Art Monday: invert. No, the other kind of invert.

Sometimes I like to invert pencil drawings. It allows the artist to view the pencil strokes with new eyes, revealing the contrast and altering the mood. It makes the familiar unfamiliar.  

More after the jump. 

You may have seen last week I altered my blog, shop and portfolio to be black, and changed the header image to match.  Although I love the artwork on a black background, it just felt to harsh in contrast, and I switched back to the art-gallery-wall-white. 

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


Print Shop

Art Monday: Fossil Boy, Diatom Girl

Our final project for my Drawing & Narrative class was more or less open. I decided to continue exploring ammonite fossils, hands, and some diatoms.

For a long time, I've used diatoms along with images of my wife, Michelle. Diatoms are beautiful algae that create complicated geometric structures from silica, and look like beautiful glass ornaments. They help create oxygen, which is a nice thing for an asthmatic like me to associate with my wife in a metaphorical life-sustaining way. The fossils are kind of a proxy for me. Part of the suggested outline for the assignment included making a book, and images of family.

Three of the most difficult things to draw are the face, hands, and feet. (Fore
shortening is a whole other problem.) I love drawing hands, so I looked at this as a challenge. I decided I would add some torn paper elements as well. While working on my rough sketches, our professor suggested including some elements with the Fibonacci sequence, and looking up artists Mario Merz. I've done some sketches using Fibonacci numbers before, when I was working on Dan Rhoads' Migrations blog banner. I tried to use it as a compositional device.

Almost in its entirety, (a snippet is lopped off from the edges), here are the drawings from the series Fossil Boy, Diatom Girl.

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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 ***

Creative Spaces - Closet Creativity

Artist-writer-oaf Sean Craven of Renaissance Oaf and I have talked about how fascinating it is to peek inside another creative person's studio space. To quote Sean, "I'm always fascinated by the workspaces of creative types. The factories of the culture industry, the monastic hives of the culturally isolated, closets and couches as well as studios or arts centers."

Sean has started things off with Ascending the Lavender Staircase his Workstation and Decor by Default. So let's whisk into the wall of my living room.

My baseball-playing, special education teaching, gorgeous wife Michelle and I live in an ancient 3 story apartment just west of downtown where Littles Italy, Portugual and Brazil meet. It's a two-bedroom, and because our nephew stays over once a week, a few years ago we gave him the second bedroom as his own. Michelle's office moved to the living room. I offered to take one of our two huge living room closets. I didn't want the little guy messing with my painty chemicals.

So let's pull one book out on the shelf and whisk into the wall of my living room. My studio is a closet, painted to look like part of the wall. I don't have a lot of photos of the outside of the studio. Here's one from a couple of year's back. It's behind my holiday smile. Weird colours in that photo. The walls are actually more neutral blue-green.

This is just inside. You can see I have pieces of the Of Two Minds and Meming of Life banners tacked to the door. I also sometimes pour stand oil, a thick-as-honey heated linseed oil on top of my finished paintings, like the diatom fairy painting in the foreground. Gives it a mottled, glossy surface.

The view above my card table/drawing surface. Some pieces from the Migrations banner, and a large drawing about my asthma and lungs in general I did years ago.
Almost every surface of the studio is crammed with my images. I find it helps me to recall brushtrokes or colours I may presently be having trouble with. One of my only non-mybigego images is an article entitled "Evolution, and nothing more" by Jerry Coyne, published in Canada's National Post on Friday 2nd of December, 2005. It was a one page rebuttal to the previous day's insipid "intelligent design" article. It was the first time I had ever read Jerry Coyne, and it electrified me. I was drawing and talking about it like crazy. So now it's plaque-mounted and been in my studio space ever since.
Paintings, collapsible easel, buncha portfolios. Naked humans with mitochondria and trilobites.
They say the trick to taking pictures of oil paints is to use 2 bright bulbs at 45 degree angles or less and very distant from the painting. I paint in a closet. Meh.
My original painting-drawing for the current blog banner actually just moves awkwardly around the studio (below on my paint-box). The drawing is lined up on a piece of bristol that I carelessly got squidges of paint on. I really need to get that framed properly. Haldane's Precambrian Puzzle is under glass in a hinged 12x12 scrapbooking frame.

The wooden flying trilobite necklace Tanja Sova made and gave me is hanging below.
Our home has books in almost every room. Like Bond, I like to have some inspiration and reference close at hand. The bright blue book below the awesome Art S. Buck mannequins and Precambrian toys is my mother's original nursing anatomy book. Books on concept art, atheism, science and art techniques all sit hand in hand on there. And Twisted Toyfare Theatre tends to creep in sometimes.
Paint! I use such thin layers when I paint, many of those tubes are from when I originally worked on my undergrad 12 years ago. I think I have only replaced the lamp black, titanium white and naples yellow. More storage portfolios, one with another diatom fairy from the period when all my people had green skin.
If studio spaces are like a room into the mind of the artist, mine is fit to burst. Or collapse inward and make a crushing singularity.
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This trip into Creative Spaces wouldn't be half as fun if it wasn't continued by others. Some Creative Spaces I'd love to see: Almost Diamonds, eTrilobite, The Day After, Heather Ward Wildlife Art, Claudia Massie and State of the Art. If you participate, feel free to use Sean's excellent logo above! We plan on collecting all the links in a post on Art Evolved.
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Other Creative Spaces so far:
*Renaissance Oaf, Parts one, two, three.
*Bond's Blog

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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 -

Art Monday - forgotten format

A few years ago, I became very excited by a possible format for a huge series of paintings.

