Aug 12 2011

#104 “Radio Wolf”

From Garret Crowe in Chattanooga, Tennessee

Dick Cavett. Matt Lauer. Oprah Winfrey. Barbara Walters.

You know these names well, for they belong to those beloved individuals who have asked the questions that you longed to ask and brought you the stories that have changed your life.

Today we add a new name to this prestigious list: Garrett Crowe, the host of Around and About on 88.1, WUTC public radio in Chattanooga, TN.

On Friday, August 5th, I sat down with Garrett to answers a few questions for an interview which aired yesterday on WUTC. All in all I must say that it was one of the most fulfilling experiences thus far in the Wolves by Strangers project. As a result, I want to sincerely thank Garrett for his professional yet accessible interview and for his willingness to bring more attention to this project.

Thank you again, Garrett. I’ll cherish our time together as well as the gift of this fine illustration for many years to come.

Readers, you may access the WUTC interview here.


Aug 11 2011

#103 “Memento”

From Sam in the Bronx, New York

In a spare room of the upstairs portion of my parents’ house, tucked back in a corner, rests a dusty chest made of cedar wood. The years since I have opened that box have been many. In fact, I cannot even remember the last time I stepped foot into that room, but the contents of the chest are not lost on me. Without much effort or mental searching at all, I can rattle off a few of the current or previous contents. Actually, it gives me great pleasure to do so. In my mind’s eye I see an Indian drum made from a Quaker Oats cylinder and a construction paper headdress from preschool, a variety of baby teeth, a clay impression of my handprint from when I was 6, the white bonnet that the nuns at the hospital gave to my mother when I was born and which was later sewn into my wife’s wedding dress as her “something old,” various Valentine and Christmas cards made for my parents, elementary school report cards, countless photo albums, precious Golden Books, and the list goes on and on.

Mementos. Keepsakes. Little treasures. Whatever we call them. We all have things that are precious to us because they transport us to a time of innocence or remind us of a particularly special person or magical place.

In the note that Sam included with his wolf illustration, he stated that he had drawn this wolf in 7th grade and held onto it until now, several years later. I can’t help but think that this small picture drawn by the hand of this talented young man meant a great deal to him. Surely it must have if he protected and cared for it this whole time. And now, because of this generous heart and willing spirit, he has passed it along to me.

Sam, I can’t thank you enough. Someday, on the sad occasion of my parents’ passing, my weathered hands will probably unload that cedar chest from the back of my car as I prepare to place it in the spare room of my own house. I’ll no doubt fight back tears as I relive its contents, savoring every homemade craft and snapshot. And then, as I rearrange its contents and place them carefully back inside, I’ll add a few new items of my own to that sacred box, and without a doubt, this illustration will be one of them.

Aug 10 2011

#102 “Henrik de Wolf” (Frank)

From Olivier

28 days…6 hours…42 minutes…12 seconds…

That is when the world will end.

I’m not sure if there is any way to fully explain this, but as soon as I saw this illustration by Olivier (which he calls Henrik de Wolf), my mind was instantly drawn to remember the film Donnie Darko. I have not seen the movie in years, and in fact I have not thought about it months… and yet whenever I lay eyes on this picture, it’s all I can think about. I suppose it has something to do with the stoic nature of the wolf. Simply put, he reminds me of the character of Frank from the film. The eyes are cold and blank, but there is also a sinister knowledge behind them. There is a sense of danger associated with the picture, but at the same the wolf does not appear to pose and immediate threat. He is simply creepy…ominous. The news the creature delivers is certainly frightening and foreboding, but it is unclear if the animal is “warning” the recipient and is therefore a blessing, or if he is somehow connected to the message in a much more malicious manner.

I remember that the first time I watched the film, my brain had a difficult time understanding the nature of exactly what had happened during the final scenes. The time traveling, the alternate realities existing on various planes- it was all so surreal, but so believable as well. Ultimately, I chose to do away with trying to understand the logic of it. After all, that was not what had intrigued me most about the film. No, it was just the opposite that drew me in. It was the pathos, the emotion. I felt for Donnie. I really felt for him. So much so that when I watched that final scene, I was both saddened and relieved beyond words. In many ways that complex emotional soup of positives and negatives has never left me, and I suppose it never will. Sure, it’s just a movie. But if we don’t watch movies in hopes that they will impact our lives, why do we view them at all?

