May 31 2011

#31 “Wild Fantasy”

From Rudi at Stephens College in Columbia, Missouri

This wolf is undeniably interesting. The unorthodox facial features, unique coloring, and the mysterious nature of the text at the bottom of the illustration all work together to create a masterpiece of wild imagination. In many ways this picture is so weird and bizarre that I didn’t think any words I could offer would complement it appropriately (I hope the artist takes no offense to this); and although it may not be entirely applicable, I have decided that such a ‘fantastical’ picture might be better served if it were paired with the work of one of the greatest ‘fantasy’ writers of all time: J.R.R. Tolkien.

And with that, I will leave you with this short section from Tolkien’s The Hobbit which picks up shortly after Bilbo, Gandalf, and the thirteen dwarves escape from goblins in the Misty Mountains.

——————————————————————————————————-

After what seemed ages further they came suddenly to an opening where no trees grew. The moon was up and was shining into the clearing. Somehow it struck all of them as not at all a nice place, although there was nothing wrong to see.

All of a sudden they heard a howl away down hill, a long shuddering howl. It was answered by another away to the right and a good deal nearer to them; then by another not far away to the left. It was wolves howling at the moon, wolves gathering together!

There were no wolves near Mr. Baggins’ hole at home, but he knew that noise. He had had it described to him often enough in tales. One of his elder cousins (on the Took side), who had been a great traveller used to imitate it to frighten him. To hear it out in the forest under the moon was too much for Bilbo. Even magic rings are not much use against wolves – especially the evil packs that lived under the shadow of the goblin-infested mountains, over the Edge of the Wild on the borders of the unknown. Wolves of that sort smell keener than goblins, and do not need to see you to catch you!

“What shall we do, what shall we do!” he cried. “Escaping goblins to be caught by wolves!” he said, and it became a proverb, though how we say “out of the frying pan and into the fire” in the same sort of uncomfortable situations.

“Up the trees, quick!” cried Gandalf; and they ran to the trees at the edge of the glade, hunting for those that had branches fairly low…. And Bilbo? He could not get into any tree, and was scuttling from trunk to trunk…. So Dori actually climbed out of the tree and let Bilbo scramble up and stand on his back.

Just at that moment the wolves trotted howling into the clearing. All of a sudden there were hundreds of eyes looking at them. Still Dori did not let Bilbo down. He waited till he had clambered off his shoulders and into the branches, and then he jumped for the branches himself. Only just in time! A wolf snapped at his cloak as he swung up and nearly got him. In a minute there was a whole pack of them yelping all round the tree and leaping up at the trunk, with eyes blazing and tongues hanging out.


May 30 2011

#30 “Konnichiwa”

From a stranger in Japan

I was particularly excited to receive this picture because it was one of the first that had found its way to my p.o. box from a foreign country; however, the day that I found this postcard lying before me just happened to be in the immediate wake of the tragic earthquake that decimated a large portion of Japan. I wanted to be happy, but I knew that while I was rejoicing in a silly postcard, an entire country was reeling with terror and sadness. So this wolf picture represents a bit of a personal internal conflict. This is not meant to sound asinine or melodramatic, but when I look at this picture I really do wonder who drew it and what his/her circumstances are. So, to the illustrator of this picture, whoever you are, I would love to hear from you and know that you are safe and well.

Moving our attention towards the illustration itself, there is one feature that I find especially interesting: this wolf’s piercing eyes. They are deep, life-like and inspiring. They seem to long to communicate, but their message is unclear. In the end, I suspect that my interest in them is probably due to the especially mysterious identity of the illustrator. Perhaps I am simply misguidedly searching the eyes for clue as to the artist’s persona. Unfortunately, after hours of study, they offer no clues. After engaging in a little online research, though, I discovered that the two main species of Japanese wolves died out about 100 years ago, which makes the identity of the illustrator all the more intriguing. Could he be some intellectual lupine historian? An ancient sage carrying on the wisdom of Japan’s extinct wolves? Or could this illustration have been drawn by an actual Japanese wolf who has merely evolved beyond our wildest expectations?

In the end, the answers to these questions may be as difficult to come by as the ancient and mysterious Canis lupis hodophilax.

(Just in case you’re wondering, the symbols in the illustration simply say “Japan”)

 


May 29 2011

#29 “Big Brother is Watching You.”

