Major Billy Barker & his Pterosaur Squadron

Major Billy Barker & his Pterosaur Squadron
(click to enlarge, or visit my gallery for a larger view)

The paint is still wet, thus, the photo at a weird angle to prevent glare. I'll see if I can get a better shot up for my next Art Monday. Oil paint on canvas. This is my submission to the third Art Evolved group gallery, which happens to be launching July 1st, Canada Day.

In my generation, a lot of history learned in school was rote memorization. Dates, names, places. My high school had a vast amount of letters from former students to their teachers in the World Wars that we read each Remembrance Day. Perhaps the advantage of the internet is the ease at which you can learn now. No trip to the library, not knowing what you are looking for. Click, click, and there it is. Perhaps this is Gen X apathy, I'm not sure.

Sometimes as an artist, rarely, I get an image full-blown in my mind. That was the case here. Composition, lighting, hues. I needed some details for the biplanes.

So I did a bit of online poking to look up biplanes, and found the story of a true Canadian adventurer, perfect to add to my (perhaps audacious) idea. Major William George "Billy" Barker was a World War 1 flying ace and Victoria Cross recipient who flew Sopwith Camels against German Fokkers. Although I could not find any information indicating he fought against the infamous Red Baron, Manfred Von Richtofen, I thought the drama of these two excellent pilots would heighten the alternate history in this concept painting. Of course, our Canadian hero Major Billy Barker has a trick up those RAF sleeves: his fighting pterosaur squadron, made up of Quetzalcoatlus northropi.

The Red Baron will live to fight another day. Some theories have it that he was shot and wounded by other Canadian pilots though that remains controversial. Whatever the case, I love that the idea that popped into my mind led me to reading about Major Barker in time for Canada Day, and Art Evolved.

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Art Evolved Pterosaur Gallery
Major Billy Barker on Wikipedia
Major Billy Barker & his Sopwith Camel at Ace Pilots
The Red Baron on Wikipedia
The Red Baron & his Fokker at Ace Pilots

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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 ***

Dinosaurs as Art: Royal Tyrrell Museum

Back from the Badlands

The Royal Tyrrell Museum near Drumheller was more than I had imagined it to be. I have grown up with the Royal Ontario Museum; I took classes there as a child, and have been a frequent visitor since. The R.O.M. specialises in many areas, from ancient China & prehistoric animals to modern bats, & art. When constructing its new dinosaur gallery inside the Crystal, the R.O.M. would do well to pay attention to the wealth of uncompromising science and education about evolution at the Tyrrell. No concessions made to offending any religious sensibililties, just facts and supported theories, evidence in abundance, pure science.

The Tyrrell has a narrower, and richer focus. Prehistoric life. Evolution. The world of what happened before us.

Above, left: Golden Eagle claw with Sauronitholestes. Above, right: The sickle-claws of a dromeosaur, ornithomimus & velociraptor.

The pictures I am blogging today are from my favourite room; a Gallery, shrouded in darkness, reverent spotlights revealing the detail and majesty of the fossils. Ornate gold frames, in the baroque-style, encased the larger specimens. Simple North-Renaissance black frames with black-velvet mats added subtle lushness to the sophisticated evolved claws, teeth and feet of swift-moving dinosaurs.

Above, an Albertosaurus caught in a dramatic rigor mortis pose.

A struthiomimus.

The majestic Tyrannosaurus. Mounted without frames or hyperbole.

Perhaps this room appeals to me so much because of my Fine Art background. When I oil paint, I begin on a black or dark background, adding paint and the figures emerge from the darkness, much as this room brought to life. Bravo and thank you to the curator.

I believe one of the greatest experiences of my life was first entering this room. Seeing the magnificent creatures of the past I have loved so much, through the lense of the human art world was sublime, and I felt the rush of the scientifically-numinous.

Back from the Badlands

I'm back from my family holiday in Alberta. The land was so starkly different from Ontario, I simply gawked out of my window for much of my trip. Mountains gliding across the distant horizons. Electric yellow-green canola fields commanding the eye. Gorgeous white windmills silently thrumming in the fields, often lined up to catch an invisble corridor of kinetic power for kilometers at a time.

Every once in a while, the land sloping sharply downward through a layered cake of every shade of beige and rust toward a riverbed that may or may not have water at the bottom. And may or may not contain fossils sprinkled throughout.

I have a lot I wish to blog about the trip. A very warm thanks to my travelling companions, and to our gracious hosts, my wife's cousins' and aunt & uncle, for all the fun and more travelling than was reasonable to indulge this paleo-nerd in looking for things millions of years old.

Over the next few weeks, likely topics I will blog include:

Hinterland Who's Who: Darwin Fish

(cue haunting sound of a loon calling)
Darwin Fish

This fine specimen was ordered by my wife for my birthday last week. The Darwin fish is a secular, scientific species descended from the "Jesus Fish" found on many cars. We've had sightings of a couple of them on cars here in Ontario, and a few of the rival Jesus fish too; both are invading species to the many highway tributaries here in Ontario. I'm hoping illegal fishing of Darwin Fish discourages our fish from going missing. They are an elusive species, beneficial to our waterways of social discourse. Unlike the Jesus fish, which is parasitic and carries memetic viruses, the Darwin fish are a healthy source of protein and memes.

In true evolutionary fashion, many other types of car-fish species have been cropping up. You can see some recent examples on the pages of Inkling Magazine. This l'il beauty came from the fine folks at Ring of Fire Enterprises.

This parody of Hinterland Who's Who was not sponsored by the Canadian Government. Please fish responsibly.