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Hyaloid Acrylic on Text on Canvas, 6″ x 6″

The last of this week’s words, hyaloid, sent me into a nostalgic reverie of my father’s chemistry lab at Duke University, which I remember from my childhood as a magical place full of mysterious vessels & devices, as well as odd smells & occasionally odd people. I found it fascinating, but also a bit frightening, possibly because I was often warned to be careful.

I felt as timid & curious as the little lab rat in this painting, gazing glassy-eyed at the experiments in progress in this decidedly non-academic laboratory. My father’s lab definitely did not feature alchemical symbols among the molecular models, but there were crystals & microscopes and all manner of wonders that inspired my imagination. And although I never followed in his scientific footsteps, it’s no accident that I named my Etsy shop Curious Art Lab.

So thank you, Dad. And to thank those of you who have followed this week of A.Word.A.Day illustrations, I’ve created a special coupon code: AWAD2019 will offer you 20% off of any order of $100 or more, through 13 December 2019. That way you can get all 5 of this week’s prints for the price of 4, but of course you can choose anything else you want from my shop. I love the people I meet through A.Word.A.Day, & I’ll be forever grateful to Anu for inviting me to wander around in his logo-laboratory!

Worricow Acrylic on Text on Canvas, 6″ x 6″

Acrylic painting by Leah Palmer Preiss, Worricow: A prickly green monster rising from the swamp

When Anu sent me worricow, I believe I may have shrieked with delight. I’d never encountered the word until that moment, but it’s just the sort of quirky discovery that makes me an insatiably curious logophile. And what could be more fun than inventing new monsters? (Though I tend to prefer the sort that are odd rather than terrifying.)

This painting & prints are available in my Etsy Shop, Curious Art Lab.

Jouissance Acrylic on Text on Canvas, 6″ x 6″

Despite being a cat person by nature, when I think pure, unadulterated jouissance, I think dog! So I sketched a doggie dancing on the beach… which made me think of champagne… & it wasn’t until I started drawing the label on the bottle in the sand that I thought of Terrier Jouet. (Though I suspect my subconscious/muse was rolling its eyes the whole time, patiently waiting for my pencil to catch up.) Admittedly, the tail is a bit long for a terrier… but all the better to wag through the waves & form a jolly letter “J!”

This painting is SOLD but prints are available in my Etsy Shop, Curious Art Lab.

Year of the Pig/Latin Acrylic Painting on Text on Birch Panels, 10" x 5" Diptych

Pig Latin, acrylic on panel by Leah Palmer Preiss, depicting a flying pig ascending into the heavens above frying bacon

I always enjoy creating paintings inspired by the Chinese Zodiac.  This year is the year of the pig, & as I’m quite fond of pigs (particularly piglets) I was excited about this one. It ended up being more than a little late for the Lunar New Year, but maybe that’s because I found myself doing two paintings in one!

Pig/Latin started out with a sketch of a flying pig, inspired of course by the familiar figure of speech. But a pig with angelic wings, ascending blissfully to the heavens, reminded me of the uncomfortable fact that an awful lot of pigs die for our gustatory pleasure. Now, I can’t deny that bacon is delicious (even to me, a somewhat reluctant omnivore after many years as a vegetarian). But pigs themselves are so lively & clever, it just seems strange that most people think of them only as a food source. 

Because I feel so torn about this issue, it occurred to me to create a diptych. In the top panel, I painted the glorified flying pig. I was delighted to find an eloquent discussion of hog intelligence in one of my volumes of Animate Creation, 1898, which I used as the background text of the painting, along with a faint overlay of a Gustave Dore engraving. (If you’d like to see a brief video of pig-painting in process, please check it out on my Instagram page.) 

In the lower, terrestrial panel, there is the tempting & tasty bacon. In the memento mori tradition, I also included a rather porky medieval-style banner reading “Sic transit gloria porci” –Latin for “Thus passes the glory of the pig.” (Of course, this is a variant of “Sic transit gloria mundi.”) And in the frying pan, there are instructions for cooking bacon, scanned from an antique cookbook.

I used birch wood cradled panels as a support for this one instead of my usual stretched canvas, so that the two paintings could be stacked on a shelf without wobbling, but they can also be displayed singly if you prefer your bacon sans angel or vice-versa. 

The “frame” is trompe-l’oeil– I scanned a real frame, printed it faintly onto the archival paper that I use for the text, then painted it in red oxide with accents of metallic gold, shaded to accentuate the carving. The sides of the panel are painted to blend with the faux frame, as you can see in the right side of the photo above.

The painting(s) & prints are now available in my Etsy shop.

Transpicuous Acrylic painting on text on canvas, 6x6" by Leah Palmer Preiss

Acrylic painting by Leah Palmer Preiss, depicting jellyfish & other undersea life

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!)

Curious Art Lab Logo

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!

Leaping Lizard! Xeric, Acrylic Painting on text on canvas, 6x6" by Leah Palmer Preiss

Xeric Final 1

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!

Xeric WIP

 

This painting is now on display at GreenHill NC as part of their Winter Show through 18 January 2019.  Prints are now up in my Etsy shop! 

Kludge Acrylic Painting on text on canvas, 6x6" by Leah Palmer Preiss

Kludge, Acrylic painting by Leah Palmer Preiss of a kea (parrot) interacting with a curiously haphazard construction. 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!

Eldritch Evocation Acrylic Painting on text on canvas, 6x6" by Leah Palmer Preiss

Eldritch Final 1

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!

And the finished painting & prints are in my Etsy shop, of course!

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!