WIP and Family-Life Balance

Some new digital character works-in-progress for the Trilobite Boy story.  These are desktop screenshots of the wips in ArtRage.  Click to enlarge.

Anomalocarid Girl Rising © Glendon Mellow 2011

Trilobite Boy meets Anomalocarid Girl © Glendon Mellow 2011

Dimetrodon Sphinx © Glendon Mellow 2011

All of the above are stand-alone shots, maybe issue covers for the Trilobite Boy story I'd like to work on throughout 2011.  So far, the actual story pages remain in thumbnail form in my sketchbook.  With a 5-week old baby in the house, I'm happy to jump from image to image for the moment for Trilobite Boy. The exception of course are the couple of paying contracts I have to do at the moment.

Finding a work and life balance while at home with a newborn is challenging, but doable. So far, it's hard to know which nap is going to turn into a 3 or 4 hour stretch where I can get some artwork done in amongst the usual household stuff, so I'm trying to do what I can in little bits.  The downside is that between a seasonal cold and the erratic hours, I haven't been as focused as I like to be.

My hours are also fascinatingly messed up. Last night, I worked on adapting a couple of images for a magazine publication until 5 a.m. after the little guy work up and feel back asleep between 2 and 3 a.m. MIchelle and I are working out how things run and both trying to relieve each other when exhaustion sets in.  We're tracking his sleep cycle a bit now to see if we can predict what the little guy may do.

I will say this though - he's just over a month old and I wouldn't trade spending that first month home with my wife and son for anything.  Every day, Calvin is awesome. He's healthy, easy-going and fascinated by everything.

Here's a picture of Calvin! 
Calvin learning to discuss the difference between "is" and "ought".

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Original artwork on The Flying Trilobite Copyright to Glendon Mellow

WIP: Anomalocarid Girl

A work-in-progress.  Anomalocarid Girl is a character and foil for Trilobite Boy.  Painting this one in ArtRage, similar to Trilobite Boy and gargoyles.

Screen capture of my process in ArtRage.
The sketch below has changed a bit since.  Not a lot of people know what an anomalocaris is, so I've added two leaping out of the water, one on either side of the character. One leaping so the dorsal side is visible, the other so its ventral side is showing. Hopefully that will help to identify the similarity of her dress and gloves to this extinct animal.

I also think I'll be basing the face off of a real person and at 300 dpi, I'll be able to get in there and work on some nice detail.

Sketch loosely based on Bottecelli's Birth of Venus

Below is the first colour-pass, a kind of under-layer so future layers of transparent colour (or missed spots) will have a foundation.

Happy with the clouds on the right, I think.

I've got a rough story outline for Trilobite Boy which I hope to debut in the new year. 

There have been other failed attempts at painting this character in the past, but I'm really excited about how the story and this image are coming along.  Criticisms and questions welcome though!

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

Print Shop

wip - Anomalocarid Girl intro

Work-in-progress on an introduction to Anomalocarid Girl, a foil for Trilobite Boy.  

Unsure what an anomalocaris is?  There's a great post over at Why Evolution is True by Matthew Cobb.  

The idea that they might not have preyed on trilobites actually works out great: I kind of want Anomalocarid Girl to be a villain and love interest for Trilobite Boy.  Sorta. 

Here's another look at the sketch on my desk, done after dinner one night.  I based the pose on Bottecelli's Birth of Venus, and that's an oil rig burning in the background that she's blown up with her guns. 

On another note, thanks to everyone who offered advice on my last post - it's very much appreciated, and while I'm still thinking things over, I think I may try and limit myself to 2 personal art projects at a time for the time being. Above, is part of one of them!

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


Print Shop

Art Monday: sketchy twitobite

My current Twitter background. Click to enlarge.

A montage incorporating sketches and drawings from the last few months.

The difference between a drawing and a sketch you ask? Drawings are considered to be more final, polished art. Sketches are the rougher, playful, workin'-it-out type of marks on paper.

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

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Art Monday: settling in

Although I haven't had very much time to draw and paint lately, I can feel the beginnings of new routine establishing itself.

The trip to York U is a long one, and I have my trusty iPod Touch with the Brushes app to sketch with while bumped and jostled on the subway and bus.

For the moment, my class on Drawing & Narrative is on Tuesday mornings and I'm taking the whole day off work so I can get in some studio time in the afternoon.

I've started and stopped so many projects lately that I'm actually creating a checklist to keep them straight. Here's where I left off the Anomalocarid Dress that I began for Art Evolved's last group gallery:

I'm using Artrage, and this image on the right is such a massive hodge-podge of techniques. I am still sorting out my workflow, and this image is on many layers while I do that. Painting over top of the existing pencil sketch seems to be less rewarding than if I had completed the sketch in ArtRage itself.

There's a long way to go, and this is deep in the Ugly Phase: that phase of painting where I almost can't look at it. It's essentially an underpainting of colours to support more detailed layers over top. Although ArtRage functions realistically like oil in many ways, I have to kind of lay down a process for myself.

