Sunday, September 11, 2016

A Love Story

photo by Dee Otter

We humans think we are so special. We think we are the only ones to feel emotion. We think we are the only ones to feel compassion. We think we are the only ones who feel love. We think we are the only ones to experience grief. We do have a massive brain and perhaps this facilitates more intense emotions, but to think we are the only creature to experience these feelings is utterly ridiculous. Elephants revisit the bones of dead herd members and will spend hours fondling them. When a bone of a hippo or giraffe is added to the pile of elephant bones those non-elephant bones are ejected or ignored. Bonobos chimps are known to mourn the death of a mate or child so intensely that the frequently die of starvation or shock. Dogs will show grief at the grave of their master. Upon finding a dead member of a flock crows will spend hours protecting the corpse, attacking any creature that approaches. They maintain this vigil for hours and then will suddenly disperse. Usually related flock members will then linger on for days.
photo by Dee Otter
 Ravens are like crows but are be more intelligent. Researchers have compared raven intellect to that of the great apes. So how do ravens experience emotion? Ravens are widely dispersed so study is difficult. People who are fortunate enough to hand raise these magnificent bird have volumes of example of their intelligence.

I lived in Alaska for about 12 years. I spent a lot of time in the woods watching ravens, owls, foxes, moose, and hawks for hours. Once spotted by these animals most would scatter, never to be seen again. The ravens would return. They were curious. They maintained a safe distance. I often brought lunch and snacks. I would unintentionally drop crumbs and the ravens watched intently and would scoop up the scraps when I left. They became so comfortable with me that when I returned I would find a raven in the next tree waiting for me.
photo by Dee Otter
Ravens mate for life, which can sometimes last for more than thirty years; they are picky breeders, selecting strong intelligent mates. The young stay with their parents for a year or more, this long adolescence is rare in the bird family. Sometimes the young remain and help the parents hunt for the next brood. These young bird find mates but do not form a bond until maturity.
I have created two prints that celebrate the intelligence and emotional complexity of common raven.

"Come Fly With Me" - Intaglio etching 5 inch x 7 inch 2011

My Narrative:
Raven’s intelligent behavior is related to mating and reproduction. Immature birds begin to court at a very early age, but may not bond for another 2-3 years (Like our adolescent dating). Mid-air spectacular displays of acrobatics are meant to show off the raven’s fitness, skills, intelligence, and ability to provide food. A bonded pair will spend hours performing complex aerodynamic maneuvers. They test each other’s compatibility, strengths and weaknesses. (Dinner and dancing) Once mated, ravens will nest together for life. I have seen this display several times and, honestly, I think they are just having fun.

“If you say the word, we will beat those birds
Back to Acapulco Bay
It is perfect for a flying honeymoon, they say
Come fly with me, let's fly, let’s fly,
Pack up, let's fly away”

Excerpt from Frank Sinatra’s “Come Fly away with Me” by songwriters: Sammy Cahn and Jimmy Van Heusen
 "Come Fly With Me" - Intaglio etching 5 inch x 7 inch 2011 $40

A Raven Love Story

My Narrative:
Only twelve species in the entire animal kingdom mate for life. I knew that ravens mated for life but I never fully appreciated the strength this bond until I accidentally hit and killed one of these intelligent birds, the experience made a lifelong impression.

I was driving to one of my favorite fly-fishing spots about 11 miles north of Fairbanks AK. I crested a hill and off to the side of the road was a moose carcass and an entire group of ravens. As I drove past one raven startled and flew into the path my car. I struck the bird, I had no way to avoid it. I slowed and saw the entire group descending upon my vehicle. They follow for a few miles enraged and cursing me. After several more miles only one bird followed me. I arrived at my fishing stream and had a very angry visitor; I think it had to be the mate of the poor bird I hit. It followed me the entire afternoon screaming profanities at me. I packed up and headed home and the bird followed me but stopped by the corpse of its mate. Over the next several months, whenever I drove to this fishing stream, I had this same visitor. Over time its profanities seemed to be replaced by a more plaintive call, which eventually sounded like a whimper. Each time I drove home the raven followed and stopped at the site of the accident. The bird was mourning the loss of its life partner. I never saw the bird again because we bought a new car which I used to travel to the stream. I did see the bird occasionally near the accident site but it never followed me again.

Romeo and Juliet, Paris and Helen, Tristram and Isolde, Shah and Mahal (The Taj Mahal)- these are some of the most famous and tragic human love stories.
The truth is we are not the only species capable of emotion or mourning the loss of a loved one. Ravens are capable of intense emotional bonding that is every bit as powerful as the love that we feel. 

A RAVEN LOVE STORY, Etching. 5 inch x 7 inch 2014 $40 

here are some interesting links:

a special thanks to Dee Otter for allowing me to use her wonderful photos.

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Sanzuwu, Yatagarasu, and Samjok-o - The Three Legged Crow

The Three Legged Birds- Sanzuwu, Yatagarasu, and Samjok-o

various Asian Logos, temple votives, and signs with Three Legged Crow

The Three Legged bird is found throughout the world in mythology and religions. It is most prevalent in Asian cultures.