 

From Michael and Paula

The speedy pace of our society’s technological development is one that frightens as well as excites me. In general, when I look around and notice cameras on street corners, or type my name into various search engines, or when I really start to think about consumer profiling, I become concerned that we are possibly racing towards a not-too-distant Orwellian future. While some may argue that modern technological advancements are the very things that safeguard us from this unfortunate scenario, my fears are just the opposite. I believe that a steep decline in personal privacy paired with a sharp increase in global technological voyeurism could possibly be very dangerous. While the ease of finding information may increase, so may also the ease of disseminating propaganda.

On the other hand, it is thrilling to ponder the multitude of communication options and growing speed and ease of connecting with others from all over the world. Surely, if it were not for the technological advancements made in fairly recent history, I would not be in possession of the thriving wolf collection that I own today, nor would I be able to share it with you so freely and effectively.

This brings us to the pictures that are on display today from Michael and Paula. Contained in both the subject line and the body of the email that these wonderful artists sent to me were references to the fact that these illustrations were created on iPads. Now, I do not own an iPad, myself, but I would certainly love to have one, especially if it means that I would be able to create masterpieces such as these. But there is something about that notebook-sized magical tablet that gives me the willies. There’s just something about it that creeps me out. I wonder… will microchips crawl out of some hidden portal and wriggle up my arm and into my ear like something out of The Wrath of Khan? Will it fuse itself to my hand and become simply another appendage that I could not live without? Will it exert some sort of radio-frequencied mind control and order me to murder my family?

Perhaps the most frightening aspect of this line of questioning is that I may not know the answers until it’s too late….

 


May 28 2011

#28 “Wolf Whistle”

From Paul in Scotland In preparing for this post, I tried to engage in a little research about Wolf Whistling, but I have found it surprisingly difficult to come across any hard and fast information about this specific type of call. Interestingly enough, whistling to show affection or romantic interest has been found in literature and stories dating back to ancient Greece and Rome, but the most I can discover Wolf Whistling is that it supposedly has its origins in the navy’s General Call which is often made with a boatswain’s pipe. The whistle/call was initially intended to draw all hands on deck or to command attention, and it is speculated that over time the sailors began using the call to attract the attention of women whom they found alluring. It is not known whether the whistle was originally thought to be as repulsive and disrespectful to women as it is often considered to be today.

All of this ultimately made me wonder how similar the sound of the boatswain’s pipe is to that of the modern wolf whistle. Upon listening to several versions that I found on various websites, it appears clear that both calls are two-toned, with one rising and one falling note, but the order in which the rising and fall notes occurr seem to vary. That, in the end, is the most I could discover.

Now, moving on, the general concept of how wolves became associated with male lust is actually very long and complicated, so I won’t breach that subject here; but I would certainly be remiss if I did not commend Paul for his creativity and ingenuity in creating this Whistle Wolf illustration. If nothing else, this has inspired me to research a subject that I had never breached before.

So thank you, Paul. I don’t know if you can hear me across the pond, but I’m Wolf Whistling your way.


May 27 2011

#27 “The Wolf and the Yellow Wallpaper”

From Rachelle in New York

If you have never read the short story “The Yellow Wallpaper” by Charlotte Perkins Gilman, I suggest you check it out. Here’s the gist of what happens:

In the story a young woman (the narrator) and her husband move into an old country estate so that the wife can spend some time at ease away from the apparent pressures and stress of society. She describes in various journal entries how she has been diagnosed with a troubling nervous condition and how her husband, a doctor, absolutely insists that she must remain as sedentary as possible: she may soak up as much fresh air as she wishes, but she must not exert herself in any way, even by writing her thoughts in a diary.

The irony, of course, is that this misguided behavioral prescription certainly does more harm than good. With absolutely nothing to do, the woman becomes stir crazy and lets her imagination and “fancy” run wild. In particular she is enamored and disgusted by a pattern of yellow wallpaper that decorates the couple’s bedroom. She tries to persuade her husband to cover it, but he insists that with her condition, she should not allow the paper to “get the better of her.” Over time, though, the woman’s morbid fascination with wallpaper only grows; she believes that she sees it move and change. She says, “In the places where it isn’t faded and where the sun is just so – I can see a strange, provoking, formless sort of figure, that seems to skulk about behind that silly and conspicuous front design.” She says she watches it always, for the figure hidden in it or behind it is one of a woman.