A picture of Frank from the film is provided below, along with Gary Jules’ cover of Tears for Fears’ “Mad World” which appeared in the film and is included on its official soundtrack.

Aug 9 2011

#101 “Party Time!”

From Pat in Broomall, Pennsylvania


It’s Tuesday.

Just another day in a series of mind-numbing work weeks, destined to drive each of us to an early grave.

And yet I urge you, nay, I beg of you to cast off those shackles and burdens of the traditional work work and join me in officially declaring today a national holiday in honor of “Party Wolf” and his unabashed thirst for excitement and excess. In lives that are so scheduled and regimented, many of us have become convinced that fun and pleasure must be as scheduled and planned as the hours of the work day.When did we start to believe that we are not designed to enjoy our own existence? Who has brainwashed us into believing that life itself cannot be a continual journey of fun and excitement?

True, Responsibilities exist. Occupations are largely necessary for survival, but so is recreation. Today I encourage you to realize that entertainment is just as vital to your mental and physical well-being as a healthy diet or a well-developed spiritual life.

Take a cue from “Party Wolf” (after all, he is the original party animal), and make today a party of your own.

Also, If you wish to see more of Pat’s inspiring artwork, visit his website here.


Aug 8 2011

#100 “Into the Wild”

From Adam in Alexandria, Virginia.

For as long as I can remember, one of my greatest passions in life has been spending time in the beauty of the natural world that surrounds us. Given that I collect pictures of wolves, this should probably come as no surprise. I am disappointed to say, however, that as time passes on and eternity speeds towards us, I have become increasingly less attuned with nature.

When I was a child, the interaction was effortless. It was so easy to be one with nature. As William Wordsworth says to his daughter in the sonnet “It is a Beauteous Evening,” “thou liest in Abraham’s bosom all the year, God being with thee when we know it not.” What Wordsworth is referring to here is the fact that when confronted with a scene of great natural beauty, many children may not seem to have an outward appreciation like adults do , but this is simply because children are so in tune with nature on a continual basis that they don’t have to show an outward appreciation in order to be unified with Mother Earth. In other words, it comes so naturally for them that they don’t even have to try. Ahhh… to be young again. To play in those piles of Autumn leaves. To climb those trees again and peel the crumbly bark from dogwood branches. To fashion those snowballs and swing from ropes into ice-cold spring water. Passion of my youth, where have you gone?

There was a time not so long ago when I tried adamantly to reignite this flame within. In truth, through a series of ventures, I was successful for a while, but noose of a tie and the smog of crowded city streets has once again clouded my vision. As a result, I appreciate that this illustration kindly reminds to once again pick up that walking stick and hit the trails, so to speak. Thank you, Adam, for reminding me of the zeal for the beauty of creation that I had in my younger days.

In honor of the theme of this illustration and in order to celebrate the 100th post on the Wolves by Strangers website, I have decided to post a picture of myself. This was taken in Teton National Park in Wyoming several years ago during a backpacking trip with my father and a few friends. Enjoy!

Aug 7 2011

#99 “Sassy!”

from Paige in Vancouver, British Columbia

As you might imagine, the number of illustrations in my collection which depict wolves dressed as sheep are not just a few. They decorate my collection like veritable spots on a leopard, sprinkled throughout the pages of my catalogued notebooks like so many clouds in a beautifully dark skyscape. Some of these drawings display great artistry while others are quick sketches. A few depict highly original concepts and new takes on this time-honored idea while others stick strictly to the original notion of camouflage and deception.

