If you’re looking for a holiday activity, there are jigsaw puzzles in my Zazzle shop too!
*EDIT: The big sale is over, but I’ve added several items to the shop by request: A.W.A.D. illustrations Kludge & Gastromome, among others.) If you have an image that you’d like on a mug or other Zazzle product, please do let me know!*
Zazzle is having a huge sale on mugs today, including beer steins, so if you’ve been thinking about ordering a mug from Curious Art Lab, today’s a great day to do it! Use the code ZHOLIDAYDAYZ to get 60% off.
And remember if there’s an image you want to see on a mug that I haven’t yet posted on Zazzle, please let me know & I can get it up there for you.
Edit: New addition! Kludge mug added today!
When I saw this week’s final A.Word.A.Day word, transpicuous, I first thought of old chemistry glass, perhaps because my father is a chemist & his lab was a mysterious & slightly terrifying wonderland to me as a child. (Hence my shop name, Curious Art Lab!)
But as much as I love curious flasks & beakers, I love painting living things even more, so I was very pleased when the idea of jellyfish and other transpicuous sea life drifted into my head.
I’ve long been an avid admirer of Ernst Haeckel, especially his Kunstformen der Natur (Art forms of Nature),1904. An astonishing polymath, he was a highly original & influential scientist & philosopher as well as a brilliant artist, & one of the reasons I fell in love with seemingly-infinite variety of life forms on this planet. His drawings may not be entirely accurate by today’s scientific standards, but they are intricate, elegant & mesmerizing. I was definitely inspired by his style as I worked on this painting!
And of course, my heartfelt thanks once again to Anu Garg for a magnificent collection of inspiring words, not only this week but always!
Thursday’s word for A.Word.A.Day is “xeric.” I was born in Texas, so I had no trouble envisioning cacti & lizards, but to get them to form the letter X, I needed an acrobatic member of the lizard family. Luckily the collared lizard fulfilled that requirement with elan. The cactus is (very loosely) based on the xique-xique of Brazil. I doubt the two species ever share the same natural habitat, but I never claimed to be a realist!
Painting all those little scales & spines wasn’t quick or easy, but it put me into a sort of trance-like state. I imagine trekking across the desert would be a similarly ponderous & meditative experience. Unless of course you’re a collared lizard!
Wednesday’s word, “kludge,” was new to me when Anu offered it, but I took to it right away. It seems so onomatopoetic, somehow, & so useful to describe the mess that results when you just have to grab whatever is at hand & do the best you can.
Despite my fondness for the word I ran into trouble immediately– it’s quite a modern coinage, so none of my antique dictionaries included it. In true kludge fashion I’d be forced to wrangle it in somehow. I decided to do it inelegantly, à la ransom note, with letters sourced from old circus posters. The definition I snagged shamelessly from Anu’s email. Now, how to illustrate it? My mind went first to circuit boards, then to Rube Goldberg machines. (And both of those sidetracks remain faintly visible, like palimpsests, in the background.) But I wanted something alive in there.
That’s when being bird-brained came in handy! I was thinking about crows & how they are able to improvise tools, so I started researching “bird intelligence.” And there, like a gift from the Kludge gods, arose the magnificent kea.
Not only is it reputed to be the most intelligent bird on earth, it’s quite a handsome creature, & the only bird thought to exhibit contagious laughter. What’s not to love? It even has the consideration to begin with K! Moreover, its penchant for creative mischief has driven the humans who have invaded its territory to kludge a device to distract it from meddling with everything man-made in the vicinity, including traffic cones. Thus was born the kea gym, a variation of which forms the letter “K” in this curiotype.
I’m not sure where all the red paint splatters came from… it’s not like my studio floor looks like that or anything. Ahem. Anyway, as I was about to say, Kludge turned out to be the most troublesome, yet the most fun of all this week’s words. And of course you can find the painting & prints in my Etsy shop!
