Painting-Erasing a Prophet

I know - I'm a day late.

It's taken some wrestling for me.  I utterly support the freedom of people to draw and say what they like about other people's ideas - and we need to be strong on this - really strong!- in the face of threatened violence.

I can't add a lot in terms of my words here. I completely agree with
Dale McGowan on this.  But I also share a lot of the trepidation that Melliferax has.  After all, I live in one of the most multi-cultural cities in the world.  It's also one of the most peaceful and has low crime between cultures. I don't tend to paint things specifically to offend.  Though sometimes they do anyway.

So this one is not to specifically offend.

Is it a painting?  I've done this piece using digital media only. It is a depiction.   Under those layers, and then erased are an image -now largely removed- of the Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him if you are so inclined.

And peace be upon the artists depicting him.  Let no violence come from those who object to imagery.  All that does is make it more powerful anyway.

Edit: ****  In light of death threats against the originator, I took the non-image I had made down.  If we don't have freedom of speech and freedom of expression, we have nothing.

So here is a post of nothing.

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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 ***

Foundation Beyond Belief

In 2009, an important new charity has been born. Foundation Beyond Belief was created to inspire atheists and secular humanists to have a new place to help. To help education, the environment and reason.

Foundation Beyond Belief's mission:
To demonstrate humanism at its best by supporting efforts to improve this world and this life; to challenge humanists to embody the highest principles of humanism, including mutual care and responsibility; and to help and encourage humanist parents to raise confident children with open minds and compassionate hearts.

Open minds and compassionate hearts = awesome.

I came to identify as an atheist reluctantly; the appeal of an afterlife is really strong to me. Perhaps that's something I share with many artists of the past, a hope for a type of near-immortality after death. However much I wish something to be true, it doesn't change what is true. It's rare that I discuss my beliefs plainly and directly on this blog, choosing to show my understanding of the world through science and some paintings dealing with atheism.

One of the founders of Foundation Beyond Belief is Dale McGowan. I worked on a blog banner for Dale in 2008, but I was a fan of his witty, insightful writing about child-raising and communication before that (which helped make the work such a treat!). His book, Parenting Beyond Belief taught me a lot about different ways to raise a freethinking happy child. I trust Dale, and can't wait to see what the Foundation is going to be able to do with support.

Here is some more about Foundation Beyond Belief, and please check out their website.





  • Foundation Beyond Belief is a non-profit charitable and educational foundation created (1) to focus, encourage and demonstrate the generosity and compassion of atheists and humanists, and (2) to provide a comprehensive education and support program for nontheistic parents.
  • The Foundation will feature ten charitable organizations per quarter.
  • Members join by signing up for a monthly automatic donation in the amount of their choice, and distribute it however they wish among the categories. Contributions are fully tax-deductible.
  • Members can join a social network and forums centered on the ten categories of giving, advocate for causes, and help us choose new beneficiaries each quarter.
  • Featured beneficiaries may be founded on any worldview so long as they do not proselytize. At the end of each quarter, 100 percent of the donations are forwarded and a new slate of beneficiaries selected.
  • On the educational side, the Foundation will help create and fund local groups for the education and social support of humanist/atheist parents.

Happy New Year everyone!
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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: secular swag

In 2008, I was commissioned by author Dale McGowan to create a blog banner for his blog, The Meming of Life.


Dale is a superb writer about raising children to be well-rounded, happy, moral people without religion - or perhaps I should say with a plethora of religious teachings and stories, and the faculties to think through them on their own. Dale has penned and edited two books on the subject: Parenting Beyond Belief and Raising Freethinkers.

The image was well-received, and I'm still very pleased with it. I enjoyed Dale's enthusiasm for the child's auroch, the little funky blue guy in the corner. And available now...


...secular swag!

Check out the line of hoodies, mugs and magnets that help support this wonderful atheist-parenting and rational freethinking blog. Flying Trilobite approved!



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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 ***

Foundation Beyond Belief

Foundation Beyond Belief is a new secular humanist charitable organization in progress, largely founded by Parenting Beyond Belief and Raising Freethinkers author Dale McGowan. Dale also blogs at The Meming of Life which has an astoundingly good banner...oops, off-topic.)



Parenting Beyond Belief
is an astoundingly useful freethought book, not just for breeders or breeders-to-be, but for any atheist or humanist who looks for a few sign posts on how to live in an (almost) overwhelmingly religious world.

(From their Facebook Causes page) The Foundation Beyond Belief is meant:
1. To focus, encourage, and demonstrate humanist generosity
2. To support the next phase in humanist parent education

To quote Dale, "We’re making no little plans here, and there’s the potential to do something pretty earthshaking. But this is a community thing, or it’s nothing. We’ll need your help."

The fledgling Foundation is in its last few hours of an initial and modest pledge drive: do what I did. Donate what you can. Join the Facebook Causes group, or sign up for email updates.

Atheists, humanists and freethinkers have charity in us too. You know you wanna!

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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 ***

Congratulations, Humanist of the Year!

Congratulations to Dale McGowan, Harvard's Humanist of the Year!


