Tuesday 23 February 2010

The Open Laboratory 2009!

The Open Laboratory 2009 is here!
Great fun working with series editor
Bora Zivkovic again, and with edition-editor Scicurious and this year's technical renaissance-man, Blake Stacey. Good times. Thanks to Dave Ng for the stunning design - we riffed off of last year's and changed the cover colour, much like the first two editions' covers by Reed Cartwright.

Can't wait to read it.

Maybe I'll put up some of the slightly different background iterations in the next few days.

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Original artwork on The Flying Trilobite
Copyright to Glendon Mellow
Creative Commons Licence.

And buy that book up there. You can totally judge this book by its cover, trust me, it is that excellent.

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Monday 22 February 2010

Art Monday: sketchy twitobite

My current Twitter background. Click to enlarge.

A montage incorporating sketches and drawings from the last few months.

The difference between a drawing and a sketch you ask? Drawings are considered to be more final, polished art. Sketches are the rougher, playful, workin'-it-out type of marks on paper.

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Original artwork on The Flying Trilobite
Copyright Glendon Mellow
under Creative Commons Licence.

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Sunday 21 February 2010

Image-Citation Citation - update

I've created a new, more compact, easier to understand Image-Citation Citation image for recipients to put on their blog, at the request of the commenters (thanks, peeps!)

Please feel free to forward to those who deserve it, and link back to the original post so we can keep a growing list. The url to link to easily is http://tinyurl.com/imagecite .

On a related note, art director extraordinaire Irene Gallo, who blogs at The Art Department has called out for more artist recognition in her post Who's awesome? Or, credit the artists!

Hit the link to read her thoughts and for more on the topic of artists' credit.
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Original artwork on The Flying Trilobite Copyright to Glendon Mellow
under Creative Commons Licence.

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Tuesday 16 February 2010

I'm a zombie teddy bear

My friend Chris Zenga, who blogs his artwork at The Day After Art did this drawing. Of me.

As a zombie teddy bear.


You can check out Chris's blog, and his print shop. He's also on Twitter, and is taking commissions through his Etsy shop.

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Original artwork on The Flying Trilobite Copyright to Glendon Mellow
under Creative Commons Licence. Except the bear above. That's by Chris Zenga.
Weren't you paying attention? Zombie bears are going to eat the stuffing out of you.

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Monday 15 February 2010

Art Monday: the face in the water

Lately, I am feeling like some of my art is rushing headlong down a certain track. There's a face in the water, expecting to drag me down.

One of the best things going back to school has brought to me, is a renewed playfulness with my materials. Whether it's painting mediums, wood panels, ink, digital manipulation, I need to just enjoy myself more. One of my favourite artists,
Jon Foster described in his book, r/evolution, that painting can be like "playing with colorful goop".(p56) I need to play with a wider variety of goops.

This year, I begin to feel I have painted myself into a self-imposed corner. The last two years, I have done a new painting for Darwin Day, and for each of my blogiversaries I have re-done my shale-painting blog banner. I have a list of "Need to finish" concepts a mile long.

This year I plan to break free of these self-constraints.

By the same token, I want to expect more of myself in terms of output. It's a daunting thing to consider: I am working full-time, in school part-time, doing freelance, looking for more freelance, blogging the journey and finding valuable time with my wife and family. I need to find the time to create art within all these responsibilities. I need to draw or paint every day. Every. Day.

I need to see a different face when I look in the water.

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Original artwork on The Flying Trilobite Copyright to Glendon Mellow
Creative Commons Licence.

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Friday 12 February 2010

Darwin Day re-post: Making "Darwin Took Steps"

This post originally appeared on Tuesday 12th February 2008. Don't forget a portion of the sales from Darwin Took Steps prints, cards & shirts goes in support of The Beagle Project, one of the most inspiring educational endeavours conceived.

Merry Darwin Day everyone!

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For Darwin Day 2008, I decided to work on a surreal portrait of Charles Darwin, which is to be published today at the online literary 'zine, The Eloquent Atheist. There should be some writing accompanying it from one of the Darwin Day organisers, Dick Renfro. (Edit! Here's the link!) I always enjoy seeing another artist's process in creating a work, and I have found some scientists who read this blog are also interested in seeing the greasy nuts & bolts that go into a painting.

