Inky Bidness

Coupla tattoo things. 

Fascinating personal post by paleo-author Brian Switek of Laelaps over at his other gig, Dinosaur Tracking, where he talks some more about the tattoo I designed for him not long ago. And hints at a second design possibly in the works. (I'm trying to see if it's possible to make a theropod's jaw open and close on Brian's flexing bicep.)

Check out his Allosaurus Ink, Brian has more recent, healed photos.  

Another tattoo I designed, the caffeine molecule for my SciAm peep Scicurious has long been one of my most popular all-time posts for getting traffic. Bound to happen then, that another internet denizen, Ryan S on Reddit has gotten a similar tattoo based on the design Sci and I came up with. 

Here it is on Scicurious:

I've also made a portfolio gallery of my science tattoo designs if you'd like to see more.

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

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Allosaurus Science Ink

You know, doing science tattoo designs is an aspect of my current career I never would have guessed I'd be doing 10 years ago. They're challenging and fascinating. Each time I feel really honoured someone would like their body graced by one of my images. 

When author of Written in Stone Brian Switek asked me about designing a tattoo, I was really excited.  Brian's one of my favourite bloggers, both at Wired's Laelaps and the Smithsonian's Dinosaur Tracking, and who I have also been lucky enough to meet at ScienceOnline the past few years.  Great guy. 

Right away, he knew what he wanted: allosaurus in the death pose in blackline. 

I headed to the Royal Ontario Museum, which has an allosaurus mount scurrying under the new signature barosaurus named Gordo.  

I took these photos since they're backlit, and that's helpful for a blackline tattoo, but in the end I didn't reference them.

Instead, even tough it was to be a blackline, silhouette design, I like to start by standing in the museum and drawing a detailed sketch of the skull, hands and feet

While I was drawing this from the original skeleton, Gregory Paul patted me on the head, gave me a doggy treat and said, "Good boy!". Then he whacked my nose with a rolled up newspaper. Yeah, I was confused too. 

I drew the body separately, and Photoshopped the head on. For those not familiar with this pose, most terrestial vertebrates, from dinosaurs to rabbits can be found in this extreme back-arched pose after they die. The thinking is that it's likely ligaments and tissues around the deceased animal's spine tend to dry out first, tightening and contorting the body. 

Above is a screenshot of me inking the skull using ArtRage Studio Pro, my favourite digital painting program.  I found the basic billboard marker gave me the lines I liked.

Brian was getting this tattoo in part to mark a transition: from his home state of New Jersey to Utah, and the allosaurus is Utah's state dinosaur. So as I neared completion of the skeleton drawing, I started thinking about different ways to make this tattoo design more personal to Brian, and not just a random dino fossil.

So I sent him this image below in an email, and asked if he could find the Easter Eggs:

Do you see them?  

The coloured-in portions are in the shape of a tiny New Jersey (green) and Utah (coral).

After looking at a few variations, such as all-black with no outlines, a broken tail, and so on Brian settled on the image above. I like this one too: the solid black ribs, leg and skull are offset by the outlined vertebrae.  I think it breaks up the image in an interesting way, and visually makes the image clearer to someone who may not be familiar with the dinosaur death pose. 

Here's Brian with the finished piece, done by Jon at Heart of Gold Tattoo.

Thanks Brian!  That was really fun and I love how the final version turned out. Badass allosaurus.

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For more of my science tattoo designs, check out the following links:

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

Print Shop 

Find me on Symbiartic, the art+science blog on the new Scientific American Blog Network!

Ooo, I like this term: "evolution culture"

What a great description. "Evolution culture".

Adam Goldstein has penned an academic's guide for blog-newbies in the journal Evolution: Education and Outreach, entitled Blogging Evolution. After discussing the style and structure of blogs, Adam Goldstein turns to an insightful and apt look at some loose categories of evolution blogs.
Over at Laelaps, Brian Switek has a careful analysis and there's some interesting comments shaping up about missing categories. I find the practice of categorizing the interconnected community of blogs apt and self-referential -and funny. An organizational tree of evolution blogs sprang immediately to mind.

Adam shared via my twitobite account that he had included The Flying Trilobite under the taxonomic family category of "Imaginative" along with Carl Zimmer's cool The Loom. From the article:

I hesitate to call blogs focused on art and culture “imaginative,” because doing so suggests a contrast with the other categories of blogs as “non-imaginative.” I see science as an imaginative endeavor, even at its most arcane. Perhaps “evolution culture” would be a better name for this category.

I like that. We need more of that. We need Richard Dawkins' suggestion for a Mesozoic Symphony. We need evolution hipsters. Oh no wait, hipsters are out. Evolution b-boys then. That never goes away. I sound flippant, but I'm quite serious. Evolution as a concept in nature is tremendously cool, and infinitely fashionable. It needs to reach heights of creative output - and not be mixed up synonymously with development. Understood as it is, simple rules leading to emergent, beautiful, myriad forms and behaviours.