Today’s picture, courtesy of Paige, is particularly appealing to me because it seems to combine both the traditional and the contemporary. In a sense, the picture is pretty conventional. It depicts a wolf draped classically in the pelt of a sheep. The “clothing” is ill-fitting, but that is what we would have expected; so in a traditional sense, this illustration meets all of our immediate expectations of a wolf dressed in sheep’s clothing. There is, however, something a bit different about this piece as well. As Paige noted in the corner of the illustration, this wolf certainly does appear to possess a fair amount of sass. Notice the head cocked high and the eyes that are shut in smug self-assurance. Even the wolf’s whiskers are raised to suggest its cheekiness and smug demeanor. The illustration captures in one still moment on the paper, but I can easily imagine this wolf prancing around, just as pleased with himself as she can be. There she goes, trotting around the wilderness like a lupine model on a forested runway, spurring the other female wolves to cock their heads as well and howl out, “You go, girl!”

Switching gears, I thought that since today’s post featured a wolf in sheep’s clothing that I would include a music video in the same vein. The mood of the video varies greatly from that of the illustration, but I thought if nothing else, the juxtaposition would be interesting. The video is for the song “Someone’s in the Wolf” by Queens of the Stone Age, and the concept can be somewhat difficult to grasp on your first viewing, so I will try to explain it as best as I can. From what I can tell, the video features a group of wolves who have abducted a young girl after apparently killing her parents and have raised the girl to adulthood. At this point, the beautiful, fully grown woman leaves the pack, and the wolves disguise themselves as sheep to go in search of her. The initial concept is sinister enough, but the video itself is truly creepy. Turn out the lights and enjoy.

Aug 6 2011

#98 Stranger Danger!

From Brian

The English language is a mind-boggling entity in many ways. Its rules are often irregular and confusing. The pronunciation of certain letters when used in conjunction with others may vary without rhyme or reason. Grammatical topics are constantly up for debate but rarely solved, and to make matters worse, the language as a whole has the brazen audacity to simply swallow entire words from other languages and incorporate them into itself, further complicating its already glaring problems.

While the preceding paragraph might indicate that these issues are exclusively frustrating and troublesome, it cannot be denied that some the nuances of the English language can also be quite humorous. Case in point is the illustration that is on display today which plays upon one of the oldest tricks in the language book: the homophone. For those of you who have long forgotten the lessons of your elementary language arts instructors, here is a quick review courtesy of our faithful and trustworthy friends at Wikipedia: A homophone is a word that is pronounced the same as another word but differs in meaning. The words may be spelled the same, such as rose (flower) and rose (past tense of “rise”), or differently, such as carat, caret, and carrot, or totwo, and too. Homophones that are spelled the same are also both homographs and homonyms. Homophones that are spelled differently are also called heterographs. The term “homophone” may also apply to units longer or shorter than words, such as phrases, letters or groups of letters that are pronounced the same as another phrase, letter or group of letters. 

Although I had never really considered it before, the word by is actually a homophone. This is true because the word can be used to refer to attribution of creation as in “The Starry Night” by Vincent Van Gogh; but it can also indicate proximity or closesness in phrases like, “The citrus zester is on the counter by the KitchenAid mixer.”

And so… This once again brings us to today’s illustration which is was drawn by the hand of a stranger but also features wolves in close proximity to strangers. It seems that I should have figured all of this out when I first examined the illustration, but no, I successfully made quite a fool of myself by inquiring to Brian about the identity of the two cloaked men in the drawing. He simply replied to my query by saying, “Those would be the strangers.” As you can imagine, I instantly felt my face blush with embarrassment at the realization of my imbecilic misunderstanding.

You will notice that Brian’s work features a wolf defensively poised next to two shifty-looking characters suspiciously clad in long, ominous trench coats. Who are they? What do they want? Will they cause harm? Spread terror? No one knows for sure, and thus the nature of their strangeness is born. In conclusion, I feel that we simply cannot conclude this post without a serious warning about “Stranger Danger” and a quick reminder of a few essential safety tips. 

Parents, run and fetch your children. If you care for them at all, please have them watch this informative yet entertaining video and complete the stranger danger quiz below.

And stay safe out there, everyone!

You can access the “Stranger Danger” quiz here.

Aug 5 2011

WUTC Interview, Chattanooga Pulse & Website Changes

Dear faithful readership,

I am pleased to make the following announcements:

1. Today I conducted my first radio interview with Garret Crow of WUTC’s prestigious radio program Around and About. The interview will air at both 10:00 a.m. and 2:00 p.m. on Thursday, Aug. 11 on 88.1 fm. I hope that you will join in my excitement at this opportunity and that you will, of course, continue to support the noble cause that is public radio.

