Fossil Boy, Diatom Girl - repost

(This week I'm reposting some of the posts from the past 4 years I consider noteworthy.  Wednesday, "Inspiration and Drugs". Thursday, "Science Vocabulary = Better Art".  Today, here is a post from December 2009.)
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Our final project for my Drawing & Narrative class was more or less open. I decided to continue exploring ammonite fossils, hands, and some diatoms. 


For a long time, I've used diatoms along with images of my wife, Michelle. Diatoms are beautiful algae that create complicated geometric structures from silica, and look like beautiful glass ornaments. They help create oxygen, which is a nice thing for an asthmatic like me to associate with my wife in a metaphorical life-sustaining way. The fossils are kind of a proxy for me. Part of the suggested outline for the assignment included making a book, and images of family. 

Three of the most difficult things to draw are the face, hands, and feet. (Fore
shortening is a whole other problem.) I love drawing hands, so I looked at this as a challenge. I decided I would add some torn paper elements as well. While working on my rough sketches, our professor suggested including some elements with the Fibonacci sequence, and looking up artists Mario Merz. I've done some sketches using Fibonacci numbers before, when I was working onDan RhoadsMigrations blog banner. I tried to use it as a compositional device.

Almost in its entirety, (a snippet is lopped off from the edges), here are the drawings from the series Fossil Boy, Diatom Girl.


- - - - - - - - Original artwork on The Flying Trilobite Copyright to Glendon Mellow
under Creative Commons Licence.
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Art Monday: Fossil Boy, Diatom Girl

Our final project for my Drawing & Narrative class was more or less open. I decided to continue exploring ammonite fossils, hands, and some diatoms.

For a long time, I've used diatoms along with images of my wife, Michelle. Diatoms are beautiful algae that create complicated geometric structures from silica, and look like beautiful glass ornaments. They help create oxygen, which is a nice thing for an asthmatic like me to associate with my wife in a metaphorical life-sustaining way. The fossils are kind of a proxy for me. Part of the suggested outline for the assignment included making a book, and images of family.

Three of the most difficult things to draw are the face, hands, and feet. (Fore
shortening is a whole other problem.) I love drawing hands, so I looked at this as a challenge. I decided I would add some torn paper elements as well. While working on my rough sketches, our professor suggested including some elements with the Fibonacci sequence, and looking up artists Mario Merz. I've done some sketches using Fibonacci numbers before, when I was working on Dan Rhoads' Migrations blog banner. I tried to use it as a compositional device.

Almost in its entirety, (a snippet is lopped off from the edges), here are the drawings from the series Fossil Boy, Diatom Girl.


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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: Anthropometry

Anthropometry

Close up of left side: Close up of right side:Click each to enlarge.

The text on the right hand glove says:

"It follows also, that no vain or selfish person can possibly paint, in the noble sense of the word."
-from Modern Painters by John Ruskin Vol.5, E.P. Dutton & Co. (no date on colophon) .

"When the pupils can make from the figure rapid pencil sketches showing good action and good proportion, they may be allowed to indicate the features in a very simple way. "
-from the Ontario Teachers' Manuals: Art, Toronto, William Briggs, 1916, 1918 edition.


The assignment was to discuss sexuality, body image, eroticism, beauty or any combination of these. I decided to go for body image and perfection from a different angle.
Anthropometry seemed appropriate.

After some discussion with
Felice Frankel about our upcoming ScienceOnline2010 session, my mind has been ticking about the way scientific visualizations and scientific illustrations create their own standards, holotypes and "perfect" images, as well as how artists have done the same. From da Vinci's Vitruvian Man, to laws of the body being 7.5 heads high (or whatever), artists have been using these semi-arbitrary rules for perfect drawing for as long as there has been clay and fingers to smudge it with.

India Ink, pencil, and sanguine brush marker drawing on hygienic latex gloves. Glued to stretcher bars and backlit. Copyright Glendon Mellow 2009.

Some of the rough work can be seen here.


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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 ***

Some sketchy sketches

Here's a few things I've been working on.

Sketches for my class. The topic is body image. Pop culture and sexuali
ty is popular as a topic, but I thought I'd tackle anthropometry and perfect proportions for the artist. Lots of nodding at Da Vinci's Vitruvian Man here.

