I got invited to a Cocktail Party!

Writer Jennifer Ouellette wonders But is it art? over at Cocktail Party Physics. It's a great article, featuring many different artists and visually-creative people who incorporate science into their work. Ms. Ouellette has included my oil painting, My Life With Trilobites, in the article. Nifty!

In particular I am impressed with the work of skateboarder/artist Lia Halloran. All the work is pretty cool.

The supposed division between artists and scientists is so small, and so many other people like myself straddle both worlds. It make organising my blogroll tough, and interesting.

I mean, where do you place people like the talented Marek Eby, who has created such iconic images and clothing of prehistoric creatures and blogs about palaeontology? I have him in science right now, but his cartoons and images could easily go the other way. Same with Fresh Brainz, and Laelaps - both feature excellent photography on a regular basis.

On the flipside, I have placed Bond's Blog, Prehistoric Insanity, Olduvai George and When Pigs Fly Returns in my artsy links, to name a few. Each of these talented people features artwork ranging from line drawings to 3D rendering from time to time, and each is strongly interested or involved in palaeontology.

All this means to me, I think is that art and science do not need to be told to stay on their own side in the back seat. We can play nice.

One last question though: where do you place The Flying Trilobite? Under art, or science?
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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.

The Boneyard XXI - Art Class

Welcome to the 21st edition of The Boneyard, here today at The Flying Trilobite! Today we will be looking at scientific illustration, cartoons, and paleo-related concept art.

The Field Trip

Has everyone got their willow-charcoal for sketches? Craig, I assume your laptop has batteries? Today we will begin our paleo-art lesson by venturing into the field. This is, after all, where we receive our inspiration. Make sure to wear sunscreen.

You cannot paint before you understand how to draw, and you cannot run before you can walk. Greg Laden tells us about a recently discovered Arabian dinosaur trackway. Make sure to follow the contours of the footprints with your eyes, dragging your charcoal lightly across the paper.

Trackways can teach more than contours. For those of you studying scientific illustration, remember not to let your eyes trick you into seeing what is not there. Brian at Laelaps has a cautionary tale about seeing evidence for giants instead of fossil sloth tracks. Giantologists reading this, please pursue the link immediately. To see a rendition of a species possibly related to the track-maker, be sure to have a look at master paleo-artist Carl Buell's Paramylodon.

Does everyone remember their elementary school readings from CRAM Science? Good.

Let the science teach you to be creative. Ah, excellent work, Microecos. The recent paper on azhdarchid pterosaurs by Witten & Naish has sparked a comparison from Microecos from pterosaur to current technology.

Sometimes it can be important to understand the scale of creatures from the prehistoric past. This life-sized statue of a stegosaurus - Jacqueline! Get down from there!

Now before we begin presentations, use your #2 HB pencils, and have your say at DinoBase's own David Hone's blog, and fill out this survey about "the state of palaeontology today". Introduction here, issues here, introduction to the survey here, and answers appearing here.

The Presentation
(In many cases, you may click on the artwork on the posts below to see the paleoart in a larger size.)

Let's begin the presentations at the end. Marek Eby of eTrilobite has captured the melancholy of the K-T event. Further back in time, the irascible Walcott is worried in Walcott's Quarry: The End is Nigh! And support paleo-art dinosaur news by visiting the eTrilobite store, and pick-up some happenin' threads.

At Bond's Blog, we have a lucid step-by-step presentation by Peter Bond on rendering a megalosaur, the final version seen at right. Thanks to Peter for allowing me to use the image! The image was created, along with a sauropod and medium theropod for Traumador the Tyrannosaur's post on dinosaurs of New Zealand.

The terror of the ancient seas swoops through Prehistoric Insanity. Craig Dylke struts his digital stuff in the latest peek of his Art of the Unspecified Time Interval. A realistic digital anomalocaris is difficult to pull off, but Craig took it many steps further and has placed it in its natural habitat, with some lovely filters to give it that undersea sense of depth. And be sure to check out Craig's spectacular trilobites, rendered with the scrapes and scratches their little carapaces must have had in life. See them here, here, and here.

Triloblog features the works of Laura Passow using Viking artistic techniques to create amazing specimens of the prolific vanguard of evolution by natural selection. The Bug Factory contains many past posts of the artist's impressive sculptures.

What is it about stegosaurs and car jokes? Charley Parker's Dinosaur Cartoons are not to be missed, complete with lessons!

Jacqueline Rae's Indohyus , published in Nature, appears furtive at the edge of the shore. Be sure to check out the rest of this versatile scientific illustrator's gallery.

N. Tamura's latest, a ferocious Paraphysornis is painted in predatory detail.

Zach of When Pigs Fly Returns continues to illustrate Mesozoic marine predators with an economy of line, making clear the bone structure of askeptosaurus and others from the fossil matrix.

Sometimes, I find paleoart so beautiful, I can't pick a favourite. Scientific Illustrator Emily Damstra paints vivid illustrations of the wonders of the natural world. It was tough to pick one -perhaps this smoothly-blended tornoceras ammonoid?-, so go visit her whole invertebrate gallery.

The Boneyard's groundskeeper Brian featured this interview with scientific illustrator Michael Skrepnick. In addition to providing the banner at Laelaps, Michael's artwork has recently been flung far and wide for his evocative image of the newly discovered "frogamander", gerobatrachus, a transitional fossil between modern frogs and salamanders. However, Lim at Fresh Brainz reckons we've seen another creature related to this ancestral-amphibian.

The Critique
I have a final piece to submit for your criticisms, witticisms and tomatoes.

