Art Monday: sketching with iPod Brushes

Still getting used to it. Brushes is a pretty powerful program for digitally painting on the iPod Touch. I'm hoping to grow in skill with Brushes as I go - perhaps I need a stylus. Right now, I'm using my fingers.

When the idea for my Major Billy Barker & his Pterosaur Squadron hit me,
I was walking in a park and tried to sketch it out. The final colours ended up looking pretty different. But it caught the perspective and clouds.

Here's a slightly more detailed sketch for a new piece I am working on about the accomodationist / science communication uproar that's been happening on science-based blogs for the last little while.
It was again, one of those ideas that I needed to sketch immediately. I filled a couple of pages of my sketchbook, and this image before beginning the final piece. It's a great way to do a quick colour study without the mess. Not sure if the DNA pawn will make the final image though.

The stuff at the Brushes site is pretty inspiring, and illustrator Eric Orchard did some nice work with it recently. I think the key is to spend time with it, as you would any painting medium, rather than solely for sketching as I have done so far. I'm sure I'll be posting new images as they come.

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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: turning point?

Apologies for the length of time this painting takes to download. Should be nice and pretty when you click to enlarge, though. Enjoy it and then prepare for some indulgent introspection on my part. 2009 is half-over. It has begun as a great year for me. My artwork has been published on two book covers and a magazine cover. Another text (currently available online) features 5 of my images and an interview. I travelled to ScienceOnline09 and met amazing people. Participated in SciBarCamp here in Toronto, met more stellar people. Completed another blog banner I'm quite proud of. Asked to be an inaugural member of Art Evolved. Been interviewed three times. Yeah. It's been a fantastic year so far!

So now where do I go?

I've re-enrolled in school for the fall, so that will keep me busy. I continue to work in management full-time. Lately I've been playing with commercial properties, doing a bit of fan-art involving Transformers and Marvel comic characters. Started work on the next Art Evolved gallery about anomalocarids (you think "primeval predator", I think "high fashion"). I have an idea for an original painting I'd like to auction off and donate the money. And Major Billy Barker & his Pterosaur Squadron up there has surprised me in how interested I am in continuing the world on that little canvas.

With the amount of projects burning to go forward past the sketch stage, I could easily be as busy creating art as a full-time job. At the moment, it's an alluring thought, but not enough to pay the bills. (Yet?)

Where am I going? Am I spinning my wheels or is this taking me somewhere?

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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 ***

Major Billy Barker & his Pterosaur Squadron

Major Billy Barker & his Pterosaur Squadron
(click to enlarge, or visit my gallery for a larger view)

The paint is still wet, thus, the photo at a weird angle to prevent glare. I'll see if I can get a better shot up for my next Art Monday. Oil paint on canvas. This is my submission to the third Art Evolved group gallery, which happens to be launching July 1st, Canada Day.

In my generation, a lot of history learned in school was rote memorization. Dates, names, places. My high school had a vast amount of letters from former students to their teachers in the World Wars that we read each Remembrance Day. Perhaps the advantage of the internet is the ease at which you can learn now. No trip to the library, not knowing what you are looking for. Click, click, and there it is. Perhaps this is Gen X apathy, I'm not sure.

Sometimes as an artist, rarely, I get an image full-blown in my mind. That was the case here. Composition, lighting, hues. I needed some details for the biplanes.

So I did a bit of online poking to look up biplanes, and found the story of a true Canadian adventurer, perfect to add to my (perhaps audacious) idea. Major William George "Billy" Barker was a World War 1 flying ace and Victoria Cross recipient who flew Sopwith Camels against German Fokkers. Although I could not find any information indicating he fought against the infamous Red Baron, Manfred Von Richtofen, I thought the drama of these two excellent pilots would heighten the alternate history in this concept painting. Of course, our Canadian hero Major Billy Barker has a trick up those RAF sleeves: his fighting pterosaur squadron, made up of Quetzalcoatlus northropi.

