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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Ceratosaurus Science Ink

Another dinosaur tattoo design!

In March of 2012, I posted a bit about the process behind paleontology author and blogger Brian Switek's 
Allosaurus tattoo design, which he commissioned from me and had inked at the Heart of Gold Tattoo studio.

Brian Switek is the author of Written in Stone and My Beloved Brontosaurus and the former blogger at Laelaps on Wired, and Dinosaur Tracking on the Smithsonian site.

Recently, he's taken his Laelaps blog to National Geographic's new "science salon" blog network, Phenomena. 

You can read more about how I personalized it with hidden Easter Eggs in the design to make it specifically for Brian in the original post.

Brian liked it enough, he needed another carnivore.


Sketching the horned beastie in my Moleskine. Ceratosaurus was much like Allosaurus but with a wicked horn, and devilish ridges over its eyes. 

My work in progress, inking using ArtRage Studio Pro. The inks in ArtRage are pretty phenomenal. In this case, I mostly stuck with the technical pen. 
Illustrators out there can see why I enjoy Artrage so much. It's like working on a desktop in realspace. Reference photos pinned, all my tools on the quarter-wheel to the left, all my paints in the palette on the right. 

My first proposed final design. 

You can see one of the differences I made from the Allosaurus in the top image in this post:  The allosaurus had hollow, outlined vertebrae and ribs, with solid black limbs and skull and the Ceratosaurus has the reverse. The dinosaurs are similar enough (and I was proud of my skull linework on the Cerato) that I thought this might be interesting.

Brian made the call, and it was the right one to have both matching: outlined vertebrae and ribs, solid limbs and skull. The two predators are, after all, side-by-side on his arm and so the similarity strengthens the design. 

From left: Allosaurus, revised Ceratosaurus, initial Ceratosaurus. Click to enlarge.
Yeah. The middle one matches the Allosaurus much better, and the skulls have more impact in solid black

Brian visited Jon at Heart of Gold tattoo in Utah again, and here's the final result!  

Brian's arm photo by Tracey Switek.

It was amazing working with Brian Switek again and boy oh boy - I want a dino skeleton tattoo now myself.

You can read more about how the two skeletons I largely worked from for the Allosaurus and Ceratosaurus are related over on Brian's post on the new Laelaps!

If you'd like to see more of my science ink designs, check them out at my portfolio at glendonmellow.com under the science tattoo header

Thanks Brian!

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

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  • If there had actually been a plague of flying trilobites in your area, you would be alerted to report to your nearest government relocation camp for decontamination and flamethrower duty. 
  • Please report possible sightings to black-uniformed visor-wearing authorities in your area. Follow instructions. Then head to nearest government camp for re-education. 
  • Do not attempt to capture specimens from what may be a flying trilobite swarm.
  • The government will requisition you a flamethrower and futuristic silver thermal protection jumpsuit with nifty yellow stripes. It will cost the taxpayers 
  • ₤ 150 000. 

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**Thanks to Lucy Jain for the writing prompts on Facebook!

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

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Inky Bidness

Coupla tattoo things. 

Fascinating personal post by paleo-author Brian Switek of Laelaps over at his other gig, Dinosaur Tracking, where he talks some more about the tattoo I designed for him not long ago. And hints at a second design possibly in the works. (I'm trying to see if it's possible to make a theropod's jaw open and close on Brian's flexing bicep.)

Check out his Allosaurus Ink, Brian has more recent, healed photos.  

Another tattoo I designed, the caffeine molecule for my SciAm peep Scicurious has long been one of my most popular all-time posts for getting traffic. Bound to happen then, that another internet denizen, Ryan S on Reddit has gotten a similar tattoo based on the design Sci and I came up with. 

Here it is on Scicurious:

I've also made a portfolio gallery of my science tattoo designs if you'd like to see more.

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

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Allosaurus Science Ink

You know, doing science tattoo designs is an aspect of my current career I never would have guessed I'd be doing 10 years ago. They're challenging and fascinating. Each time I feel really honoured someone would like their body graced by one of my images. 

When author of Written in Stone Brian Switek asked me about designing a tattoo, I was really excited.  Brian's one of my favourite bloggers, both at Wired's Laelaps and the Smithsonian's Dinosaur Tracking, and who I have also been lucky enough to meet at ScienceOnline the past few years.  Great guy. 

Right away, he knew what he wanted: allosaurus in the death pose in blackline. 

I headed to the Royal Ontario Museum, which has an allosaurus mount scurrying under the new signature barosaurus named Gordo.  

I took these photos since they're backlit, and that's helpful for a blackline tattoo, but in the end I didn't reference them.

Instead, even tough it was to be a blackline, silhouette design, I like to start by standing in the museum and drawing a detailed sketch of the skull, hands and feet

While I was drawing this from the original skeleton, Gregory Paul patted me on the head, gave me a doggy treat and said, "Good boy!". Then he whacked my nose with a rolled up newspaper. Yeah, I was confused too. 

I drew the body separately, and Photoshopped the head on. For those not familiar with this pose, most terrestial vertebrates, from dinosaurs to rabbits can be found in this extreme back-arched pose after they die. The thinking is that it's likely ligaments and tissues around the deceased animal's spine tend to dry out first, tightening and contorting the body. 

Above is a screenshot of me inking the skull using ArtRage Studio Pro, my favourite digital painting program.  I found the basic billboard marker gave me the lines I liked.