The past while here at The Flying Trilobite, I've been posting a work-in-progress of a puzzle. The painting is in oil on shale. It is inspired by biologist John Burden Sanderson Haldane's infamous quote, when pressed by a creationist about what Haldane thought could falsify the fossil record. Haldane's reply; "Fossil rabbits in the precambrian."

The piece is finished. Below are the two possible configurations for the 9-piece shale puzzle I have entitled, Haldane's Precambrian Puzzle. Apologies for the weird angle: with the oils still wet it was difficult to photo without picking up a lot of glare.

Haldane's Precambrian Puzzle: False Rabbit Configuration

Haldane's Precambrian Puzzle: True Trilobite Configuration

Comments? Have I made it too ambiguous as to which one is true and which false?
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A thank-you to the suggestions and posts and brilliant work of the scientists who discover all the wondrous things of the past, and the artists who imbue them with wonder. If you're a palaeontologist working on the next big or feathered thing, perhaps you will consider one of the stellar artists above to illustrate a future paper.

I hope you've enjoyed this artsy edition of The Boneyard.

-Glendon Mellow
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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.

more than scribbles in the margin?

The Flying Trilobite's 1st Blog Award!

The headmistress of The Free Range Academy has bestowed upon The Flying Trilobite's humble cephalon the E for Excellent Blog Award!

This is a pay-it-forward meme of sorts, as well as an award. In accepting it, it needs to also be granted to ten blogs chosen by the recipient. This is tough: I'm adding to my blogroll all the time.

I'd love to grant it back to The Free Range Academy if I could. If you love reading about parenting, science and the myriad experiences growing up in Ontario offers to kids, you gotta check this site out. Leslie's Blog is another vibrant community drawn to Leslie Hawes, artist & personality. However, since Leslie granted the award to The Free Range Academy, I will leave them off my list of ten. Presenting in no particular order...

I solemnly swear to grant the E for Excellent Blog Award to:

1. Fresh Brainz - For a blog about neuroscience and rationality to be so eclectic and wild and just plain bonkers, I need to grant this award to where my brain goes for a freakout.

2. Life Before Death - Reflective, sensible, insightful, witty and recently, frequent photos of the bees the author keeps.

3. Traumador the Tyrannosaur - written from the point of view of a Canadian ex-patriot living in New Zealand. Oh and he's an extra-small tyrannosaur. There needs to be a movie with videogame tie-in. And action figures.

4. Retrospectacle - I know Shelley Batts' blog is ending/spawning soon. What is it about neuroscience students that makes them so well-informed about weird things that really matter? Needs another award.

5. Sentient Developments - serious, thoughtful, and about nothing less than humanity's future, this blog is strange and vital.

6. Jesse Graham's Art - J. Graham's art is playful and tiptoes up behind you with the kind of drawings you wish you'd thought of. A talent unfettered by narrative.

7. Metamagician & the Hellfire Club - smart, concise, and the type of writing that needs no pictures. For freethinkers, science-types and Russell Blackford's groupies.

8. Olduvai George - The art of Carl Buell, no longer being updated regularly. I don't care; this blog is the gateway I rush through there to see what new stuff materializing in Carl's Flickr account. Real extinct artiodactyls make the concept of a unicorn look just lazy.

9. Zooillogix - captions so funny it actually makes me snort espresso out my nose. And it's about zoology.

10. Page 3.14 - I never know what I'm going to find here. And I really look forward to finding it. SEED magazine's editors know how to interview and uncover the things you didn't know you wanted to know.

Please enjoy the awards! Mine will sit on my mantle, next to my trilobite fossils and favourite paint brush I had dipped in gold. (It doesn't spread the paint as well as it once did, but -man alive!- it can keep it's tip pointy...)

The Flying Trilobite Business Card




The winner!

Thank you so much to all those who helped this one along. In
my previous post, I asked and received tons of help deciding between two new business cards.

The image on the winner is Photoshop adapted from an ink drawing I have done. The image is meant to be for a (non-winged) tattoo I will likely get in the spring when this blog is one year old.

9 people preferred the first card, 2 the second. I myself preferred the second choice as well. As Lim Leng Hiong of Fresh Brainz called it, it has "extreme quirkiness". I will likely still use this image somewhere, and tweak it some more. Chadmac pointed out that its centre of mass is misplaced, so I'll need to fix that.

But I am very happy with card #1, and it does have my core image. As Leslie Hawes and Rudi pointed out, it needs to be a card that shows off the art. The wings are popular for this artistic ancient aquatic arthropod, as Dale McGowan, Lauren, Traumador the Tyrannosaur, Gastrolith, and Luna_the_Cat and Shelley Batts all agree.

For the final version depicted above, I tweaked a couple of things based on some reader's suggestions. Lauren suggested I shrink the trilobite image slightly, and I think that works well. As Leslie had pointed out, I could also have blown the image up to make it more abstracted. I think shrinking it works a little better, as some people have no idea what a trilobite is, let alone a Mythical Flying Trilobite Fossil. Lim Leng Hiong thought it might work better to have more contact between the trilobite and its wings, so I added some crumbly bits to make a better connection between the disparate parts.

I'd like to thank everyone who gave me an opinion, both online and offline, especially my wife, Michelle who watched me seesaw back and forth. Shelley of Retrospectacle also pointed out a business card service that she highly recommends, Moo, so I will probably look into that. This whole process really helped me out. I started this blog to promote my artwork, and also to get feedback on my work. Sometimes an artist is throwing so much into the process, it is easy to become myopic about how well the final image works.


My gratitude to each of you.

(Edit: whoops! Earlier today, the card I uploaded had an older version of the text layout on the card. All fixey-fixey now. No more blogging without the morning coffee. )