Apr 30 2012

#366 “Thank You!”

From me…

Well, here we are. We’ve made it one full year together. I’m not one for pomp or frills; I don’t enjoy fanfare for its own sake, so I won’t draw this out or make a huge production of it all. Looking back at year #1, there’s only one thing I have to say: Thank you. None of this would be possible without the hundreds of generous and thoughtful strangers who selflessly participated in WBS. This isn’t the end; hopefully it’s just the beginning. But I thought that I owed all of you something a little out of the ordinary, something a little special. Today I contribute my own piece of artwork to the pile. It’s certainly not the greatest work in this very eclectic collection, and it doesn’t hold any vast significance other than the fact that it represents my sincerest gratitude, but I hope it will suffice…

Thanks again,

“J”


Apr 28 2012

#364 “St. Elmo Pastel”

From Bria in St. Elmo, Tennessee

Congratulations to Bria for contributing the single largest illustration that WBS has received in its 14 months of existence. It has taken me quite a while to get around to posting this fantastic picture, but when I realized that the end of year #1 was just around the corner, I knew that it was time for this piece to take center stage.

Sometimes it’s the subject matter that sets a masterpiece apart, and at other times it’s something else altogether. In this instance, the defining feature of this piece is its medium. There’s something mysteriously freeing about the unencumbered nature of a pastel marker; something playful and whimsical; something classic and yet uniquely ephemeral. As I was standing over this illustration and preparing to photograph it, a strange thought occurred to me: With one simple swipe of my palm, I could smear, distort and forever erase this amazing work resting on the table before me. I could smudge the lines. I could smear the image…. with one smooth motion.

Of course, I would never do such a thing, but just knowing that this work is so delicate and fragile, so fleeting, brings to mind questions about this project’s stamina and permanence. Where will we go? Where will year #2 take us. Is this only the beginning? Do we stand on the doorstep of a great adventure? Have we even taken the first step… Or is the final destination right around the next corner? I suppose that only time will tell….


Apr 27 2012

#363 “Second-Hand”

From Emily in Chattanooga, Tennessee

While this picture does not represent an original wolf illustration from a stranger, it is a gift from a young lady named Emily who happened to find this poster in a local thrift store. I was so pleased when I opened the package that I instantly grabbed some tape and posted it up on the wall. I guess it just goes to show that one man’s trash truly is another man’s treasure. Thanks, Emily.


Apr 26 2012

#362 “Pride/Prejudice”

From Hannah in Chattanooga, Tennessee

When I examine this stunning illustration by Hannah, I can’t help but to be swept back in time to the genteel countryside of England during the Victorian Era. It was a time when breeding and sophistication took center stage; a time of widespread cultivation outward appearances of dignity and restraint while underneath a seething cauldron of passion and emotion was boiling; a time of great pride in both the upper and lower classes and extreme prejudice from each unto the other. And of course, it is out of all of these social phenomena that Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austin was born. Seeing as how most of you are familiar with the work, I won’t waste time in rehashing the storyline here, but I do think it is interesting to connect the Victorian sophistication observed in this picture with the overarching themes of the book and then to tie the title of the book back into the nature of the wolf itself. In essence, the qualities of pride and prejudice define the wolf all too well. It is a creature of great strength and virility, and out of these qualities excude a certain dignity and honor. But in response, the world often views the creature through hostile eyes, serving up a healthy dose of judgment that creates the constant controversy over the animal. It’s the oldest battle: self-respect vs. discrimination. The battle ground is the hearts and minds of every man, woman and child? Which will reign victorious? Only time will tell….


Apr 25 2012

#361 “Predator”

From Pierre Nabokov,

Given the traditional yet mysterious association of wolves with sexual predation, it is not entirely surprising that this particular wolf is inquiring about little girls. After taking just a quick glance at the demented look in this creature’s eyes and examining his gaping, fang-filled maw, any individual in his right mind would surely take it upon himself to hide the members of his family that are closest to him in order to protect them from harm… especially his children. Interestingly enough, the human animal, much like the wolf, is a creature that can easily share the same aggression that we witness in this particular illustration. It’s somewhat fitting then that this picture achieves common ground with a recent viral video that touches on this subject. Take a look back at the famous interview with Antoine Dodson, and you’ll see what I mean.


