Knowledge Pupates [wip]



Lately I need a warm-up to get back into my commissions, so I've been spending a few minutes here and there with this old drawing, re-painting it with ArtRage. I think the pencils are about 15 years old.

It might appear on Symbiartic in its final form. 

The ebook I have planned will likely be this style, or something close to it. Pieces like this help me think about it.

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

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Sketches Better Than Paintings

Sometimes I wonder if the sketches look better than the paintings. 


Trilobite Boy with Gargoyles - sketch.

Trilobite Boy with Gargoyles - complete. 

There's something about the scratchiness of it I don't usually retain in the finished pieces. That's why I think I'm enjoying drawing and then placing the original drawing over the digital painting on a multiply layer. I'm catching the scratchiness a bit better. 


Avimimus - pencil drawing.

Avimimus - painted using the Sketch Club app on my iPhone. 

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

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Latest Fashion From Paris

Coloured this pencil sketch using the Sketch Club app on my iPhone. The original is owned by Morgan Jackson of Biodiversity in Focus.

We're having a light family day at home after staying up late with good friends to ring in the New Year.




I'm going to try posting quick sketches more often. 2012 was my lightest year of blogging here on The Flying Trilobite, though not of blogging in general considering my posts on Symbiartic.

Last year was fantastic and I did some of the most important illustration artwork I've ever had the opportunities for to date.

Can't wait to see what 2013 brings.

Arthropod Meeting


Sometimes I forget just how useful warm-up sketches and painting can be. Enjoying taking old pencil sketches and digitally watercolour painting them with ArtRage to get my engine running for commissioned projects. 

I tend to build up a lot of neurotic "all conditions must be perfect in life, studio and mindset" hang-ups before I get started on things. It's good to visually slap myself out of it by working on pieces like this that are already decent drawings, and just play loose with the colour. 


I like this enough I made prints available in my store- - - - - - - -

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

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Two-Headed Mutant Ammonite

© Glendon Mellow


I mentioned on Twitter I was drawing a two-headed mutant ammonite. 
Here's the discussion. 

















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

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Beetle Week Day 1: The Challenge of Scientific Illustration

Welcome to Day 1 of Beetle Week on The Flying Trilobite!

Earlier this year, I was commissioned by entomologist and insect photographer Morgan Jackson of Biodiversity in Focus to contribute to a soon-to-be-published dead-tree book. The result?  My first series of scientific illustrations, instead of the off-kilter, surreal scientific illustrations I'm known for. Today: The Challenge of Scientific Illustration.

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I've been painting for a couple of decades, and blogging my artwork for over 5 years. One of the joys of this career is that there's always more to learn, more challenges, more surprises.

When Morgan Jackson first approached me about contributing 7 Ontario jewel beetle illustrations for an upcoming publications he and researchers at the University of Guelph are working on, I was excited about the idea and also a little intimidated.
 

Although I sometimes head to the Royal Ontario Museum to work on realistic drawings of fossil skulls, they are mainly exercises for myself, and not overseen by researcher in the field. I assume they do add a little to my professional street cred since this blog is frequented by paleontologists and paleo-art fans. Morgan's request was different. These needed to be spot-on scientific illustrations, useful for the purpose of identifying some of Ontario's diverse species.

So, I did what I usually do when trying to depict a new subject: got out my Strathmore Bristol paper and trusty .3mm mechanical pencil and started to draw in high detail. The project called for 7 species, and I decided to start in alphabetical order, with Agrilaxia.

Agrilaxia drawing, © Glendon Mellow


As I mentioned above, Morgan is an amazing nature photographer (seriously. Check this out. Or this.) Though I wasn't able to visit his lab, he provided me with stunning dorsal, ventral, side and genitalia(!) views of the beetles to illustrate.

And after scanning the drawing above, and opening up my favourite digital painting program, ArtRage Studio Pro, that's when I got cold feet. I mean, how realistic does the painting need to be?  You can zoom almost an infinite amount in a digital painting, and the high-res macro photos Morgan zipped and sent to me allowed a huge level of detail.

As I was zoomed in, I starting getting that creep of imposter syndrome. How could I possibly match a photo with a painting?

A cup of coffee later, and I started to relax. Morgan and his team were looking for scientific illustrations, for paintings, and I know he's viewed my portfolio. Making everything super-hyper-photo real wasn't the goal. I hoped.

I settled in and began to paint.

Screenshot of painting Agrilaxia in ArtRage Studio Pro, with Morgan Jackson's photo references on the left.

