Ink and bones. Depictions of rocky matrix embedded under the skin. Time for a peek at some science tattoo designs, including one I have not shown before:

Tylosaurus Ink, tattoo design © Glendon Mellow, for private commission.

Some of the most rewarding work I do from time to time is designing science-inspired tattoos. The Tylosaurus above was a clear vision from the client: they knew what they wanted. The version I am sharing here is a variation I particularly like. I attempted to pattern the shadows like the underwater pattern of surface waves moving over the fossil.

When sitting down to to start, I find it's best to go back to basics and get some life drawing done. Even if the sketches aren't ultimately incorporated into the final drawing, I like to have a feel for the correct structure, whether it's for an extinct predator's skull or a caffeine molecule. Start with accuracy and then allow artistic style to go a little crazy and bite the edges.

Back in university, one of my roommates was in theatre and the other was in dance. I remember how we all agreed it was essential to know the classical foundations of our art practices before we started to break rules. You have to know where the boundaries are to push against them.

Torvosaurus Ink © Glendon Mellow, commissioned by Brian Switek. Screenshots of inking in ArtRage.

I first met author and blogger Brian Switek at ScienceOnline in 2009, and enjoyed his blog Laelaps before that. The chance to work with him on something as badass as a dinosaur skeleton tattoo -! How could I pass that up?

This Torvosaurus is the 3rd Morrision Formation predator I have designed for Brian and once again, Heart of Gold Tattoos in Utah has done a spectacular job.

The final Torvosaurus design and tattoo inked on Brian Switek's arm by Austin Huffman of Heart of Gold Tattoos, Utah.

When Brian came asked me about the first tattoo design, an allosaurus in the classic curled-back death pose, I was actually a little skeptical. The pose seemed at odds with how people commonly read a dinosaur shape. While in the midst of working on it, I realized how much the curve of the death pose combined with the detailed vertebrae spoke to my love of rendering spirals and s-shapes with teeny details.

Next was Switek's Ceratosaurus ink commission, and by the time we got to this Torvosaurus, I was just enjoying myself.

I think I need a dinosaur skeleton tattoo. A dilophosaurus in combat boots?

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Heart of Gold

Brian Switek

See more of Glendon Mellow's work-in-progress science tattoo design posts on The Flying Trilobite blog.