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.

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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 ***

Art Monday: sketching with iPod Brushes

Still getting used to it. Brushes is a pretty powerful program for digitally painting on the iPod Touch. I'm hoping to grow in skill with Brushes as I go - perhaps I need a stylus. Right now, I'm using my fingers.

When the idea for my Major Billy Barker & his Pterosaur Squadron hit me,
I was walking in a park and tried to sketch it out. The final colours ended up looking pretty different. But it caught the perspective and clouds.

Here's a slightly more detailed sketch for a new piece I am working on about the accomodationist / science communication uproar that's been happening on science-based blogs for the last little while.
It was again, one of those ideas that I needed to sketch immediately. I filled a couple of pages of my sketchbook, and this image before beginning the final piece. It's a great way to do a quick colour study without the mess. Not sure if the DNA pawn will make the final image though.

The stuff at the Brushes site is pretty inspiring, and illustrator Eric Orchard did some nice work with it recently. I think the key is to spend time with it, as you would any painting medium, rather than solely for sketching as I have done so far. I'm sure I'll be posting new images as they come.

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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 ***

Artwork Mondays: D.N.A.-Candle Vanitas III


I've blogged about my DNA-Candle Vanitas paintings before, but perhaps I should explain again.

Here is what I said in my first post about this series of images:
Vanitas painting is an old tradition, especially popular in the Northern Renaissance. Usually, it is a still life, depicting perhaps a skull, a broken watch, a candle just snuffed out with the smoke trailing in the air, a book half-read, a tipped over water glass....Pieter Claesz, trained by Franz Hals, is one of my favourite masters of this art style.

The image is one of mortality, with a kind of knock-you-over-the-head symbolism. The message intended is a kind of carpe diem, or "seize the day".

After reading about how telomeres may play a part in the aging process, and that their ends snip off when they replicate, I started coming up with the DNA Candle image. I remember reading something in the 90's that suggested if one could extend telomeres, one may be able to stave off death. The candle melting and the telomere shortening just seemed a natural image. I used DNA as a wick since it is more readily recognisable by most people.

So the ultimate message of the DNA Candle Vanitas is one of seize the day, life is beautiful but finite. The candles are lit and glowing, a loving image and the wax has melted together in union.
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This dramatically purple Vanitas was created for Nevin Douglas and Anya Vena for their wedding, two very artistically talented people, and very good friends of mine.

I've known Nevin for years, and he is an amazingly talented guitarist and songwriter. Nevin used to play in the band Debaser, and can now be heard playing around Toronto as part of the experimental rock outfit, Thee 9am Social. Check out their tracks on their MySpace page!

Anya has a powerful voice, and is the vocalist in the popular Toronto indie band, Personal Circus. Don't miss their shows, Anya's showmanship on stage is compelling and entertaining.

Both these bands have the speed and licks that make it easier for me to paint. If you are in the Toronto area, make sure to check their pages for future shows. I painted the Vanitas with a deep purple that to me, feels like it resonates with the power of Anya's voice, and the painting contains the dark speed of Nevin's guitar.
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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.

D.N.A. Candle - Vanitas II


This oil painting was done for my good friends A & K for their wedding.

I have
blogged previously about the symbology behind this image. It is a concept I use sometimes mixed with other elements, as in my Symbolist-era-inspired, gigantic, thematic, magnum opus The Forever Painting. I attempt to make each D.N.A. Candle Vanitas a little different from the others, and some colours seem to suit certain couples, or perhaps my mood while painting.

They are a joy to do, and I hope the happy couple enjoys this one.

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.

D.N.A. Candle - Vanitas




This oil painting was done for my good friends Michele & Chris for their wedding.

The DNA Candle image is one I began using with Symbiosis, a painting of mine recently featured on the online magazine, The Eloquent Atheist. It's one of my favourite concepts that I have come up with. Back in March 2007, when I was frustrated that I had not done anything with my art and I started this blog one blustery day, I almost chose the name "DNA Candles" instead of The Flying Trilobite. Yeah, I'm proud of these.

Vanitas painting is an old tradition, especially popular in the Northern Renaissance. Usually, it is a still life, depicting perhaps a skull, a broken watch, a candle just snuffed out with the smoke trailing in the air, a book half-read, a tipped over water glass....Pieter Claesz, trained by Franz Hals, is one of my favourite masters of this art style.

The image is one of mortality, with a kind of knock-you-over-the-head symbolism. The message intended is a kind of carpe diem, or "seize the day".

After reading about how telomeres may play a part in the aging process, and that their ends snip off when they replicate, I started coming up with the DNA Candle image. I remember reading something in the 90's that suggested if one could extend telomeres, one may be able to stave off death. The candle melting and the telomere shortening just seemed a natural image. I used DNA as a wick since it is more readily recognisable by most people.

So the ultimate message of the DNA Candle Vanitas is one of seize the day, life is beautiful but finite. The candles are lit and glowing, a loving image and the wax has melted together in union.

Variations of this image will return to The Flying Trilobite from time to time. The banner below and in my sidebar give a detailed view.

Open that sketchbook!

The Flying Trilobite is my filter for what I am most engaged by. This includes fascinating scientific work, interesting books, and painting and drawing.

Not every artistic specimen is Fine Art. On the sci-art listserv, there has been an interesting thread going about how private should your sketchbook be? I am usually fairly reserved with my own - signing sketches with ' Glendon Mellow Mr. Smarty-Artsie ' is not quite my thing.

Sketches differ from drawings in that drawings are finished pieces, with graphite or pencil, pastel or charcoal, grease pencil or skritchy quill, and sketches are the roughs, the studies. Sometimes my original pieces have an energy I like more than the final. This is what I am struggling with in my Richard Dawkins unauthorised portrait - I need to regain the energy of the sketch in my painting.

Here's a few of mine:



A winged pumpkin & a bubbly mermaid on the next page.


Michelle's foot.

Our hermit crab Shiny's first shell. Featuring some bling. Saucy!


Mythical Flying Trilobite Fossil. I drew this on an Air Canada flight, Toronto to Calgary at about 38 511 feet, 459 mph. I like the thought of that. Hurtling through the air. Jerry Seinfeld said something about that once - that when you're in a vehicle, you're moving, but you're sitting still. I like the thought: I may not be da Vinci, but I can draw an extinct arthropod while that high up, at that speed.


A few sites by other people with great sketches:
Leslie d'Allesandro Hawes
Jesse Graham's Art
Jacqueline Rae's Art
Machaeroides88
xxhauntedxx
Digital Graphite


Want to add another link for sketches you like, or have done yourself? Please add it in the comments section!