so often in the role of Salome. I attempted a bit of gothy clothing with the fishnets, a a strange (in my head, witchy) crescent moon sickle. There's a little trilobite helping her out for revenge, perhaps for its brethren that escaped Extinction's maw in the previous drawing. The Candle-Women originally started out as Rapa Nui (Easter Island) statues, and evolved into candle-headed enigmas.

This was in a confused stage of my life, coming out of non-organised, egotistical Pagan-ish beliefs, and re-focusing on the scientific past that had enamoured me as a child.

I'm showing this piece because for me, the confusion is all there. Extinct creatures. Original characters from my imagination. Muddled religion and paganism. An artwork style of the past that I desperately tried to inject with originality. Gothy fashion just standing there irrelevantly. Ahh, university!

For me like many people, it was a time of figuring myself out. I'd like to think that journey hasn't ended, and in another 10 years, will I look back at a simple drawing and see so many echoes of my past exposed in graphite?

I thought the line work was pretty decent, though it may not survive jpeg compression. Recently I revamped the Dimetrodon-Sphinx from the corner of Lord Extinction Yawns; perhaps Lord Extinction will one day rear his magnificently ugly head as well.

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All original artwork on The Flying Trilobite Copyright to Glendon Mellow. The contents of this blog are under a Creative Commons Licence. See sidebar for details.

Monday 23 June 2008

Artwork Mondays: details from The Forever Painting

I'm hard at work on another project, so I thought I'd post a couple of up-close details of The Forever Painting that were too difficult to see in a previous post when they were only a couple of pixels high. You can also see it in my gallery on DeviantArt.
An insect-winged trilobite emerging from the candle smoke.

Fossils visible in the rocky candle surface.

(Now back to work!)

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All original artwork on The Flying Trilobite Copyright to Glendon Mellow. The contents of this blog are under a Creative Commons Licence. See sidebar for details.

Monday 16 June 2008

Artwork Mondays: Oviraptorosaur sketch

A sketch of the Royal Ontario Museum's lovely oviraptorosaur cast. Look at that eye!
It is a little rougher than two previous dinosaur skull drawings. The museum was closing, within 15 minutes of me starting this sketch.

If you like this sort of pencil-work, you can see a parasaurolophus and pachycephalasaurus I have done previously as well. I love the R.O.M., especially since the addition of the Crystal; it's one of the many reasons I am never bored living in the city of Toronto.
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All original artwork on The Flying Trilobite Copyright to Glendon Mellow. The contents of this blog are under a Creative Commons Licence. See sidebar for details. No Oviraptors were harmed by the artist in the production of this sketch. It may have been harmed by a mudslide not due to human intervention.

Thursday 12 June 2008

Neighbours, don't make Art into Orphans, eh?

Artwork in the land of my southern neighbours is in danger from the Orphan Works legislation. I'm not in the habit of asking members of another country to vote certain ways, but I'm concerned. I'll certainly give some neighbourly advice and point at something.

The legislation would provide the onus to be on the artists' to prove their work is not an "orphan" piece of art by registering everything. If a large ad firm or company used a piece of art without permission and made millions from the ad campaign, the artist would have to realise, and sue. If the company can be said to have "reasonably" searched for the original copyright holder and is not found guilty of infringing on copyright and merely using an "orphan work" than they would be granted permission. The problem is, the little guy or freelancer or up-and-coming-feisty studio would have a tough time defending every time their work was infringed.

I don't have all the answers, but time is running short. Educate yourself if you are concerned. If you are an artist reading this blog, or just someone who appreciates art, you may want to do some research and possibly sign this petition.

I'd like to quote Britt Griswold, one of the professionals I've learned a lot from in online forums (be sure to check out his Sci-Art Gallery!):

Dear Artists,
The Orphaned Works battle is on. The Illustrators Partnership of America, American Society of Illustrators Partnership, Advertising Photographers, and others, have set up an effective way to inform you on what these bills will do and give you the tools to write and contact you legislators. If you wish to protect your artistic work from theft and future legal costs, it is incumbent on you to speak out now.

1. Go to this site:

2. Read the synopsis of the legislation at the bottom of the page; house bill first.

3. Read all the variations of the letters you can send (if you can stand it). They will give you a better understanding of how to address the issues.

