Monday, June 18, 2018

My version of Angry Birds


The game has been downloaded more nearly 4 billion times – almost enough to give half of humanity a download. The company behind the game, Finnish company Rovio, began like most. They launched one, two, three, four, ..twenty, …fifty...fifty first, and all failed or were rejected by game developers. Facing bankruptcy, they conceived a new game for a new device, the iPhone. Game designer Jaakko Iisalo was home alone. Iisalo settled down to play with some games ideas, and, a strange idea began to brew. As he started visualization it, he turned on Photoshop and sketched out a bird with large eye-brows, no feet, and a somewhat disturbed appearance. He knew he had hit upon something and showed the bird to the management, the presentation turned into an “Aha” inspired moment for the whole company. Looking at the bird, even without knowing the point of the game, they already found it irresistible. They were hooked.

Rovio’s 52nd game was launched. The rest is history. Like the little angry birds who are persistent and determined, Jaakko Iisalo and Rovio persevered when others would have quit.  The company went from the verge of bankruptcy to being worth 290 million Euros.  the Moral of the story: Never give up!!

My print is inspired by the game. It is also inspired by my own experience of witnessing "angry birds' when I stumbled into a raven's roost. These birds were enraged, and would throw themselves at me to beat me back. I decided my version would have realistic images of wild ravens and a ferule pig. My narrative is told by the Birds as they prepare to be catapulted at their enemy the pigs.  

The Trebuchet is prepared for battle.
Our enemy is the swine on the further side of the gorge.
Their vile jade flesh glistens behind their frail bastion.
We brave, we honored few, make the ultimate sacrifice.
Winged Warriors wait, flocked and exhilarated.
Each will ride the grime air-stream to glory.
Victory to the one who ends the beast’s unctuous laughter!

ANGRY BIRDS, Etching- diptych,  7 inch x 10 inch 2012 $80

Saturday, June 16, 2018

Raven's Barbecue

How Raven Killed The Whale

Jonah and the Whale
Everyone knows the story of Jonah and the Whale. There are also stories from the Yankee whaling days of unfortunate whalers being mauled by a whale. No one willingly enters a whale mouth...except the clever Raven.

Raven is a "trickster" in Native American stories. He's sometimes a hero, a troublemaker, a glutton, a buffoon, a destroyer or a creator. He is creative force, transforming the world, sometimes in bizarre and outrageous ways. In nature the raven scavenges for food and because of this he represents our most basic instincts. 

This print was created to illustrate The Story of How the Raven Ate The Whale. This story is told in different ways by different groups.  

As usual Raven was hungry. He had heard of a large whale near an island and so he went to see it for himself. Raven flew to the place and watched the whale for three days hoping to think of a way to trick it. You see, the smart bird knew that he would have lots of meat. Finally, an idea came to him and he walked up close to the whale who was resting near shore.

"Please come closer, Cousin Whale, so that I may speak with you," requested Raven. Whale opened his eyes and slowly swam up to the small black bird and asked what he wanted.
"I have come to tell you that we are cousins," responded the trickster.

"That is impossible! You are a bird and I am a whale. We cannot be relatives," said the great whale. "Oh," said Raven, "it is true and I can prove it to you.If you open your mouth," said Raven, "I will show you how our throats are the same shape, which proves that we are cousins."

Although the giant whale was not completely satisfied, he was slowly opening his mouth for Raven. When the creature's mouth was open far enough, Raven ran into his mouth and down his throat. He was wearing a backpack with his knife and some firewood in it, and once inside he cut meat from the whale and cooked it over a small fire.

Once inside the whale, the Raven leisurely eats the whale bit by bit.

In this instance Raven is both a trickster and glutton.

RAVEN'S BARBECUE  Etching. Black , Blue Black  or 
Brown Ink.  5 x 7 inch 2010-12 $50

The Raven and The Viking Raid on Lindisfarne

the Raven Rests at Lindisfarne

Viking Raiders sack the monastery on the "Holy Island" Lindisfarne 
I teach art history, often the material in my courses finds it's way into my artwork. This is one of many of my prints that find root in ancient - medieval art and history.  Have I mentioned that I am a history nerd? 

