Merry Darwin Day 2012!

Appropriately enough, I'm working on some scientific illustrations of beetles this Darwin Day. Can't show anyone yet. 

Please enjoy these images of our man Charles from years' past, and make sure to read The Beagle Project's Blog post about Darwin's birthday aboard the H.M.S. Beagle. 

The images below are from 2009, when I attempted to live blog progress from scratch of a new oil painting of a young Charles Darwin discovering a glyptodont skull in South America during the voyage of the Beagle. At the time (you can find all the blog entries in February 2009) I wasn't happy with how the piece was turning out, and the exercise got weird. Still glad I attempted it - it's good to experiment.

If you look at the first sketch, you can see the ghostly sketch of the Beagle masts rising behind our young explorer.

Quick sketch to get the shadows and composition down.





Focused on the face first. Relatively happy with the pencils.

Tinted in Photoshop, I actually like this sketched image better than the final.

My work station. Love those Micron brushes. 

More or less (somewhat less) complete. 



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

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Darwin Day contest winner!

Sorry, I'm a day late picking the winner. Too many good entries!  I changed my mind 3 times. 


©  Glendon Mellow 2008 oil on canvas paper


"Preconceptions dropped away / As he stood atop Bartolome. / For Darwin, a glimpse of nature's plan: / Ascent of stairs, Descent of Man."

Congratulations Elissa!  Contact me by email or FB or Twitter, and send me your mailing address! I'll get that print in the mail for tomorrow. 

For all of you who participated, thank you.  Some of my other favourites were by Adrian, coturnix, soniah, Joseph and Arvind. I loved the imagery by everyone about standing on giant's shoulders (appropriate with the little stairs - never thought of it that way before) and the humour in so many entries. Tommy's Lady Gaga comment was great on Grammy night. 

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Don't forget you can pick up Darwin Took Steps prints, framed prints, stickers, shirts, greeting cards and potcards in my online store.  A portion of the profits goes to support The Beagle Project.  

And don't miss this post by Karen James of The Beagle Project on Scientific American's Guest Blog

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Original artwork on The Flying Trilobite Copyright to Glendon Mellow

Print Shop

This contest is purely for entertainment purposes and fun.  I won't be held liable for sciencey-artsy fun under any circumstances.
The winner's print will not originate from my online store: I will make it in my studio on museum-grade paper with standard inkjet ink. 

Darwin Day contest entries!

©  Glendon Mellow
My thanks to everyone who tweeted and shared and especially entered my Darwin Day contest that I posted on Friday.

The contest was to provide a tweet-length (140 characters) commentary about my painting Darwin Took Steps - humour, poetry, insight all acceptable. Winner gets a signed print. It's science-history-surreal-portrait-art, it can be fun.

Here are all the entries.  Brilliant stuff.




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Sorry, I didn't mean to stair. - Richard Carter, FCD.

Upon the heads of giants we will see yet further than we ever could on their shoulders. What new vistas will entice us from there. - Steampunk Professor

Lady GaGa claims “Origin of Species” inspired her latest outfit. “I think he took step classes.” she said, waving ‘The Tree’ at her fans. - Tommy

Oh good, the Pope declared Science as a work of God and that includes Evolution as well! #makingstrides -Thomas Stacey-Holmes

The biologist's stairway to heaven. - Morgan Jackson

Far-thinking fellow
Darwin placed atop the tree
Branch diversity

-nhigh

"I think.." that the tree of life branches out from a common root, climbing past Paley. - Mike Haubrich, FCD

Darwin took steps, many years ago, to unravel nature's ways. Now The Beagle continues to spark young minds to explore the land, the seas. - Eric Heupel

His idea paved the way, but some found themselves unwilling to ascend.his notional staircase. Those who did: awestruck, beyond description. - Adrian J. Ebsary

Preconceptions dropped away / As he stood atop Bartolome. / For Darwin, a glimpse of nature's plan: / Ascent of stairs, Descent of Man. - e_journeys

Although #Darwin Took Steps, Many Further Steps Have Been Made Since in Evolutionary Biology - The Dispersal of Darwin

Biology as a stairway still being built, as the tree of life still keeps growing. - soniahs

Progress is made by standing on the shoulders of giants; some giants provide more than their shoulders, expanding our minds with new ideas! - Morgan Jackson

