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.

Artwork Mondays: Sketchy Sketches

A couple of pages from my sketchbook for this Artwork Monday.

I'll leave my commentary to a minimum this week, but please go nuts critiquing the rough work if you want. Just no one tell Carl Buell about the megatherium skull below. I'm worried he'll point and chuckle in a manly way.
The megatherium is a cast that was included in the Darwin: The Evolution Revolution show at the Royal Ontario Museum, finishing up August 4th. The contours of this skull were pretty unusual. I think the sketch has a decent sense of 3-dimensionality, but the anatomy may be a little off. Also pictured are chimp and quetzalcoatlus skulls. The R.O.M. has mounted a quetzalcoatlus skeleton that is awesome and terrifying. Makes me want to curl up with The World Beneath by James Gurney.

This is a sketch for a painting I may begin soon. I've got some nifty water-soluble pencil crayons that might suit this piece.

This seems like the perfect idea to doodle with while I'm away at the cottage in August.

I should have some news the first week of August as well. I'm busting with it. I'll also begin posting a little more regularly again this week beyond the Artwork Mondays.
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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...)

Retrospectacle: "making of" retrospective

Shelley Batts of Retrospectacle and Steve Higgins of Omnibrain will be closing up their blogs, and merging into one metabrainy blog. Both are neuroscience students, and are part of the ScienceBlog network.

Readers of The Flying Trilobite may recall that I was elated (frantically excited, honoured, scraping & bowing) that Shelley had asked me to design a new blog banner for her last year. It is still featured in rotation with a banner by Carl Buell, scientific illustrator par excellence.

Sometime this weekend, Steve and Shelley will be announcing the new blog title, which they threw open to their many readers in the form of a contest. I contacted Shelley when I read the news, and I may be once again contributing a banner. Here's hoping! Carl Buell has offered again as well, and Steve has some quirky banners of his own on Omnibrain.

So, since this may be the last weekend of Retrospectacle, I thought I would post here the process I went through to come up with the banner. This was already featured as a post on Shelley's blog, but I thought I would import it here, for my old & new readers. Hey, it's almost like an insight into my heavily-caffeinated brain. From September 24, 2007.


Step 1. Thought about wing, an ear, and started with the Valkyrie type image. Thought about how cool it would be if Shelley was leading a gang with multiple-species, parrot-wing helmeted scientist-warriors.

Step 2. Drew a wing out in water-soluble pencil crayons, fudged the wing colours to bring in the red of an African Grey's tail. Worried about purist owners of African greys slamming the heresy.

Step 3. Copied a photo of Shelley from her blog, heightened the contrast, and clipped the sketch from step 2 onto it. Shelley mentioned making it dark, (my favourite) and I threw a black background on it. Also hand-drew a 2 minute version with blue around it too embarrassing to see the light of day.

Step 4. This is where I stay up late, drinking coffee, listening to fast gothy electronic music like Jakalope. Used my favorite tools, 0.3mm lead pencil on vellum-finish bristol. Used Shelley's face for the Valkyrie, since Retrospectacle is personal. I am really happy with how this drawing turned out. I like the Valkyrie-type idea. They were strong mythical female warriors in an age dominated by men. The wings also suggest Nike or Athena to me, for Victory & Wisdom. Scanned image in, printed it out onto canvas-paper so I can paint it without harming the original drawing.

Step 5. After painting on top of a couple of versions, I had trouble with the pale face and shadowing away from the ear. I decide to see what it would look like if I invert the whole thing. Showed it to good friends who will criticise me if I am on the wrong track. More coffee & fast electronic beats.

Step 6. Painted the ear & wing in oils, scanned it, tried a few concepts. This symmetrical one seemed too busy and impersonal. Played with various levels of cropping to see if the whole face was more important than the feather details.

Step 7. The final product. I picked this one since the face is up close which seems more intimate. Added effects using Photoshop to give it depth and draw the eye from the image on the left to the title on the right. Used font named 'Kartika' and put a spiral for the 'O' to reference the cochlea. Finished all the coffee in the house.


I wish Shelley and Steve all the best on their new adventure in brainy blogging. 'Can't wait for the new title! I've got some ideas already.

Banner for Retrospectacle

The artwork is done, the neuroscientist is happy, and the banner is up! This was a great opportunity for me, and the first piece to come to fruition and publication since I took my artwork online last March. Thanks to Shelley Batts of Retrospectacle: A Neuroscience Blog for contacting me and making the process so enjoyable.

If you are not familiar, Retrospectacle is part of the ScienceBlogs network run by Seed Magazine, an editor of which did a profile of my art on their Page 3.14 back in May this year.

Here is the finished piece for Retrospectacle:
This looks cooler on the site...follow the link!

As I mentioned in my last post, Ms. Batts wanted to have a rotating series of blog banners running through her site. She already had her cheeky "50's advert"-style banner, and now she had enlisted the likes of your trilobite-truly, and also the esteemed Carl Buell! Mr. Buell is a prolific scientific illustrator, and you can see some of his stellar artwork at Olduvai George. I had actually linked to one of his pictures in an earlier post, my review of Paul Quarrington's boy on the back of the turtle. The link was to one of his drawings of Carl Buell's drawings of a probable ancestor to whales, pakicetus. Mr. Buell's banner is the one featuring the shell and African Grey; a tough act to follow, but I'm happy to be in such great company.

Shelley Batts also suggested posting an "Evolution of a Blog Banner", and has posted it on Retrospectacle. I won't repeat the whole thing here, but I will post the drawing I did partway through my art process. Please follow the link and take a look. As usual, comments on my work are encouraged.

Trilobite's out of the bag

I've made a couple of vague statements about being hard at work on something in my last couple of posts. Well, for fans of ScienceBlogger Shelley Batts over at Retrospectacle: a neuroscience blog, they know what it is. She made the announcement here.

Shelley approached me about making a new banner for her blog, so she could have a few to rotate through. The other new one is already up, a beautiful and sleek piece by professional scientific illustrator Carl Buell. It's the banner with the shell and African Grey parrot. Be sure to check out his detailed and fascinating work at Olduvai George!

My banner is almost done and ready, and I'll be sure to post a link when it's up.

I started this blog to promote my artwork; I have been exceedingly pleased with the people I have met online, and what a rich community there is out there for artists and scientists. And I thank Shelley Batts for the opportunity.