As time goes on, the troubled wife becomes more and more obsessed and believes that the woman behind the paper is creeping in and out and that she (the wife and narrator) is the only one who can know about this mysterious figure. By the end of the story this strange belief has deteriorated her mind to the point where she believes that she and the woman are the same entity, and she tears the wallpaper down in long strips so as not to be trapped back inside it. The story concludes with the woman’s husband fainting at the sight of her deranged condition, and she creepily slinks over his body towards the wall.

When I examine this paper, I am reminded of this story. For the pattern of the paper that serves as the background of this illustration seems to fit very nearly with the description of the yellow patterned wallpaper described in this story…. but for the life of me, I can’t seem to understand why no one else can see the beautiful black wolf drawn squarely in the center. I can see it. It’s right there. Right in the middle…

You can see it….Can’t you?

Can’t you…..?

 


May 26 2011

#26 “The Hoax”

From a stranger in Burlington, Vermont

In its short life thus far, this project has yielded some very unexpected results. But one of the most startling things that I began to notice when this venture first gained a bit of international attention* was the fact that many people seemed to believe that it was some sort of elaborate hoax played on the owner of a post office box in Chattanooga, Tennessee. To be honest, I had never considered that someone might come to this conclusion. All in all, I find the idea brilliant and hilarious, and in some ways, I almost wish that it had been the original plan. I can just picture the poor, befuddled owner of the p.o. box opening its small hinged door only to be inundated with a confusing array of lupine artwork. Can you imagine the look that would no doubt be perched upon the poor soul’s face?

However, there is one small hole in this idea. After actually having discussed this issue with an employee at my local post office, I discovered that no mail would can be received by a  p.o box unless it was specifically addressed to that organization or person. Even if the box number is clearly labeled, it is unlikely that the post office will allow the mail to be received unless the name of the organization is clearly printed on the envelope. So… based on this information, we can assume that if the project was a hoax, it would be extremely unsuccessful, since the butt of the joke would decidedly NOT have a p.o. box labeled “Wolves by Strangers” unless he actually did want to receive wolf pictures.

I say all of this to point out that it has been fascinating to notice the artwork that seems to be inspired by this “hoax” misinterpretation. Take the artwork that is on display today, for instance. In my eyes it is obvious that the “Thank Reddit” comment at the bottom of the picture is meant as a sarcastic jab and that the image of the wolf devouring an infant is meant to be repulsive. After all, if you were NOT expecting to receive a wolf picture in the mail, just imagine how dismayed and revolted you would be to open an envelope and have this gruesome picture greet your eyes.

Obviously, what the artist behind this illustration did not know is that he was playing right into my hand. My only goal for this project was to receive as many wolf illustrations as possible, regardless of the intent of the artist or the subject matter. I appreciate wolves eating children as much as I appreciate wolves prancing in fields of flowers. Truthfully, though, I can’t say that I blame the fellow. If I were in his position, I would probably have done the exact same thing; I’ve been known to love a prank as much as the next guy. So in the end, I suppose I must actually tip my hat to this stranger in Vermont.

Well played, my twisted friend… Well played.

* This was largely achieved through a picture of a flier that was posted on reddit.com on March 11 with the caption of “Dear Reddit, please fill this person’s mailbox with wolves.”


May 25 2011

#25 “Making an Impression”

From Abigael

Like most people, I’m not necessarily an “art scholar,” per se, but I know what I like; and the one artistic movement or style that has always captivated me the most is Impressionism. I’m not sure exactly what it is about this particular style intrigues me, but I believe it has something to do with the idea of transforming seemingly random or chaotic strokes of a brush into an artistic masterpiece that inevitably presents itself as calm and soothing. There is a method to the madness of Impressionism that is gentle and sets the viewer at ease. Of course, I am really only familiar with the most famous artists of the school of Impressionism: Van Gogh, Renoir, and Monet, but I have been blessed to have been able to see several works by these creative geniuses in person, and I have found them to be astounding and worthy of hours of study. Recently, though, I was introduced to a new Impressionistic prodigy by the name of Abigael, and it is her work that is on display today.

