Friday 29 August 2008

Ooo, a sparkly statue! Blog Award!

Arte y Pico Award!

This art-blogging meme award was bestowed upon The Flying Trilobite by the inimitable Leslie d'Allesandro Hawes! In her words, "The Flying Trilobite Glendon Mellow at The Flying Trilobite, Art in Awe of Science, deserves this award. And I think it’s his birthday."

In actuality, it's my very merry unbirthday. Have a cup of tea, Leslie!
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So, this is one of those blogging-award memes. Here's how it works:

1) Pick 5 blogs that you consider deserve this award for creativity, design, interesting material, and contributions to the blogger community, regardless of language.
2) Create a post showing your choices of award winners. Include the name of the winning blog and a link to that blog, to be visited by everyone.
3) Each award winning blog, has to show the award and put the name and link back to the blog that has given her or him the award.
4) Each Award winning blog and the one who has given the prize should show this link:
“Arte y Pico“ showing the origin of this award. (The original blog originates from Uruguay. Here is a translation of the Arte y Pico blog.)
5) Show these rules.

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I have a ton of artistic types on my blogroll. So for now, these are my picks, each excellent in their artistic skill, their frequency of posting and their openness to discussion on their respective blogs.

1. Druantia Art - by Heather Ward. Heather is a master of drawing animals, and frequently shares her talent in the form of tips and techniques. A favourite of mine: Moonrise Message. This one speaks to me on so many levels.

2. State of the Art - by Jeff Hayes. An oil painter who paints every day. In centuries to come, people will look back on Jeff's miniature series and try to glean what our culture was like. A favourite of mine: Chocolate and Foil. It's all about the foil.

3. Eric Orchard Illustration. Illustrator of children's books and steampunk, there's dark whimsy in Eric's work. Terrific discussions in the comments, too. A favourite of mine: Experimental Mermaid, displayed on Eric's blogiversary.

4. Hammered Out Bits - by Darrell Markewitz. Darrell was once a teacher of mine when I was a lad. A fascinating artisan-blacksmith, Darrell is keeping alive traditions that will help us all when the robot uprising takes over computers. Favourites: Just look through the decorative work, and thank me when you've finished re-modelling.

5. Tiny Aviary - by Diana Sudyka. I lived with a blue-fronted Amazon parrot for over ten years, some years ago. What I love is how Diana captures the expressions birds have on their faces. Two favourites of mine: Red-Winged Blackbird for the lush black wings, and Diana's Darwin with Finches in support of The Beagle Project.

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Take a bow in your studios! (Or your forge. If you have a forge.)

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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. Please visit my

blog, gallery and reproduction store.

Monday 25 August 2008

Artwork Mondays: Flying Trilobites Abound

Is there something deep within the human brain that feels the need to put wings on animals that could never fly? Extinct, aquatic, many-limbed animals that could never fly?

Here's an image of a fence adorned with a series of prehistoric creatures. Take a look at the winged trilobite there. I took this photo on the Toronto Islands earlier this summer, on Ward's Island. If anyone knows who the artist was, I'd love it if you could comment below. There was no plaque as far as I could see, and there should be. (And that bird is sitting on top, looking so smug.)

Here's a birthday present to me from the talented Craig Dylke, and his good friend Traumador the Tyrannosaur. Craig is the talented artist and force of nature behind Prehistoric Insanity and Weapon of Mass Imagination. Traumador's exploits can be seen at The Tyrannosaur Chronicles. Oh, and this picture disturbs me. I envision them swooping down and stealing Albertan cattle.

My 7-year old nephew, formerly identified 'round these parts as Obi-Wan, but who now goes by Dr. Jones, drew a few of these for me. He also rolled his eyes and asked why I like trilobites so much.
Which is a great question. The short answer was that they have the first eyes we know of in the fossil record. So right there should mean that every visual artist should take them up as our symbol, our banner. Like, tomorrow. They were incredibly successful organisms, their legacy spanning millions of years, compared to the short span of hominids so far.

For me, flying trilobites have been a part of my artwork for years, and discovering Girl Genius was something of a shock, so soon after I made my online debut last year. But it's cool. I exchanged a couple of emails with the Foglios and they've been kind enough to link to me. Non-overlapping magisteria between their Gaslamp Fantasy and my Art in Awe of Science.

This fine specimen... one of my favourites, obviously from the blog banner above (and available as card, print and canvas print in the store, as well). Painting on shale is terrific, although very hard on brushes. It began when my wonderful wife brought home some shale roof tiles that had been blown off a roof in the Annex area of Toronto. She also puts micron brushes in my stocking at Christmas.

