A Big Bee

When my son was just over a year old, we'd argue about the flying trilobite tattoo on my arm.

"Can you say, 'tri-lo-bite'?"

"Bee," pointing at my arm.

"It looks like a bee, yes. But it's a trilobite."

"Try clapping out the syllables for him," Michelle, the educator, suggested.

"Okay, Calvin,"(clapping each syllable)"Tri-lo-bite," I enunciated.

Random clapping. "Bee."

Again, clapping each syllable. "Tri-lo-bite". 

An exasperated look for his father, the toddler touched my winged trilobite tattoo, looked me in the eye and said:

"A big bee."

Now he's two, and can say it just fine. After saying it clearly for the first time, holding the fossil above (minus the wings: I found the wings in the years once years ago and snapped the pic - birds had eaten the rest of the poor monarch).

After saying "Trilobite", he laughed, refused to give back the fossil, and a chase scene ensued. 

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

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Camping in Rockwood

Last week we packed up and went camping at a place that sounds like it's named after a map in the Fable game series. And it didn't disappoint. No Balverines though.

The Rockwood Conservation Area is near Guelph, Ontario, and near enough to civilisation you can hear trains in the night, which I enjoy -it's a bit eerie and a bit romantic. This was our first camping trip with our baby, now 7 months old, and Michelle and I were joined by our intrepid ready-for-anything nephew.  It rained a lot, but I managed to make espresso over the fire, we found caves, enjoyed the Cambrian coral limestone formations, found the ruins of a mill from the 1800's and discovered glacial potholes being broken with generational slowness by the cedar forest.

I always feel like I'm committing an artistic sin when I go on a trip like this, sketchbook in hand, and don't take the time to do any sketching. What can I say: we were gone two nights and spending time with the family hiking and puttering around the campsite took priority. So I took lots of reference photos. And I will say ten Hail Artemsia Gentileschis and draw something difficult like a foot in foreshortening to atone. 

Enough talk. Pictures. 

Thistle in the rain. 
Cedars along the rocky shore. 

Entrance to the Harris Mill, established in 1885 .

Sitting with the sleepy monkey after a long hike which he snoozed his way through.

Our nephew exploring the ruins, looking for good spots to jump off of.

The Mill in the distance. A lot of goldfinches had baths in the stream. 
Entrance to some caves. These went in really deep, and we could see chambers beyond. 

Mist roiled out of the caves into the humid Ontario air. 

Me and my boy sitting under the blue tarp in the rain. 
Espresso brewing over the fire. 

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

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Felice Frankel on Studio 360

Studio 360 is featuring audio and a slide show narrated by Felice Frankel, science-photographer and co-author of No Small Matter.

(produced by Studio 360's Sarah Lilley)

You may remember Felice and I co-facilitated a session at ScienceOnline2010 last year, discussing science-imagery and metaphor.  We had a great time, and her insights into the physics of the nano-scale are accessible and aesthetically wondrous.  Lots of links here.

Check it out and head over to Studio 360 to comment, or better still pick up No Small Matter by Felice Frankel and George Whitesides-it's a treasure.

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Original artwork on
The Flying Trilobite Copyright to Glendon Mellow
Creative Commons Licence.
The work above is © Felice Frankel, and the slideshow was produced by Sarah Lilley.

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Photos from the Kortright Centre

Some of my photos from the SONSI (Southern Ontario Nature & Science Illustrators) sketch day at the Kortright Centre for Conservation just north of Toronto, a couple of weeks ago.
The SONSI group at the marsh.

Leopard frog.  Lots of tadpoles around. 

Red-eared slider ignoring us in the sun.

I managed to spot a heron pretty far away. 

Photos are great for future illustration reference. 

Perfect day.  I stood here sketching reeds. 

Swans heading back to their nest on a small island in the marsh. 
If you're an illustrator or fine artist living in Ontario interested in nature and science, check out our new group.

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

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Tips on web-ready images

One of the Southern Ontario Nature & Science Illustrators' members asked for a few tips on making images web-ready, and putting the little © copyright symbol on things.

Head over to the
SONSI site for some of my quick tips.