When I first observed this piece, my mind was drawn to recall Van Gogh’s Starry Night. It’ funny how the mind makes the connections it does. Some people may not find it easy to draw similarities between these two works, but essentially, if you were to examine some of the most traditional features of Impressionistic paintings, you would no doubt find that this work by Abigael is classically Impressionistic: the play of natural light is emphasized here, and even though the picture clearly depicts the nighttime, the color black is avoided; also, short strokes are used to capture the “essence” of the subject as opposed to the specifc details.

In the end there are some who might argue that such a classic depiction of the wolf (howling at a moon hovering in the nighttime sky) is too clichéd to be considered a great work of art. I, however, resoundilngly rail against this narrow interpretation. If there is such a thing as a modern classic, I believe we have found it. The noble wolf with his head raised calling out his plaintive nighttime cry may be an image that we are well familiar with, but that does not mean we have fully explored its power or the extent of the beauty of its artistic rendering. In fact, I only just received this work yesterday, but I was so moved by it that I simply had to display it today.

Thank you, Abigael. I know this wolf has certainly made an impression on me…

 

 


May 24 2011

#24 “The Unseen”

From Heather

I would first like to commend the artist for her commitment to utilizing nearly the entire canvas for this illustration. The natural elements (trees, rocks, etc.) help to secure this wolf in a place that is real and tangible for the viewer, and I feel like the drawing is stronger because of this. The full usage of the canvas allows us to truly examine this wolf in his element, his native environment.  Please understand that I am not downplaying the importance of imagination in the mind of the viewer; I am simply drawing attention to the illustrator’s artistic dedication.

What really strikes me about this picture, though, is the violently expressive body language of the wolf. You’ll notice that the wolf seems to feel threatened or appears to possibly be in some sort of danger. This is made evident by the slicked back ears, the ferocious disposition and facial features, and the way the animal is reared back on its haunches, striking a somewhat defensive pose. As a result, the work is positively dripping with anxiety and drama.

But all of these details still beg the question: What has this wolf in such dire straits? Has it encountered a lupine nemesis vying for dominance in the pack? Some evil archenemy? Is he face to face with the wolf’s greatest foe: man? Could it be something less spectacular (perhaps the wolf is merely feigning anger in some sort of primitive lupine game), or totally outrageous (maybe this wolf has encountered beings from another planet)? Ultimately, as is often the case, the answer is left up the viewer and in the end, you must decide: What lies just beyond the reaches of the page?


May 23 2011

#23 “Pure Mystery…”

From Jan in the Netherlands

It probably goes without saying that if you were to actually encounter a wolf in the wild, you would most likely be filled with awe and wonder. But you would also probably experience a profound sense of intimidation. I mean, when one inadvertently stumbles upon very definition of natural beauty and savagery, it is a momentous occurrence that would surely make one stop in his tracks. But for a picture… a mere illustration, mind you… to evoke this same reaction… what a moving portrait that must be!

When I first slid this particular illustration out of the envelope that was postmarked from the Netherlands, this is exactly what happened. The emotions described in the previous paragraph are the very ones that began to flood over me. In some ways, though, this revelation might come as a bit of a surprise. The wolf in this picture is anthropomorphic, wearing a suit and tie, and not pictured in his natural environment. In some ways he appears more human than lupine. Also, although the portrait is artfully rendered, the wolf itself is slightly cartoonish. How then could this wolf illicit such a strong emotional reaction?

After much pondering, I have decided upon an answer: No matter how much you dress the wolf up in the clothing of man, no matter how much you attempt to change or transform him, no matter how many t-shirts you screen his image across or how many times you depict him in pop culture through films and television… the wolf will always be intimately connected to the mystery of the natural world around us to a degree that we, as humans, cannot imagine or ever hope to achieve. This is what I see when I look into the deep yellow eyes of this lupine masterpiece: a deep connection with the earth that is so mystifying and enigmatic that it can evoke nothing but wonder and fear and can never be hidden or denied.

In the end, I think Cormac McCarthy sums this concept up best in the final lines of his beautiful story, The Road.

“Once there were brook trout in the streams in the mountains. You could see them standing in the amber current where the white edges of their fins wimpled softly in the flow. They smelled of moss in your hand. Polished and muscular and torsional. On their backs were vermiculate patterns that were maps of the world in its becoming. Maps and mazes. Of a thing which could not be put back. Not be made right again. In the deep glens where they lived all things were older than man and they hummed of mystery.”



