Beetle Week Day 5: The Exhibit

Welcome to Day 5 of Beetle Week here on The Flying Trilobite!

Earlier this year I was commissioned by entomologist and insect photographer Morgan Jackson of Biodiversity in Focus to contribute to a soon-to-be-published, honest-to-gosh dead-tree book about jewel beetles here in Ontario, Canada. The result? My first series of scientific illustrations, instead of the off-kilter, surreal science paintings I'm known for. 

Today: The Exhibit
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Time to have a look at all of the final versions of the beetles. And a hearty thank you to Morgan Jackson for asking me to take on this project and being so supportive during the process!

Agrilaxia © Glendon Mellow - Prints available

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Mastogenius © Glendon Mellow - Prints available


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Paragrilus © Glendon Mellow - Prints available


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Spectralia © Glendon Mellow - Prints available


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Texania © Glendon Mellow - Prints available


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Trachys © Glendon Mellow - Prints available


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Xenorhipis © Glendon Mellow - Prints available 

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There are also many other variations of these images available as mounted and framed prints, posters, and even an iPhone case in my online store. Stickers coming soon!

Thanks for crawling along with Beetle Week!
Day 1: The Challenge of Scientific Illustration
Day 2: Painting Bugs with ArtRage Studio Pro
Day 3: Being a Freelancing Dad
Day 4: Animated Painting of Trachys
Day 5: The Exhibit  
 

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

Portfolio
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Find me on Symbiartic, the art+science blog on the Scientific American Blog Network!

Beetle Week Day 2: Painting Bugs with ArtRage Studio Pro

Welcome to Day 2 of Beetle Week!

Earlier this year I was commissioned by entomologist and insect photographer Morgan Jackson of Biodiversity in Focus to contribute to a soon-to-be-published, honest-to-gosh dead-tree book about jewel beetles in Ontario. The result? My first series of scientific illustrations, instead of the off-kilter, surreal science paintings I'm known for. 

Today: Painting Bugs with ArtRage Studio Pro

Technical specs: 


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When tackling a new illustration subject for the first time, I like to begin with mechanical pencil and bristol paper. They're my comfort zone. After that though, I have decisions to make. In my undergraduate degree, I worked mainly in oil paint. Since then, I sometimes find it more useful to paint digitally, especially for a project like these beetles. Adjustments and corrections to ensure scientific accuracy are much easier with digital media than with traditional paints.

I've tried a number of digital painting programs, and by far my favourite is ArtRage. If you're not familiar, it's a digital painting program with versions available for PC, Mac, iPad and the iPhone. Each one is relatively affordable (under $100 for the PC version, compared to several hundred for Photoshop).

The main attraction for me with this program has always been the interface. Instead of drop-down menus, ArtRage includes all the important tools right on the screen in two quarter-circles in the corners:

Screenshot showing the interface, from my original test of some of ArtRage Studio Pro's tools. Click to enlarge. 


On the left, all your tools: oil and watercolour brushes, inking pens, pencils, erasers and host of other tools from technical to goofy. On the right, the colours, allowing you to adjust tones and how metallic the paint appears. These two palettes, tools and colours, mean everything to me as a classically-taught painter. I feel just like I'm dipping into my palette or brush box.

In ArtRage you can control the paper or canvas surface (or blackboard, or sandpaper or...) and the digital paint handles differently on each type. The big advance in Studio Pro (also known as ArtRage 3) over the previous 2.5 version is, in my opinion, the amazingly realistic watercolours.

I planned to use watercolours for the beetles early on. It can give the work the feel of old naturalist's studies. However, as the project went on, I realized that more than watercolour would be needed to bring out the richness of texture and metallic colour on some of these little animals.

Here's a look at Xenorhipus:

Xenorhipus, one of the more colourful jewel beetles for this commission. © Glendon Mellow


This painting required a lot of stippling.  The Intuos 3 graphics tablet has 1024 levels of pressure, so you can achieve some subtlety of colour depending on how hard you press.  It's one of the main features of working on a desktop that remains superior to the iPad version.

