Apr 19 2012

#355 “Girl Wolf”

From Emmy in Chattanooga, Tennessee

Check out these facts related to female wolves and male/female wolf relations:

1. Though many females in a pack are able to have pups, only a few will actually mate and bear pups. Often, only the alpha female and male will mate, which serves to produce the strongest cubs and helps limit the number of cubs the pack must care for. The other females will help raise and “babysit” the cubs. – Jill Bailey: Animals under Threat: Gray Wolf

2. Lower-ranking males do not mate and often suffer from a condition of stress and inhibition that has been referred to as “psychological castration.” Lower-ranking females are sometimes so afraid of the alpha female that they do not even go into heat. – Rebecca Gambro: Wolf: Legend, Enemy, Icon

3. A male and female that mate usually stay together for life. They are devoted parents and maintain sophisticated family ties. – Jim and Jamie Dutcher: Living with Wolves

Dec 26 2011

#240 “Cover Art”

From a stranger in Michigan

I have always been especially fascinated with this picture because it was the first I had received in which the artist actually wrote the words “Wolves by Strangers” as an accompaniment to his artwork. A few days later when I showed the picture to a friend of mine, he  said, “Wow! I think this guy is shooting for the cover of the “Wolves by Strangers” book!” We both had a good laugh at this. This incident happened many months ago, and at that time the idea of creating a book from all of the wonderful artwork that I have received seemed like a preposterous notion. Now, however, things have changed a bit. As this unusual project has progressed, the idea of producing a book has become more of a real possibility, and I have taken a few concrete steps towards accomplishing this goal. But overall, the creation of a WBS anthology is still a pipe dream of sorts. There are many hurtles that would have to be overcome, such as submitting proposals to publishers and formulating an overall vision. And then, of course, there is the issue of gaining permission from the individual artists to use their work(s). But as I said, all of this is probably a long ways off. Still… it’s nice to dream, to have a target in mind to shoot for, even if it is a bit of a fantasy. And in the end, who knows what may happen? When this all started, I never thought we would make it this far…

Nov 7 2011

#191 “Are You My Mother?”

From Sunny in Chattanooga, Tennessee

I’m not sure if this illustration was intended to be a direct reference to the famous children’s book Are You My Mother? by P.D. Eastman, but it certainly does bring to mind images from this time-honored 1957 tale of a young bird searching for its mommie. If you were to search for parallels between the picture of the wolf and the picture of the little bird below, you would no doubt notice that both the bird and the wolf possess physical traits that seem a bit exaggerated, but are nonetheless endearing. In many ways, the cartoonish representations serve to make the characters more identifiable and appealing to children. Also, the sharpness of the features is quite interesting and creates an artistically distinctive quality within these two illustrated animals that is comically unique.

Similarly, the quirky appearance of the wolf’s smile lends itself to the heartfelt silliness and naivete that is displayed in the young bird’s journey to find its maternal caretaker. And then, of course, there’s the fairly overt statement in the illustration’s corner. But the subtle difference between the question that serves as the title of the book and the definitive answer that is featured in the illustration is intriguing. The viewer is not totally sure whether the wolf is supposed to be the mother or whether it is regarding another being (perhaps even the viewer) as its mother. So in the end, this illustration may have some very significant Romulus/Remus allusions, or it may be a work that is designed to depict the wolf as an animal that is in need of a caretaker. But no matter what, for those of us who remember the original story of Are You My Mother?, the picture no doubt provides a pleasant stroll down memory lane that is a pleasant detour from life’s all too busy highway.

Thanks, Sunny. I’m sure that with this illustration you’ve made your mother proud.

Oct 17 2011

#170 “Mr. Darcy”

From Andrea in Montreal, Canada

I’m not sure if Andrea was aware of my affinity for classic literature before drawing this particular illustration, but regardless of whether she was or not, this piece speaks to my soul in a way that few others can. The poise and elegance of these two magnificent creatures is straight out of the pages of a Victorian novel, and in fact, in her accompanying email, Andrea made reference to the notion that this wolf reminded her perfectly of Mr. Darcy from that triumph of British literature: Pride and Prejudice.

As I just mentioned, I was easily aware of the mood and setting of this piece in reference to Victorian ideals and society, but the idea of a relationship between the illustration and Pride and Prejudice was not instantly graspable in my mind. If anything I believe the standing wolf to be dressed in a military style which would lead to a more natural association with George Wickham instead of Mr. Darcy. Add to this idea that I easily imagine the headstrong Elizabeth to be sitting so subserviently, and I just didn’t see the connection at all.

But then it hit me. Andrea’s connection between the character of Mr. Darcy and the wolf was so astute, so clever and intelligent, that I didn’t even have the wits to see it at first. Ultimately, the wolf is the perfect representation for Fitzwilliam Darcy. It’s so insightful yet so simple. Just like the wolf, Darcy flaunted a tough exterior. His desire was to be seen as the Alpha Male, and he carefully crafted all presentations of himself in such a manner as to successfully thwart off any attack. He was rough, crude, violent and dangerous. But underneath this shell of abrasiveness, Darcy was also sensitive and caring. He was calm, cool and composed, and his ultimate commitment is always to the greater good. What better representation of the wolf is there?

Andrea, how could I have been so blind? The connection was there all along. Well done, my talented friend. Take a bow!

Sep 5 2011

#128 “Where the WOLF things are…”

From MAK in “East Texas”

As a child, I absolutely loved Maurice Sendak’s soul-stirring book, “Where the Wild Things Are.” But then again who didn’t? The essence of the story was just so alluring. Here is Max, king and leader of this motley collection of wonderfully wild creatures, traipsing through mysterious palm jungles on a distant isle, throwing caution to the wind, and taking the world by storm.

But it isn’t the character of Max that makes the book so endearing, of course. It is those monsters, those Wild Things. What was it about them that grabbed my heartstrings and has refused to let go, even decades later? Was it their appearance? Partly. Their amicable nature? Perhaps. But I believe what was really alluring about these wild wonders was the fact that they were simply so unabashed about their monstrous nature. They had nothing to hide, nothing to prove; they were free. They were in your face and unashamed. They said, “Here I am world. This is my blood. It’s red. Do your worst.”

For some reason, when I gaze upon this beautiful illustration by MAK, I am filled with that same since of childhood wonder that overtook me when I carelessly flipped through that magical book, its pages smelling of mild spiciness and home. Those trees in the background behind the wolf transport me to those mysterious palm-filled forests, and within the eyes of this welcoming wolf, I hear that call of the Wild Things that says, “Come out tonight. Come join us for the Wild Rumpus. Rediscover your lost youth and join us in a nocturnal frolicking of fantastically wild fun!”

Who knows? Maybe I will…

After all, there’s nothing wilder than a wolf.

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….