May 22 2011

#22 “Primary Wolf”

Perhaps the single greatest benefit from the world failing to end yesterday (as was long predicted), is the fact that I now have the opportunity to share with you this beautifully hand-painted wolf portrait. There are many words that I could use to describe its artistic merit, many applications and connections I could make based upon its loveliness, many philosophical viewpoints I could suggest, but in the end I think that my own comments may detract from the exquisiteness of this lupine masterpiece.

Instead, I will simply leave you with the words of artist as they were written in her attached note:

Hello, Stranger!

I hope you enjoy my wolf and add it to your growing collection! He’s a primary colour wolf, and he thinks he’s bada**. He’s way more legit than those secondary colour wolves. He’s smug and a tad pretentious.

…I hope you are expecting all these drawings. If not, you have an amazing collection of wolf art.

Love from Canada,

Cheryl

Well, Cheryl, one thing is for sure: I was (and still am) actively searching for wonderful wolf art from strangers all over the world, but in reference to your last comment, I sure wasn’t expecting anything as beautiful as this. Bravo, my friend. Artwork like this makes one happy to be alive…

 


May 21 2011

#21 “Salvador Wolf”

From a stranger in Chapel Hill, North Carolina.

Recently my wife and I visited the High Museum in Atlanta in order to view a temporary exhibit featuring many of the later works of Salvador Dali. Overall this exhibit was one of the most beautifully moving artistic experiences of my life. I have viewed pieces in person at the Prado in Madrid, several museums in London, and a few stateside as well, but these works by Dali somehow managed to surpass them all. The sheer magnitude of the size of the paintings was breathtaking enough, but the beautifully minute details combined with the fantastic coloring and religious symbolism all came together to create masterpieces beyond words.

The influence of Dali on this wolf illustration is spledidly overt. Evidence of this comes in the form of the pencil-thin “Dali” mustache which was included in many of his own works, the clock which is a tribute to the famous Persistence of Memory, the stakes/crutches which make up the wolf’s legs and are reminiscent of Dali’s 1937 masterpiece Sleep* (pictured below), the barren landscape, and finally the burning wolf which is a nod to the burning giraffe from Dali’s Inventions of the Monsters.

Like Dali and his work, the wolf is an artistic masterpiece beyond description. Thank you, stranger from Chapel Hill for reminding us that the surreal is always around us, even in the natural world.

*Interestly enough this wolf illustration was drawn inside a blank card which featured this Dali masterpiece on its front cover.

 


May 20 2011

#20 “You can’t keep a good wolf down”

From a stranger in Traverse City, Michigan.

After yesterday’s post, which featured a fearsome wolf on the brink of rage-filled madness, I thought it would be appropriate to offer a more optimistic and sanguine illustration to lift our spirits today. For although it is undeniable that in life we will all be assailed by unforeseeable troubles and strife, this doesn’t mean that life itself is a continual uphill battle. One merely has to adopt a more useful outlook, and I believe that deep within our hearts we all know that an air of positivity will always benefit us more than wallowing in the pits of despair. One of my favorite quotes goes as follows: “There are only two things in life you can control: your attitude and your effort.” I think that if we examine the masterful lupine work of art that is on display today, we will see this aphorism in action.

This wolf is certainly drawn with great skill, but if you’ll notice, the specific circumstances in which this lobo finds himself appear to be somewhat less than favorable. Observe the conifers in the background of the illustration, how they seem to be afflicted with some sort of blight that is causing their needles to disappear, leaving the trees somewhat barren. Now move your attention to the foreground. Notice how this beautiful wolf appears to be malnourished and slightly emaciated. His torso is lean and thin.

But now, ladies and gentlemen, direct your eyes to meet those of this animalistic wonder. What do you see there? If you are like me, you see hope, determination, passion, and fortitude. Notice also the unwavoring lupine grin. While there is so much in this world to cause dispair, especialy for the wolf, this creature knows the value of emotional fortitude; he understands the vital importance of optimism. What could cause that smile to fade? What could break the spirit of the wolf? Nothing, my friends. Nothing.

In the end we realize that while man is the very creature responsible for so much pain in the animal kingdom, he may also look to this world to gain valuable insight. So in conclusion, the next time you find yourself in troubled waters, think back to the wonderful wisdom of the wolf and be at peace.

 


May 19 2011

#19 “Ragin’”

From a stranger in New Brunswick, New Jersey.