Apr 24 2012

#360 “Let the Inside Shining Through”

From Durelle in Athens, Tennessee

In a world so obsessed with outer beauty, finding almost anything or anyone who possesses a radiance that emanates from within can sometimes feel like a challenge. Some people are beautiful and desirable on the outside while vapid underneath, and others, while disheveled or unfavorable in their appearance, may possess an astounding beauty that goes unrecognized because our vision cannot reach beyond the exterior.

What I love about this illustration from Durelle is that it seems to comment on that ongoing conflict between inner and outer beauty. While this wolf is visually appealing in a way that most others could only dream of achieving, we know that the value on the creature is not limited to its external decoration. For all its outer magnificence, if what lies underneath is not just as beautiful, then this creature is nothing more than a sham. In the case of this particular wolf, however, I like to believe that what we are seeing is the true grandeur of the animal shining through from the inside with such force that it simply cannot be contained. And I like to use that assessment as inspiration for my own life. I like to believe that true internal beauty will always win out eventually (if we feed that part of ourselves enough) and that we, like this wolf, may be so full of internal exquisiteness that it just bubbles over in a dazzling display of pure wonder. Also, I like to try to observe this in others because there is nothing more touching than feeling like you are actual seeing into a person. So the next time you meet someone, whether it’s the clerk at a grocery store or a new friend of a friend, try to see beyond the external… Look for the internal luminosity begging to shine through… You may be surprised at what you find, and it may lead you to become a new person yourself.


Apr 23 2012

#359 “Czechoslovakian Wolfdog”

From Kristyn in the Czech Republic

Taken from Wikipedia: The Czechoslovakian Wolfdog (or Vlčák/Vlčiak) is a relatively new breed of dog that traces its original lineage to an experiment conducted in 1955 in Czechoslovakia. After initially breeding 48 working line German Shepherds with 4 Carpathian wolves, a plan was worked out to create a breed that would have the temperament, pack mentality, and trainability of the German Shepherd and the strength, physical build, and stamina of the Carpathian wolf. The breed was engineered to assist with border patrol in Czechoslovakia but were later also used in search and rescue, schutzhund, tracking, herding, agility, obedience, and drafting. It was officially recognized as a national breed in Czechoslovakia in 1982. 


Apr 22 2012

#358 “The Room”

From David in Siauliai, Lithuania

This illustration was accompanied with the following letter:

You know, J, I really like the forest, but most of all I love colored lights, in the evenings when I hear the nightingale sing; it warns me of upcoming night. Then the forest gains new sounds. Windy nights remind me of the sea. I don’t know how, but I find myself going into the dark woods. Somehow I feel everything will be perfect; I’ll find the light, even though this forest looks mysterious and scary. Finally, the sounds of the forest connect with the lake and space around me to form the strange shape of a room: the place where I am at this moment… Before my eyes, I see a red glowing table. On this table is a cup of black coffee. This coffee is talking and it smells like fir trees.

Near the coffee is placed an envelope and a note: “My mind depends on this room, there are no mirrors, but it reflects you. Everyone of you.”

I ask myself: Where am I?

And the Coffee says: You’re in a strange shape room. Please, look at the cup. Watch it.  In a couple of minutes you’ll meet the woman: she’ll show you a gel. Then she’ll go out.

I: What women?

Coffee: There is something you cannot see. The blue light goes on and the wolf will come. He’ll watch you for a while. Light goes off. Light goes on.

I: No wolf, no wolf, no wolf.

Coffee: Now. Take the old small radio from behind the table. Do you see the door in a left corner of the room? Open it. There will be a
room with strange floors and the cross on the wall. Sit down in the chair. This chair saves people from vampires.

I: Whats next?

Voice of the Coffee from the radio: Look at the mirror. This is a mirror.

You’re the women.