Normally when painting on canvas, I pre-prime the canvas with either a raw umber or straight ivory black. I enjoy the process of painting and watching the figures edge their way out of the darkness. It's like the image reveals itself on black instead of appearing on white.

With this image, I began by painting over the sketch, meaning over an off-white. So I added heavy blacks, and they feel big and globby.And the skin isn't right. I wanted a lopsided smile, but turned it into a deformed mouth. I'll likely need to start over, delete the scanned sketch page, leaving only the drawing, or reverse the values of the scanned image.

Let's see what I can do to correct this image in days to come.

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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: sketch for Art Evolved Gallery

Just a quick Art Monday while I try to give myself a crash course in ArtRage.

Over at Art Evolved, the next group paleo gallery (tomorrow! yipes!) is about Anomalocaris.
For a long while now I've had an idea to do a series of Precambrian-inspired clothing.
Anomalocaris is supposed to be (in my mind) similar to the whole preying mantis/black widow/femme fatale aesthetic.

This was the original, unfinished painting fro
m a couple of years ago: And here's my new sketch: I had a model pose for the shoulders. Apparently, that is quite an uncomfortable combination of hip and neck tilts. Instead of being underwater as in the original, I decided to make her emerging from it.

Off to try ArtRage!

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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: unfinished business

Running out of ideas is never something I worry about. The feeling of having no time is something that has started to obsess me lately. Balancing home, freelancing, blog and day-job feels wobbly. I'm happy and I'm scared of losing ground.

A few pieces of unfinished artwork, below. I hope to complete or start each of these anew.

Why do I worry about getting each of these ideas down before a day comes when I am no longer? How many echoes of that statement reverberate hollowly through forgotten history?
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Original artwork on The Flying Trilobite Copyright to Glendon Mellow under Creative Commons Licence.
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The Boneyard XXI - Art Class

Welcome to the 21st edition of The Boneyard, here today at The Flying Trilobite! Today we will be looking at scientific illustration, cartoons, and paleo-related concept art.

The Field Trip

Has everyone got their willow-charcoal for sketches? Craig, I assume your laptop has batteries? Today we will begin our paleo-art lesson by venturing into the field. This is, after all, where we receive our inspiration. Make sure to wear sunscreen.

You cannot paint before you understand how to draw, and you cannot run before you can walk. Greg Laden tells us about a recently discovered Arabian dinosaur trackway. Make sure to follow the contours of the footprints with your eyes, dragging your charcoal lightly across the paper.

Trackways can teach more than contours. For those of you studying scientific illustration, remember not to let your eyes trick you into seeing what is not there. Brian at Laelaps has a cautionary tale about seeing evidence for giants instead of fossil sloth tracks. Giantologists reading this, please pursue the link immediately. To see a rendition of a species possibly related to the track-maker, be sure to have a look at master paleo-artist Carl Buell's Paramylodon.

Does everyone remember their elementary school readings from CRAM Science? Good.

Let the science teach you to be creative. Ah, excellent work, Microecos. The recent paper on azhdarchid pterosaurs by Witten & Naish has sparked a comparison from Microecos from pterosaur to current technology.

Sometimes it can be important to understand the scale of creatures from the prehistoric past. This life-sized statue of a stegosaurus - Jacqueline! Get down from there!

Now before we begin presentations, use your #2 HB pencils, and have your say at DinoBase's own David Hone's blog, and fill out this survey about "the state of palaeontology today". Introduction here, issues here, introduction to the survey here, and answers appearing here.

The Presentation
(In many cases, you may click on the artwork on the posts below to see the paleoart in a larger size.)

Let's begin the presentations at the end. Marek Eby of eTrilobite has captured the melancholy of the K-T event. Further back in time, the irascible Walcott is worried in Walcott's Quarry: The End is Nigh! And support paleo-art dinosaur news by visiting the eTrilobite store, and pick-up some happenin' threads.

At Bond's Blog, we have a lucid step-by-step presentation by Peter Bond on rendering a megalosaur, the final version seen at right. Thanks to Peter for allowing me to use the image! The image was created, along with a sauropod and medium theropod for Traumador the Tyrannosaur's post on dinosaurs of New Zealand.

The terror of the ancient seas swoops through Prehistoric Insanity. Craig Dylke struts his digital stuff in the latest peek of his Art of the Unspecified Time Interval. A realistic digital anomalocaris is difficult to pull off, but Craig took it many steps further and has placed it in its natural habitat, with some lovely filters to give it that undersea sense of depth. And be sure to check out Craig's spectacular trilobites, rendered with the scrapes and scratches their little carapaces must have had in life. See them here, here, and here.

Triloblog features the works of Laura Passow using Viking artistic techniques to create amazing specimens of the prolific vanguard of evolution by natural selection. The Bug Factory contains many past posts of the artist's impressive sculptures.

What is it about stegosaurs and car jokes? Charley Parker's Dinosaur Cartoons are not to be missed, complete with lessons!