Rage \rāj\ n: 1a: violent and uncontrolled anger 1b: a fit of violent wrath

Rage \rāj\ v: 1a: to move, rush, dash or surge furiously 1b: to proceed, continue or prevail with great violence

Rage. It’s the one word that comes to mind when I examine at this illustration. Pure, unadulterated rage. It is certainly true that wolves are violent and savage. It is well known that they are wild and ferocious, but when people think about these characteristics of the wolf, they most likely pair them with the notion that the wolf is also a calculating and shrewd predator. The wolf is smart; he is composed. For it is often through his great cunning that a wolf is able to attain his prey.

But what may be even more terrifying than the actions of a sly and crafty predator is the idea of a wolf gone out of his mind with fury. What could drive a wolf over the edge? What could cause this typically poised and self-possessed creature to erupt into a volcanic explosion of fury? I’m not sure, but when you consider that it is legal in some areas to hunt wolves from helicopters and that nearly 8,000 wolves have been killed by humans since 2006, is it surprising that the wolf is seething with rage? When you understand that certain wolf populations have been infected with parasitic skin diseases in order to control their numbers and that generally the wolf has been one the most abused animals in history, is it any wonder that a wolf would lash out in anger? I think not, my friends.

I’m not an encourager of violence on the part of man or wolf, but I do believe the wolf is a noble savage, and if the facts that I have listed above are indeed the impetus for this wolf’s frenzied wrath, then I say rage on wolf, rage on. And with that, ladies and gentlemen, I will leave you with the words of the esteemed poet, Dylan Thomas.

Do not go gentle into that good night.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.



May 18 2011

#18 “Eye to Eye”

From Paul

So much about this wolf strikes me, and when I examine him, many questions are raised. For example, is the artist trying to make a comment through his use of this particular shade of blue? Is there a significance to the lack of a body attached to the wolf? What does the absence of teeth stand for? What about the angular features? The wolf appears as if it is almost smiling, but the sharp angular features of the piece suggest a raw intensity. Notice the steep summits of the ears, the pointy nature of the mane-like hair that frames the face, the sharpness of the nose and chin.

But what I especially notice is that intriguing set of eyes. When you really think about it, the eyes are truly a magical part of the body. No other organ is able to project so much outwardly and simultaneously gather so much external information and deliver it to our brains inwardly. For it is primarily with our eyes that we can communicate so deeply with others, and it is also with our eyes that we understand the world around us. They emote as well as gather and analyze.

Focusing specifically on this image designed by Paul, one will notice that he has employed a method of illustration that is fairly uncommon: he has drawn the wolf facing the viewer directly instead of opting for drawing a profile piece. This method is most advantageous because it allows us to look deep into these ocular portholes of lupine wisdom.

Tell me this: if the eyes are the windows to the soul, what do we know about the spirit of this particular wolf?

 


May 17 2011

#17 “Lupine Rights!”

From Svante in Lund, Sweden

Wolves have stood in the darkening shadow of human politics long enough. This is why I am particularly enamored with this illustration that was contributed by Svante on March 11, 2011. As you can see, Svante was not content to draw a simple rendering of the majestic creature of the wolf. He took a stand. He longed for his illustration to portray a deeper meaning; he yearned for it to deliver a message, and thus we have here before us the anthropomorphic wolf picketing for equal rights on May 1, International Workers’ Day.

This wolf may not be particularly talented in the fields of spelling and grammar, but he certainly makes up for it in enthusiasm. Yes, you may argue that the look in his eyes is one of half-heartedness, perhaps even ambivalence, but ask yourself this question: How would you feel if you were a wolf, trying to make your way in a world domineered by brutal, pink, furless bipedals? I suspect you would feel beaten down as well. But what is important here is not whether this wolf displays physical strength or weakness. No, it is the determination and fortitude of his soul that makes this wolf so beautiful and places him head and shoulders above all others.

Thank you, Svante.

 


May 16 2011

#16 “The Right Stuff”

From A.P. in North Carolina

I have received plenty of pictures which have ultimately offered more questions than answers, and the illustration that is on display today is a prime example of this.

