Wednesday 29 June 2011

The Aura of Oil - classic Flying Trilobite

(This post originally appeared here on The Flying Trilobite back in November 2008.)
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The aura of painting exists in the mind of the viewer, and in some cases the mind of the illustrator when seeing their own work reproduced. The idea of paintings having an aura or presence is something that has fascinated me since university, as discussed last week. Some excellent comments were made by artists Sean Craven and Chris Zenga, check it out.

Okay so from my non-scientific anecdotal samplings and personal experiences (oh the sins against science I commit! I will say ten ATP-->ADP reactions in penance), I doubt the existence of original paintings having a quasi-mystical aura or emitting a presence to the viewer. You can read a bit more about this "aura of authenticity" from an art historical perspective 
here, and from the side of new age-laced artsy language here (10th paragraph), and here.

It's head-shakingly amazing how fear for loss of the aura is dovetailed with a fear of technology. 

Is there anything special or unique then, about an original painting that does not lie entirely within the biases of the viewer? In case of oil paintings, I say yes. And looking at last week's comments, Chris Zenga guessed the point of this week's Artwork Monday while thinking about a D.N.A Candle Vanitas painting I gave to him and his wife for their marriage (at rightoriginal post here). 

I love oil painting. I enjoy the scent of the oil, and the buttery consistency flowing 
together under a horizontally-held fan brush. And most of all, I love the depth glazing can bring about in the final work.

Oil painting differs from other types of painting in many ways. Oils do not evaporate as they dry like watercolour or acrylic painting; instead they absorb oxygen from the air. This is called a siccative quality. The way I think about this, is like the oxygen molecules are pineapple chunks being added to Jell-o in a confined bowl. Adding more will increase the density and stop the Jell-o from jiggling. I don't know that this is a chemically-apt description, so please feel free to tell me there's not room for Jell-o in the comments if I am mangling the science of siccatives.

For this reason, it's important that oil paintings are painted in thin layers with an increasing amount of oil in successive layers. It allows the oxygen to permeate evenly over the course of six months to a year after painting, and helps prevent cracking. The rule is referred to as "fat over lean".

So oil paintings, particularly by Renaissance and Baroque masters, contained many thin, mostly transparent layers of paint, each tinted with a little pigment. And herein lies the aura of a painting viewed live versus online.

When light hits all these layers of oil, it permeates each oily membrane and begins to reflect back out. But some photons will bounce back into the oil layers off of the pigments, and back to the lower layers before pinging back out of the painting, and onward to the viewers eyes. This optical effect literally creates a glow. It's also the reason for the incredibly deep blacks often found in the backgrounds of portraits.

So the illusion of depth in an oil painting can be profoundly eye-catching, and similar to looking at objects in water, the oil-glazes draw our eyes and captivate our pattern-seeking centers, making the paint feel alive. No unscientific aura necessary, just wonderful chemistry interacting on our biology.

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

Monday 27 June 2011

Forgotten art for a late night.

Taking apart a room due to some slight water damage. Listening to Stromkern (thanks Stephanie!) and Wolfsheim. Here's some of my slate pieces from my final school project scanned and converted to black and white. I almost put this image in my latest print collection, and then skipped it and forgot about it.

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

Friday 24 June 2011

Hashtag: 10oclockart

Today's the first day of illustrator Russell Dickerson's fun idea: #10oclockart .  I heard about it last night through a conversation Russell was having with Eric Orchard on Twitter about Eric's recent post

Every day at 10 am, artists should post whatever they're working on, at whatever stage it's in;  on Twitter, Flickr, blogs, Facebook, where ever, and use the Twitter hashtag #10oclockart. Great fun!  Here's mine:  

Working on my donor drawings - almost all of them are done! The swirly one is far from finished. And here's my workstation and studio assistant this morning:

He's helping. And listening to DeadMaus.

Follow me on Twitter!  @flyingtrilobite

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

Wednesday 22 June 2011

Scumble #18 - Science-art is the future! Edition

"A painting technique in which semi-opaque or thin opaque colors are loosely brushed over an underpainted area so that patches of the color beneath show through." 
From The Artist's Handbook, by Ray Smith.  

Highlighting recent posts I found interesting, provocative, or otherwise caught my eye from the Science Artists Feed, and other sources.

Science-art is becoming an increasingly popular form of science communication and entertainment. Drawing from fine art, laboratory work, scientific illustration, concept art and more, watch how artists spread scientific literacy and play with the inspiring concepts in science. 

Make yourself a cup of joe,  put your feet up and enjoy the science-art and art techniques!