Goldstein's article showcases some interesting categories and a number of blogs. Including some that are not ones I'm familiar with. Seeing it from an outsider's perspective also interests me. Blogs I can't live without were missed, though I credit the author with hitting on so many of the of blogs about evolution. The Flying Trilobite appears alongside The Loom, and with Pharyngula, The Beagle Project, Why Evolution is True, The Evilutionary Biologist and The Wild Side. (How have I missed Genomicron? He's like an hour away from me!) Be sure to check it out - this is not an accomodationist list. This is an (albeit incomplete) list of the right stuff.

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Original artwork on The Flying Trilobite Copyright to Glendon Mellow
under Creative Commons Licence.
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Art & Science at ScienceOnline '09 discussion continues...

ScienceOnline this past weekend really has me reassessing what I'm doing as a blogger and with my artwork. The conference as a whole and the Art & Science session in particular seem to be continuing as discussions in the blogosphere.

Here's a few links.

-Conference blog & media link page (new ones at the bottom)

-ScienceOnline'09 Flickr set

-Ryan Somma at Ideonexus has a concise overview of the Art & Science session. In addition to the 5 categories I had outlined, Ryan has suggested an entirely appropriate type of artistic science: "Found Art".

-Lenore Ramm of Eclectic Glob of Tangential Verbosity reports feeling inspired to possibly create art once again

-Brian Switek of Laelaps mentioned cave art in the comments here and explores the connection in "The Plight of the Pleistocene Poet".

-Betül of Counter Minds summarized her excited views of the conference

-Bora at A Blog Around The Clock has posted a few photos of the seriousness and shenanigans on the Friday night.

-Jessica Palmer at Bioephemera (can Tatjana and I refer to her as our ephemeral third moderator? Or am I being lame?) shows how the intersection of real science and artistic fancy can be a ball of confusion, (that's what the world is today). Hey. Hey.

-Eva of Easternblot has left a comment here about that elusive grail of mine, art directing the course of scientific research. That's two examples! (First example found here, in the comment and fascinating paper by Andy of The Open Source Paleontologist.)

I may continue to use this post to collect up various links. Working out what to do with myself and my artwork is another matter.

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

The Boneyard XXI Carnival, coming June 7th!

The Flying Trilobite will be playing host to The Boneyard Carnival on Saturday, June 7th!

I'm asking people to submit articles about fossils, palaeontology, and I'm also really hoping we could get a slew of palaeontology-related artwork submitted and featured! I won't limit it to that, so please submit articles about the science that inspires the art as well.

For myself, I'm planning to finish the Precambrian rabbit/trilobite puzzle I started on the Artwork Mondays, and I'll unveil it at the Carnival.

Although I'm thinking of some usual suspects when I say that, I'd love to see some art from some unusual suspects too! Never drawn or painted before? No problem! Let's have some fun! Submit that favourite childhood drawing of something related to the distant past: everyone's got a dinosaur drawing their parental unit hung onto, don't they? Don't be shy! I'm not here to judge, just have a good time.

In case you are unfamiliar with blog carnivals, they usually feature a theme (in this case all things paleo), and move around like a travelling carnival with each edition appearing on a different blog (in this case hosted by a guy who didn't draw trilobites correctly). Your job is to email me about a favourite article, or paleo-related artwork that you have featured on your own blog (to demonstrate your awesomeness), or that you have seen elsewhere online. The day the carnival goes up, you get to go to the host's blog and revel in the collection of brilliance.

The Boneyard XXI! Professional, amateur, or proud parent, let's see some paleo art in the blogosphere!

Email me, Glendon Mellow, at: theflyingtrilobite{at}gmail{dot}com

Thanks to Brian at Laelaps for allowing me to play carnival barker!
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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.

Myers, Dawkins and Popcorn...& LOLTrilobites!

It's rare that I post simply to direct my readers to another blog. I like to make sure I have something original and hopefully insightful to say.

If you need a good laugh though, you have to check these out.

The brief background: Noted biologists and atheists PZ Myers and Richard Dawkins were both interviewed for a movie featuring Ben Stein, under false pretenses. The movie is called Expelled, and both professors were told it would be about the false claims of creationists. In fact it seems to be shaping up to be a propaganda film trying to persuade the public that pseudo-scientists who support the theological idea of intelligent design (ick) are being 'expelled' from scientific academia by mean old biologists who understand Darwin's theory of natural selection. Got all that? Good. Ready for an I-can't-breathe laugh? Good.

Read PZ Myers' post from inside the mall where he went to finally see the movie.

You're back? Excellent. Want more?

Brian Switek over at Laelaps (one of my new favourite places) has commentary on the Expelled story and....LOLTrilobites! I'll be chuckling myself to sleep tonight.

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.