Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Silhouettes and getting there first

A furniture company (West Elm) has just raised some questions for me. What happens when an artist sees commercially successful work that looks a lot like something the artist made 8 years ago (2002)? The three top images are mine, the bottom from the store...

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Life Cycle of a Monarch Butterfly

The oak tree on my father's farm is a place of repose for thousands of Monarch butterflies on their migratory path between Mexico and upper North America, a journey of up to 3,000 miles. The tree had more butterflies than leaves, opening and closing their wings as if the tree itself was breathing.

The caterpillars lived off the milkweed growing in the fields and ditches. Their skin is brightly colored, but birds stay away, as milkweed is poison to them. This website gives more information on their trip.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Narwhal shingle painting

I wanted to make a sort of 18th century folk art, maritime painting of a narwhal.
Narwhals, the unicorns of the sea, are closely related to porpoises. Males have a tooth growing out of their upper lip that may allow for increased sensitivity to oceanic information. Imagine the teething process!
The scientific name is Monodon monoceros, "one-tooth one-horn". Narwhal comes from the Old Norse word nár, meaning "corpse", like the color of a drowned sailor (thanks Wikipedia).

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Fabulous Flutterbys

I just got included in a treasury of beautiful Monarch Butterfly items, Fabulous Flutterbys.
Mine is the painting in the third row, on the right.

Have a wonderful day, and I hope you get to see some butterflies out and about!

Friday, June 18, 2010

Tenniel, again

I did this painting because I was inspired by the "Black Box Project," as conceived by British artist Craig Kerrecoe:

Think of this as an opportunity to leave a brief message to the future- what would be the last thing you could tell the world? What would be the one thing you wish you'd said if you had the chance? If your life flashed before your eyes, what would you see? Maybe you would want to warn the future to learn from our mistakes?

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Lucy, short photographer

I just wanted to share some photos from a 5 year old's perspective. Lucy is such a good artist. (This used to say that Lucy is the best artist, ever, but I thought twice about such a broad claim...)

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Horseshoe Crab isn't a crab

I just donated my horseshoe crab painting to the Etsy collective, "Help the Gulf Coast," which donates 100% of proceeds go to Oxfam America or the National Audubon Society for gulf clean up efforts. More info can be found on their blog.

In case you are as fascinated by horseshoe crabs as I am, here are a few tidbits (more at this website):
  • This is a crab that isn't a crab! It is distantly related to spiders and scorpions. Its correct name is Limulus polyphemus.
  • The Limulus is a "living fossil" dating back to Triassic times, over 200 million years ago, a time when the first dinosaurs and primitive mammals appeared.
  • Its tail is NOT a weapon, but serves one real purpose: to help the animal turn over should a wave tip it on its back.
  • Limulus can reach maturity in nine to 11 years. At maturity, the female is larger than the male.
  • Because Limulus has a hard exoskeleton, it has to molt its shell periodically in order to grow. Many of the Limuli you find on the beach are not dead, but the castoff shells of molted Limuli. Once a Limulus sheds its old shell, it has a new, soft one that hardens in about 12 hours.
  • Limulus has four eyes - two small, simple eyes up forward and two larger, compound eyes (much like a fly's eyes) on either side of the shell.
  • Limulus has blue blood, a light blue. Human blood is red because it has a red pigment called hemoglobin which contains iron. The Limulus blood contains copper rather than hemoglobin thus giving the blood its blue color. The animal's blood also contains fantastically sensitive chemicals used by researchers in discovering harmful bacteria called endotoxins, sometimes found in human blood. In short, the blood of this ancient animal might well save your life some day.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Giraffes and, well, fiddle songs about drugs

What's the best way to learn a fiddle song? Listen and play, Suzuki style, or sheet music? Either way, I'm not very fast, so this time I will try both for a fiddle tune called Soldier's Joy. Here is a very simple youtube version, broken down for folks like me. Then there is the sheet music.

The song has off-color lyrics to it, that can be heard on the 1929 recording by Gid Tanner & The Skillet Lickers:
Grasshopper sitting on a sweet potate vine (repeat)
Along comes a chicken and says you're mine

I'm a gonna get a drink don't you want to go ?
All for soldier's joy

Well it's twenty-five cents for the morphine
Fifteen cents for the beer
Twenty-five cents for the morphine
Gonna take me away from here

I am my momma's darling boy
Singing 'bout soldier's joy

The tune may date back to the 18th century and became very popular in the English speaking world, according to this website.

On the painting front, I spent the evening finishing a painting of a baby giraffe licking it's nose.

For more of my posts on fiddle tunes: Improving on the Fiddle, Ashokan Fall, and House Sings Saint James Infirmary

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Illusions in photography, Animals stopping us in our tracks

I found Julia Forrest's work on-line, and wanted to share it. I really like the idea of "tricking the camera," rather than manipulating it after the fact.

Also found the video installations of Katy Higgins, and found them playful and daring in their simplicity. Baboons should be brought more into our daily lives!

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Thank you, Tenniel

Since I started painting sea turtles a few months ago, I have heard a lot about sea turtles in the gulf. I guess that was on my mind as I created this painting, a conversation between a 5 year old and the Mock Turtle (Tenniel's illustration for Alice's Adventures in Wonderland).

This is an excerpt from a therapist's site, describing the symbolism of sea turtles:

If feelings of betrayal, abandonment, anger, rejection, loneliness, fear and others are present, it may be time to slow down and retreat into the sacred dome of the turtle shell, to seek its safety and protection. From this protected, yet free place, you can effectively explore the more vulnerable parts of the psyche.... The sea turtle is a symbol of rebirth.

On a brighter note, Laurent and I finished watching Examined Life, made by filmmaker Astra Taylor. It was a titillating look into contemporary philosophy. Laurent complained that we barely scratched the surface, but I thought the mental monkey bars were fun.

Also, I just got included in an Etsy Treasury, if you'd like to check it out!

Thursday, June 3, 2010

The Peleides Blue Morpho Butterfly

Still in butterfly mode... I wanted to paint this little being on a different surface. Laurent had some lovely pre-sanded (that is, sanded by him!) wood scraps lying around. He very kindly cut me a square, which I turned into this portrait of a butterfly.

I got curious about the butterfly, and did a little searching on Wikipedia. I think this is the one:

The Peleides Blue Morpho (Morpho peleides) is an iridescent tropical butterfly found in Mexico, Central America, northern South America,Paraguay and Trinidad.

The Blue Morpho Butterfly drinks the juices from rotting fruits for food. Its favorites are mango, kiwi, and lychee. Blue Morpho butterflies live in the rainforests of South America, and can be found in Mexico and Central America. The wingspan of the Blue Morpho butterfly ranges from 7.5 cm to 20 cm. The entire Blue Morpho Butterfly life cycle, from egg to adult is only 115 days. The larvae of Blue Morpho Butterflies are cannibals. The caterpillar Blue Morpho Butterfly is red-brown with patches of bright green. The brilliant blue color in the butterfly's wings is caused by the diffraction of the light from millions of tiny scales on its wings. It uses this to frighten away predators, by flashing its wings rapidly. The Blue Morpho Butterflies stick together in groups to deter their predators, a form of Mobbing behavior.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

More butterflies

After a marathon fiddle class (an hour and a half is more than my shoulders can handle!) with my wonderful teacher, Cathy Clasper-Torch of the Gnomes, and my wonderful fellow students, I was happy that finishing my painting was a relatively short affair this evening.

The butterflies were so interesting to paint that I couldn't resist giving them another go.