Click here for earlier Scumbles.

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World Science Festival 11: The Invisible Language of Smell - Bora Zivkovic with illustrations by Perrin Ireland, Scientific American's Guest Blog. Find more of Perrin Ireland's work at Small n Tender and Bora Zivkovic's at A Blog Around the Clock.

Using the iPad as a Portfolio - Darkstorm Creative: the Work of Russell Dickerson. A couple of years back, I blogged about the iPod Touch as a portfolio. Can't wait to get an iPad. Check out Russell's unsettling horror work while you're there.

"Picturing science" exhibit reveals the artistic beauty of scientific research - Alasdair Wilkins,

ScienceArt-Nature-Home - Stanford. This in-process site looks promising, and check out the roster of contributors: includes Carel Brest van Kempen.

Networks are not always revolutionary - Cory Doctorow, The Guardian.

Hominid Skulls wearing Mexican Wrestler Masks - The Flying Trilobite. An example of a failed contract.

CaridianBCT - Quantum Cell Expansion System - XVIVO Science Animation Blog.

EXOSKELETONS...solo show in Melbourne - A Curious Bestiary - art by Kaitlin Beckett. I wish I could see this amazing work in person!

Titration! - Katy's Notebook.

L is for Lacewing - Curious Art Lab by Leah Palmer Preiss.

Art Talk with Marna Stalcup, The Right-Brain Initiative - Art Works.

Mathematics breathes new life into Escher's art - Jacob Aron, CultureLab.

Vintage Dinosaur Art: The Bird Hunter - Love in the Time of the Chasmosaurs.

Earliest art in the Americas: Ice Age Image of Mammoth or Mastodon found in Florida - ScienceDaily.

Of Paintings and Other Things - The Caw Box

Art and Science Team-up for Biophysical Journal - cover artist Klaus Schulten, biophysical society.

Immortal - Is this bioart?

Inter-active Broadcast: Illusion of Certainty - Sci-ence

Kinect for Windows SDK Coding Marathon - The Art of

The Mysteryes of Nature and Art - BibliOdyssey. (hat-tip to Michael Barton!)

Evolution - Darryl Cunningham Investigates. Webcomic about evolution!

Pick of the Scumble:
Wallace and his Flying Frogs! - Alfred Wallace Website. Amazing art by Joanna Barnum. (Another tip of the hat to Mr. Barton!)

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

Tuesday 21 June 2011

Hominid Skulls wearing Mexican Wrestling Masks

Not every art project for a client sees the light of day. Here's an example from a few years ago.   
(I retained the copyright on the images even if the contract had gone through: in this case, I was never paid so I'm quite sure there's no conflict, and it's fair game to post these.)

The client had asked for a challenging tattoo design.

Up to you to judge whether or not these fit the bill. The concept was three different hominid skulls, each wearing Mexican Luchador wrestling masks. In black line: no colour, no grey scale. See?  Challenging. How do you bring out the masks on very specific human ancestral skulls without colour?
I got started by working on the hominid skulls and on the layout. Homo sapiens sapiens, Homo erectus tautavelensis and Australopithicus afarensis.

Deciding the layout of the three skulls.

Originally, I drew the concept in reverse by mistake;
three masks that look  like hominid skulls. 

I played with the drawing in Photoshop to get a different view of a "messier" ink style.

Now the challenge of overlaying cloth onto skulls,
and making the bold cartoon outlines found on Luchador masks.

Final submitted image. The Australopithecus on the bottom is wearing a half-mask.

There were more drawings than these few; I like to keep clients informed when working on a project and it's especially important for the personal work involved in tattoos. Ultimately, the project was never fully realized. But what do you think of the last image?  Does it read as hominid skulls wearing Luchador masks?

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

Friday 17 June 2011

Icky and Ickier

The other day I threw this old oil painting of mine, called Pupating, into a standard Photoshop filter called plastic wrap or plastic bag or something. 

Using basic Photoshop filters can be considered a bit of an icky cheat in some illustration circles. Still; I think it adds something, don't you?

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

Wednesday 15 June 2011

Scumble #17 - Best Science-Art Links this week

"A painting technique in which semi-opaque or thin opaque colors are loosely brushed over an underpainted area so that patches of the color beneath show through." 
From The Artist's Handbook, by Ray Smith.  

Highlighting recent posts I found interesting, provocative, or otherwise caught my eye from the Science Artists Feed, and other sources. 

Time to slow cold-brew yourself a caramel bulee latte, put your feet up and enjoy the science-art and art techniques!