On eastern side of Northern Britain lies the "Holy Island of Lindisfarne". It has been attracting artists, archaeologists, historians and pilgrims for centuries, and was exposed to the marauding attacks of the Vikings at the close of the 8th Century.
Ruins at Lindisfarne
This Viking raid on the Island of Lindisfarne, just off the Northumbrian coast, was not the England’s first, but the attack on Lindisfarne was different because it assaulted the most sacred heart of the Northumbria, desecrating ‘the very place where the Christian religion began in our nation’. It was where St. Cuthbert had been bishop, and where his body was now revered as that of a saint. The precious Lindisfarne Bible was nearly destroyed during the raid, it's cover was torn from it and it was, luckily, not burned during the raid. 
The Famous Lindisfarne Bible actually had it's cover ripped off during the Viking raid
In fact, the attack on Lindisfarne in 793 AD, signaled the beginning of the Viking Age. A carved stone found on the island, known as the ‘Viking Raider Stone’ or ‘Doomsday Stone’, could represent the Viking attack on the monastery or Anglo-Saxon warriors defending Lindisfarne from attack.
Ruin of 12th century Abby
"Doomsday Stone" on Lindisfarne
In the center of the island lie the ruins of the ancient monastery, the ruins visible today dates to the 12th Century.
Tudor Lindisfarne Castle ruins
On the only hill on the island sits ruins of Lindisfarne Castle, built after the Medieval age during the Tudor period 
Vikings invade 9th Century England
The Viking Raiders attacked in a small band. They were opportunists and knew the island was undefended and full of valuable items. The attack on Lindisfarne marked the beginning of an intensive Viking campaign of pillaging and plundering across swathes of the British Isles throughout the 8th – 9th centuries. Vikings used ravens to navigate. They brought ravens aboard their ships, then released them and sailed in the same direction to find land. The raven was so important to them that it became the symbol on their flag.
Viking Raven flag
When I plan my prints I usually assign a role to Raven. Will he be trickster? Will he be helpful? Will he be playful? Will he a trouble maker? In this story Raven is none of the usual character, he is simple tired after a long flight and finds a place to rest. He rests on a Celtic Cross. I actually added something that would NEVER be found on the Christian Cross...two Pagan Viking Ravens...
Two Pagan Ravens detail
Raven Rests at Lindisfarne
My narration: 
In 793, a Viking raiding party headed for Lindisfarne. They carried with them two caged ravens. When they believed that land was near the ravens were freed. Ravens are intelligent and would return to the ship if no land was close . If the raven spotted land he flew straight for it. 

Normally, Raven would be blamed for man’s cruelties. But today Raven was just looking for a place to rest, he found the perfect spot atop a cross, little did he know he had led the Viking to a sacred monastery. Unknown to Raven he had led this band to Lindisfarne. The Viking would continue to kill for the next 300 years. 

“In this year fierce, foreboding omens came over the land of North Umbria. There were excessive whirlwinds, lightning storms, and fiery dragons were seen flying in the sky. These signs were followed by great famine, and on January 8th the ravaging of heathen men destroyed God's church at Lindisfarne.”

From the Anglo Saxon Chronicles

"A Raven Rests at Lindisfarne" Intaglio Etching, Black, Blue Black and brown ink, 5" x 7", 2011

This is one of my images that gets used without permission. A Scottish rock band FIREBRAND SUPER ROCK contacted me about using my artwork in their CD "Born for the Gallows", thank you for asking FIREBRAND SUPER ROCK.

Friday, June 15, 2018

The Serendipity of Raven And Wilmer McLean

 Wilmer and His Raven
Wilmer McLean

I am history nerd.

