Science Vocabulary = Better Art - repost

(This week I'm reposting some of the posts from the past 4 years I consider noteworthy.  Yesterday, "Inspiration and Drugs". Today, here is a post from July 2009.)


- -
Today in keeping with the general discussion of evolution culture (see Goldstein's article) and evopunk (see badassRenaissance Oaf) I thought I would re-post a piece I originally wrote for Alternate Reality Existence back in May 2009. 

(The painting Symbiosis was at one time, my personal benchmark as a painting so I threw it in there.) 

- - - - 
An Increase In Our Allegorical Vocabulary
 

Realism in painting has a long history, from the linear narratives of the ancient world to the shattered realities of the Twentieth Century. For the lay-gallery-goer, the artwork of the Renaissance Masters, Symbolists, and the Surrealists captures the viewer's gaze through the feat of technical ability. Immediately recognizable figures surrounded by unfamiliar objects help the viewer to enter the unusual world by connecting through the shared human experience. 


In my own painting, this is the sort of challenge I place in front of myself. The recognizable objects are the hook: the less-familiar organisms are the mystery that invites people to look further. Science, paleontology and biology have always figured into my work. The natural world is full of a staggering variety of forms to challenge a representational artist. 


About a dozen years ago, I had a gallery show that encouraged me to pursue this path with renewed vigor. This oil painting, entitled Symbiosis, was garnering a fair bit of attention from friends and visitors attending the show's opening. A coffee-shop colleague and zoology-major stopped me and asked, "Ok -if this makes no sense to you, forget it- but is that a tardigrade?" I smiled and replied that it was, and she grinned, "Oh I could tell. They have those distinctive hooked feet!" 

That was inspiring. Art for scientists who get it. Symbiosis, about the microbes in our ecosystem and in our guts. In these scientifically exciting times, why not stretch the public perception and appeal to everyone's curiosity? Why not delight scientists in their myriad disciplines? 


When Richard Dawkins' The God Delusion debuted, I was excited, having enjoyed his previous books. In it, he held a challenge for every artist. If you are interested in science -atheist, agnostic, Bright, or not- take the time to consider this artistic call-to-arms: 


"If history had worked out differently, and Michelangelo had been commissioned to paint a ceiling for a giant Museum of Science, mightn't he have produced something at least as inspirational as as the Sistine Chapel? How sad that we shall never hear Beethoven's Mesozoic Symphony, or Mozart's opera The Expanding Universe." 
(Richard Dawkins, The God Delusion, p 86-87) 

Will we see a scientifically-inspired artistic genius of that stature this century? It is my sincere hope that we we will. The world deserves to be that inspired, and to experience the wonder scientists engage in our universe. 


- - - - - - - - 


Original artwork on The Flying Trilobite Copyright to Glendon Mellow

Art Monday: the green guy



An up-close detail of the green guy in my painting Symbiosis (oil on canvas).  I like how the canvas texture came out in this shot. His head tattoo says, "This body corrodes yet still I can move".

You can see the whole painting here.
You can purchase my 2011 Calendar with the image above, here.

- - - - - - - -

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


Portfolio

Blog
Print Shop

Art Monday: Tardigrade

©  Glendon Mellow 2010


It's always about the legs. You either recognize a tardigrade or people see a purple brain in this painting.
 

It's funny, but this painting kind of cemented my art-life trajectory. I had an art show back in university. One of my co-workers from the coffee shop was a zoology major. After seeing this painting, she came over and said something like, "ok, this may mean nothing to you, so if it doesn't, forget it: is that a tardigrade?" I replied it was. She said she could tell because of the hooked feet, and was really happy about it. I've always loved science, but I think it was that experience that showed me there's a huge audience in scientifically-literate people who respond to representational art for them.  
Sometimes on this blog, I mention science enabling artists to expand the visual vocabulary in representational art. This is kind of what I mean.

