Major Billy Barker & his Pterosaur Squadron

Major Billy Barker & his Pterosaur Squadron
(click to enlarge, or visit my gallery for a larger view)

The paint is still wet, thus, the photo at a weird angle to prevent glare. I'll see if I can get a better shot up for my next Art Monday. Oil paint on canvas. This is my submission to the third Art Evolved group gallery, which happens to be launching July 1st, Canada Day.

In my generation, a lot of history learned in school was rote memorization. Dates, names, places. My high school had a vast amount of letters from former students to their teachers in the World Wars that we read each Remembrance Day. Perhaps the advantage of the internet is the ease at which you can learn now. No trip to the library, not knowing what you are looking for. Click, click, and there it is. Perhaps this is Gen X apathy, I'm not sure.

Sometimes as an artist, rarely, I get an image full-blown in my mind. That was the case here. Composition, lighting, hues. I needed some details for the biplanes.

So I did a bit of online poking to look up biplanes, and found the story of a true Canadian adventurer, perfect to add to my (perhaps audacious) idea. Major William George "Billy" Barker was a World War 1 flying ace and Victoria Cross recipient who flew Sopwith Camels against German Fokkers. Although I could not find any information indicating he fought against the infamous Red Baron, Manfred Von Richtofen, I thought the drama of these two excellent pilots would heighten the alternate history in this concept painting. Of course, our Canadian hero Major Billy Barker has a trick up those RAF sleeves: his fighting pterosaur squadron, made up of Quetzalcoatlus northropi.

The Red Baron will live to fight another day. Some theories have it that he was shot and wounded by other Canadian pilots though that remains controversial. Whatever the case, I love that the idea that popped into my mind led me to reading about Major Barker in time for Canada Day, and Art Evolved.


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Art Evolved Pterosaur Gallery
Major Billy Barker on Wikipedia
Major Billy Barker & his Sopwith Camel at Ace Pilots
The Red Baron on Wikipedia
The Red Baron & his Fokker at Ace Pilots
Quetzalcoatlus


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

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Art Monday: WWI pterosaur sketchy sketches

The last few weeks of Art Mondays have mainly been sketches and unfinished drawings. This week is a bit more of the same. I fins that sometimes, inspiration for new and varied pieces falls into my mind in a torrent, and I struggle with my pencil to keep up.

Perhaps it's the season. I walk to my day-job, about 40 minutes through a beautiful park, past galleries and boutique clothing stores in one of the hippest areas in Toronto. Trees are full, the air is warm and we haven't had a smog day yet. It's a good time for thinking.

Next week, Art Evolved is launching it's third gallery of prehistoric art, and the theme is pterosaurs. There's been a lot of debate about physiology flying back and forth on Art Evolved. Unsure of my exact position in scientific illustration, I p
ondered whether to go for a full-on restoration illustration, or something unusual and fantastic like my first two entries.

It's a rare thing, when the whole idea appears before your mind's eye, full-blown, down to the brush strokes. This happened here.

A little research, and I am falling in love with the idea. I plan to keep
it loose, and go for a more sketchy painting style in this one.

In brief, I wanted pterosaurs, specifically Quetzalcoatlus northropi fighting alongside the RAF against the Red Baron. I'm not a World War 1 history buff by any stretch, though lately I've been reading little bits. I came across the name of Major Billy Barker on Wikipedia, and knew I had the right hook to the painting. Barker was Canada's own flying ace, with 50 confirmed aerial kills, and he pioneered the leader-wingman strategy for pilots. A real character.

And the best part is, the pterosaur gallery is launching on July 1st; Canada Day. Sweet.

I used to hesitate to put sketches like this online. They contain a lot of useful information for me to use, but they are by no means drawings in their own right; and that's an important distinction. A sketch is a rough idea, an analogue to a hypothesis in science. The drawing is the capital-T Theory, fleshed out and a piece of art in it's own right, paint not necessary.

Hmm. This post is like my art lately. Wandering all over the place. Ok. Time to get back to the aerial battle and oil paints.

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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 ***

Drawing Day!

It's Drawing Day! The goal is to remember how much fun it is to create and view drawings, and to upload a million online in one day!