With how my lungs have been feeling lately, I thought I'd revisit my Asthma Incubu
s drawing from a few years back, and dive into ArtRage a bit more. This is not even close to done: the figure is on a separate layer so I can delete it after I paint them in properly.

There's also a new Steampunk Trilocopter on the way, with larger, Opipeuterella-ian eyes for the cockpit.
- - - - - - - -
Original artwork on The Flying Trilobite Copyright to Glendon Mellow
under Creative Commons Licence.
Flying Trilobite Gallery *** Flying Trilobite Reproduction Shop ***

Art Monday: Durer's mum

Been thinking about my university days a lot lately. Not sure why.

Until I was in my 4th year, I had never undertaken to copy the artwork of a great master to advance my own work. As far back as high school, friends of mine and I eschewed copying as a stunt some of our peers were adept at, but which didn't lend itself to learning. Copying still life was fine; the strokes of the pencil or brush were our own. So much better than a copy of a copy.

During a class on historical techniques and materials, I d
iscovered how wrong I had been. Re-discovering each stroke a master like Albrecht Durer had made allowed me to romanticize a connection of minds while I worked. It took surprisingly little time to complete the assignment (I'll let others judge if it should have take me more time).

Here are my drawings compared with the originals by Albrecht Durer (1471-1528) of Nuremberg, arguably the the master of Northern Renaissance Europe.




































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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 ###

Artwork Mondays: The Right Pose

Welcome to the second Artwork Monday here at The Flying Trilobite!

Rehabilitating an older concept can be a fun endeavour. It is rare that I do not have a new idea that I want to try out, but on the few occasions it has occurred, I find the best way to inspire myself is by flipping through old sketchbooks. One of the biggest worries I think most artists share is living long enough to get all their ideas out.

Currently, I have about 8 more new concepts waiting to see fruition, but reviving this older drawing seems really appealing. I'm curious to see how much my drawing skills have matured over the past eleven years.

After the rough sketch last week, I knew part of my focus would be to show off how my life drawing abilities have matured. The model pose I used last week didn't seem satisfying though. I wanted this Sphinx to look predatory. The dimetrodon was an ancient pelycosaur that was probably the apex predator of the Permian, living just before the worst mass extinction of all time.

The Sphinx is supposed to be an ancient creature who guards secrets, and is famous for the riddle, "what walks on four legs in the morning, two legs in the afternoon, and three legs in the evening?". An interesting and more modern riff on this riddle was in my Favourite Book of All-Time, The Stress of Her Regard, by Tim Powers. The answer had to do with the amount of atoms in carbon and silicon.

Together, the dimetrodon and sphinx appeal to me, since both are ancient creatures, and using the dimetrodon in lieu of a lion makes a good example of how re-imagining the mythological past can be enhanced by modern scientific understanding. One of the reasons I feel compelled to create at all is to use the rich visual language science affords us to look at ourselves in light of the past and of reality as we understand it to actually be.

There really is no excuse as an artist not to do research in this day and age. The internet has some generally reliable sources; libraries and bookshops are teeming with full-colour pictures; digital cameras, photocopiers and scanners abound. Sure it takes away a small but of spontaneity to do some research, but in the end, it is worth it. What you will have is a fantasy image, culled from real life, and real human bodies often move in ways your mind does not expect, especially if you've watched a lot of cartoons.

One of the best ways to do research, is to go out and photograph your own images and use those as reference. Scientific Illustrator Heather Ward, who blogs at Druantia Art has some tips.

After finding a suitable pose, I drew this image. I think it is a more dynamic pose than the one I mused with last week, and the figure turning over her shoulder will hopefully lend that predatory air, especially if the face is largely in shadow, with glittering eyes. So far, I'm not too happy with the rendition of the face, so I will likely re-work that altogether. I'm pleased with the back though, and I think the foreshortening of the arm has turned out rather well.

The next phase will be to begin joining up an appropriate dimetrodon body to this one. If you followed the Wikipedia link about dimetrodons, you'll note that there were distinct species, with markedly different sails and jaws. I won't refine this sketch any further until I see where and how the sail-fin attaches to the back of the woman above.

Thanks to everyone on the comments last week! I love the feedback.

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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.

