Inspiration+ Drugs - repost

(This post originally appeared in August 2008 here on The Flying Trilobite.  Lots of fascinating comments on that post too - check 'em out.  I thought I'd re-post it for new readers.  Comments and debate welcome.)- -
So here's the thing.

While in University, and continuing to today, I'll show somebody examples of my work for the first time, and I will hear, "Whoa, so just what are you onman? Must be some good s--t!"

Yeah, the good s--t is my brain. My creativity. My diverse range of interest and my hard-won madskillz with a pencil. My brain dwarfs other brains. And I can tell you why.


I've been attempting to write this post for a long time now. It's a hard one to write without sounding smug and preachy or after-school-special. So I'm just throwing it out there in plain language and not worrying too much about it.

I don't drink alcoholic beverages, and I don't do recreational drugs, and I follow no religion. Period. Never have, and likely won't. Over the course of an entire year, I maybe polish off one glass of wine divided up over New Year's, a random evening and my wedding anniversary. I should probably drink a bit of wine for the health effects. Keep meaning to do that.

Let me cut off some common assumptions at this point: I really really don't care if other people drink alcohol. It is not something I do, but I am not passing some kind of moral judgement on people either. In a free and open society, I am free to not drink and think you're cool. No need to explain to me how it's really good I don't drink, and you admire it, or to accuse me of accusing you of wrongdoing. Telling me my coffee-drinking is "at least something, kind of wimpy, but something," makes me laugh.

I don't drink or do drugs for a bunch of reasons, but here's one of the largest. As I emerged like a delicate, lumbering butterfly into my University years, I was asked "what I was into" more and more. And in my first year survey course of Western Art, we began talking about Hieronymous Bosch. Bosch did fascinating things, unreal visions of heaven and hell with the most unlikely structures made from the tools of alchemy. And a theory we were presented with, very popular and assumed to be true by my peers, was that ergot of rye in the fields near the artist were causing Bosch to experience the effects of very mild LSD.

Everyone nodded. Of course. It was instantly assumed this is where his genius and creativity stemmed from.

It was an outrage! An outrage because what if it wasn't ergot of rye? A great disservice to a great mind. It was an outrage because in my view, it smacked of complacency by my fellow art students. Wanna push your art further? Drugs. Worked for Bosch.

If it was true, than my mind would be unremarkable without intentional damage inflicted upon myself. No thanks. I needed to hold fast against the weak undercurrent of peer pressure and create fantastic, unreal images in the face of pure sobriety.

I'm not the next Hieronymous Bosch. I'm doing what I do. My body suffers from asthma, and I have some medications I take regularly, daily, along with a love for coffee. Throwing more into the mix will not help. One day, will someone cite my puffers as the source of my creativity? I hope it is not the case.


And I spoke above of my thoughts on alcohol, how do I feel about drugs?

I think they are kind of lame. (There I go, sounding like an after-school special.) I am especially weary of marijuana. It is so present and so popular now, you can't escape it at parties. And users always want to tell me all the scientific facts they know, about how it's no worse than alcohol, they only use it sometimes to fall asleep, I've studied it way more than you, blah blah blah. You know why it bugs me? Because alcohol stays in your glass and on your breath, but marijuana goes into everyone's lungs. Smoking marijuana is lame and selfish.

I am writing this post not to judge others, but to judge myself. Perhaps it is not an achievement to be visually creative without drugs, and this is seen as nothing more than a fearful person stamping their foot saying "I don't wanna". In my view, my brain dwarfs many other brains. My synapses are intact, my dendrites and neurons hum happily. This creativity is mine, and not the product of liquid or inhaled inspiration.

I'll reiterate, I really don't judge others by what substances they use for fun. Friends say I'm fun at parties. I simply get cross when someone gets pushy or insulting by wondering what drugs/alcohol/religion I am on, and won't believe I can live without those things.

Please feel free to disagree on this touchy topic, and make comments.

Oh, and cheers!

This week I am re-posting a few pieces previously posted due to the topic. In order, these pieces are entitled, from the top, Anthropomorphic GestationKnowledge Pupates, & Asthma Incubus.

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Original artwork on The Flying Trilobite Copyright to Glendon Mellow

Valentine Card

©  Glendon Mellow

This is the Valentine's Day card I made for Michelle this year.  The bottom image of the bumblebee is from the envelope. It's my first drawing of Calvin, based on the photos from when he was newborn.

My wife is awesome and now we have an awesome baby.


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Original artwork on The Flying Trilobite Copyright to Glendon Mellow
Do not reproduce this image, please. Kinda personal, ya know?

Art Monday: sketches of Richard Dawkins











Various dates, pencil on bristol.

I haven't been able to fully capture a decent portrait of Richard Dawkins -yet- despite a few attempts. With the top drawing, I tried a technique I had read about and accidentally killed the whole thing. I drew the image on paper able to take oil (Fabriano's Pittura) and coated it in clear gesso, so that if I made an error, I could scrape and wipe with solvent and start over (2nd image). Didn't work.

