Science Art Show starts today!

This show couldn't have come about without the hard work of Karyn Traphagen and the support of Rob R Dunn's Your Wild Life Lab and all the amazing submissions we received.

More about the show and #scio12 in coming days!  Keep watching my Twitter feed.

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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!

Teetering and Tottering Toward Epic Awesomeness

Busy, busy, crash.

2012 started off with a computer suffering from so many problems I'm exhausted enough to skip completely over what exactly happened, except to say a hearty thank you to my good friend Rudi for getting things humming again.

Means I'm in catch-up mode, teetering and tottering between equally important projects with looming deadlines and images I can't show you until I'm done, thus the repeat of our man Trilobite Boy up there.

So what am I working on?

-Mainly, being a stay-at home dad, for realz. Our son just turned 1 shortly after Krismas.  He's practicing walking, talking is ever more specific and complicated, and he's really really adept at saying, "No, Dada" in a world-weary way that lets others know how much he puts up with.  He's amazing every single day, and my wife is the main reason.

-I do so freelance social media promotion for a big Canadian retailer when he naps.  Was doing some from my iPhone during the crashed computer days.

-For Symbiartic, the art+science blog on Scientific American, there are a ton of half-complete interviews and posts and feelers sent out. Lots to come there, some artists and discussions I've wanted to have since before launch. There's no shortage of material to cover, and I'm hoping to get some more, shorter, "gee whiz looks at this image" posts up to go along with the usual discussions that get started. I'm lucky to be writing alongside my co-blogger Kalliopi Monoyios, mainly because her posts continue to surprise me. The whole network at Scientific American is pretty amazing, and I have a ton of new-favourite bloggers now, not least of which is Alex Wild's Compound Eye.

-ScienceOnline2012 is coming up fast, and I'll be involved in 2 discussions and I'm co-curating the science-art show. More on that over the next few days in some new posts. (Yes we've decided what we be in the show! Everyone should receive emails by Monday morning.)

-In addition, I'm plugging away having a merry time working on my first actual scientific illustration (not surreal, no arthropod-human hybrids or winged sealife).  Can't wait to share.

So what's on the launchpad for The Flying Trilobite?

-March 2012 will be The Flying Trilobite's 5th blogiversary online, and I plan to mark it with a Bold! New! Direction! for Trilobite Boy and some regularity to the artwork that fizzled out with my short-lived webcomic last year.  I made some progress over the non-computer days on that front, and I'm excited about where's it's going to go. Should I reveal it?

Spoiler-->  The plan is one comic book cover a month, painted, showing Trilobite Boy's  adventures.  Or at least teasing at them. And there will be some *ahem* hidden things. Can't say any more than that.

-Hopefully I'll be able to do another contest for the 5th Blogiversary celebrations as well.

-I'm also planning on more tutorials using oil paint and ArtRage in the coming months, to share how I do what I do.

-Sales in my online store were up a bit in 2011 from 2010, and I'm hoping to get them up higher with some of the projects I have planned this year. Calendars collections still available, and you can choose the start month!

Thanks to everyone who visited and commented on The Flying Trilobite last year - I'm hoping 2012 will be full of epic awesomeness and world trilobite domination.

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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!

Science-Art Gallery Show in January - submit!

I'm proud to announce that for the first time, ScienceOnline will be having a science-art show!  We'll be showing a digital slideshow of accepted images, curated by myself with help from Karyn Traphagen. Free for anyone to enter, we'll be picking the most fascinating images in scientific illustration, fine art, photography, cartoons, data-visualization, street art and more.
After the unconference, we'll be posting the final digital gallery online in some form. This is the first time we're attempting something like this, so we may ask for help or encounter some snags along the way. With so many talented science-artists attending #scio12 this year, we've got to forge ahead and gives this a try.  When applying to the show, you can give us links to three images.  Not all may be chosen, but what better way to get you images in front of eyeballs than up to 450 talented science communicators in one place?
Feel free to email with any questions at or via Twitter @flyingtrilobite.

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Thanks to Karyn Traphagen for her help, and to Perrin IrelandKalliopi Monoyios and Nathaniel Gold for agreeing to appear on the poster.

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

Print Shop 

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

What would make good iPhone case art?