A Few Glimpses from The Flying Trilobite 2007

Click on the titles for the entry from this year, or click on the images to see the whole artwork. A few pieces from the past year, no particular order. Life As a Trilobite was my most viewed and favourited in my DeviantArt.com gallery, and Disease was the least. For my blog entry posts, the two on life drawing from September are the most popular, probably since they are the least niche of my work and the easiest to search for.





In a few days I will post some glimpses of upcoming work for 2008.

The Flying Trilobite - Highlights of 2007

This has been an important year for my artwork. I began taking my paintings and drawings online last March, and this blog quickly saw a lot of changes in layout and tone. Yes, it has always been to promote my artwork and find future contracts and a wider audience; it has also allowed me to meet a number of talented artists, scientists, writers and bloggers from around the world -check the sidebar! I feel welcomed by the people who've taken an interest in my mythical flying trilobite fossil paintings, and interacting with people in comments and on their own blogs has been a rewarding experience so far.

In this post, I thought we could look back at what I consider some of the highlights of the year, and my fledgling career.

Page 3.14 profiles Glendon Mellow
May 2007, Virginia Hughes of SEED magazine interviewed me for their Page 3.14: Best of ScienceBlogs and Beyond. This was pretty exciting; a peak moment of my year, for sure. I'd been online only two months, and the attention from Ms. Hughes and SEED gave me me a boost. Ever since a zoology-major asked about the tardigrade in one of my paintings, I have planned to get my paintings in front of as many scientists and science-enthusiasts as possible. My work is niche, and this is the niche. The painting featured was the Mythical Flying Trilobite Fossil from my banner. Oil on shale.

Retrospectacle banner for Shelley Batts

There are a lot of of interesting sites on the ScienceBlog network of sites that SEED magazine runs. One of my favourites has been Retrospectacle: A Neuroscience Blog. After making on a comment on one of Ms. Batts' posts, she checked the link back to me and asked me about doing one of her new blog banners. The other, featuring a nautilus and African Grey parrot was by Carl Buell, (scientific illustrator of great repute)! Working for Shelley was a pleasure, as was reading all the comments that followed on her site after she posted a making of the blog banner, with narration by yours truly. I went for a "Valkyrie" motif, to incorporate the wing of an African grey while highlighting the ear, and spotlighting a portrait of Shelley. A spiral in the title completed the reference to the cochlea.

A large portion of my visitors continue to come from Retrospectacle. My first professional work since taking my art online this year! The banner is a mixture of mechanical pencil, oil paint, and digital manipulation.

The Eloquent Atheist features Symbiosis
One of my personal favourites of all my paintings is one I did in university, called Symbiosis. It contains the aforementioned tardigrade (also known as a "water-bear"), a microorganism that can survive hundreds of years when dried out, only to start swimming again when placed in water. It also depicts some of my DNA-candles, and a figure in green writhing/dancing/falling in the foreground. It was the painting featured in my university's graduation show, and I've submitted to a competition in the past, though it was not picked.

It is fairly obvious from looking here at The Flying Trilobite that I consider myself a Bright, an atheist, a person who understands science and the power its rational checks and balances has for revealing the world as it is to us. I came across an exceptionally well-done site, called The Eloquent Atheist, and asked if they were interested in featuring any of my paintings. After some discussion with one of the editors, Michael W. Jones, an engaging writer himself, The Eloquent Atheist profiled Symbiosis, as the online-magazine's first visual art feature. Oil on canvas.

These may be the highlights of my art being showcased this year, and there is so much more. I have enjoyed comments and correspondence with the artists I have met on DeviantArt, and the illustrators Gina Mikel introduced me to on the sciart listserv.
I'm thankful in particular to some of the following:
This post from Tangled Up in Blue Guy , and being a part of Dale McGowan's Ten Wonderfull Things for a little while!
All the wisdom and shenanigans from Leslie Hawes, Fresh Brainz, Traumador the Tyrannosaur, Jesse Graham, Nancy Eldridge, Shelley Batts, PZ Myers, Metamagician & the Hellfire Club, Carl Buell, Jacqueline Rae, and Luna_the_Cat! Deep thanks to anyone who added me to their blogroll or linked to me this year as well. It is inspiring.

For 2008, I hope to produce more work of quality than ever, and to gain some more freelance contracts; sometimes the best work is though project collaboration. To all the commenters and regulars who have commented and encouraged and thrown eggs at me this year, my sincere thanks.

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.