Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Aesop Fables


Aesop’s Fables Series
Aesop's Fables is a collection of fables credited to Aesop, a slave and storyteller believed to have lived in ancient Greece between 620 and 564 BCE. Aesop was a fine observer of both the animal world and Humanity. Many of the characters in his stories are animals that take on human characteristic. They are embodied by human ways of speech and emotions. However, the majority of his characters preserve their animal qualities; tortoises are slow, hares are quick, tigers eat bird, etc. Aesop uses these qualities and natural predispositions of animals to emphasis human traits and wisdom. Each fable has an moral to be learned from the tale. When I was a child I had a book of Aesop's Fables. I found some of the stories disturbing and the illustrations intriguing. 
One evening my daughter was reading Aesop's Fables for school. "Daddy, did you know that Aesop's Fables has lots of stories about Ravens and Crows?" She read me the story of the Crow and the Pitcher of Water, and I knew what my next series of prints would be.
 These are stories that have been interpreted visually for over 2000 years; my approach to Aesop's stories had to be very different than other illustrations. I wanted them to be similar to my other prints while visualizing the story.

Some of Aesop’s fables seem very brutal to 21 century sensibilities. I needed to re-write these to retain the original spirit while smoothing over the rough spots. In this next story The Stork is actually a wife batter, he beat her often and accidently blinded her with his beak. His wife kicks him out. My story eliminates the abuse while maintaining the essence of the story.  

THE RAVEN, THE STORK AND HIS BEAK
There was once a stork that quarreled with his wife and accidentally poked his wife’s eye with his beak. The stork was ashamed so he flew away to find somewhere else to live. A raven saw the stork and asked the reason for his journey. The stork said that he had poked his wife's eye with his beak. The raven asked the stork, “Is this the same beak that you have always had?” When the stork said it was, the raven then observed, “So what is the point of your running away if you carry your beak with you wherever you go?”
MORAL: A CHANGE OF PLACE DOES NOT CHANGE WHO YOU ARE.
" THE RAVEN, THE STORK AND HIS BEAK ." Aesop's Fable. Intaglio Etching on Paper, 5 inch by 7 inch 2014. $40

I thought this was a cute story. The wolf is often a villain. Here the wolf is jealous of crows good fortune and denies his own true nature.


THE WOLF, THE RAVEN AND THE RAM
A wolf once saw a raven sitting on a ram. The wolf sighed deeply and said, “That raven is a happy fellow, born under a lucky star! Wherever he sits, whatever he says, whatever he does, nobody criticizes him in any way. But if I were to clamber up on a ram like that, anyone who saw me would start shouting and hurry to chase me away -- as if they had the ram's best interests at heart!”
MORAL: THE UNDESERVING MAN IS JEALOUS OF ANYONE'S GOOD FORTUNE. HE FEELS SORRY FOR HIMSELF WHEN HE SEES OTHERS ENJOYING THE THINGS HE CANNOT, EVEN IF HE IS AWARE OF HIS OWN FAILINGS.
" THE WOLF, THE RAVEN AND THE RAM ." Aesop's Fable, Intaglio Etching on Paper, 5 inch by 7 inch 2014. $40


This is a brilliant story and is one of Aesop’s most famous fables. It has been illustrated often. I needed to approach it in a new way. I teach art history. Most of Greek mythology is actually bases of Minoan legends. The Minoans preceded the Greeks had beautiful art and also a unique painting style on their ceramic pots. I used a replica Minoan octopus pot for the pitcher. Modern corvid researches tried the Aesop story as an experiment. The crows came up with the same solution! Aesop fable proven to be true: https://www.facebook.com/video/video.php?v=153624407993898


THE CROW AND THE PITCHER
A thirsty Crow found a Pitcher half full of water; but when the Crow put its beak into the mouth of the Pitcher he could not reach far enough down to get a drink. He tried, and he tried, but at last had to give up in despair. Then a thought accrued to him, he took a pebble and dropped it into the Pitcher. Then he took another pebble and dropped it into the Pitcher. Then he took another pebble and dropped that into the Pitcher until at last, at last, he saw the water mount up near him, and after adding a few more pebbles he was able to quench his thirst.
MORAL OF AESOP'S FABLE: LITTLE BY LITTLE DOES THE TRICK
"THE CROW AND THE PITCHER OF WATER ." Aesop's Fable. Intaglio Etching on Paper, 5 inch by 7 inch 2014. $40


This was a new Aesop story to me. I wanted the bird’s faces to generate a lot of emotion. The Jackdaw needed to look dejected. Jackdaw (Corvus monedula), is in the crow family. Jackdaws are normally about the size of a Blue Jay. Ravens are nearly twice the size of a crow.


