Art Monday: remembering my first time

I'll never forget the first time I felt my artwork had reached 'professional' quality.

Every piece of artwork on this blog was created after this one drawing. It is the second page of a narrative assignment done in my first year of Fine Arts at university. The series is called The Three Fates and the Acorns, and it consisted of 10 drawings in total. This was page 2, but the first part I had completed and I felt I had created something special.

I had been using .3mm leads since high school, and still had many unformed opinions about mythology, religion and folklore. I was using acorns as a motif that year, both to symbolize nascent wisdom and to represent birth. In the series, each of the three fates (Norse, Roman or Greek, I didn't specify) was dying due to acorns. The one above is drowning because a tiny cluster of acorns is tied to her toe. Fate defeated by wisdom.

Mainly I was really happy with the tightness and quality of my cross-hatching, and the minimal style of disconnected pieces of sinewy bodies.

On critique day, I was initially disheartened as our professor made his way around to see the work before group crit started. He said he didn't get it, it didn't flow, and it was up to me if I wanted to show it to the group. I insisted I should.

In group crit, I went through each piece. Some "ooo"'s, some comments about the line work. A couple of people agreed the deaths depicted in the series were misogynistic. I was taken aback by the accusation. Misogynistic! It had never entered my mind. (Some would say that's the problem, I suppose.)

The professor replied before I could. He had done a complete about-face on the series due to my presentation. He loved it! He began to vigorously defend it as decidedly not misogynistic and said that was overly dismissive, or some such. He marveled to the group that he had not "gotten it" when I showed it to him before crit.

After class, one of my female classmates stopped me to tell me that it was the most beautiful series of the year. A couple of others with her agreed. I left class with a huge rush at the overall responses. To this day though, I worry myself with possible misinterpretations of my art, particularly because so much is secular and science-based.

Sometimes I wonder. How much of the positive response was from my brief explanation, and how much from the images? Does it make the images less potent if they must be explained?

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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 ***


The Flying Trilobite has been tagged by the tentacled terror of Pharyngula, PZ Myers! After his tremendous entry, I am asked to do likewise. Forgive the lack of images in this post. Here are the rules. Tag was not this complicated when I was eight >grumble<

1. We have to post these rules before we give you the facts.
2. Players start with eight random facts/habits about themselves.
3. People who are tagged need to write their own blog about their eight things and post these rules.
4. At the end of your blog, you need to choose eight people to get tagged and list their names.
5. Don't forget to leave them a comment telling them they're tagged, and to read your blog.

One: Pansy
I have a memory, possibly a false one from age 5.
There was a strip of grass parallel to the road in our neighbourhood, between sidewalk and road. There were saplings planted there, with some pansies. I wasn’t allowed that close to the road, and in a childish moment of defiance I went. I remember plucking a pansy, a deep purple one shot through with black, with a yellow center, and getting in trouble for “killing the flower”. To my mother, the greater crime was being near the road.
I snuck back down. I remember using a leaf and grass and propping up the snapped flower stem, and trying to squish them together to fix it. Guilt and frustration were strong emotions.
Later, I remember being excited because the two parts of the stem had grown back together! There was even a paler green part of the stem, like fresh skin from under a scab. I remember this quite clearly. Is it a false memory conjured by childish guilt when recalling the incident years later? My knowledge of botany and gardening is limited. Did I graft it somehow, making a Frankenpansy?

Two: Transform
I know the moment my childhood ended. At a cottage with my childhood best friend, we were playing with our Transformers. We planned out the whole storyline for our Autobots and Decepticons, right down to the plot twists and Starscream’s treacherous dialogue. We said, right, let’s get to it, and had absolutely no interest in acting it out. Making up the story was more interesting than playing. We both noticed it, and tiredly wondered if we were getting too old. I think I was about 11.

Three: Coffee
Coffee is my life’s blood, my passion, my exalted connection to nature. I love all of it, from the seedy, filthy badness of left-too-long Coffee Time, to the blended-layer flavours of a Le Gourmand americano or
Mercury Espresso latte. I feel its hotness go into my belly and I am one with the bean, the oxygen its leaves produced and the loosening of my asthmatic lungs, the earth under my feet and between its roots.

Four: Ring
I have a trilobite set in a ring, given to me by my wife Michelle. It’s an Elrathia kingi. I really feel what I said in my
first post; I look at this ancient fossil, and marvel that I can comprehend something so long deceased. It leaves me with a shaking sense of awe. I wear it rarely now, since after 300 million years, it is eroding from my touch.

Five: Performance
My university roommates were a dancer and an actor. A couple of close friends are in increasingly successful bands. I remember remarking to a friend & fellow painter that I wish the artists’ equivalent called for standing ovations, or people jumping up and down and moshing; and lamenting that gallery openings can be too quiet with respect to the actual work. She said to me, “But our art stays. Even if they film it, it’s not the same, and they can’t just look at their work the way we can.” Paintings never stop performing, even when you turn out the lights.

Six: Everything
I desperately want to live a million years and see everything that happens. The rises and falls of humanity, new species, cataclysms, discoveries. My five year old nephew says it best: “I want to know everything in the whole world so I can do whatever I want”. Yes. Exactly.

Seven: Trivial
A couple of hours after the planes crashed and towers fell on 9/11, I had to go to my job at an art supply store. I remember a woman yelling at me that afternoon because we had run out of a particular shade of grey pastel paper. I couldn’t believe it, I didn’t know what to say. Later, I felt pity. She either knew what had transpired south of us and was venting displaced fear and panic, or she had somehow not heard, and would feel some remorse later at her outburst on something so trivial as paper. The tragedy of that day has served as a strong mental reinforcer of the trivial and normally forgettable memory of the exact colour of a paper: felt grey.

Eight: Ugly
My paintings all go through what I call their Ugly Phase, when I hate them and question myself. I use an older technique of layering my oil paintings, gradually refining the detail and blending. I am not as hardcore as the Renaissance masters, I only do maybe three or four, not fifteen. I wait for them to dry before moving to the next layer.
When I was at York University, and completing a painting with a lot of up-close, fibrous acorns hatching hands out of them, our teaching assistant stopped me after I completed the central one. He kept insisting I leave the brown cartoon outlines of the acorns in the background untouched. This, he said as if explaining something new to me, would play with the space, and reveal the juxtaposition of the realistic foreground to the flat background. I patiently replied that yes, I understood the Modernist concept of painting the subject of paint, and I understood the post-Modern concept of showing realism while revealing, Oz-like, the flat paint behind the curtain. I cited examples of artists. I wanted them to be realistic; he insisted. By third year I gave up trying to please the post-Modernists.

Comments on anything above are most welcome. And now for this chain-meme-game to continue, red rover, red rover, I pick...

Fish Feet
Fancy's Art
Frozen Toothpaste
Jesse Graham's Art
Planet Atheism Blog
Diatomaceous Earth
Scientia Natura
The Red Notebook

And please check back at the great stuff the other folks PZ Myers tagged the same time as The Flying Trilobite.