I was fascinated by Ken Burn’s epic documentary series "The Civil War". I was profoundly moved by the overwhelming sense of loss and horror of this great struggle. There was one sequence in the film that I affected me, it was the story of Wilmer McLean. 
McLean's House in Manassas Virginia, site of the Battles of Bull Run
He was a grocer from Virginia who was too old to join the army. His house near Manassas, Virginia, was involved in the First Battle of Bull Run in 1861, one of the first major battles of the war. After the Second Battle of Bull Run one year later, he moved to Appomattox, Virginia, to escape the war. Instead, the war followed him. In 1865, General Robert E. Lee surrendered to Ulysses S. Grant in McLean's house in Appomattox. His houses were, therefore, involved in one of the first battles and one of the last encounters of the American Civil War.
McLean's house in Appomattox, Virginia. 
The word "Fate" has often been used to describe the story of Wilmer McLean. Fate is also used to describe the outcome of war.

Raven symbolism is very different as you travel across time and cultures. In Europe the crow and raven are a sign of death (mainly because of the violence of humans), in Native America, he is a trickster and a transformational being. In ancient Greece and Rome, the crow and raven were believed to be the symbols of Apollo, the God of Divination and Healing. In the Far East ravens represents divine intervention in earthly, human affairs. So, the Raven (and crow) are omens of both good and bad.

In my etching Raven is both an omen of  war and peace. Ravens are very rare in the southern United States so seeing a Raven was an unusual event and could easily be an omen. In my story Raven starts as a troublemaker and ends as a peacemaker. I also wanted to present the bird towering over the two generals.

My Narration:

The Civil War needed to be fought and Raven wanted a front row seat.

On July 21, 1861 Wilmer McLean noticed a Raven perched atop his roof, a rare sight in near Manassas, Virginia.  Later that day The Battle of Bull Run broke out on his property. Confederate Gen. P.G.T. Beauregard needed a building to serve as headquarters and commandeered Wilmer McLean's home. During the Battle an artillery shell hit the house but miraculously, didn’t explode.
A year later Wilmer saw the Raven appear again and again a battle raged on the McLean property, This Second Battle of Bull Run was even more violent than the first. Wilmer sold his house and moved 100 miles to Appomattox. He and his family lived quietly until the Raven returned
In 1865 Raven watched as Grant was chasing down Lee’s exhausted army. Lee decided to surrender and signaled the Union army of his intentions. Grant sent an aid to look for an appropriate home to sign the surrender. The Raven flown over the aid's head, knocking off his hat and settled on the roof of a house in Appomattox, owned by Wilmer McLean!!  The aid decided that house would be a perfect place to end the war. On April 9, 1865, General Lee officially surrendered to Ulysses S. Grant, effectively ending the American Civil War. The site for his surrender: the parlor of Wilmer McLean's new home. The American Civil War was finally over, and the Raven was never seen again.

McLean famously remarked: "The war began in my front yard and ended in my front parlor!!"

"MCLEAN’S RAVEN"  5 x 7 inches Intaglio 2010 $50

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

"Edgar Gets an Idea" Edgar Allen Poe and His Raven

Once Upon a Midnight Dreary, While I Pondered, Weak and Weary.....

The first image that pops into most peoples mind when Edgar Allen Poe's famous poem "The Raven" is mentioned is a sinister black bird. I knew that if I was to create images of the Raven, I would eventually do a print about Edgar.  

Poe’s tragic early life was filled with death, fear and abandonment. By the age of six he refused to go anywhere near a cemetery for fear of evil spirits and ghosts. In "The Raven," Poe explores several topics that are found throughout his career, including the heartbreaking death of a beautiful woman at a young age, and the grief of the young man for his lost love. The motif of the "devil-beast" as the omen of despair and grief, appear in the form of the raven. In "The Raven," the black bird stands as the essence of grief caused by loneliness and separation and the vision of a ghostly presence. "The Raven" is a poem written by a man who had lost so many loved ones, and he was soon expecting to loose his wife to tuberculous. 