If you're a parent, teacher or someone concerned with rational thinking in children, you should totally check out the book Parenting Beyond Belief, and Dale's ever-so-pretty blog, The Meming of Life. I found the chapters dealing with science and with death to be illuminating for myself as well.

And watch for Dale's new book, Raising Freethinkers.

Richly deserved. I will raise a mug of Kicking Horse coffee in honour.

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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 new! reproduction store.

Making of The Meming of Life blog banner

The big news! A new blog banner! Click to enlarge!
Dale McGowan, editor and author of the book
Parenting Beyond Belief, and author of the blog The Meming of Life contacted me earlier this summer about creating a new blog banner. After the coffee table forcibly stopped me from running in little circles around the living room, I pulled out my sketchbook and .3mm pencil and got started.

With Dale's exuberant permission, here's a look at my process, and how the banner above for
The Meming of Life developed.

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Step 1: Getting started
When I'm working on a blog banner, it's important to catch the essence of the author and the topics they post. We all see it, blogs are intensely personal, even if only a facet or two of the author's whole personality is represented. In this case, Dale is a multi-faceted and energetic blogger and as a fan, his posts leave me exploring the issues he raises. This needed to be more than a title and a couple of icons. It needed to leave people exploring.

I am also an artist who believes in research. Making things up out of thin air is always less surprising than reality. The best art is imagination coupled with reality and blurring the line between the two.

Step 2: Wait- colour already?
The first idea I had involved a beach ball. I find The Meming of Life to be a lot of fun, and I wanted to get that mood. I did a quick study, which I later developed a bit more into this oil sketch.
It's rare for me to break out full colour at this point in the process, but I had this yellow-saturated image very clear in my mind. I'm a strong believer in starting with an excellent drawing in advance. I described this as "parenting is a serious thing that can be studied and learned and whoops there's a beach ball".

Step 3: Footprint Family
From the start, Dale had ideas. He emailed me this photo of one of his daughters at the beach (
next to the header "Love"). The mood and colours got me thinking. I liked the beach as well.

Good parenting must go back a lot further than any of the organised religions we see today. I began thinking about our ancestors in prehistory, and different ways parenting may have expressed itself. I remembered reading The Ergast's Tale in Richard Dawkins'
The Ancestor's Tale, and again I looked up the story of the Laetoli footprints. These are 3.7 million year old footprints in Tanzania, that appear to be of a parent and child (and possibly from the gait, the adult was carrying a baby as well) that were fleeing the ash from a volcano.

With the photo of Dale's daughter at the beach and the Laetoli footprints in mind, I played with another quick colour study:
The concept here was to have the modern girl pointing at the footprints on the beach which trail into a darkness of deep time, leading to the prehistoric family. The darkness would contain the blog title.

Step 4: Lascaux caves
Playing with the good-parenting-is-older-than-religion concept, I also thought about the 16,000 year old cave paintings at
Lascaux. What if some kid just imitated the serious representation of the auroch-bull drawn on the wall?
I tried to go for that stage in most childrens' drawing when there is no differentiation between the head and body.

After a few days, Dale had a fantastic idea: combine the cave with the footprints.

Step 5: Plato's Cave and spiral illusions
Dale thought this would bring in another allusion, that of the parent and child leaving
Plato's cave and the world of illusion behind, a perfect image for a secular humanist site.

At this point, I almost over-complicated things. I started getting hung up on trying to use the
Fibonacci sequence spiral as a compositional guide. After a few days of shoehorning elements of the image together, I had to jettison the idea. Instead, I made this quick sketch:

The idea was to have a wall of rock in the center separating the cave painting on the left from the beach scene on the right. A narrow, diagonal shaft of light would draw the eye from the left to the right, passing through the title.

Refined the drawing, scanned it, tweaked the values to the warm side, and printed on canvas paper. Turned on some electro-beats and Hans Zimmer's Pirates of the Caribbean soundtrack and began oil painting. I love those Micron series brushes! The filbert in particular was helpful. Step 6: Fueled by coffee
It is always a good idea to view your work from a distance as an artist. Use Photoshop or a mirror to flip the left-right of the image, or reverse the values. Another trick is to simply leave the painting, and come back to it after being heavily distracted. You will spot the problems quickly when you come back to it.

Fueled by coffee, I wanted to simplify. Get rid of the 'floor' of the cave, enlarge the auroch (the bull) add some texture to the flat rock, and maybe some algae as well. I sat down and blitzed this oil painting.
Using a hint of mauve in the payne's grey for the shoreline, I was happy with subtle colour of the sand. I emailed progress on both images to Dale: the new one was on the right track.

Step 7: The final 20%
Recently, I read in
ImagineFX artist Francis Tsai say that the final 5% of a piece takes 50% of the time. That may be true. In this case the final 20% of the piece involved playing with different elements like puzzle pieces to get the image just right to both myself and Dale.

I scanned some fossil-rich rocks I found on a shoreline and added them as a texture on the painting using the clone tool. I also tried a technique for making water-drop letters, seen here on top of this splendid bivalve.
It's an interesting technique, as it allows real distortion of the image below. If I move the words around with the move tool over top of say, bright green, the green will shine through.