Here's an up-close look:

Up close, closer than I look while actually painting, you can see metallic green pain near the top swathed in more liquid greens. The little greyish tadpole strokes in the bottom half show how varying pressure even in a single stroke can add to the detail. 


A few of the beetles were shiny brown shades, others were multiple bright metallic shades. Another nice feature in ArtRage is you can store and name specific palettes.  Here's one of mine, for Trachys:

Custom colour palette for Trachys, the most brilliant of the subjects. You can see the point of grey chosen on the colour palette at right that I've listed as "grey dots". I found that often, the colours I chose needed to be more brilliant than the ones in the photo references to "read" similarly to the eye. 

I also saved a custom brush that I found was useful for fine detail, hairs and lines on a number of the beetles. Here's a sample of a few light-colour brushstrokes on a dark ground from the painting for Texania:

Custom brush menu. You can save multiple menus, and make them available to more than one file. I've placed some brush strokes on the white area beneath the menu so you can see what they look like without the rest of the bug's head.


If you'd like to learn how to save your own custom tools, I made a short video tutorial last year:



ArtRage is powerful for painting, but sometimes a little less perfect for editing. A couple of the beetles had a kind of "squashed banana" look to them as a result of me trying to inject more dynamic poses and bending them where they don't bend. When I went in to fix them, I used Photoshop Elements 6, the eraser, free transform and the clone tool.

Here's examples of the bent beetle Paragrilus (left), and unbent (right).

Paragrilus, in a dynamic, twisty, squashed-banana pose on the left, and fixed using Photoshop on the right.


There are selection tools in ArtRage Studio Pro, as well as some tools called templates that can be used and I suspect could have done the job in fixing Paragrilus's tilted back, above. I'll have to experiment some more. In this case, I went with tools I already knew to make the correction, and ArtRage allows you to save files in Photoshop's .psd format, even keeping layers intact.

Have any other scientific illustrators tried using ArtRage to do their work?  I'd be curious to see other examples or get feedback on this project. I would certainly use it again, perhaps even with digital pencils as I become more comfortable with them.

Questions, comments and opinions encouraged below!

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Check out the rest of Beetle Week!


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

Portfolio
Blog
Print ShopFind me on Symbiartic, the art+science blog on the Scientific American Blog Network!



Beetle Week Day 1: The Challenge of Scientific Illustration

Welcome to Day 1 of Beetle Week on The Flying Trilobite!

Earlier this year, I was commissioned by entomologist and insect photographer Morgan Jackson of Biodiversity in Focus to contribute to a soon-to-be-published dead-tree book. The result?  My first series of scientific illustrations, instead of the off-kilter, surreal scientific illustrations I'm known for. Today: The Challenge of Scientific Illustration.

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I've been painting for a couple of decades, and blogging my artwork for over 5 years. One of the joys of this career is that there's always more to learn, more challenges, more surprises.

When Morgan Jackson first approached me about contributing 7 Ontario jewel beetle illustrations for an upcoming publications he and researchers at the University of Guelph are working on, I was excited about the idea and also a little intimidated.
 

Although I sometimes head to the Royal Ontario Museum to work on realistic drawings of fossil skulls, they are mainly exercises for myself, and not overseen by researcher in the field. I assume they do add a little to my professional street cred since this blog is frequented by paleontologists and paleo-art fans. Morgan's request was different. These needed to be spot-on scientific illustrations, useful for the purpose of identifying some of Ontario's diverse species.

So, I did what I usually do when trying to depict a new subject: got out my Strathmore Bristol paper and trusty .3mm mechanical pencil and started to draw in high detail. The project called for 7 species, and I decided to start in alphabetical order, with Agrilaxia.

Agrilaxia drawing, © Glendon Mellow


As I mentioned above, Morgan is an amazing nature photographer (seriously. Check this out. Or this.) Though I wasn't able to visit his lab, he provided me with stunning dorsal, ventral, side and genitalia(!) views of the beetles to illustrate.

And after scanning the drawing above, and opening up my favourite digital painting program, ArtRage Studio Pro, that's when I got cold feet. I mean, how realistic does the painting need to be?  You can zoom almost an infinite amount in a digital painting, and the high-res macro photos Morgan zipped and sent to me allowed a huge level of detail.

