Red Knot in Flight

While I'm working on a series of scientific illustrations I can't reveal yet, I thought I'd re-post this pencil (and the oils below) of a red knot in flight.  

Originally created for biologist and conservationist Dan Rhoads' excellent and vital Migrations blog, you can read more about it at his site, and my two-part making-of, here and here

Dan fights the good fight to save birds from the heinous hunting practices of migratory birds in his adopted home of Cyprus. You can sign the petition to stop the practice here.  

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

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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: red knot

Pencil on bristol, Oil on canvas, 2009.
Part of the artwork created for Dan Rhoads' Migrations blog banner last year.

announcement here.
My posts about the process
are here.

At Migrations, Dan has been posting with great clarity and with passion (no small feat) about the illegal trapping of birds in Cyprus. Migratory birds of hundreds of species pass through this centrally positioned country and trapped. Make sure to read up on Dan's FAQ about Illegal Ambeloupoulia. Conservationists are often treated with disdain.

Taking a trip? I'd bet on the Cyprus Birding Tours to be fascinating (look at the huge list on their inaugural trip report!), and it would help support the positive side of the Cypriot economy.

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

Flying Trilobite Gallery *** Flying Trilobite Reproduction Shop ***

Art Monday: Migrations - final workflow

This is Part 2, Final Workflow.
Go to Part 1, Concepts.
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Recently, I noted to a colleague that it is virtually impossible to become an illustrator today and not have some phase of digital interpretation in your workflow. At the least, it passes through a jpeg phase on the way to publication.

It can go far beyond that. Although I may not be up to a fully-digital painting yet, I'm practicing and finding new ways to make use of my Wacom Intuos 3.

The Migrations blog banner for biologist-conservationist blo
gger Dan Rhoads came together thanks to oil and digital techniques. Here's how I arrived at the final based on this sketch, below.Dan had a couple of requests for this one, including making the branches olive branches, native to Cyprus where he resides. He had also sent me some gorgeous photos from the coast of Cyrus, so I tried to capture that brilliant blue light. Totally cool - these are the types of detail sharing sketches with someone bring out.

Began with the sketch of the Red Knot plover. Luckily,my grandmother-in-law recently gave me some birdwatching books, so I found additional resources at hand beyond Google image search and Wikipedia. If not for that, it would have been a trip to the library. Restricted myself to 8.5x11, the size of my scanner so I can easily bring things togetherBegan with the hand and arm sketch, using my own outstretched as a model. The fingers are exaggerated slightly to give a more dynamic feel.Printed the bird and hand out on canvas paper. In particular, I worried about getting the ruddy colour of the plover's neck and breast right. I don't know why I fret so much, most people's computer screens are calibrated slightly differently anyway. In the end, four different colour were used, for that orange-y red, including Naples Yellow Red & Cadmium Orange Hue.

Then the traveller's hand and arm. Added some scratches and pinky patches as though healed from a scrape. That's really what Flesh coloured paint is good for. It's far too pink for any human being.Painted the background in oil, which then eventually stuck to scanner and created a weird shadow effect in the middle. So I re-painted some areas of the water digitally in Photoshop. I also used Photoshop to punch up the greenish patch of water, the scan was too dark. Used a size of about 4"x12" to mimic the proportions of the final banner.Another trick for aspiring artists moving from to digital from traditional, is before scanning, take your darkest black paint (I use Lamp Black or Iron Oxide Black) and put an opaque stroke of it in one corner below the scan. Do the same with Titanium White. Then, in your imaging program, use the droppers found in Levels and click on those black and white blobs. This is the fastest way to colour-correct a piece. It will snap all the other colours to the right contract between those black and white blobs, making everything look much closer to your eye.

