Merry Darwin Day 2012!

Appropriately enough, I'm working on some scientific illustrations of beetles this Darwin Day. Can't show anyone yet. 

Please enjoy these images of our man Charles from years' past, and make sure to read The Beagle Project's Blog post about Darwin's birthday aboard the H.M.S. Beagle. 

The images below are from 2009, when I attempted to live blog progress from scratch of a new oil painting of a young Charles Darwin discovering a glyptodont skull in South America during the voyage of the Beagle. At the time (you can find all the blog entries in February 2009) I wasn't happy with how the piece was turning out, and the exercise got weird. Still glad I attempted it - it's good to experiment.

If you look at the first sketch, you can see the ghostly sketch of the Beagle masts rising behind our young explorer.

Quick sketch to get the shadows and composition down.

Focused on the face first. Relatively happy with the pencils.

Tinted in Photoshop, I actually like this sketched image better than the final.

My work station. Love those Micron brushes. 

More or less (somewhat less) complete. 

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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!

Coffee with a travelling Beagler

Last weekend I had a great time having an Americano with wandering Beagle Project scientist/Twitterforceofnature Karen James here in my hometown.

That's us, by the giant thimble and buttons in Toronto's Fashion District. Note Karen is sporting the NASA hoodie, rockin the Galapagos tan and necklace and wearing open toes in November, here in Canada's south.  In November. I'm wearing the fashionable ex-goth-not-hipster ensemble.  With hair by Bike Helmet.

So good to see you Karen! Next time: the R.O.M.

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


Print Shop

Darwin Day re-post: Making "Darwin Took Steps"

This post originally appeared on Tuesday 12th February 2008. Don't forget a portion of the sales from Darwin Took Steps prints, cards & shirts goes in support of The Beagle Project, one of the most inspiring educational endeavours conceived.

Merry Darwin Day everyone!

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For Darwin Day 2008, I decided to work on a surreal portrait of Charles Darwin, which is to be published today at the online literary 'zine, The Eloquent Atheist. There should be some writing accompanying it from one of the Darwin Day organisers, Dick Renfro. (Edit! Here's the link!) I always enjoy seeing another artist's process in creating a work, and I have found some scientists who read this blog are also interested in seeing the greasy nuts & bolts that go into a painting.

I am not a biologist, but I am something of a biology/palaeontology groupie. Darwin's work is so important not only for explaining a process of evolution by natural selection, but also for how it exploded the traditional chain of mythologies humans lived with as explanations for so long. The modern Bright movement and sites like The Eloquent Atheist seek to show how a life without religion and the supernatural can be intellectually and emotionally

In my continuous struggle to improve my own madartskillz I am also trying to create works reminiscent of Symbolist and Surrealist masterpieces replete with symbols drawn from our modern scientific worldview. Why use Odin to symbolise wisdom when you can paint Darwin?

Making of Darwin Took Steps

1. Thumbnail sketches
These were just thumbnails, showing an elderly Darwin pondering what to write next. The one near the top right has a "tangled bank" of branches floating above his head. From the start I knew I wanted to depict Darwin in his later years, as it is a more generally recognised image. I discarded both of these ideas in favour of the staircase idea.

2. Beginning the drawing.

For the drawing, I drew upon a reference from National Geographic's November 2004 issue. (Cover title: "Was Darwin Wrong?". The answer inside, almost a page tall: "NO.")

One of the goals for this painting was to see how quickly I could do it, and still be proud at the end. In this instance I gave up drawing freehand and used a projector to create the sketch above, which is something I rarely do. That took 20 minutes. Refining a drawing that size without the projector can take another 2 to 3 hours. Materials: 2mm pencil on vellum-finish bristol paper. (Must perform life drawing for three hours in penance for using the projector...)

3. Staircase and a false start.

The staircase is an older idea of mine I used on a piece called Disease. It was developed as a cd cover and never published. I like the image though, and thought it would be appropriate. The column in the background is supposed to suggest the path leading unexpectedly to D.N.A, beyond Darwin's scope. I checked the drawing in a mirror a lot, to see if there were any gross abnormalities that stood out. Noticed a staircase coming out of his head. During this phase, I was listening to Jakalope in my studio, which is actually a freakishly large closet off our living room.

4. Completed drawing.

This is the drawing as complete as I decided to make it for painting. I used a .3mm mechanical pencil, HB lead on vellum-finish bristol. Love that Strathmore. In total, the drawing itself took about 3.5 hours. I jettisoned the d.n.a. column idea, and left the staircase leading up and away, the edifice not yet finished. I had fun with the little 'chi' lines in the beard. After tweaking the contrast in Photoshop, I printed the drawing out onto a couple of sheets of canvas paper from my laser printer to paint on.

5. Prepping for 'speed-painting'.

I decided to work in our living room, claiming the coffee table as my territory. I use Turpenoid Natural rather than other solvents. It smells of pine and is not full of nasty toxic hydrocarbons like most odourless solvents. The pliers are to get my oil tubes open. (Seriously, are all tubes made by people who've never had to open them more than twice? The caps are all different by brand, but they all get stuck.) I wanted this piece to have an older, sepia-feel to it, so linseed oil rather than a paler poppy or walnut was just fine. I am armed with Bavarian Dutch Chocolate coffee in my Jack Skellington mug.

