Feeling like Spider-Man

Created in ArtRage Studio Pro

Things are happily hectic these days. Consider this a report-card on my independent commission-career.

My wife is awesome, our baby is happy (except for the teething) and we've managed to spend some really good times with our nephew this summer.

Career-wise, thanks to Symbiartic on Scientific American, I've interviewed a ton of really fascinating people involved in the art+science intersection and have no end in sight to new posts for that blog. It's a real science-art movement, and I'm lucky enough to be a part of it.

I've been attempting to be less precious with my artwork, and dive into more sketches. The Flying Trilobite has been great to just put up my little scratches.

Lately the thing I'm most excited about are the opportunities that are popping up from so many unexpected places. Thanks to everyone who's thinking about me and my artwork for being inspired enough to want to work with me.  It keeps me going.

Like Spider-Man, I've recently begun meeting and collaborating with more and more super-people in the arts and sciences.

I have to be careful though.

Some exhaustion is setting in.  4 part-time jobs. I'm currently workin
g an entry-level retail position with a lot of part-time hours to help pay the bills. I'm still doing social media (Twitter) work for a major national retail brand and hoping to add more clients like that so I can potentially stay home with the baby and work from home. Symbiartic is a blast, and I'm giving that my all. I have a couple of exciting science-art commissions right now. And I'll be giving another talk on science-art and blogging at Harbourfront here in Toronto next month.

Like Spider-Man, I have the ability to do some spectacular things, but the fridge is all-too often empty since spectacular abilities don't always pay the bills.

Despite the 4 part-time jobs, money is really tight at home and each month is a challenge. It's easy to lose focus on what's next. My big hope at the moment is to take on 3-4 new social media clients like the one I'm already doing, and let go of the retail. Then, evenings and weekends open up for Symbiartic and commissioned illustration.

Recently, a good talk with my wife's uncle let me really step back and look at the big picture again, which is why I'm excited for the future. I've been so focused on the immediate need to literally feed my family and keep the lights on, I was losing sight of how far I've come. Thanks to everyone for your support.

I'm expecting amazing things from myself in the near future, so you can too.

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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!

Hominid Skulls wearing Mexican Wrestling Masks

Not every art project for a client sees the light of day. Here's an example from a few years ago.   
(I retained the copyright on the images even if the contract had gone through: in this case, I was never paid so I'm quite sure there's no conflict, and it's fair game to post these.)

The client had asked for a challenging tattoo design.

Up to you to judge whether or not these fit the bill. The concept was three different hominid skulls, each wearing Mexican Luchador wrestling masks. In black line: no colour, no grey scale. See?  Challenging. How do you bring out the masks on very specific human ancestral skulls without colour?
I got started by working on the hominid skulls and on the layout. Homo sapiens sapiens, Homo erectus tautavelensis and Australopithicus afarensis.

Deciding the layout of the three skulls.

Originally, I drew the concept in reverse by mistake;
three masks that look  like hominid skulls. 

I played with the drawing in Photoshop to get a different view of a "messier" ink style.

Now the challenge of overlaying cloth onto skulls,
and making the bold cartoon outlines found on Luchador masks.

Final submitted image. The Australopithecus on the bottom is wearing a half-mask.

There were more drawings than these few; I like to keep clients informed when working on a project and it's especially important for the personal work involved in tattoos. Ultimately, the project was never fully realized. But what do you think of the last image?  Does it read as hominid skulls wearing Luchador masks?

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

Two Arthropods Meet - a teeny commission challenge

After meeting the tireless Karyn Traphagen at ScienceOnline11 in January, she asked me for an unusual commissioned painting: something on slate, no larger than 1.5"x2".

It was more difficult than I had thought.  I have often painted creatures and details that small -I knew I had the right brushes- but I had never tried to fit a whole composition in something that small.

The challenge was on.

Apparently I drink too much coffee to reliably use the camera's up-close feature.
The piece languished on my desk for a little while, unfinished, until I came up with the idea of adding the ladybug, an image that I've done in a similar way before in pencil. I added a bit of gold-coloured paint (actually titanium-coated mica flakes) to the ladybug to give it a shimmer.

Here's the final piece:

Thanks Karyn!
* *
Interested? I have a couple of larger, similar pieces painted on slate for sale and I remain available for commissions.

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Original artwork on The Flying Trilobite Copyright to Glendon Mellow

New painting: Tylosaurus Reef

Tylosaurus Reef  - ©  Glendon Mellow 2011. Oil on canvas. 

Commissioned by R.V. for Craig Dylke of Art EvolvedWeapon of Mass Imagination and the force behind Traumador the Tyrannosaur.

Tylosaurus Reef - detail view. ©  Glendon Mellow 2011.

You can view and enlarge a higher-res version on glendonmellow.com. Watch for prints soon in my online store - I'll announce those along with a 'Making Of' post in which I listened to a lot of music Craig would not approve of. :-)

'Making Of' up soon!

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Original artwork on The Flying Trilobite Copyright to Glendon Mellow


Yesterday, I put up a "making of" post about Trilobite Boy Rocks Out.

I forgot to include the original colour sketch idea that had those crazy colour lights/bubbles in the first place!

It was made on my iPod Touch using Autodesk's Sketchbook Mobile while I was walking to work through Trinity-Bellwoods Park.  The iPod is a great took for quickly putting down rough ideas when inspiration strikes.  The two best apps in my opinion are Sketchbook Mobile and Brushes.  