4. Get mad

5. You can send one of the pre-written letters by email, but this will be less effective than a customized letter that shows you know and really care about this issue. To customize a response, copy and paste the bits of the various letter that address the way you feel.

6. Compose them into a personalized version in a word processor.

7. Either paste the appropriate wording back into one of the customized letter forms provided, or get the fax numbers of your representatives and fax a full letter to them for maximum impact.

8. Do it now.Go here to find your house representative.
write them a letter.
Go here to find your Senator contact numbers: is a senator finder at the top of the page.)

Go to this website to find a link for an email or mailing address contact for House Judiciary Committee members.
Find one that is in or near your State. Write them.

Go to this address for members of the Intellectual Property subcommittee.
Find one that is in or near your State. Write them.
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If you read The Flying Trilobite because you love science-inspired artwork, head over to the Science-Art Galleries, and consider a donation after looking at the wonders of the planet recorded by these most talented and informative hominids. (Hat-tip to all the hard-working scientific illustrators trying to stop this legislation. )
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All original artwork on The Flying Trilobite Copyright to Glendon Mellow. The contents of this blog are under a Creative Commons Licence. See sidebar for details.

Monday 9 June 2008

Artwork Mondays: Haldane's Precambrian Puzzle

Configuration 1: False Precambrian Rabbit

Configuration 2: True Precambrian Trilobites

*You can see a bit more about this painting, and some comments at the last edition of The Boneyard, hosted here by yours truly. The title and concept refer to a quote by biologist J.B.S. Haldane, who, when asked what it would take to falsify the fossil record of evolution by natural selection, replied, "Fossil rabbits in the Precambrian,".

Colours I used:
Naples Yellow - I actually tried not to use it. It's my favorite, I put it on everything. Can't help myself.
Zinc + Titanium White
Titanium White
Payne's Grey
Olive Green
Oxide Black
- whoever claimed mixing your own black looks the most real (probably one of the Impressionists) obviously never tried a really good black pigment. It's not true you can mix every colour from the primaries when it comes to painting. The pigments all have their own chemical composition and chromatic values, that interact when mixed in different ways.
Quinacradone Orange
Fragonard Red Brown
Fragonard Earth Yellow
- a sparkly colour I like using for the trilobite's eyes, and sometimes as a fringe around their bodies, the way Richard Fortey described pyrite from microbes outlining their soft body parts and legs in Trilobite! Eyewitness to Evolution. A most excellent book, thoroughly engaging.
Monochrome Tint Warm
Raw Umber

I mainly used linseed oil, with a smattering of walnut oil in some of the rabbit's whites. Linseed oil is a strong, flexible oil with a tendency to yellow a bit as it ages. Walnut is clear, not likely to turn yellow, and brittle and prone to cracking, especially after about 10 years on a canvas that bounces and bends. Since these pieces are on shale, I assume it will hold them up alright, and not bounce like it would on a stretched canvas.

The 9 pieces of shale are originally coasters for drinks, complete with felt on the bottom, which should keep them from shattering in ways to make me weep. It's a good enough idea I may use it on my other paintings on shale. I coated the shale with clear acrylic gesso to keep the oils from sinking into the stone. If oils do sink into a painting, whatever the surface, it makes it look splotchy, with some areas of glossy oil, and matte sunken areas. Retouching varnish should get the sunken oil back to bright glossiness.

For brushes, I used a variety of tiny soft synthetics, mostly with golden taklon bristles. The Shale can be a little rough on the brushes, so nothing too expensive. I'm falling in love with my Micron filbert brush.

For solvent, I used very little in the painting itself. I tend to use Turpenoid Natural, a non-toxic alternative to turpentine and odorless solvents. The problems with traditional solvents are legion. They tend to sit in your fatty tissues causing cancer for one thing. It also has a mild pine odor, not unpleasant. Breathing typical hydrocarbon-based odorless solvents is still bad for you.

Usually, when I tell people I paint in oil, they say, "Oh, I tried it but the oil fumes gave me headaches." It's not the oil, it's the solvents. Oil paint is literally a vegetable-derived oil mixed with some colourful pigment-particles. The pigments don't release toxins into the air, although with a few you need a proper mask if you are airbrushing. Breathing in the oil is the equivalent of breathing in the olive oil & balsamic vinegar you dip your bread in. Nothing to get worked up about. Unless you accidentally eat a jumbo chili flake.