You see, many pieces in my collection feature pop culture references, not a few which include allusions to Back to the Future, Pulp Fiction, hipsters, professional wrestling, Bojangles, Ozzy Osbourne, Wolf Blitzer, and the list goes on. When I first examined this drawing, I assumed that I was looking at a pop culture reference that I am not familiar with. As a result, I attempted to engage in a little research, but I got no further than a 1979 book titled The Right Stuff by a man named Tom Wolfe. Somehow, though, I don’t think this is a viable option as a clue. Maybe this is because The Right Stuff (according to Wikipedia) is “about the pilots engaged in U.S. postwar experiments with experimental rocket-powered, high-speed aircraft as well as documenting the stories of the first Project Mercury astronauts selected for the NASA space program.”

Now, I didn’t read the book or watch the movie based on the story which was released in 1983, but I doubt that it contains any actual wolves or men who bare a striking resemblance to Orville Redenbacher.

I next considered that this drawing might somehow be a reference to the famous boy band “New Kids on the Block” from the late 1980s and early 1990s. But somehow this didn’t seem to fit either. I have  nonetheless included the video below just in case.

In the end, I do feel the need to agree with the character in the illustration in terms of the wolf having “the right stuff,” if this is a reference to the bravery and fortitude that Wolfe alludes to in the title of his book; but as I said earlier, I am very skeptical of this, and no matter what, there are still questions about this drawing that need answering:

1. What actually is this “right stuff” that is referred to here and how does the man know that the wolf possesses it?

2. If the wolf has “the right stuff,” why does he look so distraught?

3. What is the relationship like between this man and this beast that allows the elderly gentleman to comment so freely and precisely about this animal (and in such close proximity) without suffering bodily harm?

4. (Perhaps most importantly) Why does this artist refuse to draw lower bodies?


May 15 2011

#15 “Camo Wolf”

From Kate

The wolf is a creature of duality in many ways. It is social but independant. It is savage but loving. It is beautiful but terrifying. All of these characteristics of the lobos are relatively well-known and generally accepted; however, there is one aspect of the animal’s dual nature that is just as prevalent as any of these but seems to receive less attention: the notion of the wolf’s skillful camoflauge combined with its undeniable physical presence.

Why is it that the wolf is featured on so many t-shirts as being perched noticably on a rocky promontory with its mouth raised in a howl, poised to pierce the night sky? Well, because anytime a wolf is seen, it overtakes the vision of the observer. When your eyes settle upon a wolf, all else disappears. It is always the most dominating feature of the landscape in which it appears?

But then…why is the wolf also the most popular creature to portray in those illustrations in which the animal is hardly noticeable or seems to blend in with its surroundings? Well, because the wolf is also the master of disguise.

I cannot help to ponder this concept when examining this illustration contributed by Kate. The portrait itself is simple: the landscape is barren and the wolf, due to the nature of the pencil strokes, is hardly noticeable. However, when your eyes settle upon this beautiful creature, there is nothing more captivating. Thank you, Kate, for bringing to our attention the masterful hand of nature in creating an animal so capable of capturing our attention as well as disappearing before our very eyes.

 


May 14 2011

#14 “That Lonesome Lupine Cry”

From Frank and the University of Missouri.

There is perhaps nothing capable of raising the tiny hairs on the back of one’s arms and neck to such a chilling degree as the mysteriously plaintive call of the wolf. For centuries humans have been intrigued by various forms of animal communication. In fact in modern times this study has entered the realm of science where no doubt more mysteries than answers will evolve. But no matter how much or how little definitive information is revealed to us about these various communication techniques, one fact will remain: no cry elicits an emotional response quite like that of the lonesome lupine.

When one examines the work of art featured above (which depicts a somewhat disheveled wolfman crying out towards the moon), a certain question is no doubt raised: If the howl of a wolf is able to invoke such an emotional response from man, then what does it suggest about the emotional condition of the wolf? Is it reasonable to assume that the wail of a wolf indicates a certain degree of cognitive emotion within the creature?

Look at it this way:

Generally, as a result of the typical tone of the wolf cry, the timing of it (usually at night), and the circumstances under which one hears the cry (for most people this would occur during activities like camping or removing themselves from their typically urban or suburban setting), the cry of the wolf is often described with words such as ‘lonely,’ ‘plaintive,’ and ‘mournful.’ But… simply because this is the way that the sound is often described and perceived, does this mean that the cry is actually driven by a gloomy disposition within the wolf? Also, would there be a difference in the emotional quality of the traditional wolf and that of the anthropomorphic wolf? One might suggest that since the anthro wolf is a much more rare breed, and since it is trapped between the human and animal world, its cry would be all the more lonesome.