Today I have two new pieces I'm working on, a recent sketch and one drawing from about a dozen years ago. Click to enlarge. I'm not going to spend a lot of time talking about each one: it's Drawing Day. Enjoy!
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My self-portrait I began this week. Still not done. Do I look intense or angry? A recent drawing for a piece I'm painting on a wood panel. It's a diatom fairy. A sketch for the Introducing Sara Chasm, as seen in the inaugural ART Evolved gallery on ceratopsians. Hmm. Lately I seem to have developed Derek Zoolander's problem of turning left. Not so in this old piece: one of the three fates, from a project on narrative I did while in university.
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Great stuff out there, take the next few days to look around on deviantArt, Redbubble, and more through the Drawing Day site. With so many artists uploading, I'm sure even the strangest subjects are out there.

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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 ***
Created for Drawing Day - www.drawingday.org

Protomammal Fallacy

A lively discussion is taking place in the comments at Art Evolved in the new Permian Synapsid Gallery. Are terms like proto-mammal or stem-mammal appropriate? I tend to think they confuse more than help. I understand evolution by natural selection is a sequence, but by defining an extinct creature by its descendants, I think we run the risk of promoting the facile and erroneous amoeba-->fish-->lizard-->mouse-->monkey-->ape-->human progression diagram. That is why for the Synapsid Gallery, I wanted to show a dicynodont with human arms erupting from its own shoulders (and a gorgonopsid with human legs threatening it in the background). To echo Dawkins, Permian synapsids were not half-evolved, not "on their way" to becoming us. They were successful animals living in their own niche.

Successfully made my point? Well, perhaps as an illustration to this blog post.


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Art Monday: Synapsid peek

There's been a delay in the second ART Evolved gallery, our gallery of Permian Synapsids. So I thought I would show a teaser of the face of my dicynodont drawing. ART Evolved is a delicious visual treat cooked up by Craig Dylke and Peter Bond, with input from the rest of our paleo-artsy-bloggy crew. We launched a couple of months back in an attempt to showcase some of the best paleo-art being produced by bloggers. In addition to posts about technique and subject matter, every two months we aim to create a themed gallery that anyone can submit to, making for a lively a vibrant gallery. The first gallery featured ceratopsian dinosaurs, y'know, like triceratops.

I've added a self-updating blogroll of the whole regular ART Evolved gang in my sidebar (look down, way down below the flying trilobite button), so I can easily keep up with the diverse gang of artists involved.

The synapsid gallery should be up soon, thanks to the hard work of our tireless moderators. I've heard the expression before that organizing atheist freethinkers is like herding cats; I think organizing paleo-artists is probably closer to teaching velociraptors to drink tea properly.


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

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Synapsid invasion almost here!

The second ART Evolved paleo-art gallery will launch May 1st! I'll have a piece in it, and one of the site coordinators, Craig Dylke of Traumador fame, has blown me away with his piece. Wait'll you see it.

The Permian Synapsid gallery has a lead-in here. The Permian is a fascinating period, pre-dinosaur, that ended with the most devastating mass extinction in Earth's history. The synapsids were a group of animals defined by a single hole in the skull behind the ear.

*sigh* I tried to do a" straight" scientific illustration but an idea struck me. You'll have to check it out come May 1st.

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Original artwork on The Flying Trilobite Copyright to Glendon Mellow under Creative Commons Licence.
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Art Monday: making of "Introducing Sara Chasm"

Yesterday saw the debut of ART Evolved: Life's Time Capsule, a new paleo-art blog with a whole crew of regular artists. When Craig Dylke approached me about it, I let out a heavy sigh. My commissioned work has been increasingly busy -for which I am continually excited- so could I really contribute to an ongoing group blog?

I just had to. Too exciting, and a lot of my favourite bloggers are present. Now, after the champagne has been smashed against the prow of our Ceratopsian Gallery, I couldn't be happier.

For my contribution, Introducing Sara Chasm, I knew I wanted to do some
thing a little left of scientific illustration. Okay, far off to the side.

I began by scribbling this sketch in my Moleskine on my walk
to work one morning.
It's important to carry around a small sketchbook for capturing tho
se ideas in the moment: when you wake up, when meeting a friend for coffee, after a shower or walking outdoors.