When Poe was writing this poem, he actually considered another talking bird, the parrot. Some say he also tried out an owl before settling on the raven. In Poe's 1846 essay "The Philosophy of Composition," Poe wrote that the raven, as "the bird of ill-omen," was "infinitely more in keeping with the intended tone." This poem catapulted Poe into international fame. "Nevermore", 1897 by Paul Gauguin is one in a steady stream of examples of artists, writers, and musician influenced by Poe's masterpiece. 
NEVERMORE by Paul Gauguin 1997
Despite this critical acclaim, Poe died broke at 40 years old. His death remains a mystery. Theories of his death include poison, mugging, alcohol, rabies, brain tumor, pneumonia, or murder.   No death certificate was ever filed, and a local newspaper reported Poe’s cause of death as "congestion of the brain,"

I wanted to introduce a bit of humor to my image. In the photos I found of Poe he always seemed so sad, I exaggerated that sadness and gave him a look of utter confusion. I actually merged Poe's face with Bob Newhart's face. Newhart was a master of the confused look and he was one of the greatest comedians. 
Poe’s hair was shown as chaotic in the old photos, I simply organized it to resemble Ravens. Most representations of Poe and The Raven show the bird as small. I wanted it to dominate the image. Within the Raven’s eye is a reflection of Poe.

My Narration:
Here, Edger Allen Poe struggles to find a symbol for his fear. A large Black Bird suddenly swoops overhead tossing his hair into disarray. Poe stops and takes one long look at Raven. Then this ebony bird beguiling his sad fancy into smiling*, he suddenly recognizes his new antagonist.

*(Lines 43 from THE RAVEN
"Then this ebony bird beguiling my sad fancy into smiling,")

EDGAR GETS AN IDEA:  Black, Graphite Gray, Blue Black or Brown ink, Etching, Hand pulled, limited edition 5 inch x 7 inch 2012 $50

talking raven: Nevermore

Here is the 40" x 60" painting I did in 2013 based on my etching. It has a new home in California now.

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Ravens and Crows Love to Steal Golf Balls


Raven is a "trickster" in Native American stories and myths, especially in the Northwest region of North America. He's sometimes a hero, a troublemaker, a glutton, a buffoon, a destroyer or a creator. The Trickster loves to humiliate humans. 
I am not much of a golfer but my Dad was. My parents came to Alaska to visit me during in the 1990s. I arranged for us to play 18 holes. When we got the score card my Dad burst out laughing when he saw the "Raven Fox Rule" It is hard to believe but if you play a round of golf at the North Star Golf Club in Fairbanks, Alaska you will noticed a unique local rule:
“When a raven or fox steals a golf ball, a replacement may be dropped without penalty at the scene of the crime.” 
Similar rules are found elsewhere in Alaska: 
The Raven Rule - Muskeg Meadows Golf Course, Wrangell, Alaska
If a raven steals your ball, you may replace it with no penalty, if you have a witness to the theft.

There are plenty of examples of wildlife stealing golf balls. Often the thieves are reptiles. In Florida lizards and gators often mistake golf balls for food.

Other birds and mammals often mistake the foods as well. In Alaska Foxes often grab golf balls thinking them eggs.
Photo from North Star Golf Club in Fairbanks, Alaska
Often golf balls are found in birds nests near a golf course. The balls may be deposited by birds or accidentally by golfers.
Raven take a particular pleasure in tormenting golfers. In 1968 ravens repeatedly swooped down and stole golf balls during the Yellowknife Golf Course “Round the Clock” tournament. "The big golf hazard here are ravens that can and sometimes do take your golf ball." In the late 1990’s ravens took turns at stealing golf balls at the final hole at a northern Minnesota golf course. The ravens watched with apparent glee as the frustrated golfers tried to find their lost balls.