Tuesday’s word for A.Word.A.Day is “eldritch.” I have a bit of a Gothic streak, so this one definitely intrigued me. I sketched out the two ghosts & the background forest in advance, but as I painted over the dictionary text, I was additionally inspired by the alphabetical proximity of El Dorado, the legendary land of gold. I thought perhaps these spirits had been greedy in life, & had made their fortunes at the expense of others. Thus they are condemned to an eternity of obsessively striving to hold on to their gold, while it trickles endlessly away….
So I used metallic gold paint to render the gold dust, as well as their avidly glowing eyes. Unfortunately I didn’t capture that part of the process, but click here if you’d like to see a very boring, but mercifully short, video of me in the process of painting ghostly hair!
To continue the theme of serendipity, while I was painting this I was looking for some ambient music to inspire me, & quite by chance the site I was using recommended a band called Palmer Eldritch! I thought their music was interesting, if a little forceful for the mood of this piece. Researching the band, I found they were named after a Philip K. Dick novel called The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch, so I listened to the audiobook. Frankly, it wasn’t my cup of tea for many reasons, but it did explore some interesting themes.
You just never know where the rabbit hole of words will lead you. There may be many dead ends, but then again you may discover a golden wonderland!
It’s showtime! Welcome to another week of illustrated words for A.Word.A.Day. As always, Anu offered me a wonderfully diverse & evocative selection of words, beginning this year with “velutinous.”
This one appealed to me instantly, as I’ve always loved the luxurious texture of velvet, & I immediately thought of cats with their velvety fur & their natural affinity for claiming the most voluptuous spot in the house. Not to mention their convenient ability to pose in an elegant V shape, complete with volute tail! (Yes, all those lovely V words appear in the background text of this painting, scanned from one of my antique dictionaries.) I threw in a few volute accents on the Victorian armchair in the background, just for extra visual rhythms & because I’m a maximalist by nature.
The original painting & prints thereof are available in my Etsy shop, Curious Art Lab. I’ll be adding more A.Word.A.Day paintings there as they appear this week, & you can also find past A.Word.A.Day words here.
And if you’d like to see work-in-progress pictures such as the one below, along with the occasional process video, please follow me on Instagram!
I’m very happy to announce that I will have two paintings in this year’s GreenHill Winter Show. Tonight (1 December 2018) is the Collector’s Choice Fundraiser, & tomorrow is the public opening from 2:00-5:00 PM. Unfortunately I can’t make it to the fundraiser, but I’ll be there tomorrow, so if you are in or near Greensboro, NC, come on by & say hi!
In honor of Pi Day (tomorrow) & tax season (seemingly interminable) I’ve added a Counting Sheep mug to my Zazzle shop, & today Zazzle is having a sale on classic mugs (you’ll need to enter the code & specify the classic version with the white handle to get the full discount.) And as always you can also find prints on my Etsy shop– where (today-Thursday only), you can get 3.14 off any order!
A wonderful Patron of the Curious Arts commissioned this painting inspired by one of her favorite words, Obfuscation. It is one of my Curiotype images, featuring a figure forming the initial letter of a word while illustrating the concept.
As I was pondering how to accomplish this, the image of an octopus popped into my head, Luckily for me, it just so happens that the octopus is not only a very appealing subject to paint, but a master of obfuscation. Not only are some species capable of astonishing chromatic camouflage, but many also create decoy shapes, known as pseudomorphs, by emitting ink as they escape potential predators.
While this creature certainly isn’t camouflaged by color (since we did want it to be visible), it’s doing its best to obscure the background text. Nonetheless the definition of “obfuscation” peeks through, along with glimpses of an engraved illustration of Jules Verne’s Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea.
The brightly colored swirl of “confetti” bordering the octopus may look festive, but it represents a dismal reality: the pollution of the oceans by waste plastic. The Great Pacific Garbage Patch is only one of many gyres composed largely of non-biodegradable plastic. Even our obfuscating octopus can’t obscure the dreadful prospect that by 2050, there may be more plastic than fish in the sea.
I hope we can reverse this terrible trajectory & keep the ocean safe for magnificent creatures like the octopus.
Prints of this image are available in my Etsy shop, Curious Art Lab.