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

Print Shop

Making of Trilobite Boy Rocks Out

Last spring, I was contacted by Karen about a commission. Her boyfriend is Mike Haubrich of Quiche Moraine, one of my favourite bloggers and a supporter of my artwork since the beginning of this blog.  I've met a lot of people so far in my blogging, but Mike and Karen are somewhere at the top of the list of people I haven't shaken hands with yet.

Karen wanted to get Mike a painting of mine for his birthday this past August.  I was thrilled, and honoured.  Contract stuff out of the way, we discussed what sort of thing he might like.

I suggested possibly something with a young Darwin and barnacles, and drew a bit in pencil.  I also had this idea for my Trilobite Boy character playing guitar or bass onstage:  I knew Mike has worked in radio and is a rock fan, so it seemed appropriate. (I also had a sketch of Trilobite Boy naked on a fur rug by the fire, but that seemed more appropriate for LouFCD. )

I sent Karen this hastily scrawled image done in ArtRage, a realistic computer painting program:

 Karen loved it, and I got to work.

Next, I did some sketches using my plastic Art S Buck male model.  These generic super-heroically proportioned models (there's a female one too) have about as many points of articulation as the average GI Joe or Star Wars action figure and make a great starting point for life drawing if you don't have a real human handy. Sketches below:

Click to enlarge my scribbles.
I liked the thumbnail sketch near the bottom, and decided not to do another looking-over-the-shoulder pose, like this one.

I selected a beechwood cradleboard to paint on, 12"x18".  I gessoed it black while listening to Debaser and Die Antwoord. Next, I cartooned in the image using white chalk. I find the chalk disperses nicely in the oil paint and it won't slowly rise to the surface of the paint film like graphite can after a number of years.

As oil paintings age, they darken and become more transparent, so it really matters what colour your ground and drawn outlines are. 

Look close and you can see a bandana around his right arm, and bracelet on his right wrist. 

Started painting.  The trilobite fossil and ammonite shell (seen below) were there for colour and texture reference and maybe as superstitiousy talismans, I suspect.  Safety blanket.  Or I just like looking sciencey when I post pictures of my process.

You can see this is what I call the "
Ugly Phase". Lots of splotchy unblended colour laid down. Originally, I planned to have spotlights on the edge of the stage, but I decided to paint over them.  They competed too much with the bright circles of light.

This was getting later one evening, so I was listening to Massive Attack.  Still some fast beats for me to time my brushstrokes to, but mellow enough not to bother my wife while she works on the computer. 

Below, a partially finished head compared with the completed head. 

I worked and re-worked the head and spine of the trilobite body parts over and over.  Still worry the front looks like a big ol' mustache from this angle.  
You can see there's a lot of glare in the photo on the left.   Photos of wet oil paintings are tricky.  What you need to do is have two light sources waaaayy out at the sides, and take the photo.  Or, if you live in a small apartment, take a picture on an angle in diffuse fluorescent light, and use Photoshop to mess with the perspective afterwards. 

For the musicians out there, note how wrong I have the shape of the bass.  I only noticed after everything was almost done.  I wiped it down with tissue dabbed in solvent and re-did the area.  Throughout this painting, I kept returning to the Toronto band Debaser as inspiration.  My good friend Nevin is/was the guitarist, and I love the way he played.  Mind you, he's never done devil horn's on stage that I can recall.

When I paint, I tend to work on one element at a time, bringing it all up in detail before moving on.  This is contrary to how painting is supposed to work:  you really should rough-in everything then refine, going around all the elements.

I like to see the figure emerging from the darkness whole: first an arm, then an eye, then the neck and back, and so on. It feels more like pulling something out of the blackness than painting a picture. 

The finished painting.

I sent images of the final to Karen and waited.  That can be the toughest wait of the job, seeing how the client will react. I try to keep people I'm working for in the loop throughout the process so if there's a major concern we can spot it early, but the suspense when I send that last photo or the final in the mail is still tough.  Karen loved it!  And importantly, thought Mike would to.  She was right.

Rock on Karen, and Happy Birthday Mike!

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

Print Shop

Trilobite Boy Rocks Out

Click here to see a bigger version.   ©  Glendon Mellow 2010.

Trilobite Boy Rocks Out
by Glendon Mellow
Oil on beechwood panel, 2010.
This original oil painting was commissioned by Karen Burke as a birthday present for Mike Haubrich of Quiche Moraine. 

Featuring my trilobite-human hybrid character
Trilobite Boy putting on a killer show.  This was totally fun to do, and I took a departure from some of my usual techniques: a "making of" post will be up soon. I've submitted this painting to the Art Evolved Pop Culture gallery, launching later today.

Hope you had a great birthday Mike! 

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Original artwork on The Flying Trilobite Copyright to Glendon Mellow
under Creative Commons Licence
Since this was a commissioned work, please do not copy without my permission. 


New Painting: The Last Refuge

At ScienceOnline'09, a few minutes after arriving and meeting Kevin Zelnio of Deep Sea News (and Miriam and Southern Fried and Karen James - I was barely there two minutes and all these cool bloggers were talking out loud), Kevin pitched an idea for a painting he wanted to give as a gift.

He found the occasion, and commissioned the painting. He also came up with a great title: The Last Refuge.

I should have a "making of" up over the next couple of days. In the meantime, head over to Deep Sea News and see the emotional and personal investment Kevin has wrapped up in the gesture of giving art in awe of science.

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

Flying Trilobite Gallery *** Flying Trilobite Reproduction Shop ***

I felt like I was taking a real chance with the halo and beams of light.
But it was so
Symbolist, and so perfect for finding creatures long
thought gone, huddled in the dark around stygian heat...