Even with Micron series brushes (love the one bent like a dental tool!) I had trouble rendering 4" high bushes of olive branches. I tried for a while, and then decided to paint a single branch to lay over top to give it recognizable leaves and olives. That branch took about 90 minutes from pencil to oil to give you an idea of my speed much of the time.
I still find it fascinating to note there is no final physical painting: it exists in my studio as four separate elements. This is a type of painting that a few years ago would not have occurred to me to do. However, it minimizes mistakes, and allows for some flexibility. If the client wishes for a particular element to be nudged to the left, or slightly larger, I have that ability on the major elements.Assembled in Photoshop, and overlayed the olive branch numerous times. I performed different effects to each one: flipping it horizontally, changing the scale, erasing parts of it, and adding slight drop shadows to a couple of them to give variation. I think in the end there are about five or six of them overlaying the green oil base.

Added the v-formation of birds at the approximate middle, nudged to the right a little because of how the eye sees the center with the olive branches dominating the left.

This banner was great fun, and thanks to Dan, I felt the visualization of the Mediterranean came through clearly. While painting this, I was mainly listening to the new Prodigy album, The Cranes, and two of the Pirates of the Caribbean soundtracks.

Visit Dan's blog banner ensconced in its proper home!

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Original artwork on The Flying Trilobite: Art in Awe of Science
Copyright to Glendon Mellow under Creative Commons Licence.

Flying Trilobite Gallery
### Flying Trilobite Reproduction Shop ###

Art Monday: Migrations banner concepts

This is Part 1, Concepts.
Go to Part 2, Final Workflow.
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Collaboration can lead to wonderful places.
I've done a few blog banners for other bloggers before, (Retrospectacle, Of Two Minds, The Meming of Life) and I think it can be incredibly beautiful for a serious blogger to hire an artist to do some custom work. Look at Carel Brest Van Kempen's exemplary A Blog Around the Clock banner, or Jessica Palmer's own Bioephemera banner. This is serious art conveying information on the diverse moods and interests of the blogger. Perhaps a review of blog banners is in order some day.

Dan Rhoads is a molecular biologist and avid naturalist who moved from America to the island of Cyprus. His blog Migrations ranges in topics such as bird-watching, conservation, science in society and whatever else catches his keen eye. After a rocky patch of non-connecting emails ("What do you mean I am having trouble sending instantaneous messages halfway around the world?! Preposterous!" I spluttered), and with some help from Mike Haubrich, Dan and I got started.

Initial ideas that were tossed into the salad bowl of my brain:

-Fibonacci sequence. Archaeopteryx. Cyprus. Human migration out of Africa. Bird Migration, v-formations. Darwin's finches.
-Dan's personal migration to Cyprus.
-Looked up cellular migration, realized it's poorly understood.
-Read about
Dictyostelium discodeum, an amoeba useful in studying cellular migration, has a slug-form it adopts when moving. I like saying "dicty-disco" out loud.

Starting with these ideas, here are some of the images developed in the rough conceptual stage.

Archaeopteryx on a slab in the shape of Cyprus with a shadow of a modern bird, pencil:A spiral emanating from archaeopteryx's eye, birds following the path, human footprints, dictystelium amoebae tracing a path. Cool tones, digital painting:Same spiral, archaeopteryx. Warm tones in oil paint:Wedge-shaped concept, flight of birds in center, Cyprus on right, amoebae moving from left. Pencil:
Wedge concept simplified. Dan suggested amoebae in positions of Mediterranean islands, but I kept a wedge shape. Oil paint:

There were a few other pencils in similar vein. I worried the concepts were missing a human connection for the blog-reader.

On my walk to work one day, I stoppe
d in the park and scribbled out an idea. Take it right back to the human traveller. I touched up the pencils with india ink, scanned it and did a slapdash colouring job with digital painting in Photoshop. Included the image at the last minute in an email to Dan:


I'll conclude this "Making of the Migrations banner" in part 2 later this week! In the meantime, make sure to view the final in its proper home.

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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 ###

New blog banner at Migrations!

The past several weeks I've been working on a new blog banner commission for blogger-scientist-bird-enthusiast Dan Rhoads of Migrations.

It's complete! Check it out over at Dan's blog, and I encourage you to leave comments there.

I'll see if I can whip up a 'making of" post for Art Monday. Most fun: the olive branches and the red knot's wingtips. Thanks Dan! Great to work with you!

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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 ###