The woman: Hi. I’m wearing black. Do you like me? There… Look! This is the white wolf. He is the owl. Ask him. (she runs away.)

I: What do I ask?! Wait!

Voice of the Coffee: You may be happy now. Get back in the strangely shaped room. Sit down.

Then all becomes dark. I can’t see.

To be continued.


Apr 21 2012

#357 “Princess”

From a stranger in Kearny, New Jersey

One of the aspects of this project that I have always been the most proud of is the fact that every artist (regardless of age, gender or talent) has the capacity to achieve true equality. All contributors are king or queen for a day at wolvesbystrangers.com as each work is granted its moment to shine in the spotlight as the star of its own unique post. Today is no different. I have no idea who this mysterious young artist from Kearny truly is, but I know that she’s a princess… even if only for this one day at Wolves by Strangers. Thanks for keeping the dream alive. Your contribution to WBS has made me feel like royalty.


Apr 20 2012

#356 “Stare Dad”

From Alec in Ward, Arizona

Ahhh… meme-inspired wolf artwork, how I love you. Whether it’s Xhibit, the Nyan Cat, or Pedobear, all Internet memes have some sort of unique appeal. Each meme is strangely universal but also possesses the allure of an inside joke. On display today is a take on the Stare Dad meme. If you’ve never experienced the Stare Dad meme, check out the links below; they’ll take to some of the more famous installments of Stare Dad.

Memebase: Stare Dad

Know Your Meme: Stare Dad


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


Apr 18 2012

#354 “U Rock Dude”

From a stranger in Kearny, New Jersey

I am always pleased when I receive pictures that are accompanied with words of praise for this project (and even occasionally for myself). Everyone loves a compliment, and of course I am no different. I do have to say, however, that the real VIP of the WBS project was never intended to be me. The true stars are the contributors and their fantastic artwork. How can the person who asks a stranger for a favor be more worthy of praise than the individual who fulfills the request? Simply put, he cannot. The generosity of the one who fulfills the request will always reign supreme, and that’s why I must say now to the stranger in Kearny, New Jersey… “You Rock, Dude!”


Apr 17 2012

#353 “Expressions”

From a stranger in Manchester, England

I have spent quite a while examining this wolf and trying to determine just what sort of message he is intending to send, and in the end I have come up empty-handed. The face suggests satisfaction (perhaps even smugness), but the body language is understated and subdued. After a little research, I was still making no headway, but I did run across an interesting fact from Jim and Jamie Dutcher’s book called  Living With Wolves: “Unlike other animals, wolves have a variety of distinctive facial expressions they use to communicate and maintain pack unity.” I found this fact intriguing, but it only served to increase my curiosity. I guess I may never know, but then again… maybe the mystery of the animal is what makes him so wonderfully intriguing. And in this way, maybe our unsatiated curiosity is the greatest blessing the animal can give.


Apr 16 2012

#352 “Masterpiece”

From Hannah in Chattanooga, Tennessee

All great art possesses a sort of timeless quality that simply will not allow it to disappear completely from the public consciousness, regardless of the passage of time. Whether it be some unique visual appeal, some revolutionary social comment, or a brazen disregard for a time-honored convention, each masterpiece has its own hook that sinks deeply into the viewer and simply will not let go. Seeing as how the wolf is the “piece de resistance” of the animal kingdom, it is only fitting that this project has received several artistic mash-ups that feature lupine subjects being inserted into famous paintings. None of these submissions have been more soul-stirring than Hannah’s interpretation of Van Gogh’s “Starry Night.” Thanks, Hannah. This piece is an instant classic.


Apr 15 2012

#351 “Twilight”

From a stranger in Chattanooga, Tennessee

For the record, this is the first illustration featuring a Twilight character that I have received from a college student enrolled in a sophomore level history class who likes to doodle on her notes. I just hope she waited until after the test to send this in…


Apr 13 2012

#349 “Adventure!”