Click here for earlier Scumbles.

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Stop on Red: the Effects of Color May Lie Deep in Evolution - Science Daily. Inherited aversion to red as the study suggests, or convergent learning that red means blood by chimps and humans?

Fluid Dynamics: Watch as 'Mixed Color' comes back together right before your eyes - Geekologie. Somewhere, there's a grad student in a fine art program salivating at doing this with many automated jars in a gallery.

Scientific "proof" that abstract art is only 4% better than what a kid could do - Alasdair Wilkins,

This is why we can't have nice things - Sci-É™nce. Informative, demented webcomic.

Interview with Jim Robins - 
Dave Hone's Archosaur Musings. Darwin fans should check out the fun anachronistic cartoon at the bottom of the interview (should be young Darwin but what the hey - funny cartoon.)

How are art and human evolution related? - Greg Laden's Blog. Does neolithic cave art represent doodles, rituals or recipies?

GNSI Annual Exhibit Sneak Peek - Guild of Natural Science Illustrator's blog. Must see! Check out the bees.

Dino Brights! - Omegafauna. Artist/designer Sharon Lynn Wegner-Larsen makes all paleo folk jealous of her toys.

Butter Tarts - Trilobite Boy #6 - Trilobite Boy. My webcomic experiment continues.

nature/culture/nature/culture - Is this bioart? Sometimes I think this blog and my blog should discuss the terms science-art and bioart and then arm wrestle.

Scaphognathus crassirostris: A Pterosaur in the Historical Record? - David Orr, Love in the Time of the Chasmosaurs. Cryptozoology FTW!

Art and Human Evolution - for the Beaker and Brush series - Hybrids of Art and Science. Very cool and optimistic scienceart quote.

Summer, learning and children - Darkstorm Creative, the art of Russell Dickerson. I've followed Russell's art avidly for a while now.  Great post about encouraging children to explore.

WIP - baby elephant - Heather Ward Wildlife Art. Spooky at this stage! Great insight into technique.

I'm now a member of the IAAA! - LucyJain's Blog. Lucy is among the hottest new astronomy-artists out there -extend congrats and then gape slack-jawed at her tremendous gallery.

Painting Through the Universe: Eskimo Nebula - Katy's Notebook. Katy Chalmers is the other hot new astronomy artist out there, and, like Lucy Jain is one of the very best astronomy artists today. Why don't more astronomy artists blog?  I dunno. Follow these two though to space in new ways. Eskimo Nebula is gorgeous in a way abstract art can't touch.

David Johnson - lines and colors. Check out the portraits of Albert Einstein, Daniel Dennett, Richard Dawkins and Sam Harris!

Hidden Treasures - Biodiversity in Focus. This blog is making me feel inspired by fruit flies. Like, more than usual.

The Dragons of Malaysia by Ryan and AI:The Impossible Museum by Brian G George - Mad Art Lab. Very cool DIY art project about the sacred space in museums led to a very cool question: what would you want to see in an impossible museum?  Check out the comments & leave your own.

Making Art of Traumatic Heart Failure - Christine Ottery, CultureLab.

MizEnScen - Street Anatomy.

Blog post of the Scumble:  Wedding - Weapon of Mass Imagination. Congratulations to 3D paleo-artist and one of the masterminds behind ART Evolved, Craig Dylke and his bride Lady R!  They got married!

Scienceart of the Scumble: Archaeopteryx - Bond's Blog. 

© Peter Bond 2011 under CCL.

Gorgeous pair of Archaeopteryx by Peter Bond, for Craig Dylke's wedding! Check out Bond's Blog for a peek at one of his sketches for this stunning painting. 

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

Monday 13 June 2011

Etsy sale and one-day offer for $10 art!

Time for an Etsy sale! I've cut the prices on everything in my Etsy shop, including one of the slate paintings by more than 50%.

If you're interested in any of these pieces, feel free to contact me.

--->I'm also putting out a special call: I only have about a day left to renew my deviantArt Premium account which hosts and my professional portfolio.  I was hoping to have picked up a second part-time job by now, but it's a tough market.

So - for anyone who is willing to donate $10 or more using my PayPal button on the right sidebar, I'll mail them an original drawing or sketch.  Offer stands for the rest of today, until 7 am EST tomorrow. You can also contact me via to discuss it if you want, and I can send a bill via PayPal that way.

(I'll be in and out of the studio today with some family commitments, so my apologies if I don't get back to you immediately.)