Brian was getting this tattoo in part to mark a transition: from his home state of New Jersey to Utah, and the allosaurus is Utah's state dinosaur. So as I neared completion of the skeleton drawing, I started thinking about different ways to make this tattoo design more personal to Brian, and not just a random dino fossil.

So I sent him this image below in an email, and asked if he could find the Easter Eggs:

Do you see them?  

The coloured-in portions are in the shape of a tiny New Jersey (green) and Utah (coral).

After looking at a few variations, such as all-black with no outlines, a broken tail, and so on Brian settled on the image above. I like this one too: the solid black ribs, leg and skull are offset by the outlined vertebrae.  I think it breaks up the image in an interesting way, and visually makes the image clearer to someone who may not be familiar with the dinosaur death pose. 

Here's Brian with the finished piece, done by Jon at Heart of Gold Tattoo.

Thanks Brian!  That was really fun and I love how the final version turned out. Badass allosaurus.

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For more of my science tattoo designs, check out the following links:

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

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Hominid Skulls wearing Mexican Wrestling Masks

Not every art project for a client sees the light of day. Here's an example from a few years ago.   
(I retained the copyright on the images even if the contract had gone through: in this case, I was never paid so I'm quite sure there's no conflict, and it's fair game to post these.)

The client had asked for a challenging tattoo design.

Up to you to judge whether or not these fit the bill. The concept was three different hominid skulls, each wearing Mexican Luchador wrestling masks. In black line: no colour, no grey scale. See?  Challenging. How do you bring out the masks on very specific human ancestral skulls without colour?
I got started by working on the hominid skulls and on the layout. Homo sapiens sapiens, Homo erectus tautavelensis and Australopithicus afarensis.

Deciding the layout of the three skulls.

Originally, I drew the concept in reverse by mistake;
three masks that look  like hominid skulls. 

I played with the drawing in Photoshop to get a different view of a "messier" ink style.

Now the challenge of overlaying cloth onto skulls,
and making the bold cartoon outlines found on Luchador masks.

Final submitted image. The Australopithecus on the bottom is wearing a half-mask.

There were more drawings than these few; I like to keep clients informed when working on a project and it's especially important for the personal work involved in tattoos. Ultimately, the project was never fully realized. But what do you think of the last image?  Does it read as hominid skulls wearing Luchador masks?

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

Nautilus Tattoo - hardcore ink

After posting Thomas Trae's Flying Trilobite tattoo here on the blog recently, I ended up in conversation on Twitter with Alchemystress of Tales of a Mad Scientist on the LabSpaces network.

Alchemystress was unfamiliar with my work to date, and after some enthusiastic emails, decided to get a tattoo based on this image, from one of my university studio projects!

Her tattoo artist did an incredible job of mimicking the pencil and giving it an old-drawing feel, as well as deftly expanding on the flowers I had included.

Check out the amazing ink below, after the jump:

I can only imagine the delightful feeling of a tattoo right on the elbow. But Alchemystress is hardcore: check out these tattoos she already has! And there may be another - we're discussing a new custom tattoo. Thanks for admiring the artwork, Alchemystress!  Make sure to check out here blog, Tales of a Mad Scientist.

Okay so. Scicurious, Thomas Trae and now Alchemystress: We need leather biker jackets and matching Vespas and we will be a gang and we will be feared for we will bring the science.  

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Original artwork on The Flying Trilobite Copyright to Glendon Mellow
under Creative Commons Licence.
Above photos © Alchemystress

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Am I in the wrong business?  Should I start practicing on pumpkins?

Highest form of flattery

One of The Flying Trilobite fans on Facebook recently purchased some stickers from my print shop and let me know he had placed them on his bumper. 

photo © Thomas Trae 2011

I asked Thomas Trae if he could put the picture up and he did. 

Then he showed me the highest form of flattery toward my art:

photo and arm © Thomas Trae 2011 and forever. 

He got inked!

"Did I forget to mention the Flying Trilobite is hovering over the Megasquid?" said Thomas.  Our ensuing conversation:

  • Flying Trilobite Is that painted?
    Thursday at 15:05 · 
  • Thomas Trae ‎'Tis inked, good sir.
    Thursday at 16:16 · 
  • Thomas Trae And boy did that area hurt. Not so much the trilo, but the green. Aaaaand he had to re-do it several times on different occasions.
    Thursday at 16:20 · 
  • Flying Trilobite Holy monkey - permanent? A tattoo? People will know you and I belong to some sort of ancient arthropod-worshipping cult --- er!! I mean people will *think* you and belong to some sort of cult. But that's just silly, heh heh....
    Yesterday at 03:55 ·  ·  1 person
  • Thomas Trae The trilobite just seemed to compliment the Forest Cthulhu. Yeah, we share 'the Mark' now. One day, when the stars are aligned, the Great Winged Trilo will rise from the depths of an alternate history...
    20 hours ago ·  ·  1 person

My Brother!

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Original artwork on The Flying Trilobite Copyright to Glendon Mellow

Scicurious Caffeine Swag!

Remember this caffeine molecule tattoo I designed for Scicurious?  

Click to enlarge.

Now you can get that molecule for yourself, on:

variety of mugs

Hyperactive undergarments

Messenger bags


The message on all of them is "Are you scicurious?"

All my above links are to the items in Canadian dollars.  Check out Scicurious's online shop
in American here, and Sci's own announcement here.

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

The Caffeine Molecule Tattoo design is under copyright exclusive for use

by Glendon Mellow and Scicurious.  Ask first kthx.
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