You can access information about the Around and About program and podcasts here and here.

2. I neglected to inform the WBS community that a short while ago a local graduate school student and talented writer by the name of Cole Rose produced an intensely fascinating article about WBS for the Chattanooga Pulse. An online version of the article may be viewed here. Also, Cole’s capable writing skills have resulted in enough local interest to spur an additional interview which is schedule to appear in the annual Chattanooga Pulse State of the Arts issue which will be distributed in late August. Keep your eyes open to get your copy!

3. As some of you may have noticed, a few changes have been made to the WBS website. As a result, any comments that have been previously made by viewers have unfortunately been lost, along with email subscriptions. I admit that I did shed tears of this tragic loss of input from lupine enthusiasts; however, WBS is now equipped with more “sharing” capabilities through the buttons that you see above and below the posts, and of course email subscriptions and commenting options are still available. I apology sincerely for the inconvenience, but as we know, The Great Wolf giveth and The Great Wolf taketh away. We may not always understand the ways of The Great Wolf, but we must trust its nature; for its divine bride Mother Earth will never steer it amiss.

Along these same lines, be prepared for additional email addresses for WBS in order to help streamline communication.

Stay frisky my friends!

Aug 5 2011

#97 “Frozen…”

From a stranger in Tuscon, Arizona

When it comes to this piece of art, the illustrator’s words say it all.
So poetic. So moving. So full of imagery.

I think you captured the spirit of this majestic wolf perfectly, my fair stranger. May your spirit echo for ages to come as well; I certainly know that images of this wolf and the words of your eloquent poetry will ring beautifully in my ears for quite some time.

Thank you for blessing us with your talent.

Aug 4 2011

#96 “Oh, Bailey, where have you gone?”

From Bailey in Chattanooga, TN (I think…)

As many of you know, I always like to show my appreciation for submissions to WBS by sending a free “Wolves by Strangers” sticker to any contributor who supplies a valid return address. This particular picture by Bailey may be simplistic, but she did indeed supply a return address, and since she held up her end of the bargain, I saw no reason why I should not hold up mine. Somewhere along the way, however, wires were apparently crossed, confusion erupted, and simply put, the envelope containing the sticker was returned with a note that stated “Invalid Address.”

So… Bailey, if you are out there and you still want your sticker, please let me know.

I swear this before all: No wolf illustration will go unrewarded while I’m on the job. If you have contributed a picture and supplied a return address but did not receive your sticker within a couple of weeks, please contact me. Oversights will not be tolerated!

WBS stickers for all!

Aug 3 2011

#95 “What’s a girl to do?”

From Tina in Wilson, North Carolina

When I received this picture, I instantly knew that there was something unique and special about it. Upon further examination, a feeling of nostalgia washed over me, but the nostalgic reference was unclear- lost in the annals of my mind like a streetlight wrapped in a deep fog, just barely visible. It was like I was witnessing a picture of a distant memory that I had tucked away under old blankets of forgetfulness. A sense of cosmic energy surrounded the illustration as I held it in hands, trying to force my brain to comprehend. Soon, the air was thick with tension as a transcendental wind blew through the hallways and back rooms of my consciousness, searching for anything, any sign of recognition, any clue. If I searched diligently enough, I knew I would find the key to this tightly locked door of mystery, and after a short while the layers of understanding were peeled back and the association became clear.

If you take a look at the video below for the song “What’s a girl to do?” by Bat for Lashes, I’m sure you’ll notice the wolf riding the bicycle on the left-hand side of the screen. Now, you tell me: Am I crazy, or does the wolf in the illustration above bear a striking resemblance to the one in the video below? There’s something about those ears, the way they protrude from the scalp. Or is it the locks of lupine hair that stand out in spiky formations along the sides of the face?