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

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

Metro Toronto Zoo trip & Polar Tweets

Last weekend was "Teacher Day" at the Metro Toronto Zoo. Michelle could get in free, with one guest (yay me!) and we brought along our intrepid nephew to explore in wonder.

Though we had sketchbooks, we spent a beautiful 7+ hours going from sultry pavilion to spacious grassy enclosure to the marsh, just taking it all in and zooming in with a ton of photos. Sketching at the zoo is something I've only been able to do briefly.

Here are a fraction of the photos I hope to use as reference or digital textures some time. Though I've watermarked them with this blog url, I should note I think almost all of these were taken by my awesome wife Michelle.
A bird we couldn't identify in the Indo-Malayan Pavilion. (Looking pointedly in GrrlScientist's and Dan Rhoads' directions...)

The air was still cool, (about 15C, if I recall) and many of the animals were really active.

Some of the rocks near the polar bear enclosure have trilobites carved in them, with an explanatory plaque describing the largest so far found, Isotelus.

Colours in nature are often far more bright and outlandish than a natural realist painter can get away with. One of the many peacocks that wanders the zoo.

The Neph seeing of this turtle responds to visual stimuli. (Nope.)

Even an accidentally blurry photo can be incredibly evocative to a painter's eye. Look at this seahorse in motion. Like something out of a Precambrian dream.

Look at the magnificent textures on that lovely face. A reminder from an elephant that an artist can never have too much detail. And there I go anthropomorphizing again. This elephant was making a subtle, powerful purring-clicking noise while she foraged on her own, as close to the humans and as far from the other elephants as could be.

The Metro Toronto Zoo also has a fascinating initiative involving Twitter, called Polar Tweets. You rescue a polar bear by creating ice out of words you tweet that are pro-sustainability and environmentally-friendly. The level of ice changes quite a bit during the course of the day. Like a socially-conscious NeoPet.

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

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Meeting Bloggers - Science Online '09

Since taking my artwork into the blogohedron, one of the privileges that has resulted is meeting other bloggers I admire. I've stated before how the first half of this year has been excellent for me, and meeting other bloggers in person is a definite highlight. So I've started this series of posts in no chronological order since I'm an artist and we can therefore presume I'm flaky.

I'll start with a few pics from Science Online'09 back in January. You can see my posts about the un-conference here. So far I have neglected to put photos up. Using a borrowed camera, some of the shots came out a little fuzzy. I like using ambient lighting without a flash, but apparently drank too much coffee. Ah well. For the record.

Kevin Zelnio, Karen James, Miriam Goldstein and Southern Fried Scientist. Having an intense discussion about sea chanteys, I believe.

The Beagle Project is a serious, serious endeavor. Karen James is its serious spokesperson. Seriously.

Jason Robertshaw and Cephalopodcast for a better tomorrow! Jason saved my hide during my session presentation. Turns out I know nothing about using laptops for projecting useful images. Hm.

Having din-din with Bora Zivkovic, Karen James and Brian Switek. Bora stole someone's chair.

Blake Stacey is an awesome dinner companion. He keeps an extra brain in his hat. Both are witty.

There were coffee, sugary confections and wine. Me with Southern Fried Scientist after dinner. The Minnesota Posse. Greg Laden, Ben Zvan and Stephanie Zvan. After this picture was taken I tried to jump Ben and steal his outfit, but it turns out he knows ninjitsu. Dang.

Tanja Sova, my presentation-partner gave me a sweet wooden flying trilobite necklace! Go to her Etsy shop. Right now. Skip the rest of the pictures.

Oh, that's all.

Definitely looking forward to Science Online 2010!

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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 ***

Pucker & Bloat have a new fan

Here's our 3 year old hermit crab Shiny enjoying Pucker & Bloat from the Cephalopodcast.

I've added an abundance of new bloggy-peeps to my blog lists since ScienceOnline'09. And the content is entirely appropriate for 3-year old hermit crabs! Educational and fun.

As you can see, Shiny is sporting his fah-bulous leopard print shell. Almost grown out if it, the big boy!

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

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Things I don't blog about

...and maybe I should. One of the sessions I learned the most from at ScienceOnline'09 was the Nature Blogging, moderated by Kevin Zelnio and GrrlScientist. When the discussion became an open question of what type of blogs do you most enjoy, in many ways it became about blogging in general, and not just nature and/or/vs. science blogs.