From Billy

It’s an undeniable fact: Within all of us there lies a deep-seated yearning for action and adventure. No matter how faint, we all hear that call for excitement, and in no illustration is this innate desire for peril and danger more evident than this masterpiece by Billy. With his armed sidekick by his side (or rather on his back), this lupine warrior launches forward on some unknown escape, his breath as hot as fire. Will his journey bring him glory and honor or only disappointment? No one knows for sure, but there is one thing we do know: the call has been answered. The adventure has begun…


Apr 11 2012

#347 “Jealousy”

From Warga in Newton, Massachusetts

FACT (Taken from Wolves and Other Wild Dogs by Mary Reid):
Wolves do not make good guard dogs because they are naturally afraid of the unfamiliar and will hide from visitors rather than bark at them.

I hope Warga will forgive me, but I censored the text of this illustration in order to protect younger viewers.


Apr 10 2012

#346 “Roots”

From a stranger in Nashville, Tennessee

To some this illustration may look like just another example of a child’s simple yet imaginative rendering of a wolf in the wild: green grass; yellow sun; fluffy trees; smiling lupine subject. In many ways the simplest analysis of this illustration may very well be the best one, but at the same time I can’t help but be drawn to those thick-rooted trees when I look at this picture and feel that there is some symbolism there. Just as these roots reach deeply into the soil, this simple WBS project has also become firmly rooted into the hearts, minds, and souls of strangers the world over. At first the collection started as a lone sapling, but now- nearly a year later- a veritable forest has sprung up amongst us. And with Springtime in full bloom, the growth of this woodland shows no signs of slowing…


Apr 9 2012

#345 “Forest Avenue”

A few days ago I received an email which contained a link to a new demo from an up and coming local band called “Forest Avenue.” I must admit that up until this time hadn’t caught any of the band’s live performances or even sought out a avenue through which to experience their unique sound, but I’d heard their name dropped by local hipsters and audiophiles who labeled them as the triumphant voice of a generation devoid of intellectual musical heroes and I’d read about them in a number of underground publications which hailed their music as “enigmatic,” “haunting,” and even “soul-stirring.”

While the track posted here (entitled “The Wolf”) lacks the refinement and polish of a professionally produced studio recording, the band’s lead singer and guitarist both informed me that this rough cut is not only intentionally raw but also highly symbolic of the song’s focus and message. It seems that the powerful delivery of the verse, when combined with the subtly mournful and ever evolving chorus, creates a dichotomy that is representative of the wolf itself. It is a creature defined by both savagery and softness, aggression and solitary anguish. And this idea was melded into the song’s construction and performance. This composition, which focuses on the pack mentality vs. the inner yearning for freedom, and which presents themes revolving around the frustrations and trials that accompany of the coming of adulthood, is not just about the wolf, however. It’s about the inner lupine spirit inside all of us: the caged wolf that yearns to run free.

In an age in which mass-produced pop music is so candy-coated that the sweetness turns your stomach, this track serves as a healthy dose of raw meat. At first it may be a shock to your system, but once you’ve developed a taste for it, you’ll crave nothing else…

(Oh… I feel like I must apologize for the lack of an original wolf illustration today, but since the guys in the band informed me that this song was partially inspired by the WBS project, I figured it was close enough…)


Apr 7 2012

#343 “Envelope Art”

From Damien in Phoenix, Arizona

Sometimes the decorations and embellishments on the envelopes that find their way to WBS are just as intriguing as the artwork contained within them. Such is the case with this particular parcel from Damien. The illustration seems to show a Native American-inspired wolf whose travels have left him somewhat weary. Trekking all the way from Phoenix to Chattanooga is quite a journey, but our lupine warrior has arrived intact and has no doubt brought new life to the mail carriers who have handled this unique gift of wolf-themed art. In the end, I think that may be the reason why I so thoroughly enjoy envelope art: it allows all those who work in the mail delivering industry to share in the project as well and to experience the fruits of WBS first-hand. It’s a small gift of artwork freely shared for a job well done, and Lord knows… those people don’t hear “thank you” often enough in the course of their day. So thank you, Damien, for this incredible wolf. And thank you, mail carriers, for making sure it arrived in my p.o. box, safe and sound.