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. 


Art Monday: tangling some blue

Last week I was tagged by Mike of Tangled Up In Blue Guy with a blogging meme. So can I out-blue the Blue Guy?

Here are the rules:
  1. Link to the person who tagged you.
  2. Post the rules on your blog.
  3. Write six random arbitrary things about yourself.
  4. Tag six people at the end of your post and link to them.
  5. Let each person know they’ve been tagged and leave a comment on their blog.
  6. Let the tagger know when your entry is up.
Keeping a blue theme in mind, I'm going to change the rules a bit. I'll talk about my associations with colour, and things I often teach about pigments. Here we go.

Phthalocyanine Blue: Throughout university, this blue appealed to me. It has a green undertone which made it feel dirtier and more like a blue you'd encounter in a mysterious forest. Painting pale flesh tones was daunting early on, so I'd paint them in blue tones. Gradually I warmed up to greens with naples yellow, and then red with naples yellow. But blue was a safe place to start, so far removed from human pigment.

French Ultramarine: I'm going to say this out loud on the internet, and it's a scandal. I'm more nervous about admitting this to Mike than announcing to the world I'm an atheist. I hope we will still be friends. Mike's blog is named Tangled Up in Blue Guy after a song by Bob Dylan. I can't stand Bob Dylan. Oh, I'm not ashamed of this. Bob Dylan drives me nuts. No redeeming value to his music to my ears. This shouldn't be a surprise with what I've mentioned about music in the past. Mike, do I still have a free pass to comment on your blog? Or has it been revoked?

Mauve (blue shade): The Symbolist era of painting in the "Mauve 1890's" is the era I feel the strongest affinity to, though it is almost the antithesis of what I paint. Much of the fin-de-siecle angst was about harkening back to an earlier period of art, literature and myth. Fear of modernisation and industrialisation drive much of the subjects of art at this time. The Impressionist movement was largely ignored by artists I see as heroes, such as Redon, Deville, Moreau, and (my favourite) Khnopff. Instead they painted Salome with the head of John the Baptist, sphinxes and chimaeras, tombs and beautiful Mannerist-style bodies. I love the Symbolist aesthetic, but I am an artist in awe of science when it comes to my subject matter.

Indanthrene Blue: When walking my dog in a wooded park, sometimes we'd stop and I'd lie on my black and stare up at a deep blue autumn sky. And just try to absorb all - that - blue. Beautiful scattered light blue.

Cobalt Rose: Cobalt is an expensive, mildly toxic, strong tinting, long-lasting (we're talking centuries) blue pigment. And it reminds me of Dungeons & Dragons. In D&D, there are a type of goblin called kobolds. And the pigment is named after them, for the difficulty of mining it and for its poisonous nature.

Cerulean Blue: Go to an art gallery, and take a look at the religious paintings. (Go ahead, you can be an atheist and think they're beautiful, it's fine. Think of the talented humans who created them and be in awe.) You may notice that the virgin Mary is often wearing bright blue. No doubt some twisty theological logic may explain this. There's also a simpler economic reason.

Blues described as 'caeruleum' were quite expensive in medieval and Renaissance times. A patron would send the artist to the apothecary to purchase a certain amount of expensive pigments to pridefully show-off their piety. Who to paint in expensive colours? The most important person in the painting would be Jesus Christ. But he was mainly depicted as an infant or semi-nude in crucifixtio
n scenes.

So the expensive paint would adorn Jesus's mother, Mary. So you know. Praise blue.

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Time to meme-tag. I tag Bond's Blog, Of Two Minds, Laelaps, The Darkened Face of Heaven, Eastern Blot, and The Evilutionary Biologist.

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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.
Please visit my blog, gallery and reproduction store.

Artwork Mondays: D.N.A.-Candle Vanitas III

I've blogged about my DNA-Candle Vanitas paintings before, but perhaps I should explain again.

Here is what I said in my first post about this series of images:
Vanitas painting is an old tradition, especially popular in the Northern Renaissance. Usually, it is a still life, depicting perhaps a skull, a broken watch, a candle just snuffed out with the smoke trailing in the air, a book half-read, a tipped over water glass....Pieter Claesz, trained by Franz Hals, is one of my favourite masters of this art style.

The image is one of mortality, with a kind of knock-you-over-the-head symbolism. The message intended is a kind of carpe diem, or "seize the day".

After reading about how telomeres may play a part in the aging process, and that their ends snip off when they replicate, I started coming up with the DNA Candle image. I remember reading something in the 90's that suggested if one could extend telomeres, one may be able to stave off death. The candle melting and the telomere shortening just seemed a natural image. I used DNA as a wick since it is more readily recognisable by most people.

So the ultimate message of the DNA Candle Vanitas is one of seize the day, life is beautiful but finite. The candles are lit and glowing, a loving image and the wax has melted together in union.
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This dramatically purple Vanitas was created for Nevin Douglas and Anya Vena for their wedding, two very artistically talented people, and very good friends of mine.

I've known Nevin for years, and he is an amazingly talented guitarist and songwriter. Nevin used to play in the band Debaser, and can now be heard playing around Toronto as part of the experimental rock outfit, Thee 9am Social. Check out their tracks on their MySpace page!

Anya has a powerful voice, and is the vocalist in the popular Toronto indie band, Personal Circus. Don't miss their shows, Anya's showmanship on stage is compelling and entertaining.

Both these bands have the speed and licks that make it easier for me to paint. If you are in the Toronto area, make sure to check their pages for future shows. I painted the Vanitas with a deep purple that to me, feels like it resonates with the power of Anya's voice, and the painting contains the dark speed of Nevin's guitar.
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.

The Pharyngula Mutating Genre Meme

A blogging and scientific experiment.

There are a set of questions below that are all of the form, "The best [subgenre] [medium] in [genre] is ...".

Copy the questions, and before answering them, you may modify them in a limited way, carrying out no more than two of these operations:

*You can leave them exactly as is.

*You can delete any one question.

*You can mutate either the genre, medium, or subgenre of any one question. For instance, you could change "The best time travel novel in SF/Fantasy is..." to "The best time travel novel in Westerns is...", or "The best time travel movie in SF/Fantasy is...:, or "The best romance novel in SF/Fantasy is...".

*You can add a completely new question of your choice to the end of the list, as long as it is still in the form "The best [subgenre] [medium] in [genre] is...”.

*You must have at least one question in your set, or you’ve gone extinct, and you must be able to answer it yourself, or you’re not viable.

Then answer your possibly mutant set of questions. Please do include a link back to the "parent" blog you got them from, e.g.
The Flying Trilobite to simplify tracing the ancestry, and include these instructions.

Finally, pass it along to any number of your fellow bloggers. Remember, though, your success as a Darwinian replicator is going to be measured by the propagation of your variants, which is going to be a function of both the interest your well-honed questions generate and the number of successful attempts at reproducing them.

My grandparent is
My parent is
Metamagician and the Hellfire Club.

The best time travel novel in SF/Fantasy is:
Hyperion by Dan Simmons.

The best romantic movie in scientific dystopias is:
Gattaca (1997).

The best sexy song in rock is:
#1 Crush by Garbage from William Shakespeare's Romeo + Juliet Soundtrack.

The best cult novel in Canadian fiction is:
JPod by Douglas Coupland, 2006.

I call upon the following to continue this scientific experiment:

Fresh Brainz

A Blog Around the Clock

Life Before Death

Leslie Hawes (after you finish your excellent series, of course.)


Fish Feet

Anyone else who wants to play out this science experiment, please do, and let me know!