This ultimately ended up being a discarded concept. The word "Meming" is unusual enough that it really needs to be as legible as possible.

Here's an almost complete image containing a number of differences with the final above: can you spot them all?

So, the child's drawing: the purple one is re-drawn from one my nephew did while looking at a photo reference of Lascaux: I repainted it in purple and distorted the shape to match the wall contours. But Dale loves this little guy. He needed to come back!

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There you have it. I'm pretty pleased with the final result: I had no idea where Dale and I would end up when he first contacted me. Please enjoy
The Meming of Life, and don't forget to pick up Parenting Beyond Belief, and Mr. McGowan's new book, Raising Freethinkers, coming soon!

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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. I am available for freelance illustration. Please visit my blog or gallery or shop to have a look.

What do you read outside?

Spring in the city! The last few days, I've stopped in Trinity-Bellwoods Park on my way home from work, and read a chapter or three of Parenting Beyond Belief, edited by Dale McGowan.

There is something satisfying about reading outdoors in the sun. I pass through Trinity-Bellwoods usually twice a day on my 30 minute walk. I've mentioned the park before, and here are a couple of even better pics of the stunning little albino squirrel, having a snack with a friend.

Parenting Beyond Belief is an excellent book I found out about backwards, through reading the editor-author's blog, Meming of Life. Dale McGowan is entertaining and informative, and also heartfelt. He knows how to mix appealing anecdotes with research, so the literary calories are not hollow.

Here in Toronto, Chapters/Indigo/Coles/World's Biggest has it listed in their system, but I can't seem to find it. A new Book City moved in, and were happy to have it delivered to the location on my walk home. Nice! The sales consultant thought it looked pretty interesting too.

It's easy for me to pick a favourite in this book. Teaching Kids to Yawn at Counterfeit Wonder, by Dale McGowan. I like anything by McGowan in particular. Even the endnotes can be entertaining.

There are science experiments you can do with kids. A beautiful letter to his daughter by Richard Dawkins, whose writing has inspired much of my painting in the past. Essays on how to deal with concepts of death with your children (and for me - this was good stuff).

This is not a ponderous, heavy book, and is not meant to be. It is a nimble conversation-starting book, a catalysing book, a deeply interesting book. It does not matter if you are atheist, Bright, religious-but-liberal-and-a-little-lapsed; a parent of adopted or natural children, an educator, or involved in some young person's life.

Never quite understood the fuss about evolution? Chapter 8: Jaw-Dropping, Mind-Buzzing Science has the easy explanation of what Darwin discovered. Order this book, and while you're waiting for it to arrive, read The Meming of Life.

There is something a little sublime when sitting below a massive, twisty old tree, reading an excellent book while the sun is shining, buds are slow-mo bursting, kids are on bikes, dogs are lolling on their backs in the grass, and you have a bottle of blueberry-green tea.

Spring is back. What have you read outside? What do you plan to read?

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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. Squirrel photos by Glendon Mellow. I tried not to hound the little guy; this was taken from a distance. It's a squirrel, ya gotta be respectful.

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. )

Return of the Pharyngula Mutating Genre Meme!

...this time it's personal.

I have already been tagged by this meme once, and now again! It took me a while to respond to the second one, by Dale at The Meming of Life. What can I say, I was gestating.

The meme has an elaborate set of rules, you can read at my first post about it. The whole thing was started by PZ Myers at Pharyngula. Now Dale, being sly and sneaky, has turned the tables and asked to spread the meme back to those previous to himself in the lineage! Rather than use phrases like "blog-the-casbah with Grampa" I prefer to think of these posts as organisms, and the blogs they sit in as environments. The organism's descendants change when they wander through each blog. (My blog environment is murky and oily in case you were wondering. Sometimes there is strange smoke.)

So then here is my lineage:
My common ancestor is Pharyngula.
My great great grandparent is Metamagician & the Hellfire Club.
My great grandparent is The Flying Trilobite.
My grandparent is Leslie's blog.
My parent is The Meming of Life.

My new contribution to the meme, following The Meming of Life, is as follows:
The best romantic movie in scientific dystopia is: Gattaca (1997). Same as my 1st post.
The best sexy song in electronica is: "Angel" by Massive Attack on the album Mezzanine (1998).
The best satirical movie in comedy is: Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead (1990).
I will add one new statement:
The best hot coffee in beverages is: caffe macchiato.

To continue the meme this time, I choose:
Frozen Toothpaste

Forms Most Beautiful

Primordial Blog

Please make a comment on this thread if you are participating. Hope you do, it's crazy-weird-fun. On another note, while checking Technorati for my links, I can see this has gone quite far. I am a 5x great-grandparent already. One of the interesting links I found down the line was from Really Small Fish. It contains Darwinian poetry, at Code As Art. That's been my favourite thing about this meme so far; finding blogs and ideas I may not have found through search engines since to find it that way, you have to know what you are looking for.

Surprise is living.