- -
For my information about tardigrades (water-bears, moss piglets) head over to Catalogue of Organisms.
You can see the full painting here.
This image is available as a print or as one month in my new 2011 calendar

- - - - - - - -

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


Portfolio

Blog
Print Shop

Art Monday: science vocabulary = better art

Today in keeping with the general discussion of evolution culture (see Goldstein's article) and evopunk (see badass Renaissance Oaf) I thought I would re-post a piece I originally wrote for Alternate Reality Existence back in May.

(The painting Symbiosis was at one time, my personal benchmark as a painting so I threw it in there.)

- - - -
An Increase In Our Allegorical Vocabulary


Realism in painting has a long history, from the linear narratives of the ancient world to the shattered realities of the Twentieth Century. For the lay-gallery-goer, the artwork of the Renaissance Masters, Symbolists, and the Surrealists captures the viewer's gaze through the feat of technical ability. Immediately recognizable figures surrounded by unfamiliar objects help the viewer to enter the unusual world by connecting through the shared human experience.


In my own painting, this is the sort of challenge I place in front of myself. The recognizable objects are the hook: the less-familiar organisms are the mystery that invites people to look further. Science, paleontology and biology have always figured into my work. The natural world is full of a staggering variety of forms to challenge a representational artist.


About a dozen years ago, I had a gallery show that encouraged me to pursue this path with renewed vigor. This oil painting, entitled Symbiosis, was garnering a fair bit of attention from friends and visitors attending the show's opening. A coffee-shop colleague and zoology-major stopped me and asked, "Ok -if this makes no sense to you, forget it- but is that a tardigrade?" I smiled and replied that it was, and she grinned, "Oh I could tell. They have those distinctive hooked feet!"

That was inspiring. Art for scientists who get it. Symbiosis, about the microbes in our ecosystem and in our guts. In these scientifically exciting times, why not stretch the public perception and appeal to everyone's curiosity? Why not delight scientists in their myriad disciplines?


When Richard Dawkins' The God Delusion debuted, I was excited, having enjoyed his previous books. In it, he held a challenge for every artist. If you are interested in science -atheist, agnostic, Bright, or not- take the time to consider this artistic call-to-arms:


"If history had worked out differently, and Michelangelo had been commissioned to paint a ceiling for a giant Museum of Science, mightn't he have produced something at least as inspirational as as the Sistine Chapel? How sad that we shall never hear Beethoven's Mesozoic Symphony, or Mozart's opera The Expanding Universe."
(Richard Dawkins, The God Delusion, p 86-87)

Will we see a scientifically-inspired artistic genius of that stature this century? It is my sincere hope that we we will. The world deserves to be that inspired, and to experience the wonder scientists engage in our universe.


- - - - - - - -

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

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

Ethics of blogging university papers?

Ever since Coturnix at A Blog Around the Clock wondered where all the good art historian blogs are, I've thought about sharing some of my own interpretations and analysis of art history.

Some papers I wrote in university may make for some interesting discussion and hopefully illumination; but is it ethical? I can remember the university held onto copies of the students' work so they could check future papers against plagiarism, but is there some ownership over these papers by the universities?

I put the question to Twitter last night, and thereby to Facebook. Tweet:
Anyone know an ethical reason not to use my old university essays as blog posts? Property of the university or my brain?

So far, I've received about a dozen responses, most clearly of the opinion that my brain owns the words, and as cautioned, to be sure to include citations. I thought I'd open the discussion up here on the blog for longer comments than 140 characters allow.

And if I do start posting portions or a series based on older essays - anyone interested in representations of the mysterious centres of thought in fin-de-siecle Symbolist painting?

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

Flying Trilobite Gallery ### Flying Trilobite Reproduction Shop ###

Art Monday - forgotten format

A few years ago, I became very excited by a possible format for a huge series of paintings.

The canvas was 12"x24", small-ish on the wall, but a comfortable size to depict some detail. My intention was to do a series of images blending human elements with unusual organisms that catch my fancy. I referred to it as a "Primer Series" to inform viewers about the subject matter I tend to paint.

The composition was straightforward. Over the years, I have found that we as human beings tend to enjoy and be intrigued by images of other human bodies. Not too surprising. So I put a human figure or at least partially human figure in the center to entice the eye, and draw viewers in. Around the human, I would place the fossil or organism, and as you can see in Life As a Trilobite, I blended the trilobite with the man.

Above and below the figure, I placed the thematic organism in series as an almost decorative element, possibly with labels. This idea was inspired in part I think, by my love of Alphonse Mucha's work, which you can see influenced Life With Diatoms quite a bit. Then, I planned on having a small card with the work's title and information about why the organism grouped with the human figure mattered so much. The Primer Series would then provide an introduct
ion into the rest of my work. One of the main reasons behind using this format was that I found that many of my peers in university, my professors and my close friends did not necessarily share my interest in biology and paleontology. They enjoyed my paintings, but greater insight was a little closed off.

I had an art show with another excellent artist and close friend as my university days waned. When I exhibited Symbiosis (left, click in gallery to enlarge), a fellow coffee shop employee who was also a zoology major, asked me, "okay, if this means nothing to you, never mind, but in that painting with the green guy, is that a tardigrade?".

Replying that it was, she smiled and said, "I could tell because of those little hooked feet." It was an inspiration. Most people thought the painting looked cool, a little dark and creepy, and here was someone who understood the purple blobby thing hovering above the plinth.

So the plan was to draw in non-bio-paleo folks into the paintings with intriguing paintings of people, and then open them up to the wealth of creatures I find so fascinating, perhaps with an explanatory card off to the side.

When I took this show on the blogosphere almost two years ago, the beauty became that so many people who were also fascinated with these organisms find me.

There were others planned in the series. An ammonite, shells like ram's horns on his head. A Primer Series version of Symbiosis with the tardigrade looking all cute and water bear-ish.

Perhaps one day I'll begin explaining myself again.

- -
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.

2009 Calendar available for a limited time!

A Few Glimpses from The Flying Trilobite 2007

Click on the titles for the entry from this year, or click on the images to see the whole artwork. A few pieces from the past year, no particular order. Life As a Trilobite was my most viewed and favourited in my DeviantArt.com gallery, and Disease was the least. For my blog entry posts, the two on life drawing from September are the most popular, probably since they are the least niche of my work and the easiest to search for.





In a few days I will post some glimpses of upcoming work for 2008.

D.N.A. Candle - Vanitas




This oil painting was done for my good friends Michele & Chris for their wedding.

The DNA Candle image is one I began using with Symbiosis, a painting of mine recently featured on the online magazine, The Eloquent Atheist. It's one of my favourite concepts that I have come up with. Back in March 2007, when I was frustrated that I had not done anything with my art and I started this blog one blustery day, I almost chose the name "DNA Candles" instead of The Flying Trilobite. Yeah, I'm proud of these.

Vanitas painting is an old tradition, especially popular in the Northern Renaissance. Usually, it is a still life, depicting perhaps a skull, a broken watch, a candle just snuffed out with the smoke trailing in the air, a book half-read, a tipped over water glass....Pieter Claesz, trained by Franz Hals, is one of my favourite masters of this art style.

The image is one of mortality, with a kind of knock-you-over-the-head symbolism. The message intended is a kind of carpe diem, or "seize the day".

After reading about how telomeres may play a part in the aging process, and that their ends snip off when they replicate, I started coming up with the DNA Candle image. I remember reading something in the 90's that suggested if one could extend telomeres, one may be able to stave off death. The candle melting and the telomere shortening just seemed a natural image. I used DNA as a wick since it is more readily recognisable by most people.

So the ultimate message of the DNA Candle Vanitas is one of seize the day, life is beautiful but finite. The candles are lit and glowing, a loving image and the wax has melted together in union.

Variations of this image will return to The Flying Trilobite from time to time. The banner below and in my sidebar give a detailed view.