Japan National Football Team logo

·        In Chinese mythology and culture, the three-legged crow is called the Sanzuwu and is responsible for the sun’s passage across the sky. The earliest known depiction of a three-legged crow appears in Neolithic pottery of the Yangzhou culture. The Sanzuwu is used in the decoration of formal imperial silk garments of the Western Han Dynasty 202 BC -220 AD depicts a Sanzuwu perched on a tree.

In Japanese mythology, this flying creature is a raven or a Jungle Crow
called Yatagarasu  and the appearance of the great bird is interpreted as evidence of the will of Heaven or divine intervention in human affairs. This great crow was sent from heaven as a guide for Emperor Jimmu  (reigned 18 February 660 BC - 9 April 585 BC) on his initial journey from the region which would become Kumano.
In Korean mythology, it is known as Samjok-o. During the period of the Koguryo Kingdom 37 BCE–668 CE, the Samjok-o was a highly regarded emblem of power, thought greater than both the dragon and the Korean phoenix. 

Newgrange   triskele
The three legs symbolize Heaven, Earth and Humanity. It is one of the most commonly ancient images of raven, appearing in the China, Japan, and Korea, Neolithic site of Newgrange, Celtic art, Scandinavian art, Ancient Italian art, Egyptian art, and cultures throughout Africa. Contrary to popular belief that this image is Asian it may be have originated in the West. Coins from the western Mediterranean showed the sun, as a disk from which radiated three legs united at the thighs.
The triskele, a motif characteristic of the European Celts of the Iron Age, is related to the triple-spiral of which there is a fine Neolithic example at Newgrange, Ireland. Further south, the association of three-legged birds with the sun is reported to extend to the mythologies of Egypt and other parts of North Africa.

Three Legged Birds. Acrylic and gold and Copper Leaf. 2014

“The Three Legged Birds” is one of my most popular prints. My original version was a 5 inch x 7inch etching. I have re-made the image as a painting, a relief print and an 8 x 10 print.
Carving the black plate for my four color relief Three Legged Bird
When I started researching my Three Legged Birds I did a thorough internet search. I used different search engines, different names (blackbird, crow, raven, birds) as well as the Asian names. I found many ancient as well as contemporary images. I knew that my image needed to be unique.
original etching with painting
I made a conscious decision to make my interpretation distinctive and unlike any other version or any other artist's vision. I made every part specific to my drawing. I intentionally made the head smaller than a real crow. I made the wings broader than any crow as well. The wings were also a combination of raven, and eagle wings. My bird also had very specific talons on my bird, I tried to make each expressive and unique, so unique that they would only be found on my drawing. My tail feathers are also configured so that they would not be found on any other bird drawing. So my version is intentionally unexpected, unlike anything 
found in nature or in any other images of this mythic bird.  I even titled it differently. Instead of the usual Three Legged “Crow” or “Raven”, mine is “birds”. 

Like my print “Inquisition” I added “Three legged Birds” un-watermarked to a membership only Printmakers site, assuming the images would be respected. I added watermarked images but by then my three legged birds had been set free un-credited into the abyss of the internet. I have be chasing them ever since. I did not know it at the time but my version would become a very popular version, often copied and mimicked. My effort to make my bird very unique was a huge help when I found copyright violations of my image. Since my etching appeared in 2011, there has been a cluster of similar images which directly lead back to my print.
It was being used by a French Graffiti artist, minus one leg
It was used by an Israeli micro Brewery without permission. when I discovered it they added my name and a promise of beer that never arrived :(
a New Zealand Designer used my image on a Mock-up product design
this is supposed to me a tattoo design idea. Obviously my image traced.


I have found that my Three Legged Bird is most popular with Tattoo artists. I have very mixed feeling about this. On one hand I feel kind of honored to have people wanting my images tattooed onto their bodies. On the other hand I wonder if these people know that the artwork was conceive by me and not the tattoo artist. I know that some clients bring my artwork in to the tattoo shops but I have to wonder how many times the tattoo artist use my images afterwards. I have found dozens of theses tattoos online. I usually ask for a credit if it is on a website and a promise that they will not use it again. I find it particularly irksome when the tattoo artist call this his artwork, it really isn’t, he copied it. A vast majority of the artists understand and happily give credit. Some are not so kind. Either way I enforce my copyright because, if I don't, I could loose it. Here are a few examples.

reversing them does not change the copyright

Here are my available Three legged Birds Prints
The Three Legged Birds- Sanzuwu, Yatagarasu, and Samjok-o, Aquatint etching 8 inch x 10 inch 2016 $70
The Three Legged Birds- Sanzuwu, Yatagarasu, and Samjok-o, Aquatint etching 5 inch x 7 inch 2011 $40

The Three Legged Birds- Sanzuwu, Yatagarasu, and Samjok-o, Linoleum Relief print, 12” x 18” 2016  - $50.

The Three Legged Birds- Sanzuwu, Yatagarasu, and Samjok-o, Four plate color Linoleum Relief print, 12” x 18”  -$150.

The Three Legged Birds- Sanzuwu, Yatagarasu, and Samjok-o, Aquatint etching 3 inch x 4 inch 2016-  $20