Help support Art in Awe of Science - I'd really appreciate it!
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(Edit, 9:30pm: thanks so much for the generosity of so many of you - I'll be able to keep my portfolio site going for the whole next year! For the sheer fun of it, I'll do as I said in the post above and keep the $10 minimum donation in exchange for an original drawing open until 7 am EST tomorrow. I really appreciate the support for my studio and my groceries.
Flying Trilobiteers rock. )

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

Saturday 11 June 2011

A few iPod Touch sketches

Here's a few new sketches done using Sketch Club on my iPod Touch. I don't really plan what I'm going to draw when I do these, I kind of just start sketching. 


"Angry Sketchy Guy" His chest turned out way too big for his tiny angry head. 

"Marvel's Moon Knight" one of my nephew's favourite comic book characters. 

The hardest thing about doing these is precision: the screen is so small, and my finger gets in the way.  I should get a stylus. Previous iPod drawings and paintings I've done can be seen here

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

Friday 10 June 2011

Man-Thing work-in-progress continues

My piece of Man-Thing fan art continues. 

You can see the pencils here, and the start of the digital painting along with commentary and an explanation of who this character is, here.

Coming along I think:  I like this background better than the previous one. Still a ways to go in the detail department. Using ArtRage Studio Pro. 

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

Thursday 9 June 2011

Butter Tarts - Trilobite Boy #6

New Trilobite Boy webcomic!

This was done in about 45 minutes using ArtRage Studio Pro.
You can follow the adventures of Trilobite Boy on his Tumblr.
And you can see in-process Trilobite Boy art by clickety-clicking here.
Trilobite Boy prints, shirts and stickers available in my shop. 

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

Tuesday 7 June 2011


My general philosophy of parenting is heavily informed by Dale McGowan's excellent Parenting Beyond Belief and my own upbringing surrounded by tons of books on a variety of subjects.  Teach many things, teach a child to think critically and let them figure it out.

Still, nothing wrong introducing the little guy to art, science and his dad's vocation at an early age. 

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Original artwork on The Flying Trilobite Copyright to Glendon Mellow

Monday 6 June 2011

Art Monday: Man-Thing WIP

(Should I bring back my Art Monday posts?  I feel like I've been posting more often so I'm not sure they're relevant. Maybe if I just talk about technique?)

Every summer I feel a huge urge to do some fan art.  So right now I'm taking this Man-Thing drawing from a few years back and colouring it using ArtRage Studio Pro. 

I tend to post desktop screen captures a lot when talking about ArtRage.  The reason for this is that the first time I saw what the program's interface looked like, I knew I had to get it. As a traditional oil painter, a lot of digital painting programs feel like you're working in Excel or Word: all these drop down menus and hunting under the headings for the tool you need.

ArtRage immediately struck me as a different beast.  And it is.  Most of your tools are in the two 1/4 wheels in the corners, the left for the types of art media (including chalk, glitter, watercolours, tech pens and much much more) and the right-side one for your colours, lights and darks and metallic-ness. When using a digital drawing tablet, it becomes easy to just dab, dab and you've switched your brush and paint, just like using the real thing.

Here's where my "Trapping the Man-Thing" painting is so far:

Man-Thing was originally created by writers Stan Lee, Roy Thomas and Gerry Conway and artist Gray Morrow. In case you're not familiar with the character, the basics are this: Scientist Ted Sallis was working in the Everglades to re-create the lost Super Soldier Serum that had turned Steve Rogers into Captain America. The terrorist group A.I.M. has somehow persuaded Sallis's wife Ellen Brandt into betraying him for the formula, and when he goes on the run from them through the swamp he injects himself with the formula and crashes into the oozy muck, where the chemical agents in his body along with mystical forces, transform him into the Man-Thing.

Man-Thing typically has no memory of being Ted Sallis, and shambles slowly along, stopping evil-doers. It can sense fear, and fearful beings burn at his touch, due to chemicals secreted through his hands or embrace. Man-Thing is entirely composed of vegetable matter, most of it rotting and it can quickly re-grow parts of itself when say, shot in the eye with a shotgun.  At different points, Man-Thing has been the Guardian of the Nexus of All Realities, which is found in his swamp, and recently joined the reformed villains superhero team, The Thunderbolts. More on Wikipedia.

My personal favourite artist for Man-Thing was Liam Sharp. Check out his cover to issue #7 of the 90's run here (with Namor of Atlantis!).

I've created this image below to illustrate some of the specific techniques I used. 

One of the handiest things most digital programs can do, ArtRage included, is cleverly overlay a pencil drawing on top of the digitally painted image.