More fun with trilobites and links, here! Cookies! Kites! Molecules!

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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. Please visit my
blog, gallery and reproduction store. Some guest artwork featured in this post, and attributed above.

Tuesday 19 August 2008

Artwork Mondays: Forever Painting II

How do I follow the last few blog posts?

Drugs and inspiration, a cocktail party with other science-oriented artsy-types, coined a word which I fully expect Webster's dictionary to include this year, offered art for sale in support of an important event, and I have a blog banner featured on The Meming of Life. What to do, what to do?

I offer this humble sketch, an early preliminary for The Forever Painting II.

The Forever Painting was my largest oil painting, and involved many of the themes I has worked on for the previous several years. Perhaps the new one will do the same? At the moment I am considering clouds and a bright blue sky in order to make this one a more hopeful counterpoint to the original, below.

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(Today is Tuesday, and this is an Artwork Monday post. Does it mitigate my circumstances to say yesterday involved a VIP turning 7 years old, wearing explorer hats, being paranoid about peach-eating velociraptors and treasure-guarding mummies?)

(How does an atheist-artist perform penance? Shall I paint a religious scene of some sort?)

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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. Please visit my blog, gallery and reproduction store.

Friday 15 August 2008

Making of The Meming of Life blog banner

The big news! A new blog banner! Click to enlarge!
Dale McGowan, editor and author of the book
Parenting Beyond Belief, and author of the blog The Meming of Life contacted me earlier this summer about creating a new blog banner. After the coffee table forcibly stopped me from running in little circles around the living room, I pulled out my sketchbook and .3mm pencil and got started.

With Dale's exuberant permission, here's a look at my process, and how the banner above for
The Meming of Life developed.

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Step 1: Getting started
When I'm working on a blog banner, it's important to catch the essence of the author and the topics they post. We all see it, blogs are intensely personal, even if only a facet or two of the author's whole personality is represented. In this case, Dale is a multi-faceted and energetic blogger and as a fan, his posts leave me exploring the issues he raises. This needed to be more than a title and a couple of icons. It needed to leave people exploring.

I am also an artist who believes in research. Making things up out of thin air is always less surprising than reality. The best art is imagination coupled with reality and blurring the line between the two.

Step 2: Wait- colour already?
The first idea I had involved a beach ball. I find The Meming of Life to be a lot of fun, and I wanted to get that mood. I did a quick study, which I later developed a bit more into this oil sketch.
It's rare for me to break out full colour at this point in the process, but I had this yellow-saturated image very clear in my mind. I'm a strong believer in starting with an excellent drawing in advance. I described this as "parenting is a serious thing that can be studied and learned and whoops there's a beach ball".

Step 3: Footprint Family
From the start, Dale had ideas. He emailed me this photo of one of his daughters at the beach (
next to the header "Love"). The mood and colours got me thinking. I liked the beach as well.

Good parenting must go back a lot further than any of the organised religions we see today. I began thinking about our ancestors in prehistory, and different ways parenting may have expressed itself. I remembered reading The Ergast's Tale in Richard Dawkins'
The Ancestor's Tale, and again I looked up the story of the Laetoli footprints. These are 3.7 million year old footprints in Tanzania, that appear to be of a parent and child (and possibly from the gait, the adult was carrying a baby as well) that were fleeing the ash from a volcano.

With the photo of Dale's daughter at the beach and the Laetoli footprints in mind, I played with another quick colour study:
The concept here was to have the modern girl pointing at the footprints on the beach which trail into a darkness of deep time, leading to the prehistoric family. The darkness would contain the blog title.

Step 4: Lascaux caves
Playing with the good-parenting-is-older-than-religion concept, I also thought about the 16,000 year old cave paintings at
Lascaux. What if some kid just imitated the serious representation of the auroch-bull drawn on the wall?
I tried to go for that stage in most childrens' drawing when there is no differentiation between the head and body.

After a few days, Dale had a fantastic idea: combine the cave with the footprints.

Step 5: Plato's Cave and spiral illusions
Dale thought this would bring in another allusion, that of the parent and child leaving
Plato's cave and the world of illusion behind, a perfect image for a secular humanist site.

At this point, I almost over-complicated things. I started getting hung up on trying to use the
Fibonacci sequence spiral as a compositional guide. After a few days of shoehorning elements of the image together, I had to jettison the idea. Instead, I made this quick sketch:

The idea was to have a wall of rock in the center separating the cave painting on the left from the beach scene on the right. A narrow, diagonal shaft of light would draw the eye from the left to the right, passing through the title.