I am not a biologist, but I am something of a biology/palaeontology groupie. Darwin's work is so important not only for explaining a process of evolution by natural selection, but also for how it exploded the traditional chain of mythologies humans lived with as explanations for so long. The modern Bright movement and sites like The Eloquent Atheist seek to show how a life without religion and the supernatural can be intellectually and emotionally

In my continuous struggle to improve my own madartskillz I am also trying to create works reminiscent of Symbolist and Surrealist masterpieces replete with symbols drawn from our modern scientific worldview. Why use Odin to symbolise wisdom when you can paint Darwin?

Making of Darwin Took Steps

1. Thumbnail sketches
These were just thumbnails, showing an elderly Darwin pondering what to write next. The one near the top right has a "tangled bank" of branches floating above his head. From the start I knew I wanted to depict Darwin in his later years, as it is a more generally recognised image. I discarded both of these ideas in favour of the staircase idea.

2. Beginning the drawing.

For the drawing, I drew upon a reference from National Geographic's November 2004 issue. (Cover title: "Was Darwin Wrong?". The answer inside, almost a page tall: "NO.")

One of the goals for this painting was to see how quickly I could do it, and still be proud at the end. In this instance I gave up drawing freehand and used a projector to create the sketch above, which is something I rarely do. That took 20 minutes. Refining a drawing that size without the projector can take another 2 to 3 hours. Materials: 2mm pencil on vellum-finish bristol paper. (Must perform life drawing for three hours in penance for using the projector...)

3. Staircase and a false start.

The staircase is an older idea of mine I used on a piece called Disease. It was developed as a cd cover and never published. I like the image though, and thought it would be appropriate. The column in the background is supposed to suggest the path leading unexpectedly to D.N.A, beyond Darwin's scope. I checked the drawing in a mirror a lot, to see if there were any gross abnormalities that stood out. Noticed a staircase coming out of his head. During this phase, I was listening to Jakalope in my studio, which is actually a freakishly large closet off our living room.

4. Completed drawing.

This is the drawing as complete as I decided to make it for painting. I used a .3mm mechanical pencil, HB lead on vellum-finish bristol. Love that Strathmore. In total, the drawing itself took about 3.5 hours. I jettisoned the d.n.a. column idea, and left the staircase leading up and away, the edifice not yet finished. I had fun with the little 'chi' lines in the beard. After tweaking the contrast in Photoshop, I printed the drawing out onto a couple of sheets of canvas paper from my laser printer to paint on.

5. Prepping for 'speed-painting'.

I decided to work in our living room, claiming the coffee table as my territory. I use Turpenoid Natural rather than other solvents. It smells of pine and is not full of nasty toxic hydrocarbons like most odourless solvents. The pliers are to get my oil tubes open. (Seriously, are all tubes made by people who've never had to open them more than twice? The caps are all different by brand, but they all get stuck.) I wanted this piece to have an older, sepia-feel to it, so linseed oil rather than a paler poppy or walnut was just fine. I am armed with Bavarian Dutch Chocolate coffee in my Jack Skellington mug.

My palette consisted of Naples Yellow (which I am addicted to), Quinacradone Orange, Cadmium Yellow Medium, Monochrome Tint Warm, Burnt Sienna (which I hate), Raw Umber, Payne's Grey, Zinc+Titanium White and Lamp Black. A lot of people swear you shouldn't use white or black (and you should mix your own from blue and brown), and I say, stop living in the Impressionist Era! It's so over! Lamp black is warm and deep, like pvc goth-gear in a tube.

I set the timer to stop me every hour. My aim was to finish the painting in 3 hours.

6. Results after 1 hour.

Usually I start with the eyes. I worked out the face, mainly with a cad-yellow underlayer. Monochrome tint and white for highlights. I was listening to Darude, The Chemical Brothers, and a Nine Inch Nails remix album. The faster the beats, the fresher my brush strokes. This is deep in the Ugly Phase , where I just hate how it looks. No time to fret; hour two!

7. Results after 2 hours.

Started using a phylogenetic tree in the background, painting with quinacradone orange underneath, and iridescent gold oil paint on top. Renaissance masters usually painted a red basecoat under gold leafing to add luster. I am using some micron brushes my wife put in my stocking at Christmas. They are really tiny synthetic brushes, and the filbert is now my bf4evr. Some artists say oils must be painted with rough hog's bristle brushes, and then I just yell, stop living in the Impressionist Era! Old masters used soft brushes for detail, and so do I.
It's not done. I need to move toward hour 3.

8. Results after 3 hours, colour corrected.
The final piece, colour-corrected in Photoshop.

I fretted about how dark it looked on some monitors, and after submitting the image to editor Michael W. Jones at The Eloquent Atheist, emailed a second colour-corrected version, seen above.