My palette consisted of Naples Yellow (which I am addicted to), Quinacradone Orange, Cadmium Yellow Medium, Monochrome Tint Warm, Burnt Sienna (which I hate), Raw Umber, Payne's Grey, Zinc+Titanium White and Lamp Black. A lot of people swear you shouldn't use white or black (and you should mix your own from blue and brown), and I say, stop living in the Impressionist Era! It's so over! Lamp black is warm and deep, like pvc goth-gear in a tube.

I set the timer to stop me every hour. My aim was to finish the painting in 3 hours.

6. Results after 1 hour.

Usually I start with the eyes. I worked out the face, mainly with a cad-yellow underlayer. Monochrome tint and white for highlights. I was listening to Darude, The Chemical Brothers, and a Nine Inch Nails remix album. The faster the beats, the fresher my brush strokes. This is deep in the Ugly Phase , where I just hate how it looks. No time to fret; hour two!

7. Results after 2 hours.

Started using a phylogenetic tree in the background, painting with quinacradone orange underneath, and iridescent gold oil paint on top. Renaissance masters usually painted a red basecoat under gold leafing to add luster. I am using some micron brushes my wife put in my stocking at Christmas. They are really tiny synthetic brushes, and the filbert is now my bf4evr. Some artists say oils must be painted with rough hog's bristle brushes, and then I just yell, stop living in the Impressionist Era! Old masters used soft brushes for detail, and so do I.
It's not done. I need to move toward hour 3.

8. Results after 3 hours, colour corrected.
The final piece, colour-corrected in Photoshop.

I fretted about how dark it looked on some monitors, and after submitting the image to editor Michael W. Jones at The Eloquent Atheist, emailed a second colour-corrected version, seen above.

Complete! ( edit: Here is the full-colour-corrected image and how it appears in my online reproduction store, a portion of the profits going in support of The Beagle Project.)

Assigning a number to any amount of steps would be arbitrary, but I chose 5 for a reason. Four for the support of evolution by natural selection (Darwin drew upon examples of 1. biogeography, 2. morphology, 3. embryology, and 4. palaeontology), and the fifth step for natural selection itself, or the elevation of reason over dogma, as the viewer likes. The steps of learning never end.

Please check this out on The Eloquent Atheist today, and leave comments! Constructive feedback is always welcome. I will edit this post later today to provide the link once it is up. Merry Darwin 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 ***

Happy Origin Day!

Happy Origin Day!

150 years ago, Charles Darwin's On the Origin of Species was originally published. It's like a science-blogohedron holiday today - wonderful links and commentary everywhere.

Why not read a few links, become inspired about science education, and perhaps make a donation to the Beagle Project?

Darwin Took Steps, above, will be shown to a new audience in 2010. As part of Casa de las Ciencias 2010 Darwin exhibit, a reproduction of my painting will be shown as part of a display about how Darwin is still making waves in visual media. I'm completely thrilled! My first museum exhibit, and in Spain no less! I have never been to Europe, and Michelle thinks next summer would be the perfect time to head to Spain. Good idea. The building itself is beautiful, and they have a great logo for their Darwin year. (Museum photo from Wikipedia.)

This painting is piling up a nice c.v. of its own - debuting on The Eloquent Atheist, shown on the cover of Secular Nation, the book cover of La Mente di Darwin, as part of the book cover for Open Laboratory 2008 - and hopefully, it will continue to intrigue new viewers to learn about Charles Darwin and his wonderful writing.

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If you like this image, it's available as matted prints, greeting cards and t-shirts in my reproduction shop. A portion of the profits goes in support of The Beagle Project.

Original artwork on The Flying Trilobite Copyright to Glendon Mellow
under Creative Commons Licence.
Flying Trilobite Gallery *** Flying Trilobite Reproduction Shop ***

Secular Nation Podcast featuring Flying Trilobite

***Edit! Scheduled date and time have changed! Watch the sidebar for details. (We don't want to overshadow Obama in that timeslot. He's a nice guy.)

In an upcoming podcast, I'll be speaking with David Driscoll on the Secular Nation Podcast.

My Darwin Took Steps image is featured on the current issue of Secular Nation magazine, thanks to editor-in-chief Tom Melchiorre.

Check it out, it should be fun. I'll have to gargle and speak in a whisper until then, but if you missed me at ScienceOnline '09 last weekend, you'll be able to hear my heroic tenor tones wax philosophical about art and science on Friday.

If the Darwin Took Steps oil painting is to your liking, don't forget to check out the reproductions available in my online shop. I think there's still time to pick up cards, prints, canvas repros and sweatshop-free t-shirts in a variety of colours to give to your evolution-loving and rational friends for Darwin Day (Feb 12th).

