If you’re looking for a holiday activity, there are jigsaw puzzles in my Zazzle shop too!
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!
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!
If you’re in or near Philadelphia, please stop by Arch Enemy Arts tonight for their Open Call 2018 opening! (2 February 2018 6-10 p.m.) Odd Fellowship will be there, along with a bunch of wonderfully imaginative art by other artists– the poster image above is by Win Wallace. I’m thrilled to be included, though sadly I won’t be there for the opening. The show will be up through the 24th if you can’t make it tonight either.
My parents live by a pond (with very quaggy edges) & for a while they were regularly visited by a magnificent great blue heron. So when Anu gave me this word, I instantly thought of “Oscar” (as he was named by my grandmother, though I’m not sure why). I doubt Oscar ever landed a fish as large as this, nor could his neck bend in quite such a conveniently Q-like fashion, but he was an intrepid fisherman & a gorgeous creature, so this is my tribute to his majestic beauty. North Carolina (where most of my family lives) is the home of wonderful wetlands. As with many such areas across the country, they are very much in danger from over-development, so I thought of this dilemma often as I was painting this. Let’s hope generations to come will still be able to experience the wonder & awe I felt when Oscar came to visit.
I’ll admit it, I’m a lifelong book addict. I love reading them, but I also love looking at them, touching them, talking about them,
hoarding collecting them, & simply enjoying their beautiful & comforting presence all around me. So when Anu Garg offered “bibliomania” as one of this year’s words for A.Word.A.Day, I was ecstatic. I scanned the definition from one of my collection of vintage dictionaries. (Please don’t ask how many I have– it’s a fraught subject in this household!) It took a little while to figure out how to illustrate the concept in the form of a letter “B,” but when I sketched out a twisted bookworm with a precipitous stack of books, I knew I was on my way.
Here’s where the true confession comes in. (You thought it was the book-hoarding part, didn’t you? But that doesn’t embarrass me in the least!) My real transgression? I illustrated the wrong word!
I painted three of the other words before I started on this one (don’t worry, no spoilers here), & by the time I came to this painting, I somehow focused on another definition from the dictionary page I’d scanned, & got it in my head that I was illustrating “bibliophile.”
I’ve always said that I can’t see the forest for the lichen. I may be meticulous in many ways, but alas, I’m very far from methodical, or I would have had the sense to double-check my word list before plunging ahead. Instead I obsessed for days over choosing the books for the stack & painting all the tiny titles. The worst part is that “bibliophile” is even involved in a sort of puzzle element hidden in the art (that’s a hint), so it’s not just the background that’s off-key….
Ah, well. The whole thing reminds me of a painful anecdote I once read, about a printer carefully proofreading every little town in a highly-detailed map of the Untied States… ;-)
In any case, I hope you can forgive me for getting lost in the dark & disorienting forest that is my brain, & focus with me on the fascinating lichen of teeny tiny thumbnail-sized books!
The open book on the floor is the one that started my own case of bibliomania, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. I scanned & reduced the “Mouse’s Tale” spread from a beautiful vintage copy given to me long ago by one of my oldest, best & most bibliomaniacal friends. (Yes, you, Natalie!)
As for the books that the bookworm is clutching so fondly, many of Anu’s fans will recognize the titles, though I’ve taken some liberties with the cover designs to fit the old-school style. Thanks & apologies once again to Anu & all of my fellow bibliomaniacal logophiles!
Update: This image is now available on mugs in my Zazzle shop!
When Shauna Narciso, Art Director of Dragon+ Magazine asked if I’d like to illustrate a “curious vegepygmy” in a fantasy jungle setting, you can imagine my reaction. It was truly a dream assignment, full of hidden messages & tendrilicious details. If you’d like to read the story that inspired the illustration, as well as an interview in which I perhaps reveal too much about my working process, have a look at Dragon+ Issue 16, now online!
The contemptible Cockalorum is back in the studio after strutting around in the Visual Art Exchange Hearsay show for the past month, so I am finally able to list the original on Etsy! Perhaps you’re in need of some outhouse decor? Or a very expensive dartboard? Prints are available too if you’d prefer a cheaper target.
Edit: By request of an anonymous source, I’m now offering mugs with this ugly mug in my Zazzle shop.
I’m delighted to announce that these two paintings (Odd Fellowship & Advice From a Bunnipillar) will be a part of Sweet n Low, a group show at the Bedford Gallery, Walnut Creek CA, June 22 – August 27, 2017. If you’re in the area, please drop by & see them in person! I’m sorry to say I won’t be able to make the opening, but it sure sounds like a fun show!
From the Gallery’s Website:
Sweet n Low features artwork from over 130 local, national, and international artists who extend the genre of cute from cuddly and precious to creepy and ironic. From kitsch and Margaret Keane’s Big Eyes, to Japanese anime and contemporary Pop Art, we’re unleashing the roly-poly, goofily-gamboling, saccharine-honeyed creatures on this earth and beyond! Sweet n Low is part invitational and part juried exhibition, juried by Evan Pricco of Juxtapoz magazine and Antler Gallery, Portland, OR.
The Gallery is closed Tuesday July 4th