As I was zoomed in, I starting getting that creep of imposter syndrome. How could I possibly match a photo with a painting?

A cup of coffee later, and I started to relax. Morgan and his team were looking for scientific illustrations, for paintings, and I know he's viewed my portfolio. Making everything super-hyper-photo real wasn't the goal. I hoped.

I settled in and began to paint.

Screenshot of painting Agrilaxia in ArtRage Studio Pro, with Morgan Jackson's photo references on the left.

I'll say more about the process of painting with ArtRage tomorrow.  It's enough to say I employed a wide variety of that robust program's painting tools, and started to enjoy myself. I emailed some in process shots of Agrilaxia to Morgan, and to a couple of artists who's opinions and discretion I could trust.  I can count on them to keep me honest, and the reactions were positive.

Part way through the process of painting the beetles, I recall Morgan letting me know some of the other researchers were getting accustomed to my art style, or some words to that effect. Important feedback that sends me into a hyperactive state of focus, trying to ramp up my accuracy and tighten up the work.

Accurate enough? Final, almost full-res version of Agrilaxia. © Glendon Mellow


It was a lesson for me as an illustrator, and also one for researchers considering hiring an illustrator. Chances are, if you are not going with photography, there will always be a little of the artist's style - the movement of their hand, the colour associations in their eye - that is inherent in the final  illustration. It's the sum of the illustrator's experiences up to that point in their career coupled with doing something new.

That said, being a scientific illustrator carries the responsibility of taming style in the service of the twin aspects of accuracy and clarity.

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Stay tuned for the rest of Beetle Week




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

Portfolio
Blog
Print ShopFind me on Symbiartic, the art+science blog on the Scientific American Blog Network!



Explosions of activity

Detail from Incredible Hulk Anatomy.

Recent news from my studio:
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The Incredible Hulk Anatomy image did very well. 

  • Published it on Symbiartic, got some good traffic, over 70 Facebook Likes and a few comments there. 
  • Editor-in-chief of io9.com, Annalee Newitz published it there, and it's up to about 24000+ views in 4 days. 
  • This Tumblr-er posted it, and it's been re-shared and Liked more than 370+ times. 
  • I had some fun viewing it on Google Ripples.
  • My Symbiartic post about fine artist Marc Quinn's Self also got a shout-out on Gizmodo.


    I don't have time to do a lot of fan art: but it is a useful tool to getting noticed by a wider crowd, much like how many 90's goth bands did covers of popular Depeche Mode and New Order songs. It's a lot of fun to do though. Wonder what I should tackle next?  Always wanted to finish something with Cloak and Dagger. 

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    I revamped my professional portfolio online. 



Instead of awkwardly grouping artwork by mediums used (painting, drawing) as I used to do, I think I've made it a little more editor and art director friendly by arranging the galleries by topic. 
New galleries are:

Hopefully this makes it easier to navigate. I also tried to pick some really strong images for the first image in each gallery. 
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I'm pretty close to revealing some of the work I did earlier this year. It's my first time doing actual scientific illustration instead of the surreal stuff I'm usually commissioned to do, and I'm really pleased with how they turned out. After doing these, I think I shed my imposter-syndrome that flares up a bit when I consider myself a part of the science blogosphere. #Iamscience

For now, here's a little Instagram-preview of one of the images:

© Glendon Mellow



Expect more posts about this project pretty soon!  There's also 4 more projects in the works...


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

Portfolio
Blog
Print Shop


Find me on Symbiartic, the art+science blog on the Scientific American Blog Network!

Reminder: SONSI Science-Art Talks in Toronto this weekend!



I'll be one of the presenters at this weekend's Southern Ontario Nature and Science Illustrator's series of professional talks.  These should be a great help to illustrators of all stripes, and I'm psyched about the day.
Here's a link to the official blurb, and I've re-posted it below.