Complete! ( edit: Here is the full-colour-corrected image and how it appears in my online reproduction store, a portion of the profits going in support of The Beagle Project.)

Assigning a number to any amount of steps would be arbitrary, but I chose 5 for a reason. Four for the support of evolution by natural selection (Darwin drew upon examples of 1. biogeography, 2. morphology, 3. embryology, and 4. palaeontology), and the fifth step for natural selection itself, or the elevation of reason over dogma, as the viewer likes. The steps of learning never end.

Please check this out on The Eloquent Atheist today, and leave comments! Constructive feedback is always welcome. I will edit this post later today to provide the link once it is up. Merry Darwin Day!

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Original artwork on The Flying Trilobite Copyright to Glendon Mellow
under Creative Commons Licence.

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Tuesday 9 February 2010

Art Tuesday: group effort

A while ago, I asked Flying Trilobite readers for help choosing a quote for a school project. The winner was from Matt Ridley's, Genome: the autobiography of a species in 23 chapters.

"The word transformed the land surface of the planet from a dusty hell to a verdant paradise."

In class, we were partnered with another student based on our names in alphabetical order. Luckily, I was paired with Michelle Kim, another representational artist. Her quote had to do with life being like a spiral. Here's some pics of the end result.

Detail 1: Detail 2:

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**My apologies for missing Art Monday! I was too sick to post.

Original artwork on The Flying Trilobite Copyright to Glendon Mellow
under Creative Commons Licence.
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Wednesday 3 February 2010

ScienceOnline2010 tablet workshop; or, playing with Bora's face

Click on the scio10tablet label to see all posts. Many thanks to Darren of the Park Research Center for the enthusiastic help setting up Gimp and the drivers on the session laptop!(picture by Ben Young Landis and tweeted during the session. Thanks Ben!)

After a mad dash from the airport, I settled in at ScienceOnline2010 to do a workshop about digital tablet technology. Bringing two tablets through customs wasn't hard, though I had to explain what they were a number of times.

The two models we played with were a Wacom Bamboo and a Wacom Intuos 3. The Bamboo had been solemnly lent to me by my 8-year old sk8tr nephew who said he was "giving you -no, lending you this on one condition: you bring it back." Fair enough.

Our workshop attendance was relatively small, which was perfect. After a quick introduction to tablets, the group split into two groups of three and began to play. We used Gimp, which as an astonishingly versatile free program able to do many of the things Photoshop and similar programs can do. My hope was that the group would enjoy the pressure sensitivity of the pen and tablet, and begin to think of how that could be fun to make images.

Here are the results of the workshop! (And apologies for the long wait! Has it been 2+ weeks already?These exercises were to allow everyone to get a fee for the pen and tablet, and try a bit with how the sensitivity responds. The initial drawings above were cautious and careful, as it can be disconcerting to move your drawing-hand while looking elsewhere at a screen at the result. This technique however, is a one made popular by the book Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain, a traditional pencil and paper book. It includes exercises doing just this: follow the contours of the object you're drawing, and don't look at the page you are drawing on. It allows your eyes to have time to practice moving in unison with your hand.
Here's the examples when we tried varying the line pressure:

We played with Bora's image a bit. Everyone took a turn on separate layers, including Bora himself adding a dapper aviator's scarf (later made hard to see by the Magic Wand tool).

Original photo:

Completed image:

Many thanks to Janet, Ben, Evelyn, Bora, Allie and John! And Bora's dinosaur.
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Original artwork on The Flying Trilobite Copyright to Glendon Mellow
under Creative Commons Licence.
Work above by conference attendees - thanks for playing everybody!

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Monday 1 February 2010

Art Monday: Balloon Boy

A doodle-y sketch using the fun and excellent Sketchbook Pro app on my iPod Touch.
Click here for more of my iPod Touch sketches, or visit fingerpainted.it to see other artists' impressive work, including with the new iPad.

The iPad is certainly on my *want* list, (mostly because my wife and I have to budget our computer needs on our one sweet pc), however it isn't really the same as a digital tablet like my Intuos 3. For one thing, the inaugural version of the iPad doesn't have any levels of sensitivity, making it a significantly less versatile tool than a digital tablet & pen. Still I love my iPod Touch so a bigger more sophisticated one would be amazing.

I already use my iPod Touch as a portfolio, (the reason Michelle bought one for me) and the iPad would be even better.

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Original artwork on The Flying Trilobite Copyright to Glendon Mellow
under Creative Commons Licence.

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