So, to veer away from the question of nature blogging, here are a few things I don't blog about, and maybe should once in a while.

-My family life. Last October for our fifth wedding anniversary, my wife suggested we drive up to the Scenic Cav
es near Collingwood Ontario. It was a beautiful autumn day, and it the hike and views were terrific. I admit to an unexpected bought of claustrophobia going through one narrow passage: I backed out! Michelle made it through. Next time, perhaps.

Michelle is a big supporter of my artwork and burgeoning illustration career.
I'm a lucky man to be married to someone who so thoroughly 'gets' me.

Our nephew has also had a large impact on my life. I seem to be one of the major 'male' influences in his life, and I take that responsibility seriously. I don't believe it's completely fair to post pictures of him all over the place when he's too young to consider the impact, so usually the pictures are when his back is turned. I've identified him before as Obi-Wan, and later, Dr. Jones. Perhaps at the moment he's Bruce Wayne.

Some time maybe, I'll be able to ask Michelle to guest-b
log here on The Flying Trilobite. Would that be fun?

-My walk to work. There's a spot in Trinity-Bellwoods park where you get this clear view of the CN Tower between two trees. I've often thought how great it would be to do a photo essay of the the view of the trees and world's tallest free-standing structure (until two years ago, anyway) as they change with the seasons.

-Star Wars.
Why? Well, this is in part because of the Science Fiction in Science Blogs session hosted by Stephanie Zvan. Why not?

I was three years old when A New Hope came out.
When I was 9, my mother gave me all three "Art of" books for the trilogy. I think they, along with the book Castles by Alan Lee are major inspirations for why I am an artist. I really don't care what trash-talkin' people have to say about the dialogue, directing, plot holes - for me Star Wars stands as a pinnacle of human imagination. I like Jar-Jar. Every scene, every costume, every alien is the result of artists with unbridled creativity challenging their minds and their technical skill. For pure visual aesthetic alone, Star Wars is tops.

With the Clone Wars series and the movies on dvd, my nephew is a huge fan. So I have an excuse to keep playing with 3 3/4" figures. Below is a picture of Han Solo's birthday party in the cantina, with my nephew in attendance. (I Photoshopped his face over Obi-W
an's body.)

-Gothy archetypes. I've had this idea to sketch some of the gothy "looks" that have remained part of the club scene here in Toronto for the past ten years. Not specific people, just certain styles that seem to be perennially present in the dark spectrum of Toronto. I keep toying with doing this.

The young goth-try-too-hard. The Victorian top-hat-and-velvet. The vaguely H.R.Giger-esque jeans-and-t-shirt guy. The Betty Page. The goth b-boy.

The closest I've come to so far is mentioning some of the fast music I listen to while painting.

-Being a Bright, and an atheist. You may not be able to tell from my actual posts (though there's plenty of evidence in my sidebar), but I'm an avid read
er of many of the "New Atheist" books and blogs. The National Post paper here in Canada seems to address the culture war (though not by name) more than any other, and I follow the damage done in the name of religion on a daily basis. I try to balance this with plenty of reading from the other points of view, but I have yet to be persuaded that religion does more good than it does harm.

This ties into every aspect of my life. I try to bring a skeptical, curious worldview into everything I do. I'm still searching for a way to bring it into my painting more directly. So far it either becomes satire or horribly depressing, and with the world of science inspiring me, not as appealing. We''ll see if a couple of things in my sketch book make it out this year.

-Art tips and techniques. This I think I'll start doing, and soon. The second session I helped to moderate at ScienceOnline'09, along with artist-biologist Tatjana Jovanovic-Grove was about how to put up decent images online. There are already plenty of great sites about art online (Gurney Journey, Leslie's Blog and Lines and Colors spring to mind[edit: who can forget the tips at Heather Ward's?]), but perhaps I'll be able to contribute something here as well. Mainly, I like blogs that have a focus, but break the wall now and again to show some other aspect of the author's life. Maybe this post is enough for a whole year of breaking the wall. Maybe not.

Art in awe of science remains.

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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