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.

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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 -

Artwork Mondays: Revamping the Past

The poll is closed, and so I will be posting artwork now every Monday. (And for the couple of people who voted for bunnies, over the next few weeks, I'll have something special for you. Wink, wink!)

The artwork I post on Mondays will likely be a mix of sketches, past artwork revisited, and new works-in-progress. Time can lend new dimensions to pieces, and this is something worth discussing as well. Perhaps we can do a critique now and again, where I step aside for some initial comments from you, the viewers.

To start the artsy Mondays off, I thought I'd revamp an older drawing. Over the next couple of weeks, I'll share some updates on this piece of art. Here's the original drawing, a detail from my 1997 drawing, Lord Extinction Yawns:
I've tinted it blue here, but it's actually plain ol' graphite of the HB persuasion.

Back in 1997, I was in University studying Fine Art and was drawn more and more to the fin-de-siecle, The Symbolist period of the 1890's. To give an idea of that period to people unfamiliar with it (but by no means a thorough explanation), the Symbolists were the artists still in love with the past. While the Impressionists made great strides in optics and colour, innovating new ways to paint, the Symbolists clung to classical and Renaissance ideals. Symbolist work was often very realistic, and illustrated incidents from classical Greek and Roman mythology and Biblical stories. A general feeling was the the Symbolists were afraid of the end of their century, and of the dawning Industrialism heading into the last century of the millennium.

Their fear of the future was not what fascinated me, although I often wondered if all the "x-treme" sports in the late 1990's were tied to a similar feeling of being afraid of tomorrow. In particular all the peculiar beasts such as the Sphinx-Muse in Fernand Khnopff's brilliant The Caress fascinated me. Here were images from the old myths, newly informed by realistic illustrations of cheetahs, anemones, and New World parrots. Part-human, part-other creatures have drawn the eye since artists first started synthesizing the beasts.

Post-university, I still find a major portion of my work influenced by depicting part-humans with something earlier from Earth's biodiversity-parade. Why not the Permian? The Cambrian? How will we see ourselves anew, in the light of beasts we have no historical symbols invested into?

The woman above is a Sphinx, but not part-human, part-lion. At the time I modelled her after a dimetrodon instead of a lion. An apex predator fittingly older than the Sphinx itself.

And so I thought I'd see where I am, just over ten years' removed from that drawing. Here is a preliminary sketch of the new drawing I will produce in my spare time over the next few Artwork Mondays:

Hmm. This pose is a little too side-on, although I'm fond of the shoulder. Perhaps I'll have our Dimetrodon-Sphinx looking over her shoulder at us. Dark and predatory.

This sketch is out of my head, with a look at a photo to get the back and shoulder right. To begin, I'll use some photo reference, a model, and my trusty .3mm mechanical pencil. Trusty being a relative term; I love the .3mm, but it always jams like a reluctant hyperdrive when I need it for the delicate stuff.

I'm not sure where this piece will lead. Painting? Coloured-drawing? Love the concept, dislike the execution? Hate it and find it derivative? Please voice your opinion, throw tomatoes or inflate my ego by leaving comments. And thank you once again for those who voted in the poll.

Welcome to The Flying Trilobite's Artwork Mondays!
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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.

Life Drawing - Female

While literally naval-gazing, one of the interesting things I've been mulling over is that human bodies are made up of a multitude of creatures, working symbiotically together.

This idea has fascinated me for a long time, and was the impetus for my Symbiosis painting, recently featured on The Eloquent Atheist. Only recently did I come across an explanation for where the microflora largely come from.

Most of the symbiotic bacteria are transferred to infants from the mother, mainly during birth, and from the breast-feeding and foodstuffs to follow. I thought this topic would be an interesting counterpoint to these life drawings I did of a model at the Toronto School of Art last spring. Less so simply because the model was female; moreso because of every move, every pose we all make every day, we are a multitude of organisms working together, resting together and just being together.

While reading Daniel Dennett's Breaking The Spell, he makes another arresting point. Not only do you have an entire ecosystem of bacteria in your body, on your skin, "your body is composed of perhaps a hundred trillion cells, and nine out of ten of them are not human cells! (p.86)" The important point is that they are not transmitted genetically.

Some people say we are really all alone trapped inside our own minds and bodies. We seldom think of what organisms we share our bodies with, and that our whole lives, the ecosystem living within us and on us, is still evolving.

Bacteria can evolve at a prodigious rate; and for men, we carry them around, populations evolving as we subject their environments to espresso and fine cheeses, beer and pizza, until our whole system collapses. For women, it goes further. Women pass on their evolved-since-birth microflora to their children, when they give birth. As Dennett points out (p.86 again), since it is not a genetic inheritance, and so a surrogate-mother still gives her infant a large portion of its future health during the minutes of birth.

In an interesting turn in one of my favourite sci-fi series, a few characters in David Brin's Heaven's Reach , part of the Uplift Storm trilogy, find themselves becoming symbiotically entangled not only with other similar, oxygen-breathing aliens, but also with the mysterious hydrogen breathers that live inside gas giants. All of them are swallowed up, to transcend into being part of a new organism known as 'Mother'.

There are more interesting things to learn about this subject. Check out the Wikipedia entry, and more at ScienceBlogs.

Amazing. No person is an island; but we are all ecosystems.