I'm proud of this piece. Excuse me, I need to get some soy milk to wash the burning chili sensation out of my skull.

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All original artwork on The Flying Trilobite Copyright to Glendon Mellow. The contents of this blog are under a Creative Commons Licence. See sidebar for details.

Saturday 7 June 2008

The Boneyard XXI - Art Class

Welcome to the 21st edition of The Boneyard, here today at The Flying Trilobite! Today we will be looking at scientific illustration, cartoons, and paleo-related concept art.

The Field Trip

Has everyone got their willow-charcoal for sketches? Craig, I assume your laptop has batteries? Today we will begin our paleo-art lesson by venturing into the field. This is, after all, where we receive our inspiration. Make sure to wear sunscreen.

You cannot paint before you understand how to draw, and you cannot run before you can walk. Greg Laden tells us about a recently discovered Arabian dinosaur trackway. Make sure to follow the contours of the footprints with your eyes, dragging your charcoal lightly across the paper.

Trackways can teach more than contours. For those of you studying scientific illustration, remember not to let your eyes trick you into seeing what is not there. Brian at Laelaps has a cautionary tale about seeing evidence for giants instead of fossil sloth tracks. Giantologists reading this, please pursue the link immediately. To see a rendition of a species possibly related to the track-maker, be sure to have a look at master paleo-artist Carl Buell's Paramylodon.

Does everyone remember their elementary school readings from CRAM Science? Good.

Let the science teach you to be creative. Ah, excellent work, Microecos. The recent paper on azhdarchid pterosaurs by Witten & Naish has sparked a comparison from Microecos from pterosaur to current technology.

Sometimes it can be important to understand the scale of creatures from the prehistoric past. This life-sized statue of a stegosaurus - Jacqueline! Get down from there!

Now before we begin presentations, use your #2 HB pencils, and have your say at DinoBase's own David Hone's blog, and fill out this survey about "the state of palaeontology today". Introduction here, issues here, introduction to the survey here, and answers appearing here.

The Presentation
(In many cases, you may click on the artwork on the posts below to see the paleoart in a larger size.)

Let's begin the presentations at the end. Marek Eby of eTrilobite has captured the melancholy of the K-T event. Further back in time, the irascible Walcott is worried in Walcott's Quarry: The End is Nigh! And support paleo-art dinosaur news by visiting the eTrilobite store, and pick-up some happenin' threads.

At Bond's Blog, we have a lucid step-by-step presentation by Peter Bond on rendering a megalosaur, the final version seen at right. Thanks to Peter for allowing me to use the image! The image was created, along with a sauropod and medium theropod for Traumador the Tyrannosaur's post on dinosaurs of New Zealand.

The terror of the ancient seas swoops through Prehistoric Insanity. Craig Dylke struts his digital stuff in the latest peek of his Art of the Unspecified Time Interval. A realistic digital anomalocaris is difficult to pull off, but Craig took it many steps further and has placed it in its natural habitat, with some lovely filters to give it that undersea sense of depth. And be sure to check out Craig's spectacular trilobites, rendered with the scrapes and scratches their little carapaces must have had in life. See them here, here, and here.

Triloblog features the works of Laura Passow using Viking artistic techniques to create amazing specimens of the prolific vanguard of evolution by natural selection. The Bug Factory contains many past posts of the artist's impressive sculptures.

What is it about stegosaurs and car jokes? Charley Parker's Dinosaur Cartoons are not to be missed, complete with lessons!

Jacqueline Rae's Indohyus , published in Nature, appears furtive at the edge of the shore. Be sure to check out the rest of this versatile scientific illustrator's gallery.

N. Tamura's latest, a ferocious Paraphysornis is painted in predatory detail.

Zach of When Pigs Fly Returns continues to illustrate Mesozoic marine predators with an economy of line, making clear the bone structure of askeptosaurus and others from the fossil matrix.

Sometimes, I find paleoart so beautiful, I can't pick a favourite. Scientific Illustrator Emily Damstra paints vivid illustrations of the wonders of the natural world. It was tough to pick one -perhaps this smoothly-blended tornoceras ammonoid?-, so go visit her whole invertebrate gallery.