The Red Baron will live to fight another day. Some theories have it that he was shot and wounded by other Canadian pilots though that remains controversial. Whatever the case, I love that the idea that popped into my mind led me to reading about Major Barker in time for Canada Day, and Art Evolved.

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Art Evolved Pterosaur Gallery
Major Billy Barker on Wikipedia
Major Billy Barker & his Sopwith Camel at Ace Pilots
The Red Baron on Wikipedia
The Red Baron & his Fokker at Ace Pilots

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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: WWI pterosaur sketchy sketches

The last few weeks of Art Mondays have mainly been sketches and unfinished drawings. This week is a bit more of the same. I fins that sometimes, inspiration for new and varied pieces falls into my mind in a torrent, and I struggle with my pencil to keep up.

Perhaps it's the season. I walk to my day-job, about 40 minutes through a beautiful park, past galleries and boutique clothing stores in one of the hippest areas in Toronto. Trees are full, the air is warm and we haven't had a smog day yet. It's a good time for thinking.

Next week, Art Evolved is launching it's third gallery of prehistoric art, and the theme is pterosaurs. There's been a lot of debate about physiology flying back and forth on Art Evolved. Unsure of my exact position in scientific illustration, I p
ondered whether to go for a full-on restoration illustration, or something unusual and fantastic like my first two entries.

It's a rare thing, when the whole idea appears before your mind's eye, full-blown, down to the brush strokes. This happened here.

A little research, and I am falling in love with the idea. I plan to keep
it loose, and go for a more sketchy painting style in this one.

In brief, I wanted pterosaurs, specifically Quetzalcoatlus northropi fighting alongside the RAF against the Red Baron. I'm not a World War 1 history buff by any stretch, though lately I've been reading little bits. I came across the name of Major Billy Barker on Wikipedia, and knew I had the right hook to the painting. Barker was Canada's own flying ace, with 50 confirmed aerial kills, and he pioneered the leader-wingman strategy for pilots. A real character.

And the best part is, the pterosaur gallery is launching on July 1st; Canada Day. Sweet.

I used to hesitate to put sketches like this online. They contain a lot of useful information for me to use, but they are by no means drawings in their own right; and that's an important distinction. A sketch is a rough idea, an analogue to a hypothesis in science. The drawing is the capital-T Theory, fleshed out and a piece of art in it's own right, paint not necessary.

Hmm. This post is like my art lately. Wandering all over the place. Ok. Time to get back to the aerial battle and oil paints.

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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 ***

In Strange Company:

I noticed while pursuing that vainest of pastimes, googling myself, that I was quoted on a site called I hadn't come across this online 'zine before, and it's...umm, weird. Or odd. Unusual. A little different, yes.

It seems to be a mixed bag. The subject matter is credulous; everything from 'giantology' and smoking chimpanzees to UFO's and the pterodactyl 'Thunderbird'. Then it shifts, and often is debunking what it finds, playing the skeptic. I've come rather late to this magazine, as's founder, Mark Chorvinsky, has passed away in recent years. Seems like an interesting guy.

It prompted me to look up the term, "Fortean". I had seen the Fortean Times on magazine racks, and thought it kind of New Age-hokey. It seems there is a bit of a poke-in-the-eye attitude toward scientists, mixed with a different sort of skepticism than you see in Skeptic magazine. A quote from Fortean founder Charles Fort (at right) on Wikipedia: "Now there are so many scientists who believe in dowsing, that the suspicion comes to me that it may be only a myth after all". The Skeptic's Dictionary, always one of my favourite places, has an entry on Charles Fort as well.

The quote from my blog was from my posting about palaeontologist Dong Zhiming educating some Chinese rural folk who believed dinosaur fossils were really medicinal dragon bones. It feels somewhat strange for a person like myself, trying to be rational and understanding the scientific method to be quoted on a site near articles on Bigfoot. But what I've read so far shows these journalists are showing a healthy dose of skepticism and tracking their sources, as wild as the claims are.

It's interesting that skepticism falls along a spectrum rather than a discrete definition. But perhaps that's a scientific simile.