THE JACKDAW AND THE RAVENS
There was once a Jackdaw who was bigger than the other Jackdaws. Scorning his fellows, he joined the company of the Ravens, having decided to spend his life as a member of their flock. The Ravens, however, did not recognize the voice of this bird or his appearance, so they attacked him and drove him away. Rejected by the Ravens, he went back again to the jackdaws. But the Jackdaws were angry about his arrogant behavior and refused to accept him. The final result was that the Jackdaw had nowhere to go.
MORAL : 'BIRDS OF A FEATHER SHOULD FLOCK TOGETHER'
THE JACKDAW AND THE RAVENS, Etching, 5 inch by 7 inch, 2014 available in Black, Brown, and Blue Black $40

I have a soft spot for cranes. I live by a large pond in Florida; we are surrounded by Sandhill cranes. I love their calls; they conjure a feeling of a Jurassic world. When I read this story I knew I had to use the Sandhill crane. This Aesop story was one of those brutal ones that needed a rewrite. In the original the crane is killed, in mine he is bruised.
THE CRANE AND THE CROW
Throughout history raven and crows have been attributed with supernatural qualities.
A crane and a crow had made a mutual pledge, agreeing that the crane was to defend the crow from other birds, while the crow would use her powers of prophecy to warn the crane about future events. These two birds often went to the farmer’s field and ate his crops. When the farmer saw what was happening to his field, he was angry, and said to his son, “Give me a stone”. The crow forewarned the crane, and they wisely made their escape. Another day, the crow again heard the farmer asking for a stone and warned the crane again. The man understood that the crow was able to predict what was happening. He whispered to his son quietly, “When I say, ‘give me some bread’, I really want you to give me a stone.' “
The next day Crow and Crane were happily eating the farmer’s crop, the farmer told the boy to “give him some bread”, and so the boy gave him a stone. The farmer threw the stone at the crane and hurt both his legs. The injured crane said to the crow, 'What has become of your gift of prophecies? Why didn't you warn me that this was going to happen? The crow said to the crane, “it is not my fault. Humans are always deceptive, since they say one thing and do another!”
MORAL OF AESOP’S FABLE: DON’T BE SEDUCED BY DECEPTIVE WORDS, THEY WILL NOTHING CAUSE NOTHING BUT TROUBLE.
"THE CRANE AND THE CROW ." Aesop's Fables, Intaglio Etching on Paper, 5 inch by 7 inch 2014.$40
 https://www.etsy.com/listing/198510789/raven-artwork-raven-crow-black-bird

This is another brutal story that could not fit with modern sensibility. The original story had the same start but a very different ending. In the original Eagle and crow successfully plot, they kill and eat the tortoise. In my version, the tortoise cleverly escapes and the birds get no meal. The moral still works well even though there is a happy ending.


THE TORTOISE AND THE BIRDS
A Tortoise asked an Eagle to carry him to his new home, promising her a rich reward for her trouble. The Eagle agreed, and seizing the Tortoise by the shell with her talons, soared aloft. On their way they met a Crow, who said to the Eagle: “Tortoise is good eating.” “The shell is too hard,” said the Eagle in reply. “Those rocks would crack the shell, we will eat well tonight” was the Crow’s answer.
Tortoise was very old and wise. He pretended not to hear the birds. Before the hard rock was soft sand. At the last moment he nipped the eagle’s claw and landed safely in the warm soft sand. Tortoise was safe and the two birds had empty stomachs.
MORAL: NEVER SOAR ALOFT ON AN ENEMY’S WINGS.
THE TORTOISE AND THE BIRDS, Etching, 5 inch by 7 inch, 2014 available in Black, Brown, and Blue Black $40

In this Fable Raven is jealous of the beauty of the swan’s plumage. This story is about accepting who you are and not trying to be something you are not.  
THE RAVEN AND THE SWAN
A RAVEN saw a Swan fly past and followed it, he desired its beautiful plumage. Believing that the Swan's fine white color was a result of Swan’s washing in the water in which he swam, the Raven took up residence in the lake too. He learned to mimic the swan and even pretended to be a young swan, hoping to learn how to earn its wonderfully white secrets. He tried to live on the water but could not eat or rest. He cleaned his feathers as often as he could, but he could not change their color. Swan finally told Raven to give up and go home. Raven, famished and tired, flew away.
AESOP’S MORAL: CHANGE OF HABIT CANNOT ALTER NATURE.
THE RAVEN AND THE SWAN, Etching, 5 inch by 7 inch, 2014 available in Black, Brown, and Blue Black $40

This is one of the most famous and most illustrated of Aesop’s Fables. Most illustrations show the caged dove with the crow outside looking in. I used the perspective from the inside of the cage.