The Boneyard's groundskeeper Brian featured this interview with scientific illustrator Michael Skrepnick. In addition to providing the banner at Laelaps, Michael's artwork has recently been flung far and wide for his evocative image of the newly discovered "frogamander", gerobatrachus, a transitional fossil between modern frogs and salamanders. However, Lim at Fresh Brainz reckons we've seen another creature related to this ancestral-amphibian.

The Critique
I have a final piece to submit for your criticisms, witticisms and tomatoes.

The past while here at The Flying Trilobite, I've been posting a work-in-progress of a puzzle. The painting is in oil on shale. It is inspired by biologist John Burden Sanderson Haldane's infamous quote, when pressed by a creationist about what Haldane thought could falsify the fossil record. Haldane's reply; "Fossil rabbits in the precambrian."

The piece is finished. Below are the two possible configurations for the 9-piece shale puzzle I have entitled, Haldane's Precambrian Puzzle. Apologies for the weird angle: with the oils still wet it was difficult to photo without picking up a lot of glare.

Haldane's Precambrian Puzzle: False Rabbit Configuration

Haldane's Precambrian Puzzle: True Trilobite Configuration

Comments? Have I made it too ambiguous as to which one is true and which false?
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A thank-you to the suggestions and posts and brilliant work of the scientists who discover all the wondrous things of the past, and the artists who imbue them with wonder. If you're a palaeontologist working on the next big or feathered thing, perhaps you will consider one of the stellar artists above to illustrate a future paper.

I hope you've enjoyed this artsy edition of The Boneyard.

-Glendon Mellow
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All original artwork on The Flying Trilobite Copyright to Glendon Mellow. The contents of this blog are under a Creative Commons Licence. See sidebar for details.

Friday 6 June 2008

Tiny Flying Trilobite Tidbits

Tidbit: Tomorrow The Boneyard XXI comes to The Flying Trilobite! It's not too late to submit your paleo-related articles and artwork! I'll be showing some nifty links to a lot of talented artists, as well as links to the science that inspires paleo-art in the first place! Simply email me to alert me to your article or art!

Tidbit: Inspired by late biologist J.B.S. Haldane, my new oil painting-puzzle on shale, PreCambrian Rabbit/Trilobites will be unveiled in tomorrow's edition of The Boneyard! You can see a bit about it in a couple of the past Artwork Mondays.

Tidbit: My new Mythical Flying Trilobite Fossil tattoo is up at Carl Zimmer's Science Tattoo Emporium!

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All original artwork on The Flying Trilobite Copyright to Glendon Mellow. The contents of this blog are under a Creative Commons Licence. See sidebar for details.

Wednesday 4 June 2008

Flying Trilobite Fossil Tattoo

In my last post, I alluded to a mysterious image of the Mythical Flying Trilobite Fossil.

The image I designed would not be completed by me. Instead it was completed by the talented and professional Andre of Pick Your Poison Custom Tattoos.

So yeah, I'm serious about my art and concepts. Now to submit it to Carl Zimmer's Science Tattoo Emporium...

Edit: The trilobite is an elrathia kingii, very similar to the one on the trilobite ring my wife gave me some years ago. The bat wings were taken directly from the Flying Trilobite painted shale in the possession of my good friend Rudi L, which can also be seen in this interview with Virginia Hughes at Page 3.14 from last year.

Elrathia represents to me the archetypal trilobite. Not too many fancy spines or other evolutionary power-ups, it is a common trilobite, and often found made into jewellery. They are usually only an inch or two across, and never had wings. All trilobites were aquatic.

One of the main things I love about art is to produce unreal visions based on the enormous wealth of knowledge no other generation had access to. I believe to do less is a disservice to the times we live in, and how much we know about the times that came before, and the universe at large.
Okay, I think I'm coming off the tat' endorphins now.
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All original artwork on The Flying Trilobite Copyright to Glendon Mellow. The contents of this blog are under a Creative Commons Licence. See sidebar for details.

Monday 2 June 2008

Artwork Mondays: A Mysterious Sigil

What could this be?

I will be showing a finished version of this piece on Wednesday, I think. The thing is, I will not be completing the final art, and yet I may still submit it to another popular site, to see if it will be featured there. Hopefully it won't be mistaken for a skeletal frog too often.

It's been over a decade of artwork about mythical flying trilobites and their fossilized remains. It's only fitting....
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All original artwork on The Flying Trilobite Copyright to Glendon Mellow. The contents of this blog are under a Creative Commons Licence. See sidebar for details.
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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