The canvas was 12"x24", small-ish on the wall, but a comfortable size to depict some detail. My intention was to do a series of images blending human elements with unusual organisms that catch my fancy. I referred to it as a "Primer Series" to inform viewers about the subject matter I tend to paint.

The composition was straightforward. Over the years, I have found that we as human beings tend to enjoy and be intrigued by images of other human bodies. Not too surprising. So I put a human figure or at least partially human figure in the center to entice the eye, and draw viewers in. Around the human, I would place the fossil or organism, and as you can see in Life As a Trilobite, I blended the trilobite with the man.

Above and below the figure, I placed the thematic organism in series as an almost decorative element, possibly with labels. This idea was inspired in part I think, by my love of Alphonse Mucha's work, which you can see influenced Life With Diatoms quite a bit. Then, I planned on having a small card with the work's title and information about why the organism grouped with the human figure mattered so much. The Primer Series would then provide an introduct
ion into the rest of my work. One of the main reasons behind using this format was that I found that many of my peers in university, my professors and my close friends did not necessarily share my interest in biology and paleontology. They enjoyed my paintings, but greater insight was a little closed off.

I had an art show with another excellent artist and close friend as my university days waned. When I exhibited Symbiosis (left, click in gallery to enlarge), a fellow coffee shop employee who was also a zoology major, asked me, "okay, if this means nothing to you, never mind, but in that painting with the green guy, is that a tardigrade?".

Replying that it was, she smiled and said, "I could tell because of those little hooked feet." It was an inspiration. Most people thought the painting looked cool, a little dark and creepy, and here was someone who understood the purple blobby thing hovering above the plinth.

So the plan was to draw in non-bio-paleo folks into the paintings with intriguing paintings of people, and then open them up to the wealth of creatures I find so fascinating, perhaps with an explanatory card off to the side.

When I took this show on the blogosphere almost two years ago, the beauty became that so many people who were also fascinated with these organisms find me.

There were others planned in the series. An ammonite, shells like ram's horns on his head. A Primer Series version of Symbiosis with the tardigrade looking all cute and water bear-ish.

Perhaps one day I'll begin explaining myself again.

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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.

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Artwork Mondays: Life With Diatoms

Usually on Artwork Mondays, I endeavour to put up new pieces of my work. Today, I thought I'd re-post a piece from my first month online, entitled Life With Diatoms.

This is a painting in oil, with some acrylic paints used for the enlarged diatoms. Here's a short breakdown of techniques and materials.

I usually enjoy painting on a dark ground; in this case a carbon black acrylic over double-primed gessoed cotton canvas.

As oils age, they become more transparent, and darken. A darker ground, usually a brown, grey or black was common in the Renaissance, and fell seriously out of favour with artists such as the Impressionists, who were trying to transmit the brightness of light. When using a dark ground, it was common to leave a lightened area under any foreground figures, so they would retain a glow compared to their surroundings.

It's never a good idea to mix water-based acrylics on the same canvas as oil paint. I confess I broke those rules here. I used some wonderful Pebeo dyna-colours for the greens in the diatoms.

Dyna colours have a paint made from reflective mica flakes, coated with obscenely thin layers of titanium dioxide. The thinness of the layer can be manipulated to allow only certain wavelengths of light through. When mixed with a base colour, as these have been, you can get crazy combinations: a fuchsia pink with a blue sheen that catches the light, and so on. Other brands, such as Golden, refer to these as "interference" colours - they work best when mixed or applied over top and the difference is Pebeo's are pre-mixed with a colour.

For Life with Diatoms, I used yellow-green dyna, and green-yellow dyna, as well as a gold in oil paint mixed into the algae and the red hair.

Once the painting was done to my satisfaction, I poured stand oil over it to give it a glossy, honey-like sheen. Stand oil is linseed oil that has been heated, and has the consistency of liquid honey. It's tricky to use: it pools, and leaves dry spots; it takes months to dry to the point it doesn't pour in slow motion off the edge when upright; it collects dust on its surface like no tomorrow. Bloody hard to photograph without moving twin light sources off to the side, as well.

The model for this painting was my wife and muse. I haven't often posted paintings of her which I have painted, since they feel a bit more personal than most. This is not the first time I have painted her with diatoms, however. That was in another work, entitled, A Diatomaceous Soul, which I have not (and will not likely ever) show online. I am aware that the anatomy of the face and shoulders aren't perfect, neither is the stomach. This piece was expressive, and I wasn't overly concerned at the time with high-realism. It captured the glow of her face the way I see it, and her beauty in repose. I can say I have another piece along these lines started; it is one of those rare times the whole painting sprung visible in my head before completion.

The association in my mind of my wife with diatoms springs in part from the diatoms' glittering beauty in their opalescent structures, and in their ability to create so much of the oxygen we all breathe. For myself, I cannot live without either.

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Follow some of the links about diatoms at Wikipedia. Then marvel that these wonders are all around you, on tree bark, ocean rocks and in the soil.

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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.

Life With Diatoms

"Science is spectrum analysis.
Art is photosynthesis".

-Karl Krauss

Diatoms are the tumbling, shining, intricate glass-like algae that make much of the air that we breathe.

There are many different species, and they each make a "skeleton" of sorts close to opal in composition. Victorian men liked to collect different kinds, and lay them out on black paper with the aid of a microscope.

For me, their beauty rests in their shining delicate shapes, and their vital oxygen production that we need to live.

--Glendon Mellow