RedBubble, the extraordinary company that makes my art prints, cards, calendars, clothing and stickers for my online store has now started making iPhone 4 cases.

So I thought I would ask: what images from or my dA Gallery would make good iPhone cases in your opinion?  What do you think people would like to be seen carrying?  This info will help me ramp up for the holiday push to sell some wares in my online store.

Darwin Took Steps? A pink parasaurolophus? Trilobite Boy? Please comment below if you have an opinion on this!

Also: if anyone is interested in financing a giveaway of a number of cases or other Flying Trilobite swag at ScienceOnline12 in January, let's talk!

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

ScienceOnline11 - Science-Art session now online!

The ScienceOnline11 session Science-Art: The Burgeoning Fields of Niche Artwork Aimed at Scientific Disciplines is now online here!  Or you can watch it below.

ScienceOnline encourages an unconference format - no lecture-lecture-lecture-questions here.  Instead, we present some images, some background pose a few questions, and then engage the participants. Comments are appearing on the ScienceOnline site already.  The audio is a bit off the first few seconds and then quickly sounds really clear.

Topics covered include a wide range:
  • How do artists online decide when to charge and when to allow use for free?
  • The changing face of neandertals with society's sense of liberalism.
  • Can art influence research?
  • How important is accuracy?
  • Why do scientists create art?
  • Why do artists engage science?  And more. 


Science-Art H264 Widescreen 960x540 from Smartley-Dunn on Vimeo.

I'd like to thank my co-moderators John Hawks and David Orr again for making the session so engaging and insightful, as well as our in-room and online participants.  And especially I'd like to thank the video editors and technicians on hand that day. Bravo Smartley-Dunn.

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Original artwork on The Flying Trilobite Copyright to Glendon Mellow

Charlotte Observer Blog Spotlight

Today on the Charlotte Observer Science & Technology Blog Spotlight, you can find an interview by Tyler Dukes with me, done while I was attending Science Online 2011.  It's called, Blending art and science with a little fantasy.

For more media interviews and podcasts about my own artwork and the science-art scene at large, you can see my Media page. I've done a number of interviews lately, and it's really opened my eyes to new facets of the science-art impact.  The questions are varied and intelligent.  Tyler, like Desiree, Mike and Adrian and the others, had done his homework and looked at the usefulness of science-art in an interesting way. 

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Original artwork on The Flying Trilobite Copyright to Glendon Mellow

Visual art leading research - it's not happening.

Can the production of and inspiration by visual art lead to new areas of scientific research?
It's not happening. At least not often, and not in any organized sense.

Anthropometry, 2009 © Glendon Mellow. Ink on latex gloves.

A couple of years ago while attending ScienceOnline09, I spoke to the group about my not-yet-fully-formed ideas on this matter. I said that visual art ("art", for the sake of brevity in this post) was largely parasitic on science.  It takes a lot of cues and inspiration from science, but seldom do sculpture, painting, drawing, collage or even photography give anything back.  

Some in the room were not having any of this: they cited the inspiration of film and movies, and of children's book illustrations as being catalytic to becoming interested in science in the first place.  Scientific illustration aside - and leaving aside the grand inspiration from film, which is not the type of visual art I am referring to- the field of science-art may contribute heavily to the cloud of inspiring the next generation of scientists, but it doesn't shine down, illuminating new areas of research. 

At the time, I put out a sort of open call to anyone who could think of specific examples of art leading to a new field of research.  

I've really only received one example, from paleontologist Andy Farke: 
In fact, it was art that led me down a very productive avenue of my own research. I had seen depiction after depiction of horned dinosaurs fighting each other. . .(a rendering by Bill Parsons sticks out in my mind, in particular). . .and this got me thinking. What evidence actually was there for such behavior? Could Triceratops even physically lock horns? I used scaled sculptures of Triceratops skulls (artwork in their own right) to test this idea. . .the results were published in Palaeontologia Electronica. This in turn has led to other projects (all ultimately inspired by those artistic restorations).  (Comment made here)

Since then, there have been other examples from literature, from film again, from science-fiction novels, but not visual art. And thanks to everyone who has provided these examples; it has people's minds ticking, and I appreciate that.  I so-o-o appreciate that.