Jacqueline Rae's Indohyus , published in Nature, appears furtive at the edge of the shore. Be sure to check out the rest of this versatile scientific illustrator's gallery.

N. Tamura's latest, a ferocious Paraphysornis is painted in predatory detail.

Zach of When Pigs Fly Returns continues to illustrate Mesozoic marine predators with an economy of line, making clear the bone structure of askeptosaurus and others from the fossil matrix.

Sometimes, I find paleoart so beautiful, I can't pick a favourite. Scientific Illustrator Emily Damstra paints vivid illustrations of the wonders of the natural world. It was tough to pick one -perhaps this smoothly-blended tornoceras ammonoid?-, so go visit her whole invertebrate gallery.

The Boneyard's groundskeeper Brian featured this interview with scientific illustrator Michael Skrepnick. In addition to providing the banner at Laelaps, Michael's artwork has recently been flung far and wide for his evocative image of the newly discovered "frogamander", gerobatrachus, a transitional fossil between modern frogs and salamanders. However, Lim at Fresh Brainz reckons we've seen another creature related to this ancestral-amphibian.

The Critique
I have a final piece to submit for your criticisms, witticisms and tomatoes.

The past while here at The Flying Trilobite, I've been posting a work-in-progress of a puzzle. The painting is in oil on shale. It is inspired by biologist John Burden Sanderson Haldane's infamous quote, when pressed by a creationist about what Haldane thought could falsify the fossil record. Haldane's reply; "Fossil rabbits in the precambrian."

The piece is finished. Below are the two possible configurations for the 9-piece shale puzzle I have entitled, Haldane's Precambrian Puzzle. Apologies for the weird angle: with the oils still wet it was difficult to photo without picking up a lot of glare.

Haldane's Precambrian Puzzle: False Rabbit Configuration

Haldane's Precambrian Puzzle: True Trilobite Configuration

Comments? Have I made it too ambiguous as to which one is true and which false?
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A thank-you to the suggestions and posts and brilliant work of the scientists who discover all the wondrous things of the past, and the artists who imbue them with wonder. If you're a palaeontologist working on the next big or feathered thing, perhaps you will consider one of the stellar artists above to illustrate a future paper.

I hope you've enjoyed this artsy edition of The Boneyard.

-Glendon Mellow
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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.

Science-Artsy Additions to my Blogroll

Today I thought I would share some of the newer additions to my blogroll. There are a lot of talented scientific illustrators and realistic fantastic artists out there, and here's a sampling of a few who've made this Flying Trilobite's list in the last few months.

(After all, I can't always plug Leslie Hawes, Bond, Jesse Graham, Carl Buell, Jacqueline Rae and Nancy, can I? Oops.)

1. Druantia Art - An interesting discussion thread ensued on the Guild of Natural Scientific Illustrator's listserv a few months back about whether a blog or traditional galleried website is the more effective. And one of the delightful results is that supremely talented scientific illustrator Heather Ward began Druantia Art, a blog of her works in progress and tips for artists. The tips are brilliant, and Heather has even held polls about what animal to illustrate next! Marvel at her snow leopard, and at her musings about why there is a point to doing photographic realism in art.

2. Trilobite Blog - This is a blog I have mentioned before. This talented artist sells a line of Cambrian and prehistoric creature designs on clothing. His paleontology-based blog is an excellent read, and make sure you don't miss his interview with Sam Gon III of the excellent resource, Guide to the Order of Trilobites. You can shop for trilobite hoodies here and start your own finger-snapping gang against the anomalocarids!

3. Rigor Vitae - The artwork of Carel Brest Van Kempen, illustrator of the banner for the popular A Blog Around the Clock. This blog has some excellent insights in what it is like to create realistic art from nature. And frogs. Many awesome frogs.

4. PixelFish - and 5. Bluefooted - I came across these two talented and atheist artists on a thread over at Pharyngula where some people were dissing DeviantArt. PixelFish, who also goes by Lis Mitchell, has a tremendous gallery and well-crafted site. I'm particularly fond of See No Evil. Bluefooted has an amazing and intricate story-book style, reminscent of Dulac. Check out the beautiful and hideous Cat-Skin. Who needs more evidence that imagination is not divinely inspired?

6. Barry Kent MacKay - Lush, gorgeous artwork for your inner ornithologist. Some of my fellow Canuckleheads may remember MacKay from a children's show he hosted back in the day.

7. Gurney Journey - The blog of Dinotopia creator and master artist James Gurney. This blog is filled with tips and insights and shows you a week-to-week peek at what a celebrity-level artist is up to.

8. Basic Instructions - A very trendy sort of style at the moment, tracing photos to make a cartoon. But none of the others are half as funny as these instructions for living your life.

Anything in my blogroll is a place I try check out as often as I can. These are just a few of the other artists I admire. I'm also adding new pieces often, so please don't forget to check out my own gallery on DeviantArt!

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.