THE DOVE AND THE CROW
A Dove shut up in a cage was bragging about the large number of young ones which she had hatched. A Crow hearing her, said: "My good friend, end this ridiculous boasting. The larger the number of your family, the greater your cause of sorrow, in seeing them shut up in this prison-house.”
MORAL OF AESOP’S FABLE: TO ENJOY OUR BLESSINGS, WE MUST HAVE FREEDOM. 

The Dove and Crow, Etching 5 x 7 inch 2014 $40

In many ancient European myth and legends, there was no difference between Ravens and Crows. They were seen as the same bird. In this story The Fox outsmarts the crow by appealing to the Crow’s vanity. This has been illustrated many times. In my version I chose a close up of both characters.


Aesop’s THE FOX AND CROW
A Fox once saw a Crow fly off with a piece of cheese in its beak and settle on a branch of a tree.
"That's for me, as I am a Fox," he said, and he walked up to the foot of the tree.
"Good day, Mistress Crow," he cried. "How well you are looking today: how glossy your feathers; how bright your eye. I feel sure your voice must surpass that of other birds, just as your figure does; let me hear but one song from you that I may greet you as the Queen of Birds."
The Crow lifted up her head and began to caw her best, but the moment she opened her mouth the piece of cheese fell to the ground, only to be snapped up by Master Fox.
"That will do," said he. "That was all I wanted. In exchange for your cheese I will give you a piece of advice for the future: "DO NOT TRUST FLATTERERS."
"DO NOT TRUST FLATTERERS." (Raven Series) Intaglio Etching on Paper, 5 inch by 7 inch 2014. Black, Blue Black ink, Brown Ink, Gray Ink. This is a remade plate for my 2010 etching of the same name. The plate for that print was lost so I re etched a new one. This is a new edition
$40

This is another fable about the dangers of vanity.  When I was a kid we lived near a peacock farm. My friends and I enjoyed watching the bird strut.


THE CROW AND THE PEACOCKS
Crow venturing into a yard where Peacocks used to walk and found there a number of feathers which had fallen from the Peacocks when they were molting. He tied them all to his tail and strutted down towards the Peacocks. When he came near them they soon discovered the cheat, and striding up to him pecked at him and plucked away his borrowed plumes. So the Crow could do no better than go back to the other Crows, who had watched his behavior from a distance; but they were equally annoyed with him, and told him:
MORAL: "IT IS NOT ONLY FINE FEATHERS THAT MAKE FINE BIRDS.”
THE CROW AND THE PEACOCKS, Etching, 5 inch by 7 inch, 2014 available in Black, Brown, and Blue Black
$40

I enjoyed working on this print. I wanted to give the Sheep a very animated expression because sheep typically lack expression.
THE CROW AND THE SHEEP
A crow had seated herself atop a sheep so that the sheep had to carry the crow around against her will. After a while, the sheep remarked, “If you had done this to a dog, you would not be able to get away with it: dogs have teeth!'
The crow replied, 'I dislike creatures that cannot defend themselves, yet I avoid the mighty, I picked my targets just for that reason. That is why I last to a ripe old age, living for thousands of years.”
MORAL OF THE STORY: PICK YOUR ENEMIES WISELY
" THE CROW AND THE SHEEP ." Aesop's Fable, Intaglio Etching on Paper,  5 inch by 7 inch 2014
$40

Aesop loved stories about beauty and vanity. Aesop was supposed to be a hunchback and with a very ugly face. Much of his life he must have had to fend off insults and hurtful remarks. It is no wonder so many of his fables have to do with perceptions about beauty and ugliness.


THE SWALLOW AND THE CROW
The Swallow and the Crow were practicing their acrobatic stunts. Soon they were quarrelling with each other about who had the more beautiful feathers and wings. The Swallow was bragging about her beautiful colors and was calling the Crow’s color drab and dull. Finally the Crow said to the Swallow
“Your feathers are all very pretty in the spring, but are no protection from biting winds, my feathers protect me against the long winter’s cold. “
MORAL: FAIR WEATHER FRIENDS ARE NOT WORTH MUCH.
" THE SWALLOW AND THE CROW." Aesop's Fable. Intaglio Etching on Paper, 5 inch by 7 inch 2014.
$40

I am not finished with Aesop; there are several fables that I want to illustrate. Here are the next in the series.
THE MAGPIE AND HER TAIL
THE WOLF AND THE RAVEN
THE CROW AND ATHENA
THE COWARD AND THE RAVENS
THE MERCHANT AND THE RAVENS
THE RAVEN AND THE TRAVELLER
THE CROW, THE EAGLE AND THE FEATHERS
THE RAVEN AND THE SNAKE
THE RAVEN AND HERMES

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