I've briefly raised the issue at each ScienceOnline I've moderated a session at ('09, '10 and recently #scio11) and each time at least a few people tell me they can't let go of the idea. It's intriguing isn't it?  

But perhaps some of the fault is mine. You see, in my recent post for Scientific American's Guest Blog I criticized the idea underlying a symposium discussing "Art as a Way of Knowing".  I said that art is more a Way of Exploring. It doesn't provide new knowledge, only creates new, imaginative, metaphorical links between areas of knowledge.  And that really isn't the same as creating new knowledge, it's more a kind of visual noise, albeit a provocative, fun and challenging type of noise. 

I put wings on trilobites in my paintings. That isn't new knowledge, but it raises questions we can explore. Trilobites were aquatic arthropods that lived before wings.  Could they have evolved them? Does it recall the hoax of the Fiji Mermaid? If animals had a Creator, why are the forms only explainable through evolution? Bat wings on trilobites seem more Creator-ish.

Just because you can put two things together in a composition, doesn't mean you've created new knowledge, any more than saying "tension along the Afghanistan/Michigan border" has created new information in a sentence.

Trilobitlepidoptology, © Glendon Mellow 2008. Pencil on bristol.

Let me jump tracks for a moment.  I devour atheist blogs, and love reading about the tension between science, truth, atheism and religion.  And something that comes up a lot from both theists and atheist accommodationists is the idea that religions can provide us with special knowledge, different from that of science. Most atheists, myself include, decry this idea, it's kind of silly.  Any real knowledge found in religious scripture is either blindingly obvious from the human experience or else there by cultural artifact or accident.  

Yet so many religious sites (looks askance at BioLogos) would like to be able to claim to provide Knowledge as Important as that of science.

And so I have to ask:  am I guilty of doing the same thing?  In my quest to find and perhaps one day, create visual art that leads to new areas of scientific research, perhaps I am overestimating art as a stimulus tool. A stimulus tool able to pique working researchers to drop what they're doing and pursue a notion they had while browsing some science-art.

It may be that science-art will remain a curiosity, an homage, fanfic tributes on canvas. Contributing to lay people's curiosity is a noble thing, but I still harbour hopes that art inspired by science will one day rise to become a catalyst generator for research.  Maybe we artists don't try hard enough yet.

I could write my feelings about science-art's potential off as science-envy. Showing art is about hearing stories on what thoughts and feelings the art generates.  And hearing stories about the thoughts and feelings my art generates amongst scientists and science enthusiasts nurtures selfish noble hope that I'm somehow contributing.  

Slate fragments, © Glendon Mellow 2010.  Oil on slate.
But I want to find a way to contribute more than fragments of ideas, more than droplets to the science-inspiration cloud.

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Original artwork on The Flying Trilobite Copyright to Glendon Mellow

5 steps to proper image use on blogs - a #scio11 tutorial

Something that David, John and I brought up today in our session about Science-art - and elsewhere here at ScienceOnline - is the need to properly credit images used on blogs. Here are my quick tips on doing it properly, to give image creators the credit they deserve. 

This stuff is my opinion after a number of years as an image-maker online. I don't think there's a gold standard anywhere or a law that the Internetz Police will bust you over. 

  1. Go beyond Google Images or Wikipedia to the original photographer, illustrator or artist.
  2. Check for a Creative Commons Licence*.
  3. Ask. Just ask if permission is unclear. 
  4. Credit the photographer, illustrator or artist by name.
  5. Link back to their site.

Saying "Credit: Google Images" is like saying "Credit: Someone on Earth".

If you search for more than 10 minutes online and cannot find the original creator and are desperate to use that specific image, perhaps put it up and ask your readers for help identifying who created it.  A knowledgeable blog readership on a niche topic will often know. 

Be prepared to take an image down if asked.

*A note about Creative Commons Licences: it means some sort of sharing is allowed, but the most restrictive licence still says a) You must credit the artist b) You must not alter the image in any way and c) You must not make any money from it.  It's one of the reasons an artist may allow free use on a blog, but ask for money if it will be in mainstream media.

These are my opinion on the subject of credit: thoughts? 


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Original artwork on The Flying Trilobite Copyright to Glendon Mellow