Invitation to all illustrators in Southern Ontario:

SONSI's 2011 Presentation Day
October 16, 2011 
12:00 PM to 5:00 PM
Toronto's Harbourfront Community Centre
Assembly Room A
627 Queen’s Quay West, Toronto

Please join us for an afternoon of illustration-related presentations by members of the Southern Ontario Nature and Science Illustrators and a representative of Access Copyright. Light refreshments (coffee, cookies) will be provided.
For non-members, a $15 donation to SONSI is requested (or $10 for full-time students). This will help us cover the cost of facility rental and refreshments.

Space is limited so please register to attend by sending an e-mail to: sonsigroup@gmail.com


Agenda:
Arrive at noon, presentations begin promptly at 12:20.
12:20 pm to 1:30 pm "A Quick Look at Adobe Photoshop"
1:35 pm to 2:15 pm "What Access Copyright can do for Illustrators"
2:15-2:30 break
2:30 pm to 4 pm "Illustration Blogging; why it's essential"
4:10 pm to 4:50 pm "The Content of Contracts"

PROGRAM:
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"A Quick Look at Adobe Photoshop" by SONSI member Jeremy Loranger

Adobe Photoshop is one of the most powerful programs in an illustrator’s arsenal today. However useful it may be, Photoshop can also be quite a daunting program for newcomers. This presentation will serve as a brief introduction to the program as well as provide some very useful tips and tricks that are commonly overlooked in many tutorials. Proper file formatting for print and web, as well as web security for your work will also be discussed. Bring your questions!  


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"What Access Copyright can do for Illustrators" by Margaret McGuffin of Access Copyright
Every day across the country individuals in schools, businesses and government copy excerpts from published works to obtain the valuable content they need to get their jobs done. But are you - the owners of that content - being compensated? If one of your copyrighted illustrations is published in a book, newspaper, magazine, or journal, then you need to find about becoming an Access Copyright Affiliate. Don't miss out on Payback! Also, Margaret will explain what grants The Access Copyright Foundation offers to creators of copyrighted material, including Research and Professional Development Grants. 


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"Illustration Blogging: why it's essential" by SONSI member Glendon Mellow
How to dive into the online world of blogging and social media to find work, fulfilment and community. Worried about image theft and your copyright? Don't understand Twitter or G+? Want to see how easy it is to set up a blog?  Blogging your artwork can be essential in today's market - people expect to be able to provide feedback in numerous ways to images they find on the internet. We'll discuss the basics to the latest in social media for illustrators and how to be effectively busy online without losing control of your images and brand.

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"The Content of Contracts" by SONSI member Emily S. Damstra
Wondering if it's really worthwhile to have your clients sign an agreement? Worried that your contract is missing something? Frustrated that the contract your client provided isn't quite what you had in mind? Hear from someone who has signed a lot of contracts in her career; learn from her mistakes as well as her successes.


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The Southern Ontario Nature and Science Illustrators is a regional organization of illustrators whose works focus on science and nature.
Our goals are to:
  • Further our own professional development by learning from each other
  • Encourage each other toward higher standards of competence and ethics
  • Network and socialize with others having similar interests and work experiences
  • Support the intellectual property rights of visual artists
  • Promote our discipline to the general public and to potential clients
  • Educate the public about science and nature through our work
We meet every month or two throughout the year, primarily in locations between Kitchener and Toronto, Ontario, Canada. Anyone with a genuine interest in nature and science illustration is welcome to join.
For more information about SONSI please visit our website: www.sonsi.ca
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Bios of presenters:


Jeremy Loranger has a Bachelor of Applied Arts in Technical and Scientific Illustration from Sheridan College and has been working freelance for 2 years. His work covers a broad spectrum including fine art, biomedical textbook illustration, exploded isometric assembly diagrams, video game production art, and 3D modelling. http://www.jloranger.com/

Margaret McGuffin is Director of Licensing and Distribution Services at Access Copyright. Prior to joining Access Copyright, Margaret worked as a consultant providing business planning and research services to organizations including the Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame, Canadian Heritage and The Canadian Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences. Margaret has been involved in the formation and development of a large number of music industry collective management organizations including the Canadian Private Copyright Collective and the Neighbouring Rights Collective of Canada. Margaret currently sits on the Advisory Committee of MusiCounts which is a not-for-profit providing grants to schools across Canada for the purchase of musical instruments. She also spends a large amount of her free time in hockey arenas with her two children as a team manager and trainer. For more information about Access Copyright visit their website: http://www.accesscopyright.ca/