Ultimately, I think there is also something in the eyes that solidifies the connection as well. If you listen to the lyrics of the song, you’ll hear Natasha Khan singing about the heartbreak and emotional turmoil of a relationship drawing to a close. I think the eyes of this wolf speak to this kind of emotional unrest. There is a sadness that is present there, but also a calm sense of exasperation as well as sadness. Just like Natasha says, the love is still present, but the thrill is gone.

So…. the question is, what’s a girl to do?

Aug 2 2011

#94 “Fair/Foul”

From Samreen

Macbeth paced anxiously in his quarters, stroking his beard with one hand while attempting to smooth his sweaty and furrowed brow with the other. He had left the dinner table, left his guest, his king, unattended. The prospects of the night’s venture weighed heavily upon his mind. Could he go through with the act? He had begun to have doubts. After all, King Duncan had honored him recently; he was also his king and his kinsman, distantly related by blood, but besides this, he was a guest in his own home, and if nothing else, it is the duty of the host to shut the door to the murderer, not become one, himself. He pounded a fist firmly against the table; his resolve had regained its firmness. His strength was renewed but with a new plan: He would not kill the king.

At that moment, the door swung open and a cold breeze entered the room along with the wife of Macbeth. “Why have you left the table?” She hissed. “Do you not know that he hath almost supped?”

“We’ll proceed no further in this business,” Macbeth replied. “He hath honored me of late.”

At this, the countenance of the lady fell. The demon inside took control, and the poisonous words flowed like honey from her lips: “Art thou not a man? Art thou afeard? Did thou not a promise make? I have given suck and know what it is to nurse a child, yet had I sworn you as much you to this, I would pluck my nipple from the mouth of the babe and dash its brains out; this I would do if I had promised.”

Injury. Insult. An attack on his masculinity. He could not stand for it.

“I would do all that becomes a man…” he said, sulking and turning away from her.

“Then screw your courage to the sticking point and we’ll not fail. Look like the innocent flower but be the serpent under it. Then, leave all the rest under my dispatch.”

And with these words, Lady Macbeth convinced her husband to follow through with the murderous plan to take the life of Duncan. As a result, a country was thrown into turmoil, countless lives were lost, and a dark blot formed on the scrolls of the history of the great nation of Scotland.

These lines are obviously not the actual ones from William Shakespeare’s famous play Macbeth, but this brief paraphrase hopefully serves as a reminder of the damage that can be done when we enter into a world of deceiving appearances. The italicized quote above by Lady Macbeth was included in the email from Samreen that accompanied this picture. Samreen also included a few brief ruminations on how appearances can be deceptive and the idea that we cannot always judge a book by its cover. Overall, this is relatively deep material to be associated with a simple wolf picture, but it fits, nonetheless.

In his discussion of this concept, Samreen noted the nonthreatening demeanor of this lupine marvel, but then stated that there was no telling what savagery might lie underneath the animal’s calm exterior.

“Come a little closer”: words that sound sweet but hold so much foreboding. The choice is yours. Keep your distance or take that step forward, but don’t say I didn’t warn you…


Aug 1 2011

#93 “July Contest Winner!”

From Colin in Rockville, Maryland

Congratulations to Colin for his fantastically unique rendering of a wolf perched triumphantly atop a man-eating shark. The lord of the land meets the king of the seas in this breathtaking masterpiece. I’m not sure if the picture above does justice to the original copy, but I hope that it will suffice for your viewing pleasure; I only wish that you could lay eyes on the original, that you could feel the soft roughness of the parchment between your own trembling fingers and smell the mild spiciness of the aged paper. It smells like home. It looks like heaven on earth.

In the end, Colin’s work proved worthy of taking home the coveted howling wolf cookie jar because of its uniqueness and creativity in a variety of aspects. Let’s face it: the idea was groundbreaking. The rendering was talented and nearly flawless. And finally, the package itself (sealed elegantly with wax and stamped with a majestic “C”) was so aesthetically appealing that I felt transported to another time and place in which wolf art was truly the crowning achievement of society.

Here it is. Here is the winner of the July contest. I would heap more praise upon it, but the welling tears have blurred my vision.

Thanks for your contribution, Colin. I’ll have the cookie jar in the mail by the end of the week.

And finally, be on the lookout for another contest starting soon!