Instead, these days I scan the pencil image, and print it out on Fredrix canvas paper (which takes ink jet so well, I wish they'd advertise that it does!). Then if I muck up the painting, I can just print out a fresh one.

No other author about evolutionary biology has fired my imagination than Richard Dawkins, starting with when I first read River Out of Eden.

Hopefully when I go freelance at the end of the summer, this could be one of my side projects. Now, I'm kind of seeing a combination of these drawings as a painted portrait: 3/4 view,
DNA-Candle on his head, looking down, open-smile.

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Art Monday: Retrospectacle Valkyrie drawing

Pencil on bristol, 2007.
Originally created as part of the commissioned Retrospectacle blog banner for Shelley Batts.
Seen
here, making of here, and at the discontinued Scienceblog Retrospectacle here, where it shared banner duty with one by the science illustration master, Carl Buell.

The support I received early on in my blogging days from both Carl and Shelley has been wonderful, and invaluable. A lot of my current decisions still rest on things I learned from them both.  Thanks, guys!

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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: Lights portrait series

This is the series Lights I began for my drawing course at York. Our project was to draw between 5 and 30 heads. The idea and compositions I set for myself are fairly simple. Draw portraits of living biologists, each with a light source on their heads, and incorporating a double helix form.

I've shown Richard Dawkins and Craig Venter before here, and Jane Goodall here. This time I've included Eugenie Scott and Jerry Coyne.

Jerry Coyne.Eugenie Scott.
Jane Goodall.
Craig Venter & Richard Dawkins. (I couldn't resist one of my DNA Candles on Dawkins!)

I think of these more as sketches now. All I can see are their flaws.
-Richard Dawkins needs to be re-done, with his head turned to a three-quarter view.

-I made Craig Venter's face too interesting (though it was by far the most popular with my class.)
-Eugenie Scott's hair looks too dark. I tried to use the books to show education and poise.
-I think I need to re-work all of Jerry Coyne's piece. I like the firefly, kinda. The rendering is too rough.
-Jane Goodall's I am happy with the portrait - very happy - but it's hard to make out the helix-gorilla looking down behind her.


Damn, it was an arrogant thing to sit down and expect myself to polish off decent portraits (of people I admire!) in a couple of weeks, in my spare time. Not sure what I was thinking. It wasn't until the last one that I realized this was kind of a folly.


I'm posting these perhaps as some insight into my thought processes. The York University motto is "The way must be tried."


So, um, there.

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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: peek at my Jane Goodall portrait


This drawing is actually larger than my scanner. (Click to enlarge) It's part of the series I am tentatively calling Lights. You can see a photo of J. Craig Venter and Richard Dawkins at this post.

I am trying to tie-in a source of light on each scientist's head, and some sort of double helix shape in the backgrounds. For my second drawing project at York University.

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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 ***

Quick glance: Venter & Dawkins

A quick glance at two of the (hopefully) six portraits I'm doing for my drawing class at York U.

Left, J. Craig Venter, right, Richard Dawkins. Click-y to enlarge-y.
I'm thinking about calling the series, "Lights". I'm planning next to do Jane Goodall, Rosalind Franklin, Eugenie Scott and mmmmaaaybe, Carl Sagan.

Quality is somewhat sacrificed for time, but I suppose they're passable.

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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 ***

Drawing Day!

It's Drawing Day! The goal is to remember how much fun it is to create and view drawings, and to upload a million online in one day!

Today I have two new pieces I'm working on, a recent sketch and one drawing from about a dozen years ago. Click to enlarge. I'm not going to spend a lot of time talking about each one: it's Drawing Day. Enjoy!
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My self-portrait I began this week. Still not done. Do I look intense or angry? A recent drawing for a piece I'm painting on a wood panel. It's a diatom fairy. A sketch for the Introducing Sara Chasm, as seen in the inaugural ART Evolved gallery on ceratopsians. Hmm. Lately I seem to have developed Derek Zoolander's problem of turning left. Not so in this old piece: one of the three fates, from a project on narrative I did while in university.
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Great stuff out there, take the next few days to look around on deviantArt, Redbubble, and more through the Drawing Day site. With so many artists uploading, I'm sure even the strangest subjects are out there.

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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 ***
Created for Drawing Day - www.drawingday.org

In the works: self-portrait for Drawing Day

Tomorrow is the second annual Drawing Day, as I discovered a recently. The goal is to see over 1 million drawings be uploaded onto the intertubes to remind people of the fun/magic/horror/whymightymonkeywhy of making marks.

I plan on putting up some pieces that have been sitting around the ol' sketchbooks.

Yesterday I made it a mission to do a self-portrait, and I am almost complete. A perfectly vain and pompous project for my birthday. It is only intended to be in pencil, but looking at it, I think I could make use of my tablet and colourize this one down the road. I downloaded Gimp a while back, the free imaging program, and maybe this would be a worthy experiment.

That black stuff behind the head? Not sure what that is? One friend suggested it's my ego.


Hm. It's missing my freckles. Drawing should be completed tomorrow for Drawing 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 ***
Created for Drawing Day - www.drawingday.org