Glendon Mellow is a fine artist + illustrator whose projects have ranged from fine art commissions to tattoo design to museum display; appearing in magazines such as Earth and Secular Nation, in books such as Geology in Art and The Open Laboratory and sites such as io9.comHe has spoken at the Centre for Inquiry Ontario and at ScienceOnline.  Glendon is a co-blogger on the new Scientific American science-art blog Symbiartic and shares his art process at his blog The Flying Trilobite, and tweets at  @flyingtrilobite. His portfolio can be found at glendonmellow.com.

Emily S. Damstra has a Master of Fine Arts degree from the University of Michigan and has been a full-time freelance illustrator for eleven years. Her clients have included the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History, The City of Kitchener, The University of Michigan Press, Natural History Magazine, The Royal Canadian Mint, The Calgary Zoo, and many more. Visit her website: www.emilydamstra.com

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

Portfolio
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--> Find me on Symbiartic, the art+science blog on the new Scientific American Blog Network!

Talking copyright and illustrator activism on Symbiartic

Today I have what I think is an important post up on Symbiartic over at Scientific American, discussing copyright and illustrator activism.  

Head over there to read and discuss whether I'm right in saying "It's time for Illustrators to take back the Net". Or just critique my sketchy Western illustrations. It was inspired by a lot of the posts and situations I link to, and from the growing community of illustrators on Google+. 

Here's the composite image I sliced up for the post, done with the latest edition of ArtRage Studio Pro:



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

Portfolio
Blog
Print Shop 

Lookee here--> Find me on Symbiartic, the art+science blog on the new Scientific American Blog Network!

Repost: Gaps in the artistic record


Anthropometry - ©  Glendon Mellow 2010
Occasionally any artist or illustrator will question their direction and portfolio.  Here's a post that originally appeared in March 2009 where I had a look at myself. Has anything changed?

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A brief list of art I'm missing to be considered the following type of artist:

Scientific Illustrator
-Cut away view of fish or of the Earth's crust with little labels
-Skeletal outline for clarity
-Heavily airbrushed, smooth view of pink & blue lungs
-Colourful landscape of organisms that would normally be hiding from each other

Pseudo-scientific Illustrator
-pulsating food morsel/medicine/sport drink going down gridded simplified human body to pulsate stronger in stomach
-simple diagram of human body with labels of animal names or words like "virtue" and "3rd eye"
-elegant watercolours of St. John's Wort and echinacea
-illustration with pyramids and lots of glittery silver

Paleo-Fantasy/SF Illustrator
-Leopard-bikini wearing woman riding mutant theropod with horns
-Innocent waif girl with clunky robot friend
-Herbivore & carnivore dinosaurs looking up in shock at UFO
-Blue shadowy background with PVC-wearing woman carrying two ridiculously huge and complicated guns

Fine Artist
-Object made from my own body or my trash
-Mash-up of multiple impermanent materials: painting on a cake left to go moldy and filmed for YouTube
-Painting "referencing" another artist's work, while allegedly subverting it
-Painting something vague that could be better explained in an op-ed column

Where do I fit, categorically? At ScienceOnline09, [and again for ScienceOnline2011], I used 5 categories about science-art that differ from these.

Art in awe of science sums it up enough.

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Original artwork on The Flying Trilobite Copyright to Glendon Mellow

Science-Artists Feed: the list

The other day I announced a Science-Artists feed anyone can subscribe to, allowing them the follow the blogs of over 50 artists inspired by or working on visualizing science. Here's the list so far of who is in the Science-Artists feed I created and has been picked up by Scienceblogging.org.  I'll be adding more as I go, please feel free to suggest more blogs if you know of them!

The List, in no particular order:




Who am I missing?

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

Portfolio
Blog
Print Shop