I'll say more about the process of painting with ArtRage tomorrow.  It's enough to say I employed a wide variety of that robust program's painting tools, and started to enjoy myself. I emailed some in process shots of Agrilaxia to Morgan, and to a couple of artists who's opinions and discretion I could trust.  I can count on them to keep me honest, and the reactions were positive.

Part way through the process of painting the beetles, I recall Morgan letting me know some of the other researchers were getting accustomed to my art style, or some words to that effect. Important feedback that sends me into a hyperactive state of focus, trying to ramp up my accuracy and tighten up the work.

Accurate enough? Final, almost full-res version of Agrilaxia. © Glendon Mellow


It was a lesson for me as an illustrator, and also one for researchers considering hiring an illustrator. Chances are, if you are not going with photography, there will always be a little of the artist's style - the movement of their hand, the colour associations in their eye - that is inherent in the final  illustration. It's the sum of the illustrator's experiences up to that point in their career coupled with doing something new.

That said, being a scientific illustrator carries the responsibility of taming style in the service of the twin aspects of accuracy and clarity.

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Stay tuned for the rest of Beetle Week




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

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Incredible Hulk Anatomy

(This post originally appeared yesterday on Symbiartic, the art+science blog I co-author on the Scientific American Blog Network.)
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Like millions of other superhero comic fans, I loved Joss Whedon's & Marvel's The Avengers when I saw it (in 2D) opening weekend. Motion-captured Mark Ruffalo turned in the most incredible version of the Hulk we've seen yet on the screen.  Squeeing and cheering, it reminded me of a drawing I had made back  in 2002.  I drew this fan art of Marvel Comics' Incredible Hulk, dissected and analyzed. Here it is with a new lick of paint. 

Hulk © Marvel Comics. This fan art has moral © Glendon Mellow. Feel free to share under Creative Commons.

At the time, I tried to draw on not only my mother's nursing school anatomy textbooks, but also gorilla and hominid ancestor skulls (such as Paranthropus, though my murky text  identitifies it with the outdated Zinjanthropus name), inspiration for things like the cranial ridge and large jaw muscles. I included details such as 3 scars on the bone (I'm Canadian: Wolverine wrecked his face a few times and I wanted to document that) and perfect glowing teeth. If anyone has perfect shiny teeth, it needs to be Hulk.
The science and geekery site io9.com recently listed 10 Science Concepts that Could Spawn Awesome Supervillains (by Esther Ingliss-Arkell). Established characters borne of exaggerated real world scientific causes could probably use science-inspired revisions too.  Can't wait to get my hands on The Art of Marvels The Avengers to see what scientific concepts the pros who designed the movie concept art came up with.


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As a bonus not featured on Symbiartic, here's what the labels around ol' Jade Jaws' head say.
TOP LEFT
  • The Hulk Reviewed
  • Points of interest concerning the osteological and muscular systems. 


TOP LEFT: The Skull

  • Note muscle-anchoring protuberances and ridges not found in average frontal and zygomatic bones. 
  • Enlarged and bifurcated nasal cavities; see Appendix 3.1 for discussion and speculation of respiratory efficiency. See also; ribcage and spinal cord sinuses. 
  • Note disproportion of maxilla to mandible. 


TOP RIGHT: The Skull
  • Grossly enlarged frontal fontanelle, similarity to Zinjanthropus found in 1959. 
  • Three scars unhealed grazing left ocular cavity; unusually, no traces of foreign molecules present. 
  • Connective tissue spurs above eyeteeth at gumline. 
  • Note complete absence of tooth decay or erosion. 
  • Analysis of blood vessel to marrow ratios reveals skeletal system itself surprisingly fragile relative to comparisons with muscle and tissue tensile densities. 


BOTTOM RIGHT: Musculature

  • Layers of cartilage and dense marrow-like tumours surround blood vessels; protecting both vessels and braincase simultaneously. 
  • Jaw muscles extend to skull ridge homologous to gorilla. 
  • Note muscles allowing subject to shut nostrils: unheard of in primates. This trait normally found in desert-dwelling ungulates such as dromedary camel. 
  • Jaw may lock while mandible is at any degree of extension. 
  • Elasticity of muscle tissues allows striations and contractions on 4-axis per muscle. Eyes and mouth can close using enormous, continuous pressure. 


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Above image done in pencil and painted in ArtRage Studio Pro. The Incredible Hulk is © Marvel Comics and I did this piece of fan art without permission but with respect.  I claim only a moral copyright to this specific rendition of their character.

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

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