 This past year in Ireland, Northern England and Wales ravens have been busy stealing so many balls that they are considered a natural hazard, resulting in a free ball drop!
"You have bunkers and you have rough and now Greencastle have got the extra hazard of a bird" Billy McCaul, Northern Ireland Greencastle Golf Club, One British Golf official said “I’m going to start using Ravens as an excuse for any lost balls.” True to form, Brits take it all with a great sense of humor. To embrace the Corvid Ball Thieves UK golfer are buying egg shaped golf balls.
Unlike other creature it is obvious that many ravens are doing this for fun. In Australia, "... I do know that Ravens love golf balls. I once watched one from my office window grab a golf ball, fly up on to a neighbor's roof then experiment with it. It would take the ball up the roof, drop it and let it roll down to the gutter. Each time it took the ball a little higher and let it roll to see what the ball would do. The last time, the Raven took the ball to the highest pitch of the roof and let it roll. The ball hit the gutter, bounced off it, on to the neighbor's car, set off the car alarm and the next minute the neighbor came running out. They had a hard time believing my story but they did confess to hearing some strange noises on the roof before this happened. It was such an inquisitive bird, but then that's Ravens all over." Inger Vandyke Professional Wildlife Photographer and Writer
In Maine there is a talented woodcarver, Thomas McDermott. He created a wonderful sculpture with of a Golf Ball Thief:
"Raven With Golf Ball"
"A friend was telling me about this raven that kept dropping golf balls in his yard and I couldn't resist. Carved pine on jet (petrified coal) base."

This print has a lot of meaning for me, it reminds me of my father. I used to caddy for him every weekend though my adolescence. I actually did this print for my father, he was an avid golfer and he really enjoyed being part of it's creation. I have been contemplating doing a new version to this print. I think the new version will have a little more playfulness.

Etching, 5 x 7 inch, 2011 

Monday, June 11, 2018

Sky and Ocean, Raven and Otter Love Story

Sky Raven and Sea Otter
Add caption
This etching began as an illustration for a poem by John Smelcer. It appeared in University of Alaska Fairbanks Aurora Spring 2013 published on May 15, 2013. I felt it was a beautiful poem but the drawing never was complete to me. I decided to wait and mull the image over a bit. I realized that it was tied to closely with John's poem. I needed my own mythology.

When I was in college I had a hyper-realistic dream that has stuck with me for 40 years. As a child during the 1960s and 70s I was very inspired by space exploration. I was also aware of various incidents of pollution disasters (Love canal, Three Mile Island, ect..)  My dream was simple. In the far distant future humans had spent hundreds of years exploring the universe while polluting and over populating our home. After centuries exploring multiple universes mankind finally became aware that we were actually alone and that there was only one planet that was capable of sustaining  our species. Sadly by this time we had irreversibly corrupted our world. We were truly alone on this small ruined planet.  

I used my dream as the basis for my own myth.

Ancient people often found Human traits in the animals around them. The Elephant is loyal and intelligent. The Lion is strong and courageous. The Moose is steadfast, and easygoing. The Mouse is timid and quiet. The Coyote is a prankster and a shape-shifter. The Eagle is a gift giver and wise. The Fox was clever. The Otter is a symbol of loyalty, honesty, well balanced and sensible. The Raven is a trickster but is passionate and impatient.  
Among ancient people, Otter and Raven had similar traits. Both were playful characters. They were both seen as Gods, as Human Beings in animal forms and as symbols for the heavens and the oceans. Otters and Raven are also used as clan animals in some Native American cultures. In my imaginary mythology Otter is skeptical of religion, she is pragmatist while Raven is an idealistic dreamer.

Sky Raven and Sea Otter

Sea Otter was a realist; she believed the world was flat, the moon and sun were eternal and that real knowledge rested in the mind and not in the spirit world. Sky Raven was a dreamer; he spent his days imagining remote vistas,   seeking vast gardens of perfect flowers, enchanted beings, and undiscovered gods. They were as different as night and day and yet they were lovers. 

One day Otter looked into Raven’s dark eyes and said, “Prove to me that the world is ruled by gods and we shall mingle together forever. “
Excited, Raven flew into the stars. He searched and searched, then searcher more. Days turned to months and months to years, years into centuries. 

Finally an exhausted Raven wept, despite his long search he found nothing but emptiness. He understood that they were alone, there were no gods. Wearily he traveled through time and space to find his lover awaiting him.

“I failed. I went as far as the farthest star. There is no god out there.” wept Raven.

Otter smiled and said “I wanted to you to see for yourself. Now you know we are alone. We must love each other; we must love our home, our sky, our lake, because it is the only one we will ever have. “  

Raven and Otter loved together forever.

“Sky Raven and Sea Otter”. 
 Intaglio etching 5" x 7" 2016, $50

$50 on Etsy