In this case, I used real analog HB technical pencil in my Moleskine sketchbook to draw Man-Thing. I scanned him in and after creating my digital painting file, imported the drawing into a layer in ArtRage. Then, I set the layer to "Multiply" which allows the pencil sketch to kind of float on top of the painting, while the painted colours are still visible. That way, the drawing is more than a guide to be traced or a springboard to the rest of the painting: the pencils are part of the final image.

You can see the multiply-layer pencil clearly in the image above with Man-Thing's arm and shoulder. I've made the other painted areas invisible there and left the painting on his face by comparison. I blurred the background using a Gaussian blur in Photoshop to make the effect clearer. The pencil is totally visible. (Kind of like it blurred out...may keep it.)

It's a both more restrictive and less to work this way. It's moreso since the final image is determined by the pencils, but also less so since I can kind of just cut loose on the painted colour and texture and let the pencils describe the form. Using Multiply this way is a pretty basic tip for people doing digital painting, but I'm describing it here in case some of my blog readers are unfamiliar with it.

If you're familiar with Photoshop and worried about trying ArtRage since a few of your tools won't be available, don't fret. You can export ArtRage paintings into Photoshop with all layers intact and back again. Handy that. Though as I spend more and more time with ArtRage I'm finding there's very little I need to use Photoshop for.

So, why is Man-Thing being trapped by these crystals?  Do we need a villain?  Baron Mordo or Mr. Jip lurking in the background?

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Original artwork on The Flying Trilobite Copyright to Glendon Mellow
under Creative Commons Licence.
Man-Thing is wholly owned by Marvel Comics.  This is fanart in homage to the cool mucky character. 

Sunday 5 June 2011

Scumble #16 - art technique edition

"A painting technique in which semi-opaque or thin opaque colors are loosely brushed over an underpainted area so that patches of the color beneath show through." 
From The Artist's Handbook, by Ray Smith.  

Highlighting recent posts I found interesting, provocative, or otherwise caught my eye from the Science Artists Feed, and other sources. This week, I've also added a number of interesting blog posts highlighting various art techniques.  A lot of these aren't on the Science Artists Feed and they're well worth sharing.

Time to slow cold-brew yourself a cup of toddy, put your feet up and enjoy the science-art and art techniques!

Click here for earlier Scumbles.

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Inspiration + Drugs - repost - The Flying Trilobite. I re-posted this piece from almost 3 years ago.  The comments on the original were fascinating and the discussion on the repost in the comments is also amazing - check it out, add your 2 cents!

Archaeopteryx Painting - Bond's Blog. Awwwww! Done for the wedding of Peter's friend and fellow Art Evolved founder Craig Dylke and his bride Lady R! *Like*Like*Like  <--Me clicking the Like button.

Tour of my palette - Jeffrey Hayes Contemporary Oil Paintings. Realistic oil painter Jeff Hayes has started a tour of his palette - starting with the pinks!

Comic Book Tools and Materials - Eric Orchard. Eric has begun a fascinating tour of his process and tools. Click the links for part one, and check 234 and 5!

Drawing Tip #24 - Using Frisket - Heather Ward Wildlife Art. Heather's kickin' it old skool and busting out the frisket. Word to the daisy. 

Interview with James Gurney - Dave Hone's Archosaur Musings. The generous fascinating master painter James Gurney interviewed by paleo-blogger extraordinaire Dave Hone.

Scaling the Gorgosaurus - Weapon of Mass Imagination. Craig asks for input on this dinosaur with junk in the trunk. 

Caustics inside eyes - Gurney Journey. Eyes are the window to the little crescent shaped blob of light, apparently.

Why sketchbooks are essential - Paleo Illustrata. Excellent sketchbook skillz.

Where math meets performance art - An Eye for Science. Capillary-action-packed!

Kevorkian's 'Very Still Life' - Peter Smith, Faith and Works.

Does experience in the arts lead to enhanced academic achievement?  - ArtPlantae Today.

Taking Note: "Intrinsic" Versus "Instrumental" Benefits of Art - Art Works.

Post of the Week: Merging Art & Science to Make a revolutionary New Art Movement - Art Review. "No one quite knows what it is or where it is going".  I'll take a stab at what it is: scientifically literate techniques or subjects explored through visual art. Amirite? Tweet length +1.

Image of the week: 

Scaphognathine rhamphorhynchid by Mark Witton.  Painted using Pixia.

This piece was done for a new book Mark has coming out! Check out his blog and Flickr.

© Mark Witton 2011.  Permission secured from the artist before posting. 

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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.
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