Refined the drawing, scanned it, tweaked the values to the warm side, and printed on canvas paper. Turned on some electro-beats and Hans Zimmer's Pirates of the Caribbean soundtrack and began oil painting. I love those Micron series brushes! The filbert in particular was helpful. Step 6: Fueled by coffee
It is always a good idea to view your work from a distance as an artist. Use Photoshop or a mirror to flip the left-right of the image, or reverse the values. Another trick is to simply leave the painting, and come back to it after being heavily distracted. You will spot the problems quickly when you come back to it.

Fueled by coffee, I wanted to simplify. Get rid of the 'floor' of the cave, enlarge the auroch (the bull) add some texture to the flat rock, and maybe some algae as well. I sat down and blitzed this oil painting.
Using a hint of mauve in the payne's grey for the shoreline, I was happy with subtle colour of the sand. I emailed progress on both images to Dale: the new one was on the right track.

Step 7: The final 20%
Recently, I read in
ImagineFX artist Francis Tsai say that the final 5% of a piece takes 50% of the time. That may be true. In this case the final 20% of the piece involved playing with different elements like puzzle pieces to get the image just right to both myself and Dale.

I scanned some fossil-rich rocks I found on a shoreline and added them as a texture on the painting using the clone tool. I also tried a technique for making water-drop letters, seen here on top of this splendid bivalve.
It's an interesting technique, as it allows real distortion of the image below. If I move the words around with the move tool over top of say, bright green, the green will shine through.

This ultimately ended up being a discarded concept. The word "Meming" is unusual enough that it really needs to be as legible as possible.

Here's an almost complete image containing a number of differences with the final above: can you spot them all?

So, the child's drawing: the purple one is re-drawn from one my nephew did while looking at a photo reference of Lascaux: I repainted it in purple and distorted the shape to match the wall contours. But Dale loves this little guy. He needed to come back!

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There you have it. I'm pretty pleased with the final result: I had no idea where Dale and I would end up when he first contacted me. Please enjoy
The Meming of Life, and don't forget to pick up Parenting Beyond Belief, and Mr. McGowan's new book, Raising Freethinkers, coming soon!

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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. I am available for freelance illustration. Please visit my blog or gallery or shop to have a look.

Tuesday 12 August 2008

Support The Beagle Project with Flying Trilobite Reproductions

The Flying Trilobite Reproduction Shop is now open at

Following in the footsteps of the stellar Diana Sudyka, I will be donating a portion of the sales of a re-scanned Darwin Took Steps to The Beagle Project. Let's get this boat in the water, eh?!

I've re-scanned the image (originally it was still wet - oil paints can take months to dry) and added a bit of text. Here's a sample:

Darwin Took Steps is currently available as a gator-board mounted print, and as greeting cards. I thought this would be nice to send as a Darwin Day 2009 card. More formats may appear in future: has some nifty-keen stuff, so drop me an email or reply if you would love to have a staircase-headed Charles in another format.

(Edit: I've added a variety of t-shirts based on the original pencil drawing, as well as cards, matted prints, and the colour image without words.)

Purchasing this image will also save me from having to hang-glide to The Beagle with cucumber sandwiches with crusts cut-off for the crew. No one wants that, right?

The link for purchase (in multiple currency choices!) is here. Jokes about "flying trilobite reproduction" may also now ensue.

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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 11 August 2008

Artwork Mondays: Trilobitlepidoptology

From the notes of the renowned pioneer in the field of trilobitlepidotology, Dame Francesca Pithclade-Jolly;

"Some of the coarser naturalists in the field say I have quite man-like hands, but to them I say bother and damnation! Could hands less delicate than mine have mounted such fine specimens?"

This drawing is a continuation of the sketch from a couple of weeks ago, before I left for a cottage. Right after completing this piece, we went to the stellar Blue Willow Butterflies & Blooms center near Sutton, Ontario. Now I've got some nifty new photos to work from if I continue reading the works of Dame Pithclade-Jolly on trilobitlepidoptology.

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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.

I got invited to a Cocktail Party!

Writer Jennifer Ouellette wonders But is it art? over at Cocktail Party Physics. It's a great article, featuring many different artists and visually-creative people who incorporate science into their work. Ms. Ouellette has included my oil painting, My Life With Trilobites, in the article. Nifty!

In particular I am impressed with the work of skateboarder/artist Lia Halloran. All the work is pretty cool.

The supposed division between artists and scientists is so small, and so many other people like myself straddle both worlds. It make organising my blogroll tough, and interesting.