Using my trusty .3mm pencil, I made a more refined sketch. The photo reference is of a real person. I mulled over having Sara's t-shirt read ,"Canadian Grrls Rock", or maybe "Alberta girlz kick ass". Those also would have been good wall tags.For a while, Sara was going to be a hipster-photo-blogger of the kind that dwells on West Queen West here in Toronto, but the spray painted tag added a lot of colour. I drew that using my favourite india ink-brush pen, and erased all the pencilly-bits. A thick black pen (I use Faber-Castell's Pitt pens) like this can be great for quickly dropping in digital paint in Photoshop.I created the background using some rocks I scanned for texture, and embossed them to go with the light direction. With a digital hard brush I spattered paint in yellow-greens. Then, I added a medium-opacity white stucco to the wall.The oil painting. Completed in about 6 hours while listening to M.I.A., Beastie Boys, Nine Inch Nails and the new Lily Allen cd. I arrived at her name by thinking about Sara from ceratopsian, Chasm from chasmosaurus, and together they both sound a bit like sarcasm.After scanning the wet oil painting, there had to be a lot of clean-up. Using levels, I colour-corrected the blacks and whites. I tried to erase and blur the edges a bit to help it blend into the background.Finally, a bit of lighting to set the mood off. Click to enlarge the final product!
What do you think? I think Ms. Chasm looks a bit more 2-dimensional than originally intended, but the final product has a bit of an anime-feeling I don't see in my work. Will we see Sara Chasm again?

Make sure to check out the other images in the Art Evolved ceratopsian gallery, and leave comments!

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

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ART Evolved - the launch! pkkk-keeww! (that's a launching noise)

ART Evolved: Life's Time Capsule makes its mark on the innertubes today!

A gathering of 11 blogging paleo-artists, we're launching with a group gallery filled with horned frilliness. Ceratopsian dinosaurs! Drop by and make a comment or twenty.

I've chosen to paint a chasmosaurus, entitled Introducing Sara Chasm. Chasmosaurus is one of my very favourite fossils
that I've been visiting since I was a kid at the Royal Ontario Museum. I've anthropomorphized her a tad. "Making of" post to appear right here tomorrow.

You can also read bios of each artist , and here's mine. Our membership consists of:
Raven Amos
Peter Bond
Sean Craven
Craig Dylke
Marek Eby
Scott Elyard
Mo Hassan
Glendon Mellow
Zachary Miller
Angie Rodrigues
Ville Sinkkonen

We'll need to work on an "Avengers Assemble" paleo-artsy battle cry.


There's some tremendous talent at Art Evolved, I just couldn't say no to being a part of it. And a special thanks to Craig Dylke and Peter Bond, our administrators.

Why are you still here?! I said Ceratopsians! Get to ART Evolved!


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Original artwork on The Flying Trilobite Copyright to Glendon Mellow under Creative Commons Licence.
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# 2009 Calendar available for a limited time

Look over there!

-->Artist-writer Sean Craven of Renaissance Oaf has been liveblogging the stages of a psittacosaurus the last couple of days, and I love it. Especially the neck. Sean wanted to give it a try after my Darwin Day attempt, commenting,

"Exhaustion, caffeine intoxication, and frustration swirling into a potent cocktail of self-torture... I'm gonna have to try this myself. It looks like a blast."


Sean is bold experimenter and tinkerer in his art. It's interesting for me to watch someone whose process is so different from my own.

-->Prehistoric Insanity Productions has the latest teaser about the ArtEvolved launch. Is it spoiling the fun to say I'm a part of it? Found out March 1st!

-->The Eloquent Atheist is back! After a hiatus of several months, the premi
ere online space for positive atheist literature (and the occasional artwork) is back and looking for submissions. Polish off that prose, point those brushes and submit to this fine online magazine.

-->Ooo, we're being teased by teddies! After wowing us with his Darwin-zombie-teddy bear (no really!), artist Chris Zenga at The Day After hints at the second wave of Living Tedd classic Hollywood monsters. 1st wave here.

-->Faery art! More mysterious than the mask she wears, who is this attending Mardi Gras? See Leslie's Blog for the potential of pencil crayon realized. Eric Orchard shifts gears from some recent comic superheroes to some insouciant fairy art.

-->Get your Twitter thumbs ready! Science journalist David Bradley of ScienceBase is compiling a huge list of science-blog-Twitterers! Fun! Don't forget, you can follow my tweets here in my sidebar, on my Facebook status or find me at: http://twitter.com/flyingtrilobite .

-->Would you like to hear me discuss my artwork in my own voice? Check out the Secular Nation Podcast #33 from a few weeks back regarding the art I provided to their Darwin Day magazine cover.

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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 #
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2009 Calendar available for a limited time