Retrospectacle: A Neuroscience Blog

The Evolution of a Blog Banner

Glendon Mellow of The Flying Trilobite just finished this beautiful banner (currently rotating with Carl’s) for me this weekend, and I thought it might be interesting to show the stages and though process behind his art. Our initial conversations about what I wanted in a banner were along the lines of, that I blog about neuroscience, Greys, student life, fun stuff, hearing, and going anywhere with that was fine with me.

Step 1. Thought about wing, an ear, and started with the Valkyrie type image. Thought about how cool it would be if Shelley was leading a gang with multiple-species, parrot-wing helmeted scientist-warriors.


Step 2. Drew a wing out in water-soluble pencil crayons, fudged the wing colours to bring in the red of an African Grey’s tail. Worried about purist owners of African greys slamming the heresy.


Step 3. Copied a photo of Shelley from her blog, heightened the contrast, and clipped the sketch from step 2 onto it. Shelley mentioned making it dark, (my favourite) and I through a black background on it. Also hand-drew a 2 minute version with blue around it too embarrassing to see the light of day.


Step 4. This is where I stay up late, drinking coffee, listening to fast gothy electronic music like Jakalope. Used my favorite tools, 0.3mm lead pencil on vellum-finish bristol. Used Shelley’s face for the Valkyrie, since Retrospectacle is personal. I am really happy with how this drawing turned out. I like the Valkyrie-type idea. They were strong mythical female warriors in an age dominated by men. The wings also suggest Nike or Athena to me, for Victory & Wisdom. Scanned image in, printed it out onto canvas-paper so I can paint it without harming the original drawing.


Step 5. After painting on top of a couple of versions, I had trouble with the pale face and shadowing away from the ear. I decide to see what it would look like if I invert the whole thing. Showed it to good friends who will criticise me if I am on the wrong track. More coffee & fast electronic beats.


Step 6. Painted the ear & wing in oils, scanned it, tried a few concepts. This symmetrical one seemed too busy and impersonal. Played with various levels of cropping to see if the whole face was more important than the feather details.


Step 7. The final product. I picked this one since the face is up close which seems more intimate. Added effects using Photoshop to give it depth and draw the eye from the image on the left to the title on the right. Used font named ‘Kartika’ and put a spiral for the ‘O’ to reference the cochlea. Finished all the coffee in the house.


Thanks so much Glendon, and great work!


  1. #1 Dan
    September 24, 2007

    That’s pretty awesome. You’d look great with wings on your noggin’, Shelly. hehehe…

  2. #2 Jennifer Ouellette
    September 24, 2007

    Absolutely gorgeous banner! Two thumbs up!

  3. #3 Charlie (Colorado)
    September 24, 2007

    I dunno, honey, looks like evidence of intelligent design to me.

  4. #4 blf
    September 24, 2007

    It is attractive.

    May I offer a criticism? Nothing to do with the artwork per se, but with the lack of contrast between the red letters and black background. Some people–e.g., me–have a very hard time reading what is written. The contrast is too poor. Fortunately, in this case, it doesn’t really matter (we all “know” it’s probably just the name of this weblog), but this is a graphic design issue which can be annoying…

    Interestingly, the usual trick of negating the image to read what was written doesn’t work due to some blobs in the background of the right half of the image. I don’t know if those blobs are intentional or are spilled coffee?

    This is a groovy image! (Eeek! Did I just date myself there?)

  5. #5 Rich
    September 24, 2007

    The “blobs” in the background remind me of Babylon 5-style lens flare effects. I think they make it look much better than an expanse of black, even if they do make it the title harder to read.

    Both banners are great.

  6. #6 Kevin
    September 24, 2007

    “Thought about how cool it would be if Shelley was leading a gang with multiple-species, parrot-wing helmeted scientist-warriors.”

    I think there is a whole Sci-Fi channel miniseries just waiting to be written!

  7. #7 Alvaro
    September 25, 2007

    the real bionic woman!

  8. #8 pough
    September 25, 2007

    It took me a while to connect that wing to the inverted face. In fact, it took me a while to see that there was a face in the image at all, and so for a short time it looked like your new banner included a wing that had been ripped off a bird; the white ear looks like bone and the red feathers like blood.

    Other than that, though, it looks cool. Must say I prefer the Valkyrie and that one where the wings actually match your head.

  9. #9 mary
    September 26, 2007

    Great banner, enjoyed seeing it evolve here. Not too sure that you don’t look more like a Hermes or Mercury type than a Valkyrie, but they all would look good on you!

  10. #10 Graeme Elliott
    September 26, 2007

    It’s interesting, and appealing in an indefinable way. Interesting development process!

  11. #11 Jennifer McGladrey
    September 28, 2007

    Looks great!!
    I think the circles of colour in the background add dimension to the banner and it doesn’t look flat with just a black background.

  12. #12 Alexis
    February 26, 2011

    Really like the way you showed the process and the creativity, shows how much work and thought can really go into creating a website and banners for each I have been getting into banners and am always looking for bigger and better ideas.

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