Illustrated Five Word Stories

Last Friday, I was messing around on my iPhone while waiting to see my respirologist. I became fascinated by the #FiveWordStories hashtag on Twitter, masterfully being played around with by comic book writer Gail Simone and many other people.

I decided to try a few of my own, and attach some past artwork. I wasn't sure at first if attaching the art was cheating, but judging from the favourites and retweets, I kept going. 

It was a lot of fun and a nice creative challenge. Maybe I'll try that again.

Most of the images above are available for sale in my online shop as prints, cards and more. You can find me as @flyingtrilobite on Twitter.

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

Print Shop

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

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.

Print Shop 

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

Beware of Explodey Anklyosaurs

Beware of explodey pineapple anklyosaurs.

Sometimes they travel far distances before kabooming.

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This post marks the return of Art Mondays on The Flying Trilobite! My posting has been a bit sporadic lately, so I think I'll return to this discipline that I held for a few years on the blog.  At the very least, expect new art and art commentary each Monday.

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

Print Shop 

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

Art Monday: Man-Thing WIP

(Should I bring back my Art Monday posts?  I feel like I've been posting more often so I'm not sure they're relevant. Maybe if I just talk about technique?)

Every summer I feel a huge urge to do some fan art.  So right now I'm taking this Man-Thing drawing from a few years back and colouring it using ArtRage Studio Pro. 

I tend to post desktop screen captures a lot when talking about ArtRage.  The reason for this is that the first time I saw what the program's interface looked like, I knew I had to get it. As a traditional oil painter, a lot of digital painting programs feel like you're working in Excel or Word: all these drop down menus and hunting under the headings for the tool you need.

ArtRage immediately struck me as a different beast.  And it is.  Most of your tools are in the two 1/4 wheels in the corners, the left for the types of art media (including chalk, glitter, watercolours, tech pens and much much more) and the right-side one for your colours, lights and darks and metallic-ness. When using a digital drawing tablet, it becomes easy to just dab, dab and you've switched your brush and paint, just like using the real thing.

Here's where my "Trapping the Man-Thing" painting is so far:

Man-Thing was originally created by writers Stan Lee, Roy Thomas and Gerry Conway and artist Gray Morrow. In case you're not familiar with the character, the basics are this: Scientist Ted Sallis was working in the Everglades to re-create the lost Super Soldier Serum that had turned Steve Rogers into Captain America. The terrorist group A.I.M. has somehow persuaded Sallis's wife Ellen Brandt into betraying him for the formula, and when he goes on the run from them through the swamp he injects himself with the formula and crashes into the oozy muck, where the chemical agents in his body along with mystical forces, transform him into the Man-Thing.

Man-Thing typically has no memory of being Ted Sallis, and shambles slowly along, stopping evil-doers. It can sense fear, and fearful beings burn at his touch, due to chemicals secreted through his hands or embrace. Man-Thing is entirely composed of vegetable matter, most of it rotting and it can quickly re-grow parts of itself when say, shot in the eye with a shotgun.  At different points, Man-Thing has been the Guardian of the Nexus of All Realities, which is found in his swamp, and recently joined the reformed villains superhero team, The Thunderbolts. More on Wikipedia.

My personal favourite artist for Man-Thing was Liam Sharp. Check out his cover to issue #7 of the 90's run here (with Namor of Atlantis!).

I've created this image below to illustrate some of the specific techniques I used. 

One of the handiest things most digital programs can do, ArtRage included, is cleverly overlay a pencil drawing on top of the digitally painted image.

In this case, I used real analog HB technical pencil in my Moleskine sketchbook to draw Man-Thing. I scanned him in and after creating my digital painting file, imported the drawing into a layer in ArtRage. Then, I set the layer to "Multiply" which allows the pencil sketch to kind of float on top of the painting, while the painted colours are still visible. That way, the drawing is more than a guide to be traced or a springboard to the rest of the painting: the pencils are part of the final image.

You can see the multiply-layer pencil clearly in the image above with Man-Thing's arm and shoulder. I've made the other painted areas invisible there and left the painting on his face by comparison. I blurred the background using a Gaussian blur in Photoshop to make the effect clearer. The pencil is totally visible. (Kind of like it blurred out...may keep it.)

It's a both more restrictive and less to work this way. It's moreso since the final image is determined by the pencils, but also less so since I can kind of just cut loose on the painted colour and texture and let the pencils describe the form. Using Multiply this way is a pretty basic tip for people doing digital painting, but I'm describing it here in case some of my blog readers are unfamiliar with it.

If you're familiar with Photoshop and worried about trying ArtRage since a few of your tools won't be available, don't fret. You can export ArtRage paintings into Photoshop with all layers intact and back again. Handy that. Though as I spend more and more time with ArtRage I'm finding there's very little I need to use Photoshop for.

So, why is Man-Thing being trapped by these crystals?  Do we need a villain?  Baron Mordo or Mr. Jip lurking in the background?

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Original artwork on The Flying Trilobite Copyright to Glendon Mellow
under Creative Commons Licence.
Man-Thing is wholly owned by Marvel Comics.  This is fanart in homage to the cool mucky character. 

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.)

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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.) 

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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. 

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Original artwork on The Flying Trilobite Copyright to Glendon Mellow

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

Art Monday: Dimetrodon Sphinx wip

This work in progress is one I'm using as a warm-up while working on contracts. Click to enlarge the screen-capture. 

©  Glendon Mellow 2011

I'm getting better at painting while holding the baby.  With analog oils, it would be impossible - brush cleaning, mixing, squeezing tubes- but digital works just fine. I really appreciate the weight of my Wacom Intuos 3 tablet right now, it stays put on the desk.

There's something about ArtRage I'm still learning to overcome: it's way too easy to get lost in too much texture, without letting the eye breathe.  In analog ("real") oil painting, some linseed on a fan brush, and I'd just blend it all away.  In ArtRage 2.5, I really haven't found an effective way to do this yet. Perhaps lots of thinner on a pale colour, low opacity? Using the palette knife tool sometimes comes close to what I want.

I wonder if that type of blending is easier in ArtRage 3.0.  Can't wait to get my hands on that program.

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Original artwork on The Flying Trilobite Copyright to Glendon Mellow