"If I have seen further, it is by standing on the stairs coming out of the heads of giants." -Arvind

Looking at the variety of head shapes, it seems incredible that all of these Darwins evolved from a common ancestor. - Joseph Hewitt

the stairway to evolution - Kyle Gillespie

Darwin got his idea for "Descent of Man" one day when someone walked down the stairs and slid down his forehead. - coturnix

Crap! Uh, Darwin's cool, had a good head of stairs! On his shoulders! - ScottE

There's a guy who’s sure trilobites really fly
And he's building a stairway to heaven.
When he gets there, he's humble even though he likes scumble
With a word he built it on Darwin's head.
-Creech

"The Theory of Evolution isn't just a step up from Special Creation. It's the whole flight." Lou FCD

"I think... I may have to see a doctor." - Mo Hassan


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See?  Gonna be tough.

Winner announced soon!  


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Original artwork on The Flying Trilobite Copyright to Glendon Mellow

Darwin Day contest!

Several weeks ago, I began working on a new painting for Darwin Day.  However, with other deadlines looming and and still being awestruck by the existence of my newborn son, the new Darwin painting isn't near finished. 


But let this day not go unmarked at The Flying Trilobite!  Time for a contest. 


©  Glendon Mellow 2008. 

Write something about my Darwin Took Steps image in 140 characters or less (the same size as a Twitter tweet).  It could be a fictional quote, a line of poetry, something to do with The Beagle or evolution by natural selection. Will you focus on the stairs? The beard? The tree of life?  A comical way he got a staircase on his head? A  knock-knock joke? I'll leave it fairly open-ended. Amuse me. 


Contest closes at 12:01 am eastern standard time February 13th 2011 and I'll post the winner on the blog that Sunday. Multiple entries allowed, but they cannot be a series. A whole thought in one 140 character entry.

Entries should be submitted as a comment on this post on my blog, not on my Facebook or Twitter or other rss feed related places.

The winner will receive a signed Darwin Took Steps print in snail mail. Remember, you can also order this print in a variety of ways from my online store, and a portion of the profit goes to The Beagle Project.

Merry Darwin Day!

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Original artwork on The Flying Trilobite © to Glendon Mellow

Print Shop

This contest is purely for entertainment purposes and fun.  I won't be held liable for sciencey-artsy fun under any circumstances.
The winner's print will not originate from my online store: I will make it in my studio on museum-grade paper with standard inkjet ink. 

Darwin Day is coming!

Darwin Took Steps  © Glendon Mellow 2008. Oil on canvas paper.


Darwin Day is coming up on February 12th!

If there's any painting I've done that's iconic of my work, it's this one.  Darwin Took Steps has appeared on books, magazines and around the intertubes.  It's available as prints, greeting cards, postcards, t-shirts and even stickers in my online shop.  Great time to order, and half the profit goes to The Beagle Project.

The image also appears in two of my calendar collections (one version in pencil).  Not too late to order those either.  You can pick what month the calendar starts. 

Click here to go to the Darwin Took Steps gallery + shop.
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Original artwork on The Flying Trilobite Copyright to Glendon Mellow

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
fulfilling.

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.


Flying Trilobite Gallery *** Flying Trilobite Reproduction Shop ***

Art Monday: Darwin Display

From -nieh-'s Flickr photostream.

A mighty tip of a ten-gallon hat to Michael Barton of Dispersal of Darwin for sending me the link. I believe this must be the Casa de las Ciencias display I mentioned recently.

Sweet. I like the Darwin-Moth painting. Anyone know who painted that one? I'm proud to have Darwin Took Steps in such good company.

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

Flying Trilobite Gallery *** Flying Trilobite Reproduction Shop ***

2010 Calendar Available now!

Art Monday: unfinished business

Running out of ideas is never something I worry about. The feeling of having no time is something that has started to obsess me lately. Balancing home, freelancing, blog and day-job feels wobbly. I'm happy and I'm scared of losing ground.

A few pieces of unfinished artwork, below. I hope to complete or start each of these anew.


Why do I worry about getting each of these ideas down before a day comes when I am no longer? How many echoes of that statement reverberate hollowly through forgotten history?
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Original artwork on The Flying Trilobite Copyright to Glendon Mellow under Creative Commons Licence.
Flying Trilobite Gallery ### Flying Trilobite Reproduction Shop ###