Merry Darwin Day 2012!

Appropriately enough, I'm working on some scientific illustrations of beetles this Darwin Day. Can't show anyone yet. 

Please enjoy these images of our man Charles from years' past, and make sure to read The Beagle Project's Blog post about Darwin's birthday aboard the H.M.S. Beagle. 

The images below are from 2009, when I attempted to live blog progress from scratch of a new oil painting of a young Charles Darwin discovering a glyptodont skull in South America during the voyage of the Beagle. At the time (you can find all the blog entries in February 2009) I wasn't happy with how the piece was turning out, and the exercise got weird. Still glad I attempted it - it's good to experiment.

If you look at the first sketch, you can see the ghostly sketch of the Beagle masts rising behind our young explorer.

Quick sketch to get the shadows and composition down.





Focused on the face first. Relatively happy with the pencils.

Tinted in Photoshop, I actually like this sketched image better than the final.

My work station. Love those Micron brushes. 

More or less (somewhat less) complete. 



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Art Monday: inspiration interruption

Inspiration can strike at unlikely times. Usually, once I feel bogged down and frustrated while waiting for the oil layers to become tacky and the details to swim up and wow my eye, I am struck by competing compositions that fight my attention.

This time I'm going with it. Yeah, sure I have a sketchbook-load of ideas waiting to jump out this year, but I need to explore this Darwin and South American mammal fossil thing for a bit. My wife was great, just said go for it. Sure I spent ten hours drawing, painting and liveblogging; but I'm going where the Muse leads me.

So here's is where I left Charles since Darwin Day, discovering our friend the glyptodon.

It's not complete, and I'm still working on it. Remind me to fix the wrist. And the sky remains a mystery for now.

But I'm not about to abandon two of the other ideas that have been rattling around in my brain, waiting for release through my micro-paintbrushes.

Here's the beginning of one. I was hoping to sketch megatherium, but it turns out the Royal Ontario Museum doesn't have one on display. So, after a hasty 20 minutes between work ending and the R.O.M. closing, I sketched the distinguished skull on the left, an eremotherium.

You may notice I was looking up at it. On the right is the glyptodon again, a new drawing.

There will be more to this image, including Charles. To picture him, think of this quote: "He should be quite well-protected. If he survived the freezing process, that is."

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Merry Darwin Evening!

Liveblogging a new painting has taught me some things:

-It is possible to tire from the taste of amaretto-flavoured coffee (!)
-Don't start until you have a kick-ass drawing already complete, scans & pain
table prints ready
-Stop reading other Darwin Day posts when trying to paint
-Twitter is all aboot being an amazing tool
-There is no such thing as a small enough brush for an 8.5x11" painting
-As prodigious and exemplary as his work was, even Mr. Darwin must have slept sometimes.

Perhaps I should have simply tinted the drawing in Photoshop and called it a night?


I will soldier on over the weekend, and post a follow-up for Art Monday at the latest. Thanks to everyone for support today and all the entertaining and informative things I never knew about our Charlie.

This ain't done.

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Darwin Day Liveblog 5: deep in the ugly

At this phase, I feel like I can't stand the painting. If I wasn't clocking myself, I'd probably move on to a different piece. Charles is feeling it too: he's aged 20 years since the pencil sketch somehow.

Starting to work on the fossil skull. Maybe flipping on my iPod will help me pull it outta this nosedive by Liveblog 6.

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Darwin Day Liveblog 3: set-up

The painting is underway. I think I'm loving the Gold Ochre Transparent Hue on this one. And plenty of Naples Yellow, naturally.

This is the super-heroic Art S. Buck model in the pose, to try and get the lighting down from an indirect, overhead source in my studio, below.


Here's my set-up, this time on the dining room table. Should be moving along faster now.




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Darwin Day Liveblog 2

The more refined sketch.

Mr. Darwin's hand extended off the page, so I taped another sheet and kept drawing; it's been cut-off by my scanner.

This should be enough detail to print onto canvas-paper and the painting will begin. The glyptodon doesn't have the scute-y plate on it's head, but I think it works.

I'm aiming for a limited palette, deep shadow, high lighting and a sense of movement. In many ways, a counterpoint to last year's painting of busy contemplation. There should be some more surprises in the final composition that I don't need to to add to the drawing.

I hope everyone is enjoying a nice Darwin Day feast of rhea and armadillo!

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

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Darwin Day Liveblog 1

While doing the dishes last night I hit upon a composition I think works -er, not of Charles Darwin doing the dishes, but my mind wanders with the suds.

It's been a busy month so far of travel and illness, and I'm a little behind. Last year, I was ahead of the game with a drawing I was already quite pleased with, and photographed results every hour, and the painting took three. Drawing is the skeleton and muscle on which the skin of oil paint rests, and it takes time to grow. Painting on a time limit can help me work through the despair I often feel when a piece is in the ugly phases. Let's see what happens today. Forgive me, if today's exercise is not a triumph, but merely a stalemate.

Let's dive in.


Sketch one, above, inspired by suggestions made by Karen James. Perhaps this will become a full-fledged piece, but nautical vessels are not at the moment a strength I've tapped.

Thumbnail sketch, above.

Working out the pose using a super-heroic model for structure and shadow, above.

Early face and pose. Enter...the glyptodont!

Scanning and tweaking to post is taking a bit. I'll forge ahead and be back by 6 pm eastern standard!


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Original artwork on The Flying Trilobite Copyright to Glendon Mellow under Creative Commons Licence.
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Tomorrow: liveblogging a portrait

Tomorrow, February 12th is the 200th anniversary of Charles Darwin's birth, and the 150th anniversary of The Origin of Species first publication.

I'm far from the only artist to wish to depict the man whose insight gave the world so much. Make sure you see Chris Zenga's irreverent Darwin-zombie-teddy-bear at The Day After, and Carl Buell's astounding new portrait (as well as a previous beauty here!) I expect we'll be seeing some work from Bond at ReEntry as well.

So in between travel and illness, I've been working on some sketches
of a younger portrait of Darwin, and I plan to live-blog the results every hour. I should get started around 1500h e.s.t., and I'll update this post with an edit for an exact time of the initial layers of paint. The first layers are usually dishearteningly ugly.

'Might be getting linseed oil on the scanner again...

Oh, a peek? Okay.


But this isn't what it will look like.

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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 ### 2009 Calendar available for a limited time