I mean, where do you place people like the talented Marek Eby, who has created such iconic images and clothing of prehistoric creatures and blogs about palaeontology? I have him in science right now, but his cartoons and images could easily go the other way. Same with Fresh Brainz, and Laelaps - both feature excellent photography on a regular basis.

On the flipside, I have placed Bond's Blog, Prehistoric Insanity, Olduvai George and When Pigs Fly Returns in my artsy links, to name a few. Each of these talented people features artwork ranging from line drawings to 3D rendering from time to time, and each is strongly interested or involved in palaeontology.

All this means to me, I think is that art and science do not need to be told to stay on their own side in the back seat. We can play nice.

One last question though: where do you place The Flying Trilobite? Under art, or science?
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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 4 August 2008

Artwork Mondays: Inspiration + Drugs

So here's the thing.

While in University, and continuing to today, I'll show somebody examples of my work for the first time, and I will hear, "Whoa, so just what are you on, man? Must be some good s--t!"

Yeah, the good s--t is my brain. My creativity. My diverse range of interest and my hard-won madskillz with a pencil. My brain dwarfs other brains. And I can tell you why.

I've been attempting to write this post for a long time now. It's a hard one to write without sounding smug and preachy or after-school-special. So I'm just throwing it out there in plain language and not worrying too much about it.

I don't drink alcoholic beverages, and I don't do recreational drugs, and I follow no religion. Period. Never have, and likely won't. Over the course of an entire year, I maybe polish off one glass of wine divided up over New Year's, a random evening and my wedding anniversary. I should probably drink a bit of wine for the health effects. Keep meaning to do that.

Let me cut off some common assumptions at this point: I really really don't care if other people drink alcohol. It is not something I do, but I am not passing some kind of moral judgement on people either. In a free and open society, I am free to not drink and think you're cool. No need to explain to me how it's really good I don't drink, and you admire it, or to accuse me of accusing you of wrongdoing. Telling me my coffee-drinking is "at least something, kind of wimpy, but something," makes me laugh.

I don't drink or do drugs for a bunch of reasons, but here's one of the largest. As I emerged like a delicate, lumbering butterfly into my University years, I was asked "what I was into" more and more. And in my first year survey course of Western Art, we began talking about Hieronymous Bosch. Bosch did fascinating things, unreal visions of heaven and hell with the most unlikely structures made from the tools of alchemy. And a theory we were presented with, very popular and assumed to be true by my peers, was that ergot of rye in the fields near the artist were causing Bosch to experience the effects of very mild LSD.

Everyone nodded. Of course. It was instantly assumed this is where his genius and creativity stemmed from.

It was an outrage! An outrage because what if it wasn't ergot of rye? A great disservice to a great mind. It was an outrage because in my view, it smacked of complacency by my fellow art students. Wanna push your art further? Drugs. Worked for Bosch.

If it was true, than my mind would be unremarkable without intentional damage inflicted upon myself. No thanks. I needed to hold fast against the weak undercurrent of peer pressure and create fantastic, unreal images in the face of pure sobriety.

I'm not the next Hieronymous Bosch. I'm doing what I do. My body suffers from asthma, and I have some medications I take regularly, daily, along with a love for coffee. Throwing more into the mix will not help. One day, will someone cite my puffers as the source of my creativity? I hope it is not the case.

And I spoke above of my thoughts on alcohol, how do I feel about drugs?

I think they are kind of lame. (There I go, sounding like an after-school special.) I am especially weary of marijuana. It is so present and so popular now, you can't escape it at parties. And users always want to tell me all the scientific facts they know, about how it's no worse than alcohol, they only use it sometimes to fall asleep, I've studied it way more than you, blah blah blah. You know why it bugs me? Because alcohol stays in your glass and on your breath, but marijuana goes into everyone's lungs. Smoking marijuana is lame and selfish.

I am writing this post not to judge others, but to judge myself. Perhaps it is not an achievement to be visually creative without drugs, and this is seen as nothing more than a fearful person stamping their foot saying "I don't wanna". In my view, my brain dwarfs many other brains. My synapses are intact, my dendrites and neurons hum happily. This creativity is mine, and not the product of liquid or inhaled inspiration.

I'll reiterate, I really don't judge others by what substances they use for fun. Friends say I'm fun at parties. I simply get cross when someone gets pushy or insulting by wondering what drugs/alcohol/religion I am on, and won't believe I can live without those things.

Please feel free to disagree on this touchy topic, and make comments. I am away from the internet while on vacation, and will respond when I return.

Oh, and cheers!

This week I am re-posting a few pieces previously posted due to the topic. In order, these pieces are entitled, from the top, Anthropomorphic Gestation, Knowledge Pupates, & Asthma Incubus.

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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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