And half the proceeds from the sales of my Darwin Took Steps swag goes toward helping build a reproduction of the legendary Beagle that took Darwin on the voyage that changed everything. These Beagle Project people are serious, committed and inspiring. Why not help build an educational and scientific mission to resonate in our day as Darwin's voyage resonated in his?
Catch you on the podcast!

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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 ### 2009 Calendar available for a limited time

Darwin on a pink tee!

In time for the festive Newtonmas to Darwin Day season, there's new items in The Flying Trilobite Reproduction Shop! Personally, I'm giving some for Krismas.
The popular Darwin Took Steps image is now available in colour on American Apparel shirts. As before, a portion of the purchase of my Darwin-tees will go toward supporting The Beagle Project, so you wear a surreal image of the controversial biologist-adventurer with pride.

Darwin Took Steps
shirts are available in a wide range of colours, as well as
four styles of shirt. Just click the t-shirt button and take a look at the choices.
Sweat-shop free, and starting at $23.94 U.S.! RedBubble accepts Australian, U.K., American and Canadian currencies too.
This year I have also put together a calender, a first for me. If you're a fan of my artwork, or surreal scientific illustration, this is the best way to pick up a dozen prints of my work in one place. Here's a some shots of the calender, $22.99 U.S.:

Hmm. I'm kind of digging that white background. Maybe a re-design in the New Year? You can also visit the RedBubble-hosted store and click through to see every month.

Order soon to guarantee it in for Christmas and New Year's!

I've also added cards, prints and canvas-reproductions of my popular Haldane's Precambrian Puzzle in each configuration!

With such a dizzying array of holidays coming up, give the gift of Flying Trilobite.

(Product shots from RedBubble! Thanks RedBubble, you're super-keen!)

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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.

Make your holiday special...

...say "I love you" with extinct arthropods.

"But honey, all the atheists are doing it!"

The original Mythical Flying Trilobite Fossil painting on shale, is now available as a greeting card, matted print or canvas print in The Flying Trilobite Reproduction shop. My shop is through RedBubble, and they accept 'Murican, Canuck, Bloke, and Mate funds, so that's nice and easy for about half of my readers. I'm mighty pleased with the reproduction quality.

Here's a shot of a few of the cards. Purchase of any prints, cards or shirts of my Darwin Took Steps I hope will make for a memorable Darwin Day 2009 and a portion of the profits goes to helping The Beagle Project. Nifty!

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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.

Darwin kickin' it on the Edge...r

Darwin is my Charlie!

Yesterday, I spotted our energetic and vigorous friend over at The Edger.

Tyler Handley has written a terrific post taking a stab at defining types of atheist art, with his article The Art of New-Atheism. Tyler has included a link to The Flying Trilobite art gallery over at DeviantArt, under the heading, "Art that is made for the purpose of representing a passion for science and its promotion".

Hmm, is that a decent description of what I do?

Later, under the heading, "Art that is made for the purpose of iconically depicting giants of science, skepticism, and atheism", Mr. Darwin and his stairs made an appearance.

I'll quote my comment on the article here for discussion, (and a bit of promotion for The Beagle Project and the support I'm offering from my Reproduction Shop), or please follow the link, and see the rest of the images Tyler has compiled.

Here's my comment:

Thank you for including my Flying Trilobite gallery and Darwin Took Steps piece
in this important post, Tyler.

I hope you don’t mind if I add that proceeds from the sales of
Darwin Took Steps shirts, prints and cards goes to the Beagle Project in support of their noble and educational work.

This is an interesting topic I wrestle with daily. I am sorely tempted to create some overtly atheist art; for me, I find it hard to think of anything other than satire or horror of religion. So instead, I focus on the wonder of science. Do other artists have this problem? (
emphasis added)

It's pretty exciting for me that my Darwin Took Steps was included on the same discussion as Carl Sagan's Pale Blue Dot photo. It'll sink in eventually.

Even Jesus riding on a dinosaur can't take that feeling away.

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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. Support The Beagle Project!

Support The Beagle Project with Flying Trilobite Reproductions

The Flying Trilobite Reproduction Shop is now open at

Following in the footsteps of the stellar Diana Sudyka, I will be donating a portion of the sales of a re-scanned Darwin Took Steps to The Beagle Project. Let's get this boat in the water, eh?!

I've re-scanned the image (originally it was still wet - oil paints can take months to dry) and added a bit of text. Here's a sample:

Darwin Took Steps is currently available as a gator-board mounted print, and as greeting cards. I thought this would be nice to send as a Darwin Day 2009 card. More formats may appear in future: has some nifty-keen stuff, so drop me an email or reply if you would love to have a staircase-headed Charles in another format.

(Edit: I've added a variety of t-shirts based on the original pencil drawing, as well as cards, matted prints, and the colour image without words.)

Purchasing this image will also save me from having to hang-glide to The Beagle with cucumber sandwiches with crusts cut-off for the crew. No one wants that, right?

The link for purchase (in multiple currency choices!) is here. Jokes about "flying trilobite reproduction" may also now ensue.

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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.