I would love to hear your thoughts and opinions on this matter. Also, thanks again to Frank from the University of Missouri for submitting this fantastic anthropomorphic wolf portrait.

And finally, if you would like to read more information about wolf howls and wolf communication, check out this link.

 


May 13 2011

#13 “Inked”

From a stranger in San Diego, California.

In my postings thus far I have not divulged any personal information about myself other than a few childhood memories and whatever information can be gained from my nonsensical and verbose philosophical ramblings. This picture, however, inspires me to reveal one small detail about my identity: I have no tattoos. Not a single one. This is not a groundbreaking revelation, but it is a true one.

What might be slightly more interesting, though, is despite the fact that I personally don’t have any tattoos on my own body, I am absolutely enamored by tattoos on other people. I find it especially fascinating when someone has dedicated his/her entire body to serve as a true canvass for self expression. When I reflect upon the individuals whose tattoos inspire and intrigue me, I often think of Anthony Kiedis and Flea from the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Kat Von D, John Mayer, Tim Commerfort of Rage Against the Machine and Audioslave, Tommy Lee, Travis Barker, Nikki Sixx, and Trace Cyrus.*

This idea is partially why I am so taken with this particular wolf illustration. I not only admire the artist’s willingness to use the entire figure of the wolf as a canvass for artistic expression, but it is also the skill with which this is accomplished that is astounding. No space on the creature’s body is left barren or naked. No detail is spared; every inch is embellished and appreciated. In my mind, this symbolically expresses the complexity and all-encompassing beauty of the wolf. Every aspect of the animal is intriguing. It is not just the face, the eyes, the silhouette; it is every part of the creature: from the tip of the tail to razor-sharp point of each claw.

Bravo, stranger from San Diego. Bravo.

*My appreciation for a celebrity’s tattoo is not necessarily an endorsement of any other aspect of that individual.

 


May 12 2011

#12 “Carpe Diem: Seize the Day”

From a stranger in Boulder, Colorado

There may be no singular Latin expression that has endured to a greater degree than the famous “Carpe Diem” or “Seize the Day.” What a fantastic notion this is; for in this one phrase lies an obvious but difficult key to happiness. This aphorism encourages us to take advantage of the time that we have on this earth, to indulge our human impulses, and to drink life to the lees; but what I find particularly interesting is that most people tend to accept this slogan as an invitation to live in such a manner that casts off responsibilities, duties, or daily tasks. I’m not sure if this was the original intention of this famous phrase.

To better understand this sentiment, I think it is necessary to examine some of the most famous literature associated with this quote from the English Renaissance. To be fair, a lot of Carpe Diem poems do seem to deal with physical pleasures and indulging our lustful desires. This idea is evident in poems such as “To His Coy Mistress” by Andrew Marvell and John Donne’s “The Flea.” However, the most famous Carpe Diem poem of all time is arguably “To the Virgins to Make Much of Time” by Robert Herrick. This is the poem in which the speaker encourages the virgins to gather rosebuds “while they may.” One logically assumes that the address of the poems to the “virgins” is meant as an encouragement for them to engage in sexual pleasures. This is undeniably true, but Herrick never actually mentions sex in the poem, nor does he encourage irresponsibility or immorality. In fact, what he specifically encourages the virgins to do is to get married; so while Herrick is encouraging the ladies to enjoy physical pleasures, he is also supporting responsibility.

Progressing further, another famous Carpe Diem poem that seems (at a superficial examination) to encourage a lackadaisical lifestyle is “The Passionate Shepherd to His Love.” I will concede that the speaker in this poem does encourage an existence focused on pleasure; but what is really interesting is that Sir Walter Raleigh actually wrote a response to this poem (“The Nymph’s Reply”) in which he bombasts this unrealistic lifestyle and accuses the shepherd of being deceitful and embracing fanciful notions too freely.

As a final note, let’s not forget that the most famous Renaissance writer of all time was William Shakespeare. It is important to point this out because much of Shakespeare’s work warned against ideas related to self-indulgence. One small example would be the tragedy of Macbeth in which the title character’s self-serving nature leads to his own pitiful downfall.

So, in conclusion, admire this wolf for his romantic sentiment, acknowledge and respect his idealistic outlook. Go ahead and “Seize the Day” if you will, but take care to remember that tomorrow is just around the corner.