There's a Trilobite loose in the App Store!

That's how this oil painting:

© Glendon Mellow


Became this:


© Glendon Mellow


Using Manga Camera, Halftone and Instagram, respectively. I love seeing my images in different versions.

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

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Fossil Gears









One of the highlights during our road trip from Toronto to Halifax was spending a night at atheist-political-sciencey blogger Lousy Canuck's place. Jason and Jodi were kind enough to put our travelling caravan up for the night and introduce us to the wonder of Portal 2. 

To thank @lousycanuck and @pixelsnake for their hospitality, I repainted one of the paintings on slate from my (now-dismantled) final school project into this new work, Fossil Gears

The visit was far too short. We need to meet up again some time! 


Flying Trilobite, left, Lousy Canuck, right.



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

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Red Knot in Flight


While I'm working on a series of scientific illustrations I can't reveal yet, I thought I'd re-post this pencil (and the oils below) of a red knot in flight.  






Originally created for biologist and conservationist Dan Rhoads' excellent and vital Migrations blog, you can read more about it at his site, and my two-part making-of, here and here

Dan fights the good fight to save birds from the heinous hunting practices of migratory birds in his adopted home of Cyprus. You can sign the petition to stop the practice here.  



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

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The best terrible painting (and decision) I've made.


It's been a year.

A year since I left my management job with a dynamic art supply retailer I'd been employed by for 10 years.

Above is a little painting I did the following Monday, my first day as a full-time freelancer.  It's kind of a poorly-painted little oil painting I call Freelance Leap, and it represents my excitement and anxiety at leaving a secure job and diving into my illustration and social media work.

I'm still glad I made the change to challenge myself in most ways. But I cannot deny, times have also been much rougher than I ever imagined. It's been the best and worst year ever.

Reading Jesse Bering's piece on Bering in Mind, Half Dead: Men and the "Mid-Life Crisis" has me wondering about which option of Jacques' will happen with my creativity in mid-life (note to self: you're 37 you're already there): will my current state of anxiety propel me to greater heights like Bach? Or will I do a major about-face in my creative style, brining me larger success than before?  (The third option, dying somehow, is off the table as far as I'm concerned.)

Good friend and amazing illustrator Eric Orchard shared this piece on G+ yesterday, by Scott Timberg from Salon: The Creative Class is a Lie. It's an engaging piece, covering everything from retail jobs to writers. And it offers a ton of interesting things to think about for illustrators.

Up until now, my business model has been:
1. Make cool artwork, mostly for a niche scientifically-literate audience
2. Put online for people to view for free.
3. Take commissions for originals or prints from people who like it enough to want their own, or have a budget.

It works. It works better than not being online ever did. It works haltingly, in fits and starts, with many months in between. It's not enough to feed my family. How does this whole creative economy do that? Or all we destined to be like rock stars, where only a tiny few ever make it despite the public''s hunger for imagery and illustration?

I outlined in my Symbiartic post, It's Time for Illustrators to Take Back the Net that illustrators supporting each other when faced with image theft online could put the profession back on a path to respectability.  Would income follow?

I miss the guy I was when I did that terrible little painting, above. I'm still optimistic I might get to that amusement park in the distance, but my feathers are bedraggled.

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

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--> Find me on Symbiartic, the art+science blog on the new Scientific American Blog Network!

Making of The Last Refuge (repost)


This is a repost from last year.  I've been thinking about the process on this painting, and trying to apply some of the lessons learned in some new work I have incubating in my brain and my sketchbook. 
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Earlier this month I debuted a new painting, commissioned by Kevin Zelnio of Deep Sea News and The Other 95%.  You can see Kevin's post about
 The Last Refuge here, and who it was for. 

Here's a little about the process of making that painting. 

Kevin had mentioned it to me quite a while earlier, the first time we met in person.  The idea rattled around in my head quite a bit, so there wasn't a lot of prep work needed for this one. 

I started with the sketch above, done using my Faber-Castell Pitt pens.  It's a typical type of starting sketch for me, not a lot of stuff that may make sense to someone else.  I'll try to explain it after the jump.

First of all, it's two sketches side by side.  Let's look at the right one: the little "x" marks all around are a typical comic book notation for all black background. I knew I wanted heavy black shadows, and the light source coming from behind. 

You can see the original composition was quite symmetrical:  I wanted almost a reverent feel, almost like a religious landscape.  It's an easier feeling to invoke with obvious geometry and I thought black smoker thermal vents on either side would evoke that. 

Turned on Die Antwoord  and Massive Attack videos on my 'puter, made some coffee (mocha java) and got started painting.  Used black acrylic for a base in the background. As oil paints age, they become darker and more transparent, so a dark ground will prevent the painting from bleaching over time. 

But at the last second I changed the composition.



Something about all that indanthrene blue...I needed to give the ocean itself more space.  I jettisoned the symmetrical composition for a more natural one.  Also, I wanted a series of lines of light that would direct the eye around the painting in a trangular way, and the submersible hiding behind a smoker wouldn't have helped.




I stayed with a classical compositions with three distances.  The first distance, is the rock at the bottom left with the big standard trilobite (Elrathia kingi is one of my favourites).  This typically gives the viewer an entryway into the painting, and since we're in the West, starting on the left is typical.  The trilobite kind of gazes and points into the rest of the painting. The 2nd, or middle distance, brings in more detail, and shows the "story" of the painting.

When painting the submersible, originally I hadn't add much in the way of light.  I knew I wanted to make some dramatic beams, and a halo, but if I did that and it looked awful, I wouldn't be able to get that smooth deep blue of the surrounding water without starting completely over in the background.



Had to go for it. I was happy with the result, but I still miss that deep mysterious blue cutting down the left hand side.  The light is more dramatic, less tranquil.  


The shape of the light beam is actually inspired by comics. I still pick up Marvel or Dark Horse comics now and then, (love New Avengers) and the shape of the light beams is roughly the same as when a ninja throws multiple stars: the arc of their hand intercut with the path of the throwing stars. If you read comics, you probably know what I mean. 

For the title, I kicked around names like "Deep Discovery" and suchlike, but Kevn supplied the perfect one:  The Last Refuge.

My aim for The Last Refuge was to create a painting the recipient could sit still and look at, and notice little details in the edges.  The cluster of trilobites on the right. The tubeworms rising out of the dark. The shape and texture of the sulpherous smoke. 

It's about a dream, isn't it?  Richard Fortey in Trilobite!  Eyewitness to Evolution said, "Hope has faded that, when today's mid-ocean ridges were explored by bathyscape, in some dimly-known abyss there might still dwell a solitary trilobite to bring Paleozoic virtues into the age of the soundbite..,". 

I hope Kevin and the painting's recipient enjoy The Last Refuge for many years to come. 
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The Last Refuge is also available in a variety of prints from my online print shop. I recommend the laminated